Category Archives: Iraq

REFLECTION: Syria may go from awful to even worse

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Syria has suffered like few countries in the world. Although it lived with minimal conflict for many years, its leader, Bashar al-Assad, maintained order through intimidation and terror. When peaceful demonstrators challenged his dictatorial rule, they were attacked, killed, or put in prison. What started as a civil war has become internationalized with the presence of the so-called Islamic State group and its opponents joining the fray.

iraq-syria-buttonAssad has spared no weapon in putting down resistance, whether it be chemical weapons, barrel bombs, artillery bombardments or snipers. The United Nations estimates that 220,000 have died in the war. There are disputes over what percentage of the dead are civilian, but they are certainly significant.

Assad wants to paint all of his opponents as terrorists or Islamic State supporters, but his opponents also include thousands of people fed up with his regime. His military strategy is to go after the weaker, non-Islamic State opponents while avoiding the Islamic State fighters. His purpose is to eliminate the non-Islamic State forces while leaving the anti-Islamic State coalition to degrade and push back the Islamic State. His endgame is to present himself as the only alternative to the Islamic State after he has destroyed his other opponents…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

IRAQ-SYRIA: PCUSA supports letter calling for an end to violence in Iraq, Syria

iraq-syria-buttonPax Christi USA has signed onto a letter to President Obama that was delivered to the White House and Congress this past week.

On the occasion of the 12th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (March 2003) and the 4th anniversary of the violence in Syria (March 2011), both of which were marked this week, faith leaders tied the two events together and stated that “the violence and death must end, on all sides; it must not be stoked with the recourse to lethal action.”  They highlighted the effects of instability and ongoing violence in both countries and condemned the violence perpetrated against various groups of people.

Click here to read the full letter.

IRAQ-SYRIA: ISIS – Nonviolent resistance?

by Eli McCarthy, Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

iraq-syria-buttonAnything sound familiar to the recent grumblings about war? The lyrics of “dismantle, defeat, and destroy” continue to resound in our collective discourse and consciousness. Another Authorization of Military Force has been proposed and most of Congress appears to simply be debating the parameters of an AUMF rather than alternatives.

Meanwhile after over seven months of bombing and using our “diplomatic” power to organize more bombing along with cursory efforts at disrupting the financial and human flow to ISIS, the following has occurred. 1) Recruitment has actually increased significantly from a mere 10,000 to upwards of 30-50,000 if not more. Further, groups in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria have identified allegiance to ISIS. 2) Blowback is spreading not only with beheadings but also attacks in France, Denmark and Libya. ISIS itself is part of the predictable line of blowback from the Iraq wars, the war on terror, and the Afghanistan war against the Soviets in the 1980’s that spawned the Taliban, Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda. We can draw the exacerbation line back further as well. Even if we “dismantle, defeat, and destroy” ISIS with arms, we will almost certainly exacerbate the bitterness and hostility that will create another similar group or movement. 3) Perhaps, most importantly we are becoming less and less attentive to human dignity and the value of human life, as we waive our human rights laws restricting who we give military aid to, and as we drop our “near certainty” standard for ensuring civilians are not harmed by our bombing.

I along with many other religious leaders have identified specific ways to engage this conflict, with a recent webinar and action alert. One of the key ways is a political track that involves a regional approach including Iran, but also identifying people of influence with members of ISIS. These people can create lines of communication with low, mid and perhaps in time with upper level leaders to identify grievances or needs and seek to peel away support. The reality is that lines of communication have already been happening but in a minimal and peripheral way. Multiple negotiations (ex. with the Peshmerga, Turkey, Jordan, U.S. citizens, etc.) have occurred with ISIS over hostages from different state and non-state actors. Members of ISIS are still human beings. I want to focus on a three key methods which are also not getting adequate public or congressional debate, and should become central parts of the overall strategy…

Read the entire article here.

REFLECTION: Beating swords into plowshares

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

“In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills,” writes the prophet Isaiah. “Many peoples shall come and say: Come, let us go up to the Lord’s mountain … that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. … They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

Swords-into-plowsharesThis prophesy will certainly be fulfilled when Christ comes again and his kingdom is totally established. There’s no stopping it. But it could happen even before then. If only we would go up to the Lord’s mountain and allow him to instruct us in his ways, and wholeheartedly walk in his paths.

But instead it seems like so much of the world, and so many people in power, are committed to going down into the dark valley of violence and war, ignoring the Prince of Peace’s way.

As I write, the U.S. Congress is poised to grant President Obama’s request to use expanded military force – including boots-on-the-ground – to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

In his request known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” Obama is asking Congress to approve the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq for “enduring offensive ground combat operations” for at least three years.
Didn’t the nearly nine years of war in Iraq teach us anything?

Military action against the Islamic State is playing into their hands. They want to draw the U.S. into a ground war, so they can trumpet the message that “Christian crusaders” have launched an invasion upon Islam. Such a scenario would flood their ranks with radical Islamists from around the world.

After the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. John Paul wrote, “No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.”

It can be strongly argued that the devastation caused by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq largely set the stage for the birth of the Islamic State and several other Jihadist groups.

