"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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

There is No Place for Neutrality

Today, the corporate-controlled media is full of headlines about the spectacular rescue of Ingrid Betancourt from the notorious FARC rebels in Columbia. As Christians, we rejoice with Ingrid and those who love her for her release from captivity. But before we allow the personal to obliterate the social background to this rescue, perhaps we should pause a moment to reflect on why she was captured and the truth of the U.S. relationship to the Columbian people. As Christians dedicated to truth above all, so we must gaze unblinkingly on what the economic system that provides us with unprecedented comfort has done to the Columbian people.

Columbia, far from being a "democracy" is an oligarchy ruled by a tiny percentage of the population, not as stark as the contrast in the U.S. where 1 percent owns 40% of the wealth, but stark nonetheless. 37 landholders own half the arable farmland, while the vast majority subsist on less than 3 percent.

What does St. Basil have to say about such a situation? He speaks with the simplicity of all the saints: "Though you have not killed, like you say, nor committed adultery, nor stolen, nor borne false witness, you make all of this useless unless add the only thing which can allow you to enter the kingdom... If it is true that you have kept the law of charity from your childhood, as you claim, and that you have done as much for others as for yourself, then where does all your wealth come from? Care for the poor absorbs all available resources... So whoever loves his neighbor owns no more than his neighbor does. But you have a great fortune. How can this be, unless you have put your own interests before those others?...I know many people who fast, pray, groan, and do any kind of pious work that doesn't affect their pockets, but as the same time they give nothing to the needy. What good are their merits? The Kingdom of heaven is closed to them." - St. Basil, Homilia VII.

Where does the wealth of the 37 Columbia families come from? It comes from the poor whom they exploit and from drug money which is the result of American self-indulgence. Cocaine is one of major means by which we wish away the world we have created. In addition, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has been connected to the drug trafficking through members of his own family.

As one dedicated to non-violence, if I were a Columbian, I might well follow the path followed by the Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó. The story of this group who tried to stand above the violence sheds much light, painful as that light might be, on the situation that breeds the FARC. "The Comunidad de Paz was established as the first organically constructed and established peace community within Colombia that sought the existence of an alternative autonomous society surrounded by a raging four decade old war. San José's goal was to be a progressive community independent from violence existing apart from the armed activities and actors presented throughout the country." - James J. Brittain, "The Paramilitaries Burned Wayuu Children Alive and Killed Others With Chainsaws"

The response of the government to the Comunidad de Paz's attempt to live in peace with both the rebels and the government was swift and stark as the parables of Jesus: "One of the principal founders of the historically significant community was a man named Luis Eduardo Guerra. Guerra, like all too many social justice-minded personalities within the Andean country, was brutally murdered on February 21st. His remains were found alongside Deyanira Areiza Guzman (Guerra's partner), Deiner Andres Guerra, (Guerra's son), Luis Eduardo Guerra, (Guerra's half-brother), Alfonso Bolivar Tuberquia Graciano (a leader/member of the Peace Council of the Mulatos humanitarian zone), Sandra Milena Munoz Pozo (Graciano's partner), Santiago Tuberquia Munoz and Natalia Andrea Tuberquia Munoz (Graciano and Munoz's children). The murderers, according to several eye-witnesses, were members belonging to the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army." - James J. Brittain, "The Paramilitaries Burned Wayuu Children Alive and Killed Others With Chainsaws"

In other words, the attempt to respond non-violently to the Columbian situation was met with extreme violence. In response, the Comunidad de Paz made the following confession: "On March 8th the Comunidad de Paz released a statement which stated that the community had been the recipients of 'many attacks' such as 'harassments, threats, beatings, bombings, murders' and now, 'massacres'. Nevertheless, the people of San José presented that 'the will of the community is firm' and they are determined to maintain their 'position of pacifist coexistence'." - James J. Brittain, "The Paramilitaries Burned Wayuu Children Alive and Killed Others With Chainsaws"

At the Nonviolent Jesus, we too are determined to maintain our position of pacifist coexistence, but with a questioning heart. If non-violence leads to murder, if the situation is one where no shades of grey are permitted, then what must be our response? I strongly believe that it must be greater faith in the heart of the nonviolent Jesus. But before we make this decision too easily, consider the fate of the Wayuu people at the hands of the Columbian government.

