"Remember the Ladies"

 

Karen Jacob
Chair of WAND, Women’s Action for New Directions

 

Good afternoon. I am the chair of the board of directors of WAND, Women’s Action for New Directions. Susan Shaer, WAND’s executive director, is on the advisory committee for this conference and, WAND is a co-sponsor. 

It is with those connections that I find myself standing before you today.  I would hazard to say, unlike many of you, I am neither a scholar nor an academic, and I am certainly not an expert in international security like former Ambassador Wendy Sherman who you heard from this morning.  I don’t know much about the situation on the Korean peninsula other than what I gather in the U.S. media.  So, at this point, you may be asking, "then why is she here, addressing us?"  I guess I’ve asked myself the same question! 

I’m only joking, I do know why, and I am honored to be here and to share with you what I am expert in, and that is how our organization, WAND, and the women who comprise the organization, carries out our mission here in the United States, which is "to empower women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism and redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs."
 
Ok, that doesn’t say anything about war, or nuclear weapons, so let’s have a little history about WAND.   At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, with the insane nuclear arms race raging, a small group of very frightened and angry women in the Boston area gathered around a kitchen table ?sound familiar?  How many movements were started just this way?    They came together because they had heard the renowned Australian pediatrician, Dr. Helen Caldicott, speak about worldwide annihilation, nuclear winter, unending fall-out and really stupid politicians who did not seem to care!  Together they began WAND, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament.  Their motto was, "Children Ask the World of Us." 

Fast forward ten years, after the fall of the Berlin wall and Soviet Russia, WAND recognized that the world had changed and, although the threat posed by nuclear weapons was still great, there was a grander plan to pursue.  Nuclear weapons cost money.  The arms race was hideously expensive.  And we wanted the federal government to spend our money on things other than war ? people, for example.  On food, relieving poverty, providing housing, education, jobs.  You know, the kind of spending that brings about real security. 

Undaunted by the task at hand, WAND became Women’s Action for New Directions, fully believing our country was going in a new direction.  WAND leaders knew that in order to change our countries’ militaristic ways, there needed to be more women at the seats of the tables of power.  Women just "DO IT" differently!  We began working with women state legislators in all of the fifty states.  WAND hoped that these women would be the ones who would go to our national Congress.   And they have!   Today there are 48 women holding "seats of power" in the United States Congress who were assisted, encouraged, dare I say, "empowered" by WAND.

Our strategy is unique: to work with women in their states so that when they do run for the US Congress, they will know about weapons and war, the federal budget and how much we spend on…weapons and war.  We want them to be able to hit the ground running on foreign policy, not just local issues.  And most women have a genuine, natural interest in peace and peace-making.

Now I would like to turn to the topic at hand, Northeast Asia, and specifically Korea, north and south.  As you all know, the U.S. has a long history of intervention in the area which has profoundly shaped the Korean peninsula.   The US government is still intimately involved in the peninsula as we have troops stationed in South Korea and Japan and are one of the six countries in the multilateral talks.  As an NGO with a long history of working to eliminate the scourge of nuclear weapons and militarism and promoting the empowerment of women to act politically, we women have the power to influence the debate within our government in regard to Northeast Asia.  This is why the conference organizers asked WAND to be here today. 

I’m sure you are also aware of the tendency of the majority of the citizens of this super-power to be rather self-absorbed.  We are also currently embroiled in an extremely dangerous politically divisive situation that is fueled by right-wing ideologues, many in the media but many also in places of power, (like the Congress, evidenced by the congressman who recently yelled out "You Lie!" during President Obama’s speech).   But, that has NEVER stopped the likes of us, the outspoken minority of activists, who just survived, intact, eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration and even more years of anti-liberalism and red-baiting.  We survived, I might add, to herald in a progressive administration which includes many women at the tables of power, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Bonnie Jenkins, Ambassador at the State Department as Coordinator for Nuclear Threat Reduction Programs, Ellen Tauscher Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation.  Rose will be writing the START treaty!

This leads me to the crux of the matter, how American women can help to transform US policy toward North Korea.  First and foremost, the United States cannot insist that countries like Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea give up their nuclear weapons programs if we are not willing to give up our own and negotiate with all pre-nuclear and current nuclear countries to do the same.  To attempt otherwise, to insist that others give up the bomb while we cling to thousands for ourselves, is untenable and immoral. It is like preaching temperance from a bar stool.

We cannot bring peace, justice and human rights to the oppressed or eliminate nuclear weapons at the point of a gun!  

