Generosity Versus Violence

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In May of 1955, I was one of thirty United States Infantrymen facing a like number of Russian Infantrymen divided only by a manhole cover, on the cobblestone plaza of Schoenbrun Palace, Vienna, Austria. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen Dulles, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sat on the sidelines. At a signal, the American and Russian Colonels saluted, that was the official end of the occupation of Austria. The withdrawal of all foreign troops would begin and Austria would start a new age away from a war economy.
There was much to do. Although the Marshall Plan, the economic assistance plan to assist European nations devastated by World War II, had obvious political and even self-serving strategies by the giver nation, the USA, it was evident that it was working. The rubble of war was being cleaned up except across the Danube where buildings remained torn and tattered from intensive bombing ten and more years before.
As young, Cold War soldiers of the 350th Combat Infantry Regiment, we were trained and ready for a possible Soviet attack. We drilled in the mountains leaving a trail of spent ammo and brass shell casings scooped up by mothers and children. Some of the children had deformed legs that we were told resulted from malnutrition. Rickets was not uncommon in places where children were deprived of essential vitamins and minerals for long periods of time.
The Declaration of Independence and a feather quill.
That changed as Austria chose not to spend future resources on weapons of destruction. They took Marshall Plan Assistance and cleaned up the mess of war; built new schools, medical clinics and hospitals, took care of children and elderly, invested in industries other than munitions, rebuilt roads and bridges and taught their young that war is not the answer.
I’ve been back to Austria several times since the end of occupation. Unlike the United States, there are no slums in Austria–no rows of cheap aluminum trailers, cities clogged with shabby, crime -ridden tenements or broken roads and rotting bridges. It took more than The Marshall Plan to bring around the Austrian success. The will and energy of the people was key to their success. Yet, the brilliance of the plan, named after United States General George Marshall, must be bestowed on the United States Government. The success of Austria and Germany in rising from the ashes to become two of the most economically sound and caring societies in the world is a remarkable achievement. It needs to be implemented in the war torn Middle East.
Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Global Marshall Plan was first heard by my wife and I at one of Lerner’s workshops in Columbus, Georgia about six years ago. Since then, we’ve witnessed the continued absurdity of our federal governments insistence that vengeance and violence works better than generosity. The United States, the worlds richest nation, ranks 20th in economic aid to poor nations, and ranks 1st as exporter of weapons of death and destruction.
I was released from Jamesville Penitentiary in upstate New York the day after last Thanksgiving. I finished my three month sentence for participating in a nonviolent ‘die-in’ outside the main gate to the killer drone base of the US Air Force 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, NY. Thirty seconds of lying on the ground outside the Hancock Drone base where assassinations take place made me a criminal. At my sentence, the Syracuse Assistant DA said: “Mr. Gilroy showed no remorse for his crime. He’s a criminal and should receive the full sentence for his crime.”
Upon my release, I learned of a Drone Conference at Princeton University. The agenda was already set but I asked to be able to speak about The Global Marshall Plan. It was an interfaith conference of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists; twenty different denominations representing twenty-two states. The Global Marshall Plan, which would offer eradication of poverty, environmental protection and sustainable development,was given to conference members and attendees who were encouraged to consider both the honest moral action needed, combined with the pragmatic logic to counteract recruitment of terrorists lured to violent payback of American missiles and other forms of death dealing foreign policy.
Congressman Keith Ellison of Minneapolis/St Paul, the only Muslim in Congress, has presented House of Representatives Resolution 1078, the Global Marshall Plan. Congressional Resolutions are a good start. Yet, just the beginning of a long process that could result in an Act of Congress–an Act called The Global Marshall Plan.
Some of us will target April 23/24 to meet with Congress members and/or staff to request they sign onto The Global Marshall Plan.
Consider being with us to walk the halls of Congress those two days individually or in small groups of two or three. One does not have to be a professional lobbyist. Simply call the Washington office of your Congressional Representative and ask for a meeting with the Congressperson or the staff person associated with foreign affairs. Have with you a print out of the Global Marshall Plan and give it to the staff person. As we wait for a new Resolution number, ask Congressional staff to read the Global Marshall Plan and encourage your Congressperson to sign onto Congressman Keith Ellison’s Global Marshall Plan.
If you can’t make the trip to Washington, then please act locally. Get a copy to your Congressional District office. Call and ask for an appointment in one of the offices in your Congressional district. Ask to speak to the Office Director about a foreign affairs issue. Be upbeat. Smile. The pamphlet will explain the resolution but a short verbal statement in support of the Global Marshall plan by each lobbyist would strengthen the case.
Some will say the Global Marshall Plan is not realistic. Some of us remember when landing a human on the moon was considered a joke. And consider the story of Americans and European activists meeting in Berlin in 1989 to discuss strategies to bring down the Berlin Wall. At a morning meeting all agreed that it would take years and work and patience had to continue.
That afternoon, the Berlin Wall began to be dismantled.
We will provide an updated follow-up post with a new House Resolution Number for the Global Marshall Plan as soon as we have it.

Jack Gilroy’s most recent project isThe Predator, a play about killer drones. Heis the author of The Wisdom Box, for which he won an OMNI Peace Hope International Writing Award, and Absolute Flanigan.