"On April 18th, 2004 paramilitaries (and soldiers) entered into the village of Bahía de Portete where a large majority of Wayuu peoples inhabited. On this date the state forces systematically 'burned two children alive and killed others with chain saws'." The father of the two children who were burned alive made the following statement: "You can not imagine how it is to have to escape on the run so that they won't kill you, and then hear the cries of the kids, of my two little sons who they burned alive with out me being able to do anything... They burned them alive inside my pick up. Also, they beheaded my mother and cut my nephews to pieces. They didn't shoot them, they tortured them so we would hear their screams, and they cut them up alive with a chain saw." - James J. Brittain, "The Paramilitaries Burned Wayuu Children Alive and Killed Others With Chainsaws"

To be a Christian is to care about injustice even against people you don't know personally. Can we as Christians make a simple response to these acts? If we do, then we have not really responded to these acts, but to some figment of our spiritual imagination. Especially when we consider the response of the Wayuu people, "Since this time an increasing number of Wayuu have become members of the FARC-EP, while others have organized indigenous-based self-defense movements working in a cooperative manner with other objectively devoted social movements seeking emancipatory conditions for their people. As a result, attacks against the Wayuu (who have chosen to defend themselves) have dropped precipitously since the spring of 2004." - James J. Brittain, "The Paramilitaries Burned Wayuu Children Alive and Killed Others With Chainsaws"

The choice to defend one's people by joining the FARC has led to a reduction of horrendous attacks. How do we as those dedicated to the message of Jesus respond? One way is to say that because our Christian communities have failed to support and publicize groups such as the Comunidad de Paz and to bring attention to their suffering, they have been left with the stark choice of death or displacement. Because we have been so busy with soccer moms and Nascar dads, we have failed to show the awareness and dedication of those who resisted U.S. attacks on Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980's. The situation in Columbia calls out for the same level of solidarity and resistance, but so far any Christian support for alternatives in Columbia has been barely visible.

I would like to end this brief meditation on the situation in Columbia with a reflection on the dedication needed by those who embrace nonviolence. Consider those who risk career and livelihood to resist torture, "We have to get as serious about our resistance to war and torture, as our friends, our sons and daughters are about war. Theirs is a total commitment. And mine must be the same. We have to take time in prayer, and look at when God is calling us to resist the empire under which we live. There are a hundred ways for dissent to be on the side of power: and there are even more ways for dissent to be on the side of poor, on the side of those who have been tortured, on the side of those marginalized." - "We Need Story and Direct Action", Susan Crane

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why Not?

As millions submit to to inevitable death, courtiers of power like Barack Obama will keep us politically entertained: "Being a courtier, and Obama is one of the best, requires agility and eloquence. The most talented of them can be lauded as persuasive actors. They entertain us. They make us feel good. They convince us they are our friends. We would like to have dinner with them. They are the smiley faces of a corporate state that has hijacked the government and is raping the nation. When the corporations make their iron demands these courtiers drop to their knees, whether to placate the telecommunications companies that fund their campaigns and want to be protected from lawsuits, or to permit oil and gas companies to rake in obscene profits and keep in place the vast subsidies of corporate welfare doled out by the state." Chris Hedges, "The Hedonists of Power"

Now consider what the neoliberalism espoused by Mr. Obama has brought to his fellow Africans in Haiti, "It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau." - "The World Food Crisis Sources and Solutions", Fred Magdoff

Lunchtime in Haiti calls Christians to analyze the root causes which require the starvation of millions to guarantee the profits of a few. Neoliberal medicine, combined with charity to ease the pain of injustice can only extend the reign of this all-consuming principality and power.

The crisis in Haiti is part of a much larger ecological crisis that has been caused directly by the neoliberal policies Obama embraces so thoughtlessly. Humanity has reached a point in its relationship with the earth where incremental patches are blasphemously inadequate. Consider the observations of James Hansen, considered the world's foremost climatologist, "Our home planet is dangerously near a tipping point at which human-made greenhouse gases reach a level where major climate changes can proceed mostly under their own momentum. Warming will shift climatic zones by intensifying the hydrologic cycle, affecting freshwater availability and human health. We will see repeated coastal tragedies associated with storms and continuously rising sea levels. The implications are profound, and the only resolution is for humans to move to a fundamentally different energy pathway within a decade. Otherwise, it will be too late for one-third of the world’s animal and plant species and millions of the most vulnerable members of our own species." - James Hansen, 'Tipping Point,' in E. Fearn and K. H. Redford eds, The State of the Wild 2008 (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008)

In the words of Jurgen Moltmann, "If the world is God's creation, then it remains his property and cannot be claimed by men and women. It can only be accepted as a loan and administered as a trust. It has to be treated according to the standards of the divine righteousness, not according to the values that are bound up with human aggrandizement." - "God in Creation"

Unfortunately for the majority of Americans and the Obamans in particular, adding a few new regulations and support for research on alternative energies will be seen as comically inadequate in a few years. The real motivating force behind the ecological crisis cannot be dealt with within the current reigning economic structure. This structure depends on ever expanding economic growth. Without continuous exponential growth, this type of economy will stagnate and decline. Yet such growth invariably requires more and more energy resources, which irreversibly damages the ability of the planet to sustain life. This economic system lives by degrading the ecology of the planet and thrives the more thoughtlessly it devastates its resources.

