from Brave New Films
Talking heads like former General Jack Keane are all over the news media fanning fears of IS. Shouldn’t the public know about their links to Pentagon contractors?
from Brave New Films
Talking heads like former General Jack Keane are all over the news media fanning fears of IS. Shouldn’t the public know about their links to Pentagon contractors?
by Adrian Bonenberger, Commonweal
On September 10, President Barack Obama delivered a widely anticipated speech addressing the alarming growth in the scope and power of the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president announced that in order to defeat ISIS, the United States would ramp up military intervention in the Middle East, arming insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq and using airstrikes to support allies in the region. The speech was important. For the first time since he announced a surge in Afghanistan at the beginning of his presidency—a surge in which I played a small role, as a company commander deployed to Kunduz Province—the president is publicly and deliberately committing the U.S. military to ongoing actions in that area. Tuesday, he made good on that promise, hitting Islamic State and Al Qaeda targets in Syria and Iraq with airstrikes and cruise missiles.
The civil wars in Syria and Iraq have provoked widespread outrage: anger at the unscrupulous and repressive leaders, Assad and al-Maliki, who have governed the countries so ruthlessly; horror at the brutal sectarian violence; grief for the shattered families, the refugees—over 2 million and counting—and the nearly two-hundred-thousand lives lost so far. The natural human response to such suffering is to try to end it as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. In this case, however, acting on that desire is the worst thing America could do. Recent historical evidence suggests that if we intervene, we are less likely to end the suffering than to compound it, stretching the killing out over decades instead of years…
by Rick Cohen, Win Without War
Whether it is called ISIS, ISIL, or simply IS, the Islamic State is clearly one of the more barbaric terrorist groups ever to appear on the international scene. Its grisly murder of two American journalists in a videotaped beheading prompted President Obama to elevate ISIL from his characterization of the terrorists as a “J.V. team” to a “cancer” that must be “degraded and destroyed.” Not long ago, Obama dismissed as a “fantasy” that providing military aid to the Free Syrian Army, an army of “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth” would render them ableto fight both ISIS and the Assad regime; now the president has reversed his position and is calling to arm the remnants of the moderate opposition.
Dancing past his recent proclamations, President Obama gave a primetime speech to the nation calling for going after ISIL and other terrorist organizations wherever they might be, including the possibility of bombing ISIL in Syria. Citing the collaboration of other nations, including Albania and the Maldives (sounding like a revival of President Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”), President Obama promised no U.S. combat troops would be engaged in fighting on the ground in Iraq or Syria, just in the air. Essentially, the antiwar president announced—vaguely, to be sure—the commencement of an open-ended war against ISIL that most observers suggest would be one heck of a very long campaign.
Why did the president reverse ground so quickly? He has been pretty steadfast in his reluctance to take military action until the recent 150 or so bombing sorties that U.S. forces have carried out against ISIL in Iraq. With the bravado of pronouncing the one-day-old new Iraq administration of Haider al-Abadi (which skeptics don’t think merits the president’s confidence) a major improvement over that of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and implying that Saudi Arabia (which always talks and never acts) and Turkey would be putting “boots on the ground” against ISIL, President Obama responded to the increasing war fervor in the U.S. and promised action…
We need to do something!
With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be stopped.
So yes, we need to do something. But that “something” is not more violence and war. Answering violence and war, with more violence and war, is always part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Shortly after the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. Pope John Paul II 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 to the very problems which provoked the war.”
There is a collective amnesia that continues to block government and society’s memory that we have been there, and done that, many times before. Therefore, the war machine keeps rolling on with the encouragement of hawkish politicians, pundits and the military-industrial-complex.
During a “Democracy Now” interview with Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, Khouri said the major problems that lead to the formation and growth of militant Islamic groups like the Islamic State, are brutal dictators – often backed by the United States – who rule much of the Arab-Islamic world, and a foreign military presence like the U.S. in Muslim majority countries.
