Category Archives: War

HONDURAS: Impunity in Honduras

from America Magazine

DSC09058In a small Central American country, campesinos agitating for land rights, journalists challenging the status quo and attorneys and advocates working for social justice face continual threats or acts of violence and intimidation. Scores have been murdered, driven into exile or “disappeared” in the night. Catholic priests and deacons speaking out in defense of the vulnerable are rewarded with death threats; a Jesuit-sponsored radio station has been threatened with destruction; and a civilian government has proven itself unable—or unwilling—to rein in public and private security forces acting in the shadows for the powerful.

This description is not, sadly, an exercise in historical memory, 25 years after the savagery of the Jesuit murders at the University of Central America in 1989, nor a recollection of the dreary prelude to the full-blown civil war in El Salvador in the late 1970s. This is a brief précis on contemporary Honduras.

The high-profile murders of María José Alvarado, Miss Honduras 2014, and her sister, Sofía, at the hands of the former’s jealous boyfriend in November briefly trained the U.S. media spotlight on the senseless violence that afflicts the country. But even astute news consumers probably did not read of another murder in Honduras that same week. On Nov. 11, Juan Ángel López Miralda, a Colón-based agrarian leader, was gunned down in the street by two men, who escaped on a motorcycle. Mr. López was a leader of the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, a fighter for the land rights of campesinos in that troubled region…

Click here to read the entire article.

REFLECTION: A Christmas gift for suffering South Sudan

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The world’s newest nation is in big trouble.

After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.

But the situation on the ground soon looked like South Sudan had not been born, but instead was still suffering intense labor pains.

The many years of war brought not only much death, but also drained South Sudan of valuable resources leaving it an extremely poor nation.

According to South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, 73 percent are illiterate and 45 percent do not have access to improved sources of drinking water.

But if conditions weren’t bad enough, last year – 10 days before Christmas – civil war broke out in South Sudan amid a struggle for power between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar who was dismissed months earlier by Kiir.

According to the International Crisis Group the civil war has claimed over 10,000 lives, and more than 1 million have been displaced. And it warns that the current humanitarian crisis threatens many more.

According to “The Sudd Institute: Research for a peaceful, just and prosperous South Sudan,” 4 million people are facing a serious risk of famine and starvation.  And that approximately 100,000 people are already experiencing desperate, humiliating circumstances in U.N. camps.

The United Nations Children’s Fund warns that without greatly increased emergency international assistance, over 50,000 children under the age of five will soon die of starvation.

But long-term development aid is also indispensable.

from un.org

from un.org

John Ashworth, who serves as an advisor to the Catholic bishops of South Sudan, wrote in an emailed to me that many international donors are reducing their development aid to South Sudan due to a lack of progress in the peace talks among the warring parties.

Ashworth said that seven of the ten states in South Sudan are not directly affected by the conflict, and it is both unfair and counter-productive to deny development aid to those people.

The heroic Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban often says that development is peace, and there is thus a fear that reducing development aid will create the conditions for insecurity to spread.

A U.S. State Department official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told me how important it is for us to contact our congressional delegation urging them to increase funding for both emergency and development assistance – that would support critical programs aimed at justice and reconciliation, education, infrastructure and food security.

Ashworth said, “I would highly recommend making a donation to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which is very active in South Sudan. I work closely with them.”

To send a Christmas donation to suffering South Sudan please go to Give to CRS South Sudan or call 877-435-7277.

During this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior, Christ the Lord, let us also remember the birth and infancy of the world’s youngest nation.

As the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, let us bring Christmas gifts of prayer, money and advocacy to suffering South Sudan.

And let’s not forget, that by giving gifts to the South Sudanese, we are ultimately giving Christmas gifts to Jesus who said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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.

HUMAN RIGHTS: Global Days of Listening honors International Human Rights Day

Malala Yousafzai“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pencil can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First.”   (Malala Yousafzai)

Lifting up the work & words of  Malala Yousafzai, of Pakistan.

To be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on this day, December 10, with Kailash Satyarthi, of India.

Join students and teachers from Afghanistan, Egypt, Palestine, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, by LIVESTREAM or SKYPE. We’ll share hope, and rededicate ourselves to truly building a BORDERFREE world for ALL people.

Join us at http://globaldaysoflistening.org/pages/livestream

Partners: Afghan Peace Volunteers of the Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence in Afghanistan, Fellowship of Reconciliation, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Global Days of Listening.  These organizations, long supporters, are on the web, per above.

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.

AFGHANISTAN: Not again, on ‘a more expansive mission’ in Afghanistan

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

President Obama has authorized ‘a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned’.

Imagine that, like the late U.S. war veteran Jacob George, you’re sent on this ‘more expansive mission’. Your military helicopter is landing on farmland amidst mud-house villages, like a futuristic war machine inserted into an agricultural community in the Middle Ages.

There are no women to be seen.

They are in their kitchens or rooms, pleading for you, as well as the Taliban, not to come.

“The things that I participated in over there surely brought the farmers terror when we landed in their fields, crashing their crop. I remember running off a helicopter and looking into a man’s eyes, and terror was what was looking back at me. It was as if a ‘devil’ had just stumbled into his life. Actually, most of us are poor farmers killing poor farmers while people in our nations starve,” Jacob had shared.