One hears much about "dematerialization" with respect to economic growth, the notion more efficient use of information technology and other aids can lead to a decreasing impact of growth on the environment. Yet the expansion of output, due precisely to these increased efficiencies, would overwhelm the gains of greater efficiency. The prize targeted by all our economic enterprises is constant expansion. It is the logic of the system that is at fault, not its operation.

Fundamentally, the economic operating system which we inhabit inherently favors the present over the future. The corporation that sacrifices ecological principles for immediate growth always prevails in the market place. Those willing to invest in the long term health of humanity and a flourishing planet are elbowed into bankruptcy. Those who ruthlessly pursue today and tomorrow's profit, pay the lowest taxes and exploit natural resources to the maximum extent possible, always win over those that pursue the responsibilities laid on us by God. We need an upgrade to a new operating system, one which privileges solidarity over competition, and energizes ecological responsibility, not mindless expansion.

William Morris, one of the first radical thinkers to confront the "organizers of filth", the degraders of the countryside in 19th century England, provided an alternative vision approaching the Biblical, "In rejecting all of this, Morris asked, was it not possible to create a more decent, more beautiful, more fulfilling, more healthy, less hell-like way of living, in which all had a part in the 'share of earth the Common Mother' and the sordid world of 'profit-grinding' was at last brought to an end? Why Not?" - John Simon, "Ecology The Moment of Truth - An Introduction"

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Abortion of Human Intelligence

"It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year... Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice free north Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year." - "No Ice at the North Pole", Independent, June 27, 2008

The scope of the crime committed by the major oil companies is revealed in following analysis of James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and widely considered to be the world's foremost climatologist: "The greatest immediate threat to humanity from climate change, Hansen argues, is associated with the destabilization of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. A little more than 1° C (1.8° F) separates the climate of today from the warmest interglacial periods in the last half million years when the sea level was as much as sixteen feet higher. Further, increases in temperature this century by around 2.8° C (5° F) under business as usual could lead to a long term rise in sea level by as much as eighty feet, judging by what happened the last time the earth’s temperature rose this high—three million years ago. 'We have,' Hansen says, 'at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions'—if we are to prevent such disastrous outcomes from becoming inevitable. One crucial decade, in other words, separates us from irreversible changes that could produce a very different world. The contradictions of the entire Holocene—the geological epoch in which human civilization has developed—are suddenly being revealed in our time." - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction"

The oil company executives and we as their silent enablers have created a world in which only a fraction of the billions now living may be able to survive in the coming century. The conditions of that survival are such that the life we live today may soon recede down the grand hall of the mythological ages - Rome, Egypt, Babylon.

Yet the principalities and powers that have unleashed this uncontrollable chain reaction are not mere executives laying out the spreadsheets of next year's profits. The underlying system that has torn the bosom of our mother is the unrelenting drive for accumulation, which transforms everything God has given us into commodities for exchange. This attack on life can be summarized as follows: "Underlying this is the fact that the class/imperial war that defines capitalism as a world system, and that governs its system of accumulation, is a juggernaut that knows no limits. In this deadly conflict the natural world is seen as a mere instrument of world social domination. Hence, capital by its very logic imposes what is in effect a scorched earth strategy. The planetary ecological crisis is increasingly all-encompassing, a product of the destructive uncontrollability of a rapidly globalizing capitalist economy, which knows no law other than its own drive to exponential expansion." - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction"

The endless drive for expansion must surrender to more mature spiritual attitudes or the spirit that currently animates America will destroy the planet that blessed it with such bounty. What the above passage is saying is that our current economic system will inevitably use up the resources that support its productivity in a destructive and unmaintainable way. In other words, our economic system uses oil to maximize profit potential without concern for the long term effects or maintainability of that energy source. Those corporations which focus on the short term gains to be reaped by exploiting the oil resource without concern for global warming will thrive in the market, eliminating their competitors. Those companies that show concern for such issues will fall behind and be eliminated.

To put it another way, this economic system deliberately undermines the conditions on which its economic advancement relies. It does not do this because of the sinfulness of the exploiters, sinful though they may be, but because the system tends to favor those who focus on short term gains by any means necessary. For example, by clear cutting rain forests, the logging companies and agribusinesses maximize their profit at the expense of the long term health of the soil and the ecological systems that flourished with the aid of those trees. Over the long term, the very conditions that allowed those corporations to maximize profits from clear cutting are destroyed. Over time the overall cost of economic development steepens and creates economic crisis by constraining the conditions of production.

