DEFEATING THE DENIAL OF WAR: AN OPENING TO PEACE
(Translated by Susan Tritten, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN Volunteer Editor.)
Is it feasible to maintain ethically and with some conceptual and empirical basis that there is no armed conflict in Colombia? After so much human suffering which confirms it, certainly it is not responsible, nor correct, to assert that the confrontation does not exist. If it is absurd to maintain this position, it is equally groundless and impossible to prove. It would be amusing, if it were not that it has succeeded in insinuating itself as a perverse idea that negatively influences our society. And, as a grave danger to our identity and memory as a nation, it ought to be defeated and superseded.
Still, in various places people have appeared who, with a straight face, deny an armed conflict, after more than fifty thousand dead and a great number forcibly disappeared in the last twenty years, after five million displaced persons, after millions and billions of pesos spent on the war; after having ordered hundreds of thousands of young Colombians into battle; after innumerable tragedies and dramas both personal and collective.
Everyone has a right to her or his opinion. They can think that there is no conflict. What they cannot do is evade their criminal responsibility for the violation of laws that they were sworn to uphold, such as those of humanitarian law which regulate and control conduct in conflict, which this has been deemed and proved to be. That is why this plot to deny the obvious, like a long-running false story-line, may have been a sophistry created to divert public attention from other problems and to shield themselves from responsibility in crimes that are now being documented. This denial is not only a question of opinion discredited on ethical principles; under many laws, it is punished as a terrible crime when it is at the service of perversely exculpatory and vile strategies that are an affront to the rights of the victims and of society in general.
For any educated and unbiased observer, including even those on the far right who are a little enlightened, it is completely impossible to erase, not only from our history, our social and political structures, our economy, our cultural background, but even from our laws, all that which denies the existence of a conflict which has, in large part, shaped us. So, although the most reactionary sectors might want to erase all vestiges of the armed conflict, this turns out to be unattainable because such an accumulation of laws in diverse areas (budgetary, fiscal, criminal, military, administrative, etc.) exists that it is no longer possible to make the evidence disappear.
Perhaps they persist in the vicious circle of reactionary denial because they want to hide their role in carrying the conflict to the extreme by resorting to means and strategies beyond all control. Today they are attempting to hide their liability and criminal lapse, turning the truth on its head, until they succeed in deceiving us all and presenting their role as one of colossal achievement. Their position of denial is explained by a complicit involvement. They want to distort not only the causes that gave rise historically to this war that has already lasted half a century – and during which they have demonstrated a great political and military inability to find stable solutions -, but to obscure the form which the war has taken in recent years, during which the State has broken not only many national, but also international laws.
Those who promote such an attitude of denial, which any sensible citizen could refute, in addition to seeking to hide the effects on the poorest and most exploited war victims, try to cover up the special benefits obtained by a handful of the powerful who enriched themselves, and continue to do so, through this conflict, which is no longer seen nor treated as such. For those who want it not to end because they live off its intensification and lawlessness, the conflict, even in issues of resolution, is distorted and prolonged as exclusively a security problem, from which they obtain juicy dividends.
Moreover, I am convinced that the reason for this distortion, promoted by those who say that there is no armed conflict, is not only so that there may be no talks nor a possible peace with the guerrillas, but so that nothing or no one to may cast a pall over or challenge celebrating an historic moment or erecting a statue to a failed project, to a long- term government that, behind its apparent success of "democratic security," has left a country more corrupt, more unequal, poorer, plundered, more in ruins, more miserable.
Sectors addicted to a totalitarian tendency, who deny the conflict, desire not only that no one notice their methods and that they continue to receive applause from a part of society for a collapsing achievement, but also to create a smoke screen to cover up their crimes, so that the criminal problem which they face may be seen as a political problem, or as opinion. So they came up with a kind of resolution that really wasn't one; they created confusion to shield themselves and to gain currency.
Thus the main step that the Santos government has taken may be interpreted as the beginning of a necessary correction that, for different reasons, is also suitable for this administration. In order not to maintain what he considers a ridiculous and untenable position, conceptually as well as ethically, but also to separate himself, to some extent, from an unmentionable conspiracy of criminal scope, of responsibility for crimes against humanity. For it cannot be forgotten that it does not depend on the caprice of those in power, but that it is their legal duty to apply international humanitarian law, which the State has recognized in the Constitution and which, in accord with this, it has incorporated and ratified through legal proceedings over the years.
To the extent that the armed conflict is seen as such, and this has certainly begun to happen again by recognizing some of the victims in the conflict, another approach is possible, a constructive, not destructive, approach of opening to otherness, of exploration with the other, and not of closing off, but of affirmation of a fundamental political culture of human solutions based on dialogue and consensus. It is necessary and urgent to make progress, as the cause of life and social peace cry out every day in search of places and ways to come together for wise solutions.
Therefore an obvious consequence is the affirmation of the undeniable political nature of the insurgency as well as the compulsory application of the rules of law in armed conflicts whether through unilateral policies or humanitarian pacts or accords between opposing sides. Of necessity, we must never again debate the humanization of war. It is beyond question that this is a legitimate and legally feasible demand. This will require the cooperation of the international community as a guarantor of the process.
Perhaps the former government wanted not only to isolate, but to manipulate for its own war-mongering purposes, to shield itself behind impunity.
Of course, our greatest aspiration is that, after the irreversible recognition by our current Colombian government, all forces join together for peace and justice to empower a politically negotiated exit from armed conflict.
In my capacity as coordinator of Colombians for Peace, throughout 2010 and 2011, I have received direct communications from the highest command of the rebel organizations FARC-EP and ELN, in which they expressly demonstrate their will to control or humanize the armed conflict, which they have never put in doubt, and of seeking approaches for a definitive end to the confrontation that has been wounding Colombia and the region for half a century.
I have, therefore, reason to think that, once the denial of war has been defeated the door to peace will open. I hold to the hope that the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, may be consistent in his objective understanding of the conflict, of the opposing sides, of his ethical and legal obligations, and of the course to take for the future of Colombia.
Piedad Cordoba, Colombians for Peace
Rebellion has published this article with the permission of the author through a license from Creative Commons < respecting her right to publish it in other sources.>,
[This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered and the source, author, and translator are cited.]