Khouri said American led military action in the Islamic world is the best recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
And it stands to reason. Imagine how most people would react – including many Christians – to a foreign power bombing and killing their loved ones.
So, what would be a Gospel-based way of responding to this violent crisis?
The Gospel calls us to mount an active response to suffering based on love and nonviolence.
This means no bombs, no drones, no missiles.
The U.S. and other arms supplying nations need to stop flooding the Middle East (and world) with weapons. A total multilateral arms embargo is needed.
And the diplomatic tool must be vigorously pursued.
Yes, negotiations with the Islamic State are highly unlikely. But negotiating just settlements to the grievances of hurting populations in Iraq and Syria will dry up support for the Islamic State and other militant groups.
The U.S. and other wealthy nations need to provide adequate resources for the quick evacuation of Christians and other minorities who are in harm’s way.
And funds and supplies need to be massively increased to assist nations – like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – that are being overwhelmed by Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
Finally, the U.S. and other industrial nations need to do their fair share in offering emergency asylum to these poor, frightened refugees.
Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your two U.S. senators and representative, and President Obama (202-456-1111) urging them to stop the bombing and start the nonviolent actions mentioned above.
It would do us all well to seriously reflect on the words of Pope Francis: “War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following remarks were delivered on September 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as part of the launch of Campaign Nonviolence’s week of actions.
Today we are pleased to announce the launch of Campaign Nonviolence, a growing grassroots movement that begins this Sunday, September 21st, International Peace Day, with a week of over 225 protests, marches and rallies across the country in every state against war, military spending, poverty, the epidemic of violence and catastrophic climate change.
I want to welcome my friends here, Ken Butigan, director of Campaign Nonviolence, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, of the HipHop Caucus who is on our board and who also works with 350.org, my friend Marie Dennis a long time peace activist with Pax Christi, and chair of Pax Christi International, and my friend Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a long time advocate for peace and justice. I thank Aric Caplan and Caplan Communications for helping us spread the word about Campaign Nonviolence.
What we are doing this week is historic. As you know, change only happens from the bottom up, from grassroots movement building, from movements that grow and won’t go away. That’s what we learn from the Abolitionists, the Suffragists, the Labor movement, the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement.
This week, with Campaign Nonviolence, people across the country are coming together and, for the first time in decades, connecting the dots, making the links between the pressing issues of our time, taking to the streets in a groundswell of coalitions, demanding change on all fronts.
With these 225 marches, rallies, and public events, thousands of ordinary Americans are speaking out in over 150 cities against war, and poverty and environmental destruction, and also calling for the visionary nonviolence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a way forward for our country and the world, saying that we want a new culture of peace with justice, a new culture of nonviolence.
As part of the Campaign Nonviolence, we published my book, “The Nonviolent Life,” and earlier this year, I toured the country for four months, and visited 35 cities where events will take place. I met with thousands of people who will be taking to the streets, and I heard for myself that people are fed up. They are sick and tired of this epidemic of violence, of our permanent war economy, of our ignoring catastrophic climate change, of poverty, and racism and killing, and serving the one percent and their oil companies and weapons manufacturers.
So in Salt Lake City, they’re gathering to rally for nuclear disarmament and the use of those funds for environmental cleanup. In Sarasota, they’re marching for immigrants, low-wage workers, and an end to U.S. war-making. In Chicago and Wilmington, they’re marching against gun violence in our inner cities. In Bangor, Maine, they’re hosting an “End the Violence” rally.
In Santa Fe, a thousand people will march against climate change and for new just environmental policies. In Wisconsin, they’ll be vigiling against U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. Peace vigils will be held from Honolulu to Boise to Buffalo to Little Rock to Washington, D.C. demanding an end to our war-making and the waste of billions of dollars for weapons instead of human needs. I urge every to visit our website: www.campaignnonviolence.org, to see the lists of actions and events.
