September 6, 2002 - PCOL Exclusive: An Open Letter to Mark Shriver from an RPCV

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 6, 2002 - PCOL Exclusive: An Open Letter to Mark Shriver from an RPCV

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 1:28 pm: Edit Post

An Open Letter to Mark Shriver from an RPCV

Read and comment on this open letter from Ivory Coast RPCV Alonzo N. Smith who calls on Congressional candidate Mark Shriver to oppose the war in Iraq at:

521 Beall Ave.*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

521 Beall Ave.
Rockville, MD 20850-2160

September 6, 2002

Mark Shriver
Citizens for Mark Shriver
8045 Newell Street
Silver Spring, MD 20827

Dear Mark:

Recently, I received a phone call from your father asking for my support of your candidacy for congressmember from the 8th District. I am writing you this open letter to explain why I have decided to support Deborah Vollmer in the upcoming primary election.

I am a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and when I heard Sarge's voice on the phone it brought back many memories. I joined the Peace Corps in 1962, and our Ivory Coast project was the second Peace Corps group to go to Africa, and one of the first ever to go overseas. But my mind went back even before then. A year before, I had stood in the crowd on Capitol Hill on a bright, cold January day and heard your uncle John tell us not to ask what our country could do for us, but vice versa. In my own small way I was a witness to history and that memory will always remain in my mind.

So the following year I joined the Peace Corps and remained in Africa for three years. When I got back, your uncle John was gone, and your uncle Robert was running for U.S. Senate from New York. When he out against the Vietnam War, it was an act of great political courage, and he, like Martin Luther King, came under fire for taking that risk.

Even though these are different times and the issues in 2002 differ in fundamental ways from those during the 1960s, there is one lesson that we as a nation do not seemed to have learned very well, and that is what Senator J. William Fulbright referred to as "the arrogance of power". Islamic extremism, like Communism, thrives when the major response of the USA to world problems is military force. Today we live in a world community that has for the most part turned against our country over the threatened war in Iraq. The latest story from the Bush Administration is that they will attempt some maneuver with the U.N. Security Council, but this will not achieve U.N. military participation in some Anglo American adventure.

I think we should guarantee the security of Israel, not because that country can be used as an instrument against the Arabs, but because Jewish culture, like Arabic culture, is ancient, humane, spiritual, and has made wonderful contributions to global civilization. But precisely the same can be said for African culture, and as an African American, I feel personally offended when news coverage focuses on the deaths of a relatively few Israelis and Arabs, and virtually ignores the hundreds of thousands of black people, many of them children, who die quietly every year of treatable diseases like AIDS, malnutrition, malaria and dysentery.

When your uncle and King came out against the Vietnam War it was because they recognized that a society that places military solutions above social, political and economic solutions has a sickness. I am absolutely convinced that our nation and our democratic values are in grave peril, not so much externally from a gangster like Saddam Hussein, but from the arrogant imperialism of George Bush and his collaborators in both political parties. We need leaders like RFK and MLK to speak out in a clear voice for world peace and social justice, and against an attack on Iraq. Now is not the time to sit on the fence.

I shall be following the outcome of the primary very closely.


Alonzo N. Smith

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