As Dr. Caldicott knew way back in the eighties, and as we now know, the threat from nuclear weapons and militarism isn’t just a regional threat.  It threatens all of us.  WAND has had a lot of experience with this issue, and now a lot of friends in the administration.  I personally began my own "peace career"as a grass-roots organizer and citizen diplomat to bring an end to the Cold War with the then Soviet Union. Our goal then and now is to end the nuclear arms race once and for all and to bury those demonic weapons! 

We know it is possible to get rid of nuclear weapons. There have been successes with the US program, (Nunn/Lugar) of dismantling and destroying nuclear weapons and delivery systems in the former Soviet Union.  Ukraine and Kazakhstan gave up the weapons on their soil, South Africa dismantled its weapons, and Libya recently abandoned its programs for developing weapons of mass destruction.

At the United Nations there have been agreements such as the Non Proliferation Treaty, and institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, that are dedicated to achieving disarmament. Just recently we heard that President Obama ordered that Missile Defense installations not be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Currently, many of us in the U.S. disarmament movement are gearing up to secure the votes needed in the Senate to finally ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

You heard me say that the person writing the START treaty is a woman, and you heard the list of women in the administration who work on nuclear issues!  Women, like those in WAND, believe that "children ask the world of us" and it is incumbent upon us to respond, to act, and as Dr. Caldicott said years ago, "Wake America Up to the Nuclear Nightmare!"

I’ve read through your discussion papers, listened to the speakers and from the perspective of this long-time grass-root, peace and justice, anti-nuclear, feminist, American activist I am going to list five recommendations to our government which are similar to what you’ve already articulated in your Appeal, but I’ll say it in a way that is understandable to all, and just plain common sense:
1) Increase the U.S. bargaining power, not through increased hostility, because that does not work, but by going back to the plan that has worked in the past. This time, do it through direct one on one talks, under or over the table, if that’s what will bring Chairman Kim and the military leaders behind the throne to the table.  "No Talking=No Peace"

2) Realize that we are not "all powerful."The US cannot, (especially with hostile words, with troops lining the boarders or with the threat of ships being intercepted), directly affect the situation inside North Korea or help its people. 

3) "Carrots and sticks"I know your statement paper deplores the use of sanctions, but they can be a useful tool if our government would use a bushel full of carrots and only a "few sticks."  Some of the carrots could be:
a. A security promise that we will not, under any circumstances invade North Korea unless we are attacked first. 
b. As you’ve already pointed out, end the original war, the Korean War, sign a treaty.
c. Create trade options that would work toward eliminating North Korea’s main commodity and export, weapons, and provide the resources for more civilian jobs that are life sustaining and help them retool to make non-military goods.   Without a threat from the US, Japan and South Korea, they could also begin to reduce the size of their military.  
d. Promise not to threaten or undermine the current regime.  That is not for us to do, it is for the people of North Korea.  Once their basic needs are met, and the perpetual fear they live under is reduced, then with time, they could work toward that end, perhaps even toward reunification.

4) In 1776 founding Mother of the United States, Abigail Adams said in a letter to her husband, John, "...remember the ladies... Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands."  Good advice, Abigail!  Let’s not forget the women of North Korea either.   Sheryl WuDunnand Nicholas Kristof have shown in their new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, that all society benefits when women are lifted up and all society suffers when women are subjugated.  Negotiations should include women and should strive to create programs that improve the condition of women in North Korea. We should help support such an effort with whatever means necessary.   This may sound like a futile idea to put forward, especially in a country like North Korea where all citizens are subjugated.  But it can happen.  Sheryl WuDunn has stated that the condition of women has changed dramatically in China.  Here in the United States it took over 70 years of struggle for women’s suffrage to come about.   Do you know the story of how our Constitution was amended?  It was August of 1920 and there was only one more state needed to ratify Women’s Suffrage, and that was Tennessee.  One vote was left to be cast and it fell to a previously anti-suffrage legislator, 24 year old Harry Burn.   His mother had sent him a telegram which he carried in his breast-pocket that urged: "Do the right thing and vote for the amendment."Young Mr. Burns listened to his mother, voted for the amendment and in order not to be lynched by the mob of fellow legislators that came after him, had to escape from a third floor window of the State House!

5) Finally, as was evident when President Clinton met with Kim Jong-il and similar to the situation the US finds itself with Iran, these leaders, whether they are despotic or democratically elected, want respect.  We will not obtain the ends we want for global security by confronting them with hostility and brutal sanctions, and not by being dismissive. 

My grandmother, a wise woman who was a single mother and survived the Great Depression with whit and fortitude always told me,
"Karen, you’ll get more with honey than you will with vinegar." 
    I agree, Nana, I agree. 

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