With these marches, thousands of Americans are saying our government is broken, our leaders are failing us, and it’s time for a change. What do we want? Drastic cuts in the bloated U.S. military budget; the abolition of nuclear weapons and drones; the reallocation of those enormous funds–trillions of dollars–for food, housing, jobs, healthcare, schools and environmental cleanup. We want fair wages, new immigration policies, the reform of our criminal justice and prison system. We want an aggressive fight against catastrophic climate change, massive funding for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as solar and wind, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending the keystone pipeline and fracking and cleaning up our water, land and air, and signing an international treaty for rapid, verifiable action to reverse climate change.
But we want more than that! We want Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of nonviolence, and we want it to be implemented. We want a new culture of peace, justice and nonviolence. As we move closer to the brink of global catastrophe through ongoing war, extreme poverty and catastrophic climate change, we see that Dr. King was right: creative nonviolence is the only sane, rational, intelligent choice. Nonviolence is our future, and it’s time we become people of nonviolence.
That means, too, that we do not support the bombing of Iraq and Syria as the way forward to peace. We have been bombing Iraq for 23 years and this warmaking has not brought peace to Iraq, the Middle East or us. War cannot stop terrorism because war is terrorism. War always sows the seeds for future wars. Peaceful means are the only way to a peaceful future.
Americans are sick and tired of war. They know that the world is becoming smaller, that we need to find nonviolent ways to resolve international conflict, and dig out the roots of war and terrorism which are poverty and global systemic injustice.
This Sunday I will speak at the peace rally at the Climate March in New York City, then I will come back here on Tuesday morning to join the local Campaign nonviolence action. We will gather at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Lafayette Park in front of the White House to speak out against this culture of violence and injustice, and call for a new culture of peace and nonviolence, and engage in nonviolent direct action.
All across the country, thousands of people will be speaking out. It’s time our leaders listened to the people and worked to make peace with justice a reality.
In January of 2004 I visited “Bucca Camp,” a U.S.-run POW camp named for a firefighter lost in the 2001 collapse of New York’s World Trade Center. Located near the isolated port city of Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq, the network of tent prisons had been constructed by U.S. Coalition authorities. Friends of five young men thought to be imprisoned there had begged our three-person Voices delegation to try and visit the camp and find out what had happened to their loved ones.
This was a year before the capture of Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, who, starting in 2005, would spend four years in the camp under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, on his way to becoming the head of the recently founded Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Our friends with the Christian Peacemaker Teams had developed a database of people thought to be held by the U.S. military. They assembled their list of 6,000 prisoners as much through contact with terrified loved ones as through tireless and persistent correspondence with U.S. authorities.
They were able to find the “Capture Tag” numbers for two of the prisoners. These two people, at least, were still alive and at the camp.
With a translator, our small Voices delegation headed from Baghdad to Basra and then on to Umm Qasr, assuredly one of the bleakest spots on the planet. It was Saturday afternoon. At the outskirts of the prison, a U.S. soldier politely told us that we were too late. Saturday visiting hours were over, and the next visiting day would be the following Thursday. Reluctant to leave, we explained that we’d come a long way, along a dangerous road, and that we wouldn’t be able to come back a second time. An hour later, jostling on the benches of an army jeep, we were taken over bumpy desert terrain to the prison visitor’s tent.
There we met with four of the five young men, all in their early twenties, and listened as they shared stories of humiliation, discomfort, monotony, loneliness and great fear born of the uncertainty prisoners face held on zero credible evidence by a hostile power with no evident plans to release them. They seemed immeasurably relieved that we could at least tell their relatives they were still alive.
Upon leaving, we asked to speak with an officer in charge of the Bucca Camp. She said that the outlook for the young men being released wasn’t very positive, but she thought it would be worthwhile to try approaching the International Commission of the Red Cross. “Be glad they’re here with us and not in Baghdad,” she said, giving us a knowing look. “We give them food, clothes, and shelter here. Be glad that they’re not in Baghdad.” I was surprised. At least in Baghdad it wouldn’t be so difficult to visit them. She repeated herself, “I’m just telling you, be glad they’re not in Baghdad.”