Instead of fueling more war and terrorism, we need to pressure our government to provide far more humanitarian assistance to our fellow Christians, and all others, who are suffering from the barbarism of the Islamic State.
Also, we need to kindly consider making a generous donation to Catholic Relief Service’s emergency fund for the Middle East (http://bit.ly/17YCZ8g).

In his famous 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Rev. Martin Luther King said, “Our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”

And the same is true with terrorism today. If we will muster up the faith and courage to redirect the vast resources dedicated to war, and instead put them at the service of removing “those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are fertile soil” in which the seed of terrorism grows and develops, we will have then finally beat our swords into plowshares.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: No one should be hungry during the Christmas season

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

In early December, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) stopped feeding 1.7 million Syrian refugees.

For two weeks these poor, battered fellow human beings who had fled the misery of civil war, and the barbarism of the “Islamic State,” were told there is no money available for food – children, women and men went hungry

The WFP has been providing food assistance for 1.85 million Syrian refugees living in the host countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

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However, on Dec. 1 the WFP reported that it had run out of money to fund its electronic voucher program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees because many donor nation commitments were not being fulfilled.

But 10 days later the WFP announced that following an unprecedented social media campaign, government donors had given over $80 million, thus allowing reinstatement of food assistance to the 1.7 million Syrian refugees for the rest of December. And this funding will also allow the WFP to meet some of the refugee needs in January.

But then what?

According to the WFP, Syrian refugees in camps throughout the region are ill prepared for the harsh winter, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, where many children are bare foot and without proper clothing. Many tents are drenched in mud, and hygiene conditions are worsening.

The CBS news program 60 Minutes produced a highly informative and compelling segment on this crisis titled War and Hunger (60 Minutes segment).

In addition to the Syrian region, the WFP and other international aid agencies like Catholic Relief Services, are desperately trying to respond to four other simultaneous level-3 emergencies – the U.N.’s most serious crisis designation – in Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the African nations plagued by the Ebola outbreak.

According Eric Mitchell, director of government of relations for Bread for the World – an anti-poverty Christian lobbying organization (www.bread.org) – the U.S. government needs to fully fund the Food for Peace program. He said Congress has authorized $2.5 billion, but that the budget for fiscal year 2015 actually only funds the program at $1.4 billion.

Mitchell added that Congress should allot significantly more money for food vouchers that can be immediately used in local markets, as compared to the more expensive and time consuming transfer of food on cargo ships.

He said excellent long-term programs like Feed the Future, which help to sustain long-term agriculture development and security, need to also receive increased funding from Congress.

As a Christmas gift to desperately hungry people, please email and phone your congressional delegation (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to work for the improvements listed above.

And kindly consider making a Christmas donation to the World Food Program (www.wfp.org) or Catholic Relief Services (www.crs.org).

As part of the Christmas season celebration, many of us will partake in the blessings of bountiful meals. And as we enjoy the good food set before us, may we have the special gift of knowing that we helped make it possible for some of our hungry brothers and sisters to eat during the Christmas season.

But what about after the Christmas season? What will happen to the 805 million hungry brothers and sisters of ours then?

Will they be forgotten until World Food Day or next Christmas? Will they even be alive?

What we do, or fail to do, to help answer these life and death questions, will significantly determine how seriously, how faithfully, we take the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: Climate change challenges – support the environment or the U.S. military?

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Having lived through the 1991 Desert Storm bombing and the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, I tread carefully when speaking about any danger greater than war that children in our world might face. I won’t forget children in Baghdadi hospitals whose bodies I have seen, wounded and maimed, after bombing campaigns ordered by U.S. leaders. I think also of children in Lebanon and Gaza and Afghanistan, children I’ve sat with in cities under heavy bombardments while their frightened parents tried to distract and calm them.

Even so, it seems the greatest danger – the greatest violence – that any of us face is contained in our attacks on our environment. Today’s children and generations to follow them face nightmares of scarcity, disease, mass displacement, social chaos, and war, due to our patterns of consumption and pollution.

Ironically, one of the institutions in U.S. society which comprehends the disasters that loom is the U.S. military.

The-DoD-Energy-Consumption-2012

In the past few years, the Pentagon has issued several reports which concur that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is posed by climate change and potential environmental disasters. The reports show concern about how droughts, famines and natural disasters could cause conflicts leading to “food and water shortages, diseases, disputes over refugees and resources and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”…

Click here to read the entire article.

RESOURCE: Webinar on Thursday on “Understanding the U.S.-ISIS crisis”

from the Institute for Policy Studies

iraq-syria-buttonJoin Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism project, for an in-depth discussion on the crisis. We will discuss:

  • Why is the Obama administration going back to war in Iraq and Syria?
  • What is ISIS and why are they considered such a threat?
  • Is this U.S. war helping the Syrian regime?
  • Who – AND IN what country – is next?

Please join us for this important discussion – and invite your friends!

Understanding the U.S.-ISIS Crisis and Washington’s New Wars: A Discussion on Context with Phyllis Bennis

Thursday, November 13, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST

You can participate in the webinar online or in-person with us in the conference room of the Institute for Policy Studies (1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington DC, 20036.)

If you will be joining us online, you can listen in using either using your computer’s microphone and speakers or your telephone.

To participate, please RSVP to the webinar.

After entering your information at the above link, instructions on how to participate will be displayed and emailed to you.

We hope to see you there!