Like most people, my Afghan and American friends also wish for the Afghan conflict to be resolved, but not in this way:

Not through a ‘more expansive mission’ to kill.

In 2011, Jacob George flew into Kabul, this time on Safi Airways.

“Please forgive me for my participation in the war,” Jacob had asked of Ali and Abdulhai, two of the Afghan Peace Volunteers Jacob had met. He had pledged to ride his bicycle across the States, singing with his banjo, reaching out to people to end the war. It was going to be “A Ride to the End”, with his songs put together in an album called “Soldier’s Heart.”

Jacob George with Ali and Abdulhai in Kabul, 2011

Three years later, on 19th of September 2014, Jacob George committed suicide.

Not again, only one option

An American official was quoted as saying that “the military pretty much got what it wanted”, the ‘more expansive mission’.

Obama is repeating the same mistake he made in 2009, when he ordered a troop surge for Afghanistan. Since the troop surge, the United Nations and the people of Afghanistan have experienced worsening security in Afghanistan. The number of civilian casualties, mainly children, has increased.

In Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars”, Obama had asked his war cabinet in 2009, “So what’s my option?… You have essentially given me one option…. It’s unacceptable.”

For 13 years in Afghanistan, literally only one option, an unacceptable option, has been exercised.

Imagine that you have heavy equipment strapped on your body and your adrenaline mixed with tender thoughts of loved ones back home.

You dare not ask whether there are any other options to the longest U.S. war in history.

You approach the impoverished homes of the ‘enemies’.

Not again, ignoring public opinion

In 2009, 60 percent of Americans in an ABC News-Washington Post poll said that the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. Hillary Clinton had explained the troop surge then, “I’m well aware of the popular concern, and I understand it. But I don’t think leaders — and certainly this president will not — make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling.”

In a CNN poll in December 2013, 82% of Americans opposed the Afghan War , making it even less popular than the disastrous Vietnam War!

Imagine soldiers in your own squadron gun down  several Afghan ‘Fighting Age Males’, and you briefly see little children dashing bare-footed across their  paths, looking as if they have just seen ghosts.

You’re aware that your own people no longer support the mission you’re engaged in. You think, for just a moment: What is the Afghan public opinion about my military mission?

You don’t know. No one has ever asked Afghans.

Not again, continuing the failed ‘war against terrorism’

Despite spending more than US$4,000,000,000 in the ‘war against terror’, a Global Terrorism Database maintained by the U.S. government and the University of Maryland showed that the number of terror attacks in Afghanistan had been increasing over recent  years.

The war against terror has failed!

In the book ‘Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars’, Lieutenant-General Daniel Bolger said, “I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry.”

You crouch low against a crumbling wall of a village house compound. You let your bullets fly, as bullets also fly at you.

You steel your nerves amidst bated breath and the unintelligible screams of Afghan women, wondering in another lucid moment if your actions will make Afghans less ‘terrorist-like’, less angry?

Not again, failing to see the suffering of Afghans, and American soldiers

You don’t have time to digest the dire statistics.

Why is it that after 13 years of Operation Enduring Freedom, more than 4000 Afghans have set themselves on fire in 2014, and another 4000 have tried to poison themselves?

You recall some principles drilled into your training, that if necessary, you ought to ‘shoot everything that moves’.

You get irritated because a few boisterous-looking teenage boys appear too defiant, standing in front of women in burqas and girls who are crying quietly.

You hear some shuffles in the next room, and you instinctively pull the trigger.

Back in the military camp, you’re aware of the crisis of up to 22 U.S. veterans committing suicide every day.

Your heart, like the “Soldier’s Heart” Jacob George describes in his music album, begins to suffer.

At a memorial service for Jacob in Arkansas, last October, a friend delivered this message from the Afghan Peace Volunteers:

“When Jacob came to visit us in Kabul, he sang his heart out for us, just like he did across the States for you. We may not remember the song, but his voice and spirit is what each of us wants, a spirit seizing peace within and without.

Jacob, thank you! Jacob, thank you for your kindness in asking forgiveness from the people of Afghanistan.  Jacob, thank you for throwing your war medals back to NATO because you understood that those medals opposed the meaning of life! To Jacob’s family, thank you for raising your child as a man who would not pretend that our world is okay.

Our world is not okay. That’s why we in Afghanistan will try our best to continue Jacob’s tune and ride so that our next generation can see an end not only to war in Afghanistan, but to war as a human method in the world.”

In 2011, Jacob gave this video message to Ali, Abdulhai , Afghans and Americans, “To be perfectly honest, I feel that the U.S. government might not have the best interest s of the people of Afghanistan in mind, although the soldiers are human, and there are charitable acts that come from being human. The ultimate goal does not look like peace. It resembles perpetual war.”

Dr. Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

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.

REFLECTION: My father was killed by a computer, says a 7 year-old child

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew, “Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.

Imal in front of a poster of Badshah Khan.

Imal in front of a poster of Badshah Khan.

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like….potatoes…and meat……and….rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fuelling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report,  ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”

Dr. Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.