military service - speech at Shannon airport
8 March 2003
I am here today to support the Global Women's Strike. I'm here to support women's demand for a complete change of priorities. We are all here because we do not want 900 billion dollars spent every year in the global military budget. There are so many useful things we could do with that money. It's not only that we don't want US warplanes and weapons of mass destruction to land at Shannon, we don't want US warplanes and weapons of mass destruction in the first place. And we want a world where there are no armies, no weapons and, of course, no wars at all.
I come from Italy, it's my home but there are many things that are wrong with my country. And one is that every man, at the age of 18, or later if he goes to university, has to waste 1 year being trained in the army. He has to spend one year being trained to kill and slaughter other human beings. Every single man is paid by the State for a whole year to be trained as a soldier, as a killer. Now that's a big waste of time, money and resources.
I refused to do my military service. I did not want to be trained to kill. Once it was illegal to refuse your military service in Italy. But so many of us have refused to do it, that now it is legal to do voluntary work for the community instead. That's a big victory for all of us. There are more and more men who are refusing to kill. In the Vietnam war men refusing conscription was a big problem for the US government. Many of these men were Black, and they knew it was not their interest to kill their Vietnamese sisters and brothers. The Vietnamese had never enslaved them, had never called them nigger, had never denied their civil rights. Today as we protest against a new war on Iraq here at Shannon, Israeli refuseniks are refusing to kill their Palestinian sisters and brothers, English and Scottish train drivers, women and men, are refusing to transport weapons, Italian train drivers and dockers are refusing to transport and ship US weapons and military hardware.
Yesterday, in a small town in Italy a train transporting US tanks on their way to Iraq was stopped. Don Vitaliano della Sala, a priest, chained himself to one of the tanks. The train is not moving. There are millions of us who are refusing to cooperate with war.
I want to read the last few lines of a beautiful poem by Bertold Brecht. It's titled "General, your tank is a powerful vehicle". This is the ending: "General, man is very useful. / He can fly and he can kill / But he has one defect: / He can think."
There are more and more of us who are thinking, and who are saying no to the war on Iraq and any war. Women are the backbone of our huge and powerful movement against the war, and men are right behind them. Together we can, we must, we will stop their military machine. Power to the sisters against the war and therefore to us all.
Pier Paolo, Ireland
Refusing to kill