In other words, our economic system inevitably creates a rift between nature and society that is destructive of nature. It substitutes the logic of endless accumulation for the natural processes of renewal. It thrives by the destruction of nature where the more thorough the destruction, the higher the profit, but ultimately the higher the penalty in terms of economic sustainability. Thus it produces a metabolic rift between natural processes and economic processes in which the latter dominate to the degradation of the former.

The solution lies in social and economic revolution. "... the private ownership of the earth/nature by human beings (even whole countries) must be transcended. The human relation to nature must be regulated so to guarantee its existence 'in an improved state to succeeding generations.'" - John Bellamy Foster, "The Ecology of Destruction" We can no more allow the "private" ownership of natural resources than we can allow human beings to own other human beings. These resources must be owned by all for the benefit of all. Our Christian responsibility is to guarantee the existence of these natural resources such that they can be passed on to succeeding generations in an improved state.

We must begin by cleansing ourselves of the crimes we have participated in. "James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer." - Ed Pilkington, "Put Oil Firm Chiefs On Trial, Says Leading Climate Change Scientist"

The oil company executives pay millions to deliberately obscure the reality of global warming, but they will one day hang one rung lower than the Nazis who obliterated only the lives of six million Jews. This will seem a small crime a hundred years from now. In the case of the oil executives, hundreds of millions of lives will be wiped out by the only religion truly worshiped in America, the selfless service of profit.

Let us consider the catastrophe we are about to sleep walk into: "Over the coming decades soaring temperatures will mean agriculture may become unviable over huge areas of the world where people are already poor and hungry; water supplies for millions or even billions may fail. Rising sea levels will destroy substantial coastal areas in low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, at the very moment when their populations are mushrooming. Numberless environmental refugees will overwhelm the capacity of any agency, or indeed any country, to cope, while modern urban infrastructure will face devastation from powerful extreme weather events..." - "Environment in Crisis: 'We Are Past the Point of No Return'", CommonDreams.org

So what has so frozen our hearts and minds as we are led to the slaughter? Daniel Berrigan described it this way: "The spirit of death freezes spontaneous movements of the heart...Eventually, the 'spirit of the upper air' becomes our only atmosphere. In compromise and cowardice, we bend the knee before the high crime of the ruling spirits. We distance ourselves, or psychologize, or liturgize, but in any case trivialize, our vocation. In such wise we lose the ability to utter a simple no in the face of illegitimate authority and its claim on ourselves, our lives, our children, our income - finally, our conscience, our humanity." - "Archbishop Romero, the Four Churchwomen, and the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Become Peace for Others

"We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less question marks [than] I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions, and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on that matter before the end of his term in the White House." - Ehud Olmert after a visit with George Bush in June 2008.

Thucydides once was asked, 'When will there be justice in Athens?' He replied, 'There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are.'

The cultivation of inner peace is not the cultivation of peace with death, with violence, with injustice. The way of Christ is well described by one of the Fathers of monasticism, "The monk is one whose gaze is fixed on God," St. Theodore wrote centuries ago, "who desires God above all else, who applies himself to God, who seeks to serve God alone, in peace with God, and so becoming peace for others."

Peace is not a psychological state which is induced by the application of the techniques of self-hypnosis. Such "peace" is another type of psychological death, a way of numbing the soul to the inherent pain of a world ruled by the principalities and powers spoken of by St. Paul. True peace can only be discovered in complete openness to the pain of injustice.

The refreshment of peace pours like an ice-cold stream of beauty into the heart. "If we want to change the world and create peace, we can begin by creating peace within ourselves," the Dalai Lama teaches. "If we practice peace, we can teach the rest of the world."

In the silence of true peace, we find the faith to douse the flames of war. We will find peace when we are outraged at what is being done to Palestinians even if we are not Palestinian and know no Palestinians personally. The relentless focus of current media is on the "personal". By keeping our attention narrowly focused on ourselves and our immediate impressions and needs, the image of what we have become to those outside, in the darkness we have created, can be hidden. The greatness of spirit that embraces oppression wherever it is found, even if it does not affect us materially, was shared by millions a few short decades ago. And it will live again.

