Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: Two paths to peace – the secular and the sacred

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

In late July, while John Kerry sat across a table in Paris from Mohammed Zarif, chief Iranian negotiator for the Iranian-US nuclear treaty, I and six other Americans from the Global Peace Initiative of Women sat across tables from some of the major religious figures in Iran. We were in Qom, the Vatican of Shia Islam.

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320One thing struck me: We were all working on behalf of peace, Kerry on one level, we on the another. He and his team were trying to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Our team — two Hindus, an Evangelical, a mainline Protestant, a Zen master, a Sufi and a Catholic nun — were hoping to find the common ground that makes having weapons of mass destruction unnecessary.

And we both knew, I suspect, that the fires of enmity burn slowly and long. At least if Washington and international affairs of any ilk are any proof of it. The problem is that international enmity is most often stoked by the memory of what “they did to us.” Seldom, if ever, do we hear one of the parties talking about what “we did to them.”

Instead, we plead our innocence, all the while spewing distrust and dismay.

As television stations around the world played an unending series of photos showing John Kerry and the U.S. negotiating team locked in contest with Iranian negotiators over U.S. sanctions and Iranian nuclear plants, the world around them sat helpless. We all knew that if they failed it would be we who would become prey in this latest game of King of the Mountain...

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: Let it shine

by Kathy Kelly, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Photo credit:  Maya Evans

Photo credit:  Maya Evans

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Imagine children lustily singing the above lines which eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlightens us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

Walking through small cities and towns in Wisconsin, participants distributed leaflets and held teach-ins encouraging people to demand accountability from local police, and an end to the “Shadow Drone” program operated by the U.S. Air National Guard out of Wisconsin’s own Volk Field. Our friend Maya Evans traveled the furthest to join the walk: she coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence in the UK. Alice Gerard, from Grand Isle, NY, is our most consistent long-distance traveler, on her sixth antiwar walk with VCNV.

Brian Terrell noted what mothers speaking to Code Pink, as part of the Mothers Against Police Brutality campaign, had also noted: that surprisingly many of the officers charged with killing their children were veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He recalled past national events, such as the NATO summit in Chicago, in 2012, whose organizers tried to recruit temporary security officers from amongst U.S. veterans. Former soldiers, already traumatized by war, need support, healthcare and vocational training but instead are offered temp jobs to aim weapons at other people in predictably tense settings.

The walk was instructive. Salek Khalid, a friend of Voices, shared “Creating a Hell on Earth: U.S. Drone Strikes Abroad,” his own in-depth presentation about the development of drone warfare. Tyler Sheafer, joining us from the Progressive Alliance near Independence, MO, stressed the independence of living simply, off the grid and consuming crops grown only within a 150 mile radius of one’s home, while hosts in Mauston, WI welcomed Joe Kruse to talk about fracking and our collective need to change patterns of energy consumption. The ability to withhold our money and our labor is an important way to compel governments to restrain their violent domestic and international power.

We weren’t alone. We walked in solidarity with villagers in Gangjeong, South Korea, who’d welcomed many of us to join in their campaign to stop militarization of their beautiful Jeju Island. Seeking inter-island solidarity and recognizing how closely they share the plight of Afghans burdened by the U.S. “Asia Pivot,” our friends in Okinawa, Japan will host a walk from the north to the south of the island, protesting construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko. Rather than provoke a new cold war, we want to shine light on our common cares and concerns, finding security in extended hands of friendship.

On August 26th, some of the walkers will commit nonviolent civil resistance at Volk Field, carrying the messages about drone warfare and racial profiling into courts of law and public opinion.

Too often we imagine that a life swaddled in everyday comforts and routines is the only life possible, while half a world away, to provide those comforts to us, helpless others are made to shiver with inescapable cold or fear. It’s been instructive on these walks to uncoddle ourselves a little, and see how our light shines, unhidden, on the road through neighboring towns, singing words we’ve heard from children learning to be as adult as they can be; attempting to learn that same lesson. The lyric goes “I’m not going to make it shine: I’m just going to _let_ it shine. We hope that by releasing the truth that’s already in us we can encourage others to live theirs, shining a more humane light on the violent abuses, both at home and abroad, of dark systems that perpetuate violence. On walks like this we’ve been fortunate to imagine a better life, sharing moments of purpose and sanity with the many we’ve met along the road.