Later, in May of 2004, I began to understand what she meant. On May 1, CNN released pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison: The hooded man. The man on a leash. The pyramid. These pictures are now burned into people’s minds. Suddenly there were very few places that seemed as horrible as that prison. Yes, we were very glad the young men we visited were not in Baghdad.
To be very clear, these men at Bucca had been marched naked in front of women soldiers. They’d been told to say “I love George Bush” before they could receive their food rations. They’d slept on the open ground in punishingly cold weather with no mat beneath them and only one blanket. The guards had taunted them and they had had no way of telling their friends they were still alive. But worse humiliation and torture were inflicted on detainees in other U.S. prison centers throughout Iraq.
The November 3, 2005 issue of the New York Review of Books quoted three officers, two of them non-commissioned, stationed with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury in Iraq.
“Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003-2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief… Detainees in Iraq were consistently referred to as PUCs. The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief, where soldiers would go to the PUC tent on their off-hours to “fuck a PUC” or “smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.
“Smoking” was not limited to stress relief but was central to the interrogation system employed by the 82nd Airborne Division at FOB Mercury. Officers and NCOs from the Military Intelligence unit would direct guards to “smoke” the detainees prior to an interrogation, and would direct that certain detainees were not to receive sleep, water, or food beyond crackers. Directed “smoking” would last for the twelve to twenty-four hours prior to an interrogation. As one soldier put it: “[The military intelligence officer] said he wanted the PUCs so fatigued, so smoked, so demoralized that they want to cooperate.
Maybe half of the detainees at Camp Mercury, released because they were clearly uninvolved in the insurgency, were nonetheless bearing memories and scars of torture. As one sergeant told Human Rights Watch, “If he’s a good guy, you know, now he’s a bad guy because of the way we treated him.”
When U.S. politicians want to sell a war, their marketing is top notch: they can count on the U.S. public to buy that war at least long enough to become irretrievably committed to it, as long as the advertising for that war leaves them feeling threatened. And no brand, in quite a long time, has been as frightening as the Islamic State.
The violence that brought the Islamic State into being, and which now promises to extend its legacy into ever wider regional violence and polarization, has a long history.
In between the first two Iraq wars, in numerous trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, our Voices delegation members grew to understand the unbearable weariness and suffering of Iraqi families eking out an uncertain existence under punishing economic sanctions.
Between the wars, the death toll in children’s lives alone, from externally imposed economic collapse and from the blockade of food, medicine, water purification supplies and other essentials of survival, was estimated by the U.N. at 5,000 children a month, an estimate accepted without question by U.S. officials.
The most shocking death figures from our 2003 invasion, estimating the eventual toll from war and social breakdown at credibly more than one million, were underestimates as they inevitably took as baseline the inhuman conditions under our years of economic warfare in Iraq.
On September 16, 2014, the New York Times reported on a newly released UN report which notes that in Iraq, “the share of hungry people has soared: Nearly one in four Iraqis are undernourished, according to the report, up from 7.9 percent of the population in the 1990-92 period.”
And now, the U.S. government says that U.S. intervention is once again needed to improve and civilize the nation of Iraq.
It’s widely acknowledged that the 2003 invasion of Iraq radicalized Al-Baghdadi, with his humiliation at Camp Bucca further hardening him. Then the haphazard flood of weapons and easy cash into both Iraq and Syria fueled potential for further war.
This will not be our third Iraq invasion. U.S. assaults, achieved through munitions, through children’s forced starvation, through white phosphorous, through bullet fire, through blockaded medicines, emptied reservoirs and downed power lines, through disbanded police forces and abandoned state industries and cities left to dissolve in paroxysms of ethnic cleansing – it is all one continuous war, beginning long before we finally turned on our former client Saddam in 1991, the longest war in U.S. history, continued now, extending into the future until it has no end that we can plausibly foresee.