Do not let the spirit of ignorant "peace" dull the edge of your resistance. Rage against the war against Iran that steps closer each day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Make Their Humanity Felt

"A Cambridge-based human rights organization said it has found medical evidence supporting the claims of 11 former detainees who were allegedly tortured while in American custody between 2001 and 2004, in what a former top US military investigator said amounts to evidence of war crimes. Medical evaluations of the former inmates found injuries consistent with the alleged abuse, including the psychological effects of sensory deprivation and forced nudity as well as signs of 'severe physical and sexual assault,'" Physicians for Human Rights said in a report scheduled for release today." - Human Rights Group Says It Has Proof of Detainee Abuse

When another group of murders and torturers wanted to stone a woman to death, Jesus dared say to them: "Let the one without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." While Anthony Scalia mocks the constitution by pretending that torture is not punishment, Christians who lack the courage to speak let innocent men be tortured. If all the Christians who oppose torture in their name had the courage and awareness to carry out direct actions and let conscience sound its trumpet, the practice would end tomorrow. But we are too protective of our accomplishments. We can't tear a hole in the cocoon of our ambition. And so the torture continues - this time with our fingerprints.

According to Major General Anthony Taguba, "[BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact] tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture." - BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact by Physicians for Human Rights

The key phrase here is "systematic regime". Major General Taguba, the officer in charge of the investigation of Abu Ghraib, is formally charging those at the top of our government who we now know ordered and in many cases, designed, the tortures that this report uncovers with a full array of medical evidence. His words demand justice, "After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact by Physicians for Human Rights

The medical findings presented in this report demonstrate conclusively that the American executive branch is guilty of war crimes. This is also the conclusion of the general who was appointed to investigate the torture at Abu Ghraib, Major General Taguba. The environment that led to this abuse was deliberately fostered by the highest government officials, as demonstrated by the documentary and medical evidence. "This report demonstrates that the permissive environment created by implicit and explicit authorizations by senior US officials to 'take the gloves off' encouraged forms of torture even beyond the draconian methods approved at various times between 2002 and 2004. In an environment of moral disengagement that countenances authorized techniques designed to humiliate and dehumanize detainees, it is not surprising that other forms of human cruelty such as physical and sexual assault were practiced. The fact that these unauthorized torture practices happened over extended periods of time at multiple US detention facilities suggests that a permissive command environment existed across theatres and at several levels in the chain-of-command. This climate allowed both authorized and unauthorized techniques to be practiced, apparently without consequence." - BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact by Physicians for Human Rights

In order to protect our freedom, a man who was never charged with a crime experienced the gentle hand of the American liberator in this way: "In the most horrific incident Amir recalled experiencing, he was placed in a foul-smelling room and forced to lay face down in urine, while he was hit and kicked on his back and side. Amir was then sodomized with a broomstick and forced to howl like a dog while a soldier urinated
on him. After a soldier stepped on his genitals, he fainted." - BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact by Physicians for Human Rights

The report is the most extensive medical study of former detainees published so far and directly corroborates their stories with physical evidence. It followed the standards and methods of the Istanbul protocol contains the accepted international guidelines for assessing physical and psychological evidence of torture, to document the war crimes carried out by the orders of executive officials in Washington, D.C.

The scars we (the Christians of America) have inflicted on these men have ripped holes in our own spirits as well. "John Howard Yoder once said that a pacifist was a person who realized that in striking another, you harm yourself more — this is the moral consequence of violence...Ultimately, torture is a terrorist tool, and by using it we ourselves become terrorists." Chuck Gutenson, "Losing Our Souls"

Jesus broke the spell of violence, the ecstatic frenzy of ego gone mad, and all the stone throwers drifted away, pried apart by tugs of conscience. But he did much more than save a life - he "... struck the stone -- the pyre, the noose, the chair, the firing squad, the death chamber -- from authority's hands." - John Dear, "Abolish the Death Penalty Now!" By writing in the sand and speaking words that stung, he stripped the legitimacy from state-sponsored death forever.

Read the report - BROKEN LAWS, BROKEN LIVES: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact by Physicians for Human Rights - and consider taking part in direct actions against the abuse of our fellow children of God such as the the recent action by the Witness Against Torture activists who protested at the Supreme Court on Jan. 11 this year. Each protester will enter their name as the name of a Guantanamo detainee. Thus the names of those whose abuse was blanketed with silence will be heard in a public court. Go to http://www.jonahhouse.org/Jan1108trial.htm
for details.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Power of Sacrifice

The Speech of Tory MP David Davis Outside the House of Commons Risking Career to Stand up for Freedom