This article first appeared on ZMag.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence  www.vcnv.orgKathy is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.

IRAN: National Day of Action to Stop War with Iran, Wednesday, August 26

irannucleardealDiplomacy or war. That’s the choice facing Congress when it comes to the nuclear deal with Iran.

But unfortunately, too many members of Congress want to block this historic deal—and put on us on a path to another senseless war. President Obama is standing strong, and we need to make sure Congress stands with him.

That’s why on Wednesday, August 26, members of MoveOn, WinWithoutWar, Democracy for America, Credo, and many others will gather outside of Congressional offices across the country in support of diplomacy over war. It’s critical to show members of Congress that Americans support diplomacy with Iran, and that we conside a vote against the deal a vote for war. Host your own No War with Iran action or sign up for an event near you to join this historic day of action.

Host your own “No War with Iran” action or click here to sign up for an event near you.

REFLECTION: No warlords need apply – a call for credible peacemaking in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
and Buddy Bell, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Afghan woman with childA second round of peace talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, expected to begin before the end of July, 2015, suggests that some parties to the fighting want to declare a cease fire.  But even in the short time since the first round on July 7th, fighting has intensified.  The Taliban, the Afghan government forces, various militias and the U.S. have ramped up attacks, across Afghanistan.

Some analysts say the Taliban may be trying to gain territory and clout to give them leverage in ‘peace talks.’  Taliban forces, apparently beginning to splinter since the supposed death of Mullah Omar, are now competing with a new Islamic State presence in Afghanistan  as various armed groups try to recruit new fighters from among ultra-conservative sectors of the regional population. Spectacular and frightening suicide bombings, hostage taking and a demonstrated capacity to force Afghan government soldiers into retreat or surrender might bolster a group’s claim to be effectively ejecting foreigners from Afghanistan.

However, the U.S., with its history of waging aerial attacks, using helicopters and weaponized drones, and engaging in constant aerial surveillance, along with its continued night raids and detention of civilians, effectively carries itself as the most formidable warlord in the region.

Throughout June, according to the New York Times, “American drones and warplanes fired against militants in Afghanistan more than twice as much as they had in any previous month this year, according to military statistics.”  On July 19th, 2015, U.S. helicopters even fired on an Afghan army facility in the Logar province, killing seven troops and wounding five others.  The Afghan Ministry of Defense told CBS News that “coalition helicopters were flying through the area early Monday morning when they came under fire from insurgents. After the insurgents’ attack on the helicopters, the helicopters bombed the area, and as a result an Afghan army outpost was destroyed.”

Meanwhile, top U.S. military officials have met with president Ashraf Ghani to talk about extending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, beyond 2016, in light of a possible threat from Islamic State fighters.  On July 19th, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.  Following the meeting, General  Dempsey said he agreed that the U.S. needed to have a transnational strategy against  the Islamic State. He said he would raise Ghani’s idea that Afghanistan “could serve as a hub from which the U.S., its allies and Afghanistan itself could work to prevent Islamic State from gaining followers in South Asia the way it has in the Middle East.”

U.S. military officials diminish the credibility of any proposed cease fire when they  suggest that the U.S. will, after all, consider maintaining bases and troops in Afghanistan far beyond the supposed 2016 evacuation of U.S. bases.  Confidence in a cease fire is further undermined when parties to negotiations know that the U.S. could assassinate them if they appear on a list of U.S. targets.  Consider a recent statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.   He was answering a question about whether or not the U.S. would “take out” the purported leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if the opportunity presented itself.  Carter said, “we would certainly take it.” Note, he didn’t say, “if there are no children in the way, we would certainly take it.” Not “if he wasn’t in a dense urban area, we would certainly take it.” Essentially, Ashton Carter assured people that the U.S. will kill civilians if this is a condition of being able to kill leaders of groups the U.S. designates as enemies.

Recanting such threats and removing drones from the skies of Afghanistan during peace talks would inspire respect for the idea of peace processes.  Rural populations — the “constituency” of the Taliban in Afghanistan– fear the drones and look for protection, making them vulnerable to recruitment by armed militias vowing to eject the foreign militaries.

The U.S. could  indicate that it doesn’t wish to keep military personnel in Afghanistan or maintain ongoing bases there

Yet, even were the U.S. to take these steps, a declared ceasefire between warlords who have, in the past, neglected the needs of Afghanistan’s poorest communities, whose war making has exacerbated suffering and poverty, may not be very meaningful to ordinary people living in rural areas.   Whose interests would the warlords aim to secure?

It seems that the most crucially needed ceasefire agreement, in Afghanistan, would be one that occurred among ordinary communities, agreeing to no longer cooperate with warring parties, to no longer allow warlords to use them as pawns. This kind of ceasefire might fill the need and longing for peace so often expressed by people who are weary of living through wave after wave of destruction.  But ordinary Afghans living in rural areas need to feed their children, plant crops, restore irrigation systems, replenish their flocks and rehabilitate their agricultural infrastructure in order to survive.  If they could have some realistic assurance of sustained  resolve to help them reach these goals, they’d have good reason to link up and rise up in opposition to continued war.

What source of funding and skill could possibly offer the assistance required for this kind of rebuilding?

The U.S. military doesn’t hesitate to demand sums for continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan which could instead be dedicated to rebuilding the country.  The U.S. should state that it wishes to pay reparations for suffering caused in the past.  This could be done in the form of setting up an escrow account to be administered by an NGO or agency that has not been accused of succumbing to corruption in Afghanistan.

By doing so, the U.S. could credibly begin to withdraw from warlord status in Afghanistan, and apply itself to being part of reconstruction, setting a model desperately needed throughout the world.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) and Buddy Bell co-coordinate Voices for Creative Nonviolence  www.vcnv.orgKathy is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.

REFLECTION: The Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews – and his conversion

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment – the atomic bomb – was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people.

Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 40,000 people.

hiroshima_2651372b“Blessing” the crews and its two missions, was the Catholic chaplain to the 509th Composite Group – the atomic bomb group – Father George Zabelka.

In a Sojourners Magazine interview, the late Fr. Zabelka explained, “If a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful.”

But in 1945 on Tinian Island in the South Pacific, where the atomic bomb group was based, planes took off around the clock, said Zabelka. “Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands of children and civilians – and I said nothing. …

“Yes, I knew civilians were being destroyed … Yet I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to men who were doing it. …

“I was brainwashed! It never entered my mind to publicly protest the consequences of these massive air raids.

“I was told the raids were necessary; told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership. To the best of my knowledge no American cardinals or bishops were opposing these mass air raids. Silence in such matters, especially by a public body like the American bishops, is a stamp of approval. …

“Christians have been slaughtering each other, as well as non-Christians, for the past 1700 years, in large part because their priests, pastors and bishops have simply not told them that violence and homicide are incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.”

After years of soul-searching, Fr. Zabelka’s complete conversion from being a strong proponent of the “just-war theory” to a total pacifist was announced in a 1975 Christmas letter: “I must do an about face. … I have come to the conclusion that the truth of the Gospel is that Jesus was nonviolent and taught nonviolence as his way.”

Fr. Zabelka dedicated the rest of his life to teaching, preaching and witnessing to Gospel nonviolence.

In 1983 he and a Jesuit priest, Fr. Jack Morris, organized and participated in the “Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage” starting at the nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Washington and ending on Christmas Eve 1984 in Bethlehem.

When Fr. Zabelka reached Maryland, I had the good fortune of hearing him personally share his inspiring story of conversion.

I strongly recommend reading Fr. Zabelka’s entire Sojourners Magazine interview by going to this link http://bit.ly/1LQtdFX. And consider ordering from the Center for Christian Nonviolence (http://bit.ly/1H37EeF) the excellent DVD “Fr. George Zabelka: The Reluctant Prophet.” Or just simply go to this link (http://bit.ly/1eAT5bC) to view it.

We can either choose to rationalize and condone violence and war, or we can help God build his kingdom of life and love.

In the biblical book of Deuteronomy, the author lays out a divine ultimatum for humanity: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.”

May we always choose life!

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 San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.