Guantanamo Hunger Strikes – Peace, Violence, and Food

On this blog, we usually explore the power to promote peace through food. The recent situation in Guantanamo Bay, however, illustrates how food can be used as a tool for both nonviolence and violence.

While we can cultivate peace through food, food can also be used as a tool for nonviolent protest as it is by the hunger striking detainees. The refusal of food is one way the detainees can exercise their free will, and in refusing food, they take on suffering which may have the power to humanize themselves in the eyes of their captors. This is the power of nonviolence, and Gandhi used hunger strikes numerous times throughout his life as strategies for nonviolent change.

In this case, food also becomes a torture device, as the detainees’ wish to refuse food – one of the few choices and freedoms they can make in their conditions – is denied, and they are dehumanized and degraded in the process. Food actually becomes a form of violence, as you can read from the above linked article from the Guardian that describes in detail how the detainees are being force fed.

Right now, 100 out of 166 detainees are participating in the hunger strike. 

According to a Washington Post article:

The American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross have said they oppose force-feeding. They cite a declaration by the World Medical Association that states that “where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.”

Obama defended the practice Tuesday, saying, “I don’t want these individuals to die.”

It would seem that are alternatives to force feeding, if the above statement by Obama is true.

The intersections of peace and food continue to abound….

War, Peace, Farming, and Art

Returning to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a growing group of veterans find refuge through art and farming. Republished from Fresh Dirt Ithaca.

Nathan Lewis in the greenhouse.
Photos by Lauren DeCicca.

In a humid greenhouse on the backroads of Trumansburg, Nathan Lewis, a 28-year old veteran of the Iraq war, weaves through a maze of of tables, hoses, and water tanks, pointing out the various plants he and other members of the Veterans’ Sanctuary are cultivating this year—chives, licorice, a hardy citrus tree, a hardy kiwi, a curling willow.

It’s an odd selection for upstate New York, but the veterans, who get most of their plants by donation, fill pools of water in the greenhouse to keep the air humid for the nonnative species. Despite their efforts, they can’t seem to solve their mouse problem, which raises the question: How does a peaceful, antiwar group like this one deal with pests?

“My friend John said to ask them nicely to leave,” Lewis says. “After a while, I’m inclined to stomp on them.”

The Veterans’ Sanctuary, which was set up to help soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan acclimate to civilian life, is a recent addition to the list of project partners at Cornell’s Center for Transformative Action. Located in an Italianate house on a hill overlooking the village of Trumansburg, the sanctuary endeavors to create a new model for healing from war trauma—one that involves peer support, reconnection with nature through farming, and a connection to self-expression through art. Continue reading

The US Food Aid Industry: Food for Peace or Food for Profit?

Republished from Food First: Institute for Food & Development Policy and written by Brock Hicks.

Posted March 26th, 2013 by kerssen

On February 21st, 69 organizations submitted a letter to President Barack Obama in support of continued funding for Public Law 480 (also known as Food for Peace) and Food for Progress international food aid programs in the FY 2014 budget, and opposing rumored proposals to shift resources to local and regional commodity procurement. The signatory organizations were comprised almost exclusively by the iron triangle of US food aid spending recipients (the US agribusiness, shipping, and international development industries). Funding, which is attached to the Farm Bill, has been reauthorized by President Obama under Title VII of the fiscal cliff legislation through this September. However, these food aid programs depend on congressional appropriations, which have only been approved through March 27th. Big changes, or more of the same, could be in store for food aid legislation in the near future[1].

Currently, US food aid is dominated by in-kind donations (direct gifts of food)-an infamously inefficient system-and monetization, a system in which US agricultural commodities are donated to development organizations so that they can sell them to fund projects. This approach to food aid has been widely criticized for decades, including by the Congress’ Government Accountability Office. The NGO Oxfam, once a beneficiary of PL 480, has been calling for food aid reform for years, putting an emphasis on the need for local commodity procurement. CARE, one of the three major NGO distributors of US food aid across the world, recently followed suit. Canada and Europe have shifted nearly all food aid resources away from in-kind distribution in favor of local procurement. The US, sticking to its M.O., is the loner; in 2007, 99.3% of US food aid was in-kind. Continue reading

Peace, Food and our Future

Geoff Tansey will be in Toronto to present “Tinkering or Transformation: going beyond food and energy security for a well-fed world at peace” at the University of Toronto on Tuesday, April 16th.

2:00pm – 4:00pm
Anthropology Building, 19 Russell Street, AP246

He will discuss the range of innovations needed if we are to avoid food and farming becoming a source of conflict in the 21st century. He will outline a new project with the working title ‘Food is a key to avoiding World War Three.’  The following article is republished from Geoff Tansey’s website:

Peace, Food and our Future

A key challenge this century is to create sustainable ways in which everyone can feed themselves well, in communities that peacefully cooperate with each other. If we humans carry on in the way we have let our leaders manage our affairs to date, then we are likely to see even greater conflict and loss of life this century than before – because of not despite our technological wizardry.

How we meet everyone’s food needs will be a key factor in shaping the kind of world we have this century. It is part of a real security agenda I have been concerned with for decades. It goes back to the shocking sight for me, when I was working in Turkey in the early 1980s, of visiting a village where the people could run out of water for some time in the summer when their wells dried up. This in sight of a well-provisioned NATO installation, there as part of an early warning system. Far too much of human ingenuity, creativity, money, research and development activity focuses on better means of killing each other not supporting each other.

After returning from Turkey in the mid-1980s I supported the World Development Movement in the late 1980s / early 1990s in looking at real security. This resulted in a couple of publications – a briefing, Disarm or develop and a paper Real Security – East, West, North and South – and campaigning activities. It also lead to the work with Paul Rogers, prof of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, and the book A World Divided.

UNGVA

Giant chair with broken leg sculpture outside the United Nations in Geneva – a symbol of opposition to land mines and cluster bombsThese weapons have made farming very hazardous or impossible in many areas where conflicts have raged. Continue reading

Peace Education in the Purest Sense

John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4’x5′ plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages school kids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can.

Music to Spread the Word on Peace Through Food

It’s amazing just how many popular education tools are being created to spread the word about the importance of healthy eating, citizen engagement, and food systems these days.  Here are just a sampling of some of the latest (and oldies but goodies):