"But the broader and more important point is the one illustrated by the bold and principled acts being undertaken by British politicians in several parties there, the same principle illustrated by numerous acts of Russ Feingold over the past seven years: defending basic liberties, the core principles of our political system, and the rule of law is of such overriding importance that any worthwhile politician, by definition, will do so even if it entails some political cost. As British members of Parliament resign their seats and defend members of other parties in defense of their liberties, our own Democratic Party this week will — yet again — endorse and legalize the most extremist and illegal aspects of the Bush agenda in pursuit of the craven, illusory and increasingly irrelevant goal of protecting its own political interests." - Glenn Greenwald, "British Debate Highlights The Cravenness and Complicity of Congressional Democratic 'leaders'"

The collapse of moral principle is often accompanied by a sense of technical mastery. The current collapse of constitutional principle represents the collapse of vision, of the ability to see beyond immediate political advantage to a more embracing ideal that might let our spirits flourish over the coming centuries. We have mastered the science of polling and focus groups and it has narrowed our vision into a tiny circle that cuts off the blood to the heart. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Gordon Brown and all the blue dog Democrats and Labor Party members have lost touch with the democratic heart that once beat strongly. Enthralled with our expertise, we have lost the art of judgment that preserves truth and justice in loving harmony.

Yet individual conscience continues to speak its miraculous voice. Support Tory MP David Davis in his lonely defense of justice. The one lone voice needed to turn the tide may be your own.

Covert Disruption in the Smashed Birthplace of Western Civilization

The Iraq occupation has entered a new phase in its methodologies of genocide. The guiding intellectual force behind Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy, David Kilcullen advocates more advanced methods of dehumanization than the crude house to house slaughter so far employed: "What Kilcullen means is a kind of deception-based warfare that is contradictory to democracy itself, with its instruments of critical media, Congressional oversight and public disclosure of the cost in blood, taxes and honor. The key militarily is to secure the civilian population from the insurgents, in South Vietnam by 'strategic hamlets,' in Iraq by the 'gated communities' with checkpoints, blast walls, concertina wire, fingerprinting, retinal scans and house-to-house population listings. The insurgents, meanwhile, are to be hunted, killed if necessary and detained without charges in American-controlled or American-supported prison camps indefinitely, without access to lawyers, journalists, human rights observers, or family members. In most cases, there are no charges against them. Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who headed the Abu Ghraib inquiry, has more than once suggested that 'a systematic regime of torture' occurs in these camps. That's not including the CIA's secret rendition sites or the secret Baghdad prisons under the US-funded Ministry of the Interior, as reported previously in the New York Times." - Tom Hayden, "Meet the New Dr. Strangelove", The Nation

For those who remember Vietnam, the program is to be modeled on the Phoenix program which systematically slaughtered tens of thousands of units of Viet Cong civilian infrastructure. The occupation supervisors have moved from the "Salvador option", based on the torture and murder of El Salvadorans during the 1980s to a new Phoenix program. In effect, the decision has been made and confirmed by Barack Obama's new Iraq strategy, to continue the genocide in the Middle East by "cheap, quiet, low-footprint" means, hunting and destroying resistant Iraqis through Phoenix-style death squads and psychological re-education camps staffed by armed social scientists, anthropologists and psychologists trained to "exploit the physical and mental vulnerabilities of detainees." - Tom Hayden, "Meet the New Dr. Strangelove", The Nation

Today, we have a scientifically-designed Pax Americana modeled on the bloodiest phases of Vietnam and the war against Central America in the 1980s. As part of this program, "Torture was used systematically by U.S. forces." - Joe Allen, "Vietnam" Military intelligence officers described the torture: "The starvation to death (in a cage) of a Vietnamese woman who was suspected of being part of the local political education cadre in one of the local villages...The use of electronic gear such as sealed telephones attached to both the women's vaginas and the men's testicles to shock them into submission." - Joe Allen, "Vietnam"

The recently leaked manual,FOREIGN INTERNAL DEFENSE TACTICS, TECHNIQUES, AND PROCEDURES FOR SPECIAL FORCES, (see Wikileaks for the full version), which has been verified with military sources, is the official US Special Forces doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense or FID. The techniques in this manual have been applied on a large scale in Iraq. In the next administration, they are likely to be refined and according to the Phoenix program model on a wide scale throughout the occupied Middle East. Psyops plays a key role in population/resource control: "For maximum effectiveness, a strong psychological operations effort is directed toward the families of the insurgents and their popular support base. The PSYOP aspect of the PRC program tries to make the imposition of control more palatable to the people by relating the necessity of controls to their safety and well-being. PSYOP efforts also try to create a favorable national or local government image and counter the effects of the insurgent propaganda effort." - FOREIGN INTERNAL DEFENSE TACTICS, TECHNIQUES, AND PROCEDURES FOR SPECIAL FORCES (leaked June 2008).

How many can remember that it was forty five years ago when a president of the United States was capable of speaking the following words, "What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children - not merely a peace for Americans but peace for all men and women - not merely peace in our time but peace for all time." - John F. Kennedy, Commencement Speech at American University, June 10, 1963.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Touch the Truth of the World

The one absolute taboo even on the so-called 'Christian left' is to directly address the power relations that sustain regimes such as the one in Burma. Aung San Suu Ki said, "'What about all those who trade with the generals, who give them many millions of dollars that keep them going?' She was referring to the huge oil and gas companies, Total and Chevron, which effectively hand the regime $2.7bn a year, and the Halliburton company (former chief executive Vice-President Dick Cheney) that backed the construction of the Yadana pipeline, and the British travel companies that send tourists across bridges and roads built with forced labour." - John Pilger, "Cowardice of Silence" These are the real sources of the power of the Burmese regime.

A virus called the "war on terror" has weakened but not destroyed the power of the people to resist the the slow genocide of Chevron and the drug cartels. But Christians must ask themselves, "Where does the power of resistance come from?" It comes from the power of dreams, the power to believe in a world different than the one that confronts us here, the power to believe in independent moral values that sit in judgment on those who know no higher law than the exigencies of power.

A wise old Spanish anarchist once was confronted with the fact that his ideals were beautiful, but unrealizable, and he answered, "Of course it is impossible to realize them. But don't you see that everything this is possible today, is worthless?" Joel Kovel comments as follows, "Sensible people might see this as evidence of quixotism, but they would be wrong. For a radically spiritual attitude, though it may have no immediate possibility of realization, is, when turned outward, the most practical thing in the world. The reason we should fight for spirit is the here and now, because spirit creates a new sense of the possible, and the belief that possible is worth striving for. Thus the impossible must be imagined if it is to be realized, and it is true sanity to do so." - Joel Kovel, History and Spirit.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

God is Crying

Iraqi babies dying in the American war oven

"One thing that's clear in the Scriptures is that the nations do not lead people to peace; rather, people lead the nations to peace. There's a beautiful text in both Micah and Isaiah where the prophets say that the people will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And it ends by saying that nations will not rise up against other nations, and they will not study war anymore. Peace begins not with nations but with the people of God. It is people who humanize the nations, people who follow the Human One that Daniel spoke of rising from the beasts, the Son of Man the gospels proclaim. The end of war begins with people who believe that another world is possible and that another empire has already interrupted time and space and is taking over this earth with the dreams of God. Those dreams begin with people of faith and hope who are audacious enough to be certain of what they do not see. We believe so much that we cannot help but start enacting the prophecies. As our brother Jim Wallis says, 'we believe despite the evidence, and we watch the evidence change.'" - Shane Claiborne, "HOLY MISCHIEF"

'Our apologies good friends for the fracture of good order
the burning of paper instead of children;
the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house.
We could not so help us God do otherwise, For we are sick at heart
our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children..." - the Catonsville Nine

"The disconnect between the arsenal of the terrorist enemy and that arrayed against it in the post-9/11 years affirms Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex’s 'unwarranted influence.' One wonders how lobbyists and politicians maintain a straight face as they argue, as Senator Joe Lieberman has, for $2.5 billion submarines to fight terrorists who lack even a dinghy. I don’t doubt that the lobbyists will continue to make their case and that the money spent toward that end will secure political and pundit support, but the gambit is wearing thin. So too is the effort to manufacture crises with “rogue nations” and to exaggerate the cohesion and power of the 'terrorist' enemy." - Robert Sheer, "Republic or Empire?"

The empire must continue to manufacture enemies in order to justify its military power. Yet enemies it manufactures ("Al Qaida", Iraqi terrorists, the Taliban) seem more and more like stick figures in a bad cartoon. Only the persuasive power of the corporate media and its suborned pundits can convince a stubbornly rational public that such enemies as "Al Qaida" actually exist. See the "The Power of Nightmares" to explode that myth. The CIA has invented many myths in its undying support for the growth of empire, yet the latest series about bin Laden and his shadowy network of Muslim fanatics may be destined for a short run.

Still we remain silent and believing. And God's judgment lies heavy upon our silence: "Yet, Mr. Berrigan's concern about silence lingers. Silence in the face of evil - whether launched against a human fetus, a child subjected to 'shock and awe' or a civilian whose death is defined as collateral damage - makes us all an accomplice to the unforgivable. In a play written by Daniel Berrigan based upon the trial transcripts of their conviction, Philip argued: 'Let lawmakers, judges and lawyers think less of the law, and more of justice; less of legal ritual, more of human rights. To our bishops and superiors, we say: Learn something about the gospel and something about illegitimate power. When you do, you will liquidate your investments, take a house in the slums, or even join us in jail.'" - Ron Manuto and Sean Patrick O'Rourke, "Lessons from the Catonsville Nine"

Conceal Nothing

Image source: The Independent

"It is undeniable that the countries of the North bear responsibility for the hunger and malnourishment of 854 million people. They imposed trade liberalisation and financial rules that demanded structural adjustment, on a world composed of clearly unequal actors. They brought ruin to many small producers in the South and turned self-sufficient and even exporting nations into net importers of food products." - "Cuba's vice-president: 'We can confront the food crisis'"

A deep analysis of the situation is almost totally lacking in most mainstream churches. Christian minds are frozen into neoliberal crystallizations which only true compassion can shatter. The beginning of wisdom is that the crisis is systemic and structural. It is not the random result of bad harvests or even global warming. The globalist hegemony has intentionally created the current state of hunger in order to maximize profit margins for the major agricultural corporations. If we try to solve the problem while failing to comprehend it as the result of "free trade" policies that have destroyed agricultural self-subsistence in poor countries, then Christian charities will become complicit in maintaining global hunger. Our charity will be used to placate the outrage and rioting while maintaining the steady profits to be reaped from hunger.

The immediate cause of spiraling food prices is speculation in the commodity markets. "Recently, due to the sub-prime crisis, speculators and investors have shifted their money into these commodity exchange markets, seeing a chance to make massive profits out of speculating on food commodities. Sensing this, and knowing that countries' food reserves were depleted, large corporate traders started withholding supply over the last few months in the hopes of higher prices in the future, whilst playing off currency differentials. In response, investors started buying grain futures in the hope of making profits, which drove prices even higher. The consequence has been that the price of maize tripled in the last two years.26 Of course, corporations and speculators are profiteering from the higher prices; while people around the world stare starvation in the face." - Shawn Hattingh, "Liberalizing Food Trade to Death"

The proposed cure is to increase the intensity of the disease by ending all resistance to the multinationals. "Far from driving the price of food down, further trade liberalization will extend multinational corporations' control over the human food chain and food prices." - Shawn Hattingh, "Liberalizing Food Trade to Death"

Because of our support for capitalism and "free trade", hundreds of millions face starvation over the next few years. But this is not a Christian issue. No, it has nothing to do with religion. These are complex matters of economics best left to experts in the field who alone are equipped to deal with such massive problems. God has called us only to enjoy the fruits of this catastrophe.

In the countries which have been ravaged by our desires, people are responding to the needs of their neighbors not with complex economic theory, but with deeds of truth. "...these movements have established cooperatives and collectives to meet people's food needs. Through this, they have created their own economies based on democracy, solidarity, and equality. They have also established alternative trade networks to improve the lives of the people. In the urban areas of Argentina, movements such as the Piqueteros have also invaded land and established urban farms. Along with this, they have created their own neighborhood kitchens to ensure that all the people in these areas are fed." - Shawn Hattingh, "Liberalizing Food Trade to Death"

And when we feel the weight of this monster on our back, it is well to remember the words of Daniel Berrigan: "'The fall of the towers [on 9/11] was symbolic as well as actual,' he adds. 'We are bringing ourselves down by a willful blindness that is astonishing.' Berrigan argues that those who seek a just society, who seek to defy war and violence, who decry the assault of globalization and degradation of the environment, who care about the plight of the poor, should stop worrying about the practical, short-term effects of their resistance. The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere," he says. 'I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don't know where. I don't think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.'" - Daniel Berrigan in "Daniel Berrigan: Forty Years After Catonsville" by Chris Hedges

Participatory Fascism

"Last year, 100 eminent British doctors pleaded with the minister for international development, then Hilary Benn, for emergency medical aid to be sent to Iraqi children’s hospitals: 'Babies are dying for want of a 95 pence oxygen mask,' they wrote. The minister turned them down flat." - John Pilger, "Cowardice of Silence"

Such is the state of Christian compassion when bitten by the virus of the "war on terror". Children must die because they are not members of groups that Christians can safely show compassion for.

Palestinians are not among the compassion-worthy groups. Nor are the 26,000 prisoners currently being held in secret prisons by the U.S. "By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001." - "Human rights group charges: US continues 'renditions' and operates a floating gulag", wsws.org Who speaks for these prisoners?

An unknown number of "ghost" detainees are being held on U.S. navy vessels, outside the reach of international law and Christian compassion. "The Guardian provides the account of a former Guantánamo detainee who passed on another inmate’s description of being held on board an amphibious assault ship: 'One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo ... he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.'" - "Human rights group charges: US continues 'renditions' and operates a floating gulag", wsws.org

Far from being "