One year to the day before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King urged a turn away from the war in Vietnam and a desperately needed rebirth, a “revolution of values” that was all that could free America from future such commitments. It would be so much better for the world if, instead of hearing President Obama’s September 10 speech justifying renewed U.S. military offensives in the region, we could have heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In it, he begs us to see ourselves as we are seen by our so-called enemies. It’s not easy to look in that mirror, but understanding the history of previous U.S. wars and policies, against Iraq, would help us look for alternatives.
We need not choose blindness, or the hatred that lets us be herded in fear. We can reach out with truth, with compassion, with the activist courage that leaps from heart to heart, rebuilding sanity, civility, community, humanity, resistance. We can find hope in our own active work to prove that humanity persists, that history can yearn toward justice and that a love which is in no way comfortable, sentimental bosh remains vigorously at work in a world with such need of it.
* This article first appeared on Telesur English.
The following remarks were delivered yesterday in New York City at the Peace Rally at the People’s Climate March.
Dear friends, on this historic day, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, we call for an end to the destruction of the environment. We say, Stop the suicidal pursuit of fossil fuels, stop greenhouse gas emissions, stop the keystone pipeline project and fracking and offshore drilling. Fund alternatives such as wind and solar power, pursue 100% clean energy by every nation; enact a new national policy and way of life that serves creation. Let’s protect the earth, the air, the sea, the sky and all our creatures and all humanity!
But today we also say, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, if we want to stop the war on earth, we need to stop our wars and pursue the coming of peace on earth. So we say: stop all wars and stop the warming! The U.S. military is the single greatest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world. We say, cut the U.S. military budget; redirect those trillions of dollars to fund human needs and cleaning up the earth. Stop our bombings and drone strikes and occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen; bring the troops home. War is not the answer. War only benefits the one percent and their oil companies and weapons manufacturers. War is not the will of God. War is immoral, unjust and illegal. War never brings peace; it always sows the seeds for future wars and more terrorist attacks and catastrophic climate change. We want a new world without war, we want peace on earth!
Today in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Congress just approved $1 trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear arsenal over the next three decades. This is criminal, immoral, and insane. We need to dismantle our nuclear arsenal and use those trillions to feed the hungry at home and abroad, to house the homeless, build better schools, create green jobs and healthcare for all and a more just immigration program, to clean up the earth and fund nonviolent conflict resolution. Nuclear weapons don’t protect us. They poison the earth, they’re bad for our health, they bankrupt our economy, they threaten the whole planet, they destroy our souls, and they mock the Creator. After 70 years, we say, fulfill the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, retire the bomb, abolish nuclear weapons, give us a nuclear free world!
Today in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, as people of faith, conscience and goodwill, in the spirit of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr., we say we are sick and tired of violence and war, racism and sexism, corporate greed and neglect of the poor, of all the killings, extinctions and destruction of the earth. Martin Luther King was right: nonviolence is our only hope, our only way forward, our only future. As Dr. King said, we are not powerless. We have a power, the power of active nonviolence to change the world. So we pledge to become people of nonviolence, to practice nonviolence in our personal lives, non-cooperate with the culture of violence, and work for a new nonviolent world.
Today, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, like the Abolitionists of old who announced the abolition of slavery and the vision of a new world of equality, we announce the abolition of war itself, and poverty, and corporate greed, and hunger and nuclear weapons and systemic injustice and environmental destruction. We announce the coming of a new world of nonviolence, a new culture of peace with justice for every human being, for every creature, and for the planet. This week, www.CampaignNonviolence.org has organized over 235 marches, rallies and actions across the U.S., in every state, against war, poverty and environmental destruction, for a new culture of peace. With Campaign Nonviolence, we dedicate the rest of our lives to the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace. We pledge to keep building a global grassroots movement of nonviolence for all creation and all humanity.
Dear friends, keep on speaking out for peace and for the earth. Keep on praying for the gift of peace on earth. Keep on organizing and acting and standing up for humanity and creation. Keep on practicing nonviolence and keep on marching for a new future of peace and justice.
Thank you and God bless you!