Category Archives: Iraq

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.”…

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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!

IRAQ-SYRIA: “Khorasan”, the lie that thinly concealed another military atrocity

by Julio R. Sharp-Wasserman

iraq-syria-button

Unambiguous evidence came to light after the initiation of the recent offensive against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, demonstrating that the Obama administration knowingly lied about the existence and threat level of an imaginary terrorist group they called “Khorasan,” in the lead up to the attack. This is a good time to reflect upon what religion has to offer in explaining and evaluating this type of state behavior. The Bible tells us that we are all flawed morally. This means, on the one hand, that, as with all moral criticism, denunciations of violence are most honestly and effectively directed at ourselves before they are directed at others, since each of us has the most control over her own morally imperfect behavior. On the other hand, we must also remember, as we often do not, that when state violence becomes so heinous that righteous indignation is appropriate, the same moral standards apply to agents of the state that apply to all of us, as we are all mere humans.

The public justification of this act of war crucially invoked the existence of and immediate danger posed by the imaginary “Khorasan,” both to prevent popular opposition in the U.S. and to elude the international legal requirement that military actions taken without U.N. authorization be in response to an imminent threat. The executive branch, in a strategically adroit and appallingly unethical maneuver, released this story to the press soon enough before the attack to preclude public scrutiny of the lies presented and then had other agents of the executive publically correct the fabricated account after the attack was irreversibly underway, apparently in order to evade accusations that they misinformed the public. This was well covered by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at the left-wing publication The Intercept as well as by Andrew McCarthy at the conservative National Review. Needless to say, these state actions violate widely accepted moral principles condemning dishonesty and violence for reasons other than self-defense.

It is of the utmost importance that we realize non-violence in our own personal relationships and teach the next generation to do the same. In doing so we construct a less violent world by embodying peace. However, because of the urgency of opposing egregious ongoing U.S. government crimes in the Middle East, we should also be emphatic in holding the agents of the state personally morally responsible for these transgressions in a publically recognizable way.

There are two obstacles in popular political thinking to this advancement in popular consciousness. One is the common belief, originating in modern social contract theory, that government in a democratic society is the embodiment of a collective will, and thus immune from judgment by those citizens who are automatic participants in whatever actions the government commits. We betray this superstition when we say that “we” bombed Iraq, or that “the United States” has taken unilateral military action. But popular opinion is, even in the best functioning democracies, just one more check in a larger system of checks and balances, and functions only in certain circumstances and to a limited extent.  The agents of the state are, at the end of the day, independent individuals who make their own choices. Moreover, although we express our opinions by voting between major candidates, the more powerful forms of expression are those that involve withdrawing support from mainstream politics and pressuring political institutions from without. Vote for independent candidates or publically denounce the choice to vote when we are presented with identically warlike candidates. Attend protests and put your opposition into political writing or into art.

The second erroneous common philosophical assumption, which is less explicit, is that agents of the state ought to be held to different and more lenient moral standards simply by virtue of the fact that they are agents of the state. To think this way is to treat the state as a false idol—an object of worship too mysterious and great to be susceptible to judgment. However, murder or dishonesty committed by an agent of the state are morally identical to murder or dishonesty by anyone else. When the small group of individuals in charge of military policy kills hundreds of thousands in Iraq, this action is actually a violation of the most fundamental and obvious of moral principles, hundreds of thousands of times over. The way we think and talk about and otherwise react to this should reflect the obvious seriousness of this moral offense.

IRAQ-SYRIA: Stop the killing

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

On August 9, 1983, three people dressed as U.S. soldiers saluted their way onto a U.S. military base and climbed a pine tree. The base contained a school training elite Salvadoran and other foreign troops to serve dictatorships back home, with a record of nightmarish brutality following graduation. That night, once the base’s lights went out, the students of this school heard, coming down from on high, the voice of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

“I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression.”

Oscar Romero muralThe three in the tree with the loudspeaker weren’t soldiers – two of them were priests. The recording they played was of Archbishop Romero’s final homily, delivered a day before his assassination, just three years previous, at the hands of paramilitary soldiers, two of whom had been trained at this school.

Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, (who was killed in Guatemala on May 18, 2009), Linda Ventimiglia, and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, (a former missioner expelled from Bolivia who was later excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of his support for women’s ordination) were sentenced to 15 -18 months in prison for the stirring drama they created on the base that night. Romero’s words were heard loud and clear, and even after military police arrived at the base of the tree and stopped the broadcast, Roy Bourgeois, who would later found a movement to close the school, continued shouting Romero’s appeal as loudly as he could until he was shoved to the ground, stripped, and arrested.

As we approach the nightmare of renewed, expanded U.S. war in Iraq, I think of Archbishop Romero’s words and example. Romero aligned himself, steadily, with the most impoverished people in El Salvador, learning about their plight by listening to them every weekend in the program he hosted on Salvadoran radio.  With ringing clarity, he spoke out on their behalf, and he jeopardized his life challenging the elites, the military and the paramilitaries in El Salvador.

I believe we should try very hard to hear the grievances of people in Iraq and the region, including those who have joined the Islamic State, regarding U.S. policies and wars that have radically affected their lives and well-being over the past three decades.  It could be that many of the Iraqis who are fighting with Islamic State forces lived through Saddam Hussein’s oppression when he received enthusiastic support from the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Many may be survivors of the U.S. Desert Storm bombing in 1991, which destroyed every electrical facility across Iraq.  When the U.S. insisted on imposing crushing and murderous economic sanctions on Iraq for the next 13 years, these sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of a half million children under age five.  The children who died should have been teenagers now; are some of the Islamic State fighters the brothers or cousins of the children who were punished to death by economic sanctions? Presumably many of these fighters lived through the U.S.-led 2003 Shock and Awe invasion and bombing of Iraq and the chaos the U.S. chose to create afterwards by using a war-shattered country as some sort of free market experiment; they’ve endured the repressive corruption of the regime the U.S. helped install in Saddam’s place.

The United Nations should take over the response to the Islamic State, and people should continue to pressure the U.S. and its allies to leave the response not merely to the U.N. but to its most democratic constituent body, the General Assembly.

But facing the bloody mess that has developed in Iraq and Syria, I think Archbishop Romero’s exhortation to the Salvadoran soldiers pertains directly to U.S. people.   Suppose these words were slightly rewritten:  I want to make a special appeal to the people of the United States. Each of you is one of us. The peoples you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a person telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you …I command you to stop the repression.

The war on the Islamic State will distract us from what the U.S. has done and is doing to create further despair, in Iraq, and to enlist new recruits for the Islamic State.   The Islamic State is the echo of the last war the U.S. waged in Iraq, the so-called “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion.   The emergency is not the Islamic State but war.

We in the U.S. must give up our notions of exceptionalism; recognize the economic and societal misery our country caused in Iraq; recognize that we are a perpetually war-crazed nation; seek to make reparations; and find dramatic, clear ways to insist that Romero’s words be heard: Stop the killing.

* This article first appeared on Telesur English.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence http://www.vcnv.org.

IRAQ-SYRIA: Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich, the George McGovern fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, is writing a history of U. S. military involvement in the Greater Middle East.

n-US-AIRSTRIKE-large570As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.

Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement…

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