"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Kill Sack

"O God, to those who have hunger give bread; and to us who have bread give the hunger for justice." - Latin American proverb.

"In a bid to prevent anti-occupation militia leaders fleeing Baqubah, the US military cordoned off the city, trapping the entire population. At least 8,000 American troops backed by 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are systematically sweeping through Baqubah, arbitrarily detaining suspects, destroying pockets of resistance and leveling any building regarded as a potential threat." -wsws.org

The new anti-insurgent tactics may be a preview of the all-pervasive prison camp into which all those who resist the Empire's need for control of Iraqi oil resources will be isolated, tagged and placed under constant surveillance. The New York Times reported that the military intended to 'fingerprint and take biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential fighter.'" However, they fail to mention that every resident is a potential fighter. Only those who have been tagged can be trusted. This new tactic is described by the corporate media as "winning 'hearts and minds' and 'bonding' the Iraqi forces with the local population." In less delicate language, "Command Sergeant Major Jeff Huggins bluntly declared: 'We are enveloping the enemy in a kill sack.'"

The modern technology of occupation and full spectrum dominance is being forged in Iraq. As an experimental science, there will be set backs and failures and the Empire has presumably factored these into its overarching plan. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory has pioneered the strategy that the U.S. is currently refining in Iraq, as Bush now acknowledges. "In Israel, Bush said, "terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." Isolate unstable elements (i.e. Palestinians, Sunni militants) in the population, cut off their resources, promote sectarian divisions, supply as much weaponry as possible, then reap the results.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Break the Illusions

"The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions." - Karl Marx.

The U.S. corporate media along with their supporters in Congress is currently instilling the required illusion of the day - our soldiers are great heroes and thus deserve our undivided support. In fact, most soldiers are ordinary people doing their job in difficult circumstances. There are heroes among them, as there are among all occupations. But the purpose of the illusion is to justify the war by promoting the idea that war breeds heroes, that it brings out the best in ordinary people and makes them into extraordinary beings. This lie is being promoted with the specific purpose of extending the spirit of sacrifice to those of us who must fund the war, to make us feel selfish and unpatriotic if we refuse to part with the funds needed to support these brave beings.

But true heroes do live among them. On June 21, 2007, Specialist Eli Israel said: "I have told them that I will no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives,’ and they have taken this as ‘violating a direct order.’ I may be in jail or worse in the next 24 hours. Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I'm in big trouble. I'm in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don't ‘disappear.’"

Do not expect the media to highlight this heroic act. The light of Christ comes to us in many forms, but it always comes with the message of nonviolence, that we must put an end to violence in ourselves and our relationships. Once we perceive the true nature of war as the attempt to impose domination on weaker peoples through violence and terror, then we fall under the domination of Christ's gentle yoke that leads us to renounce this violence, as Specialist Eli Israel has. Naturally, his defiance of the domination system cannot and will not be tolerated and he will have to suffer much as have all who have taken this path.

He could have simply served the killing machine, won the medals that the machine was willing to give him, and left, perhaps as the central actor in another glowing CNN piece on our heroes on the ground. But in words that strike profoundly at the illusion that binds us so tightly, "Moral convictions are not based on timing or convenience..." We cannot become moral after the fact, after the situation that called for our decision, once our violent duties have been fulfilled. To acquiesce in activities perceived as immoral is to fail morally, though naturally there are degrees and mercy must always be paramount.

So how can soldiers persist in their violence as the convictions of nonviolence begin to grow? In the same way that we Americans continue supporting a government that commits terror on a global scale. We practice selective ignorance. We semi-deliberately ignore whatever contradicts our ability to carry the duties which empire has assigned us. The purpose of the corporate media is to aid this process of selective ignorance so as to remove any guilt we may experience in the process of ignoring our brother's plight. They make us laugh away our convictions by making those who take them too seriously seem unbalanced. All moral issues are muddied and made artificially complex to aid the process of justification.

But Specialist Israel has seen the simple truth and acted, an act of resistance that will be punished according to its degree of sincerity. The empire knows how to deal with self-seeking insincerity; laziness and cowardice are its stock in trade. These facts of human nature are punished, but punished lightly, because they are useful to its purposes. The refusal to commit violence, however, is a blow to its heart, and no mercy will be shown.

Some words from the heart: "I want you all to know, that most of us that are over here, came to Iraq, with the very best of intentions, and really thought that the Iraqi people wanted us here. Now that I'm here, I realize that they want to work it out themselves, and I know we should respect that. One guy lies about the reason for sending me to Iraq, and then tries to keep me here even after he's caught. Another guy actually believes that we can make up reasons as we go, and still wants to believe the original lie. The third guy realizes it was a lie, but thinks it's the people who were told the lie—and who paid the greatest price for it (those wearing uniforms)—that should be blamed for not making the lie out to be "OK" in the end. This war is and was lost, but not by the military."

The light on the lamp stand is the light of conscience that illuminates the whole man, personal and communal. This light cannot be resisted, it can only be denied. To deny is to fail to live in Christ's love for all mankind, both friends and enemies.

The true feelings of the Iraqis are reflected in their tentative "waves": "I'm attuned enough to know that even the kindest Iraqi families that manage a "wave" to me as I pass by (when not done in fear), do it because my smile lets them know that I'm only doing my job, and that I'll try my best not to let my weapons of war hit their children when I have to defend myself that day." Such is the face of domination.

If you understand that moral convictions are not a matter of timing, please support Specialist Eli Israel. Supporters are asked to contact Eli’s senator Mitch McConnell to ensure that his rights are respected. Senator Mitch McConnell, 361-A Russell, Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510. Phone: (202) 224-2541. Fax: (202) 224-2499. May the light of Christ end the sickness that requires war's illusions.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Faces of Integrity

"An Iraq War veteran – who insists on remaining anonymous as "only a representative" of his fallen comrades – began walking laps around the state capitol building Memorial Day morning at 8:00 am. Fifty-eight hours later, he was still walking. Although some on the scene summed up his condition as a “health crisis” due in large part to weather extremes, he told supporters he will not rest until he has finished walking laps for every U.S. service person killed in Iraq." - Courage to Resist.

What has the blood of 700,000 Iraqis and Americans bought? "In Iraq, the new 'Hydrocarbon Law', if it passes the puppet parliament, is a shameless scheme to rape and plunder the country's oil treasure. It's a blueprint for privatization giving foreign investors (meaning US and UK mainly) a bonanza of resources, leaving Iraqis a sliver for themselves. Its complex provisions give the Iraqi National Oil Company exclusive control of just 17 of the country's 80 known oil fields with all yet-to-be-discovered deposits set aside for foreign investors. It's even worse with Big Oil free to expropriate all earnings with no obligation to invest anything in Iraq's economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies. Foreign investors would be granted long-term contracts up to 35 years, dispossessing Iraq of its own resources in a scheme to steal them." - Stephen Lendman, Jun 7, 2007.

Christians must not be satisfied with vague wishes for an improvement in the political climate. We must use the best tools available to analyze and understand the relationships of power, not so that we might seize power, but so that we can aid and comfort the victims of power effectively and realistically. Clearly, the current level of analysis is inadequate. Where are profound insights of Dom Helder Camara? He saw that it is not enough merely to help the poor, but we must, as Christians, press farther and see why there are so many poor people that need our help in a world that could feed, clothe, educate, and care for every man, woman and child on this earth. We must address root causes.

We must believe in our own power of understanding. We cannot hide behind "mystery" when the lives of our brothers and sisters - for instance, our Iraqi brothers and sisters - are being carelessly pitched into Sheol by the hundreds of thousands. To fail to see the power relationships that have led to this butchery is not intellectual humility, but willful blindness.

So let's take it a step further and admit (confess) that we benefit from the conquests of the empire that we are members of. We are 5% of the world's population and we control 25% of the resources, resources that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands each day. Our military control dispenses benefits to us directly and we are addicted to those benefits. The only way we can retain our life-sapping luxeries is through continued military dominance and, sadly, most of us are more than willing to pay the price, and we pay large advances to those who can cleanse this decision of its moral consequences.

Nor do we really mind war and killing all that much. We are encased in a mythological defense structure known as redemptive violence, which justifies killing as a static feature in a world without alternatives, where the conquerers and the conquered must wrestle eternally until the Lord comes again. But the Lord I know died as the sacrificial victim of that same empire, which clearly understood the love he brought as the greatest threat it had ever faced. War makes us feel alive, it gives our lives meaning, it makes us feel much greater than the pathetic slaves of consumption that we have become.

We are controlled by the levers of success. Success projects its idol dreams into a future that will only take place in our well-tuned imaginations. Blaspheming this false god can free us to connect to others, to form alternative networks of alternative power that destabilize the empire at its core. We have a duty as Christians to become disobedient to the idol when obedience means the starvation and impoverishment of hundreds of millions of our fellow creatures of God.

If our religion becomes a solipsistic luxury then it ceases to be Christian. If we see only ourselves and our friends, then we are cut off from the great body that we are part of and kill off that part of ourselves. We belong to a different Body than the one that requires wars in order to survive.

A Place for the Just

Henry David Thoreau: "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"On May 18, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz was sentenced to six months in a Navel brig and removal from the Navy for courageously upholding the constitution of the United States. Apparently this is a very serious crime in America today. Lt. Cmdr. Diaz is actually counting himself lucky, as the 41-year-old officer with 19-years of service to the U.S. Navy faced a possible 14 years in prison." - Courage to Resist web site: http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/311/1/

His crime?

"On orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. had refused to release the names of the prisoners that were being held at Guantánamo. The U.S. continued to stonewall all requests for this information even after a federal court ruled that the names must be turned over.

Diaz took action to uphold the law, knowing the risks involved. Concerned about this abuse of human rights, Diaz sent a Valentine’s Day card to the Center for Constitutional Rights in February 2005. The year earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support of C.C.R.’s right to represent these prisoners. Included with Diaz’s card, printed in very small type, was a list of about 550 names of prisoners held at Guantánamo." - from COURAGE TO RESIST.

Please consider a donation to Courage to Resist. One of the most effective strategies for ending the Iraq war and rebuilding the love of peace in Christian hearts everywhere is to give direct financial support to those who have the courage to refuse service in the U.S. military at this time. In the words of the web site: "COURAGE TO RESIST is a group of concerned community members, veterans and military families that supports military objectors to illegal war and occupation and the policies of empire. Our People Power strategy weakens the pillars that maintain war and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere by supporting GI resistance, counter-recruitment and draft resistance, which cuts off the supply of troops. We are autonomous from and independent of any political organization, party or group." The empire cannot maintain its power unless it finds young men and women willing to die for its false ideals. If soldiers refuse to fight, then its power is at an end. Money will never be enough to compel service because the ideal has to be strong enough to appeal beyond the risk of death and dismemberment. By giving material support to those whose conscience has lighted up, we put our resources on the line to resist the organized murder that undermines the very basis of Christian morality.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Saving the Child

"Two Roman Catholic priests, Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly and Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale, are willing to go to prison to expose the fact that young soldiers at Fort Huachuca are being trained to torture. Further, one of those young soldiers has already committed suicide after going into the prisoners' cages as an interrogator in northern Iraq." - "Torture Training at Ft. Huachucha", CounterPunch, June 7, 2007.

Armed with truth, "These priests are armed with a message about the proliferation of U.S. torture, secret prisons, depleted uranium and prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who are never charged. It is about torture and the United States violation of the Geneva Conventions."

We will not be protected by our subservience. What is presented as a temporary suspension of human rights will soon become unalterable and our submission offered as proof of its acceptability. As Jesus told us, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Matt 12:30. The failure of our outrage has scattered the forces that could have been used to battle the moral obscenity of this administration.

But the miracle of faith never dies. Fr. Kelly bears witness with his body that torture in itself is one of the deepest outrages of God's love, "His convictions are so deep, that he has already served time in solitary confinement." Too often, torture opponents use consequentialist arguments against torture, such as torture leads to retaliation, torture provides useless intelligence, and so on. As Christians, we should argue more deeply, from the moral foundations of our faith. Torture in an of itself is mortal sin. Saying torture is undesirable because of some bad practical consequence leaves the door open and once that door is open, the powerful will enter and what they do in the dark will spread.

With Fr. Kelly, we must also pray for the torturers, "He also prayed for the guards, who he said were also dehumanized by their own duties." In many ways, it is ironically just that Catholics should do penance for torture in this way. In our long history, we may well be paying for the inner corruption that infected the Church when temporal and spiritual powers were confounded during the Middle Ages and the Church gave its blessing to dehumanization.

In the words of the priests, "Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing." It is the practice of terrorization that the domination system is readying for the rebellions to come. In Iraq, they have begun perfecting the techniques of terror that will be used on those who fail to be sufficiently submissive to the ruling imperatives.

As in ancient Rome, Christians will form the heart of the resistance. "In Tucson, Kelly and Vitale were honored at the 'Festival of Hope,' at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, on June 5. With anti-torture activists representing vast religious and political backgrounds arriving from across the nation, from North Carolina to California, this was a celebration to kick off a movement."

The victims of torture understand its real purpose. Orlando Tizon, a Filipino victim of military outrages in the Philippines, describes it as follows: "'Its purpose is to destroy your humanity.' He said for victims, recovering from torture is a lifelong struggle. The tortured person trusts no one and relationships with family are often destroyed."

Once the victims are atomized individuals, they can be fully controlled. They have no inner center from which to derive their precious humanity and fear takes its place. As Christians, we know that center is Christ, which is given to us in the Eucharist. The purpose of torture is to destroy that inner core of value so that the dominator becomes the directive center. The domination system cannot be satisfied until its control reaches into the depths of conscience to subvert it to the mandates of profit. Whatever knits our heart to Jesus must be scattered and replaced with the pulse of fear. Or as Orlando summarizes his experience, "The bonds that make us human are destroyed."

Every act of humanity is an act of defiance against the torturers. Yet these acts become more powerful as they become more informed by explicit analysis of the origin and content of oppression. We must not simply remain in the outrage that chokes us at the sight of an individual act of torture, but must understand the purpose of the torture in the context of empire.

Law must be put in the context of justice. "Laws" that enforce dehumanization for the purpose of destroying the Christ-center that wants to live in our hearts are no laws at all, but the abomination of desolation set up by the Beast. Defying such laws is the cross that Fr. Kelly and Vitale have chosen to follow with eyes wide open. In the words of Bill Quigley, "Referring to the legality of the priests action to halt torture, Quigley compared it to the act of a passerby who sees a house burning and a child in the upstairs window. Although the door is locked, the passerby must enter the house to save the child."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Against Cold Rock

"And yet there is a surreal silence, save for the noise of 'news' in which our powerful broadcasters gesture cryptically at the obvious but dare not make sense of it, lest the one-way moral screen erected between us and the consequences of an imperial foreign policy collapses and the truth be revealed. John Bolton, formerly Bush's man at the United Nations, recently spelled out the truth: that the bush-Cheney-Blair plan for the Middle East is 'an agenda to maintain division and ethnic tension.' In other words, bloodshed and chaos equals control." - John Pilger, "Iran may be the Greatest Crisis of Modern Times", ISR, May-June, 2007.

Bloodshed and chaos equals control: the war strategy in a nutshell. The formula of the corporate news media reinforces this line perfectly: the more chaos, the more violence, the more fear, the more Americans will support war as the only possible solution. The U.S. has deliberately inflamed warfare between Sunni and Shiite in Iraq in order to ensure the conditions for permanent control.

The best commentary I've read so far on Cindy Sheehan's resignation is from Sunsara Taylor: "And, yes, it can seem at times like we are hurling our soft bodies and our embattled dreams up against cold rock, and like the forces aligned against us are made of impenetrable marble. But marble has fissures and fault lines and cracks deep beneath the surface and these can be located and the marble itself can be pried apart by the determined action of millions who dare. So I am struck again with the truth and the enormity of our choices captured in the final words of the World Can't Wait Call: "History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US." - Sunsara Taylor, "This is Not a Story About Cindy Sheehan", CounterPunch, June 3, 2007.

This rock, I fear, is the imponderable weight of our sins, both personal and social. Therefore, it is only our action, our determined heartfelt action, that can pry open the cracks in the subterranean rock that weighs the heavier the more we refuse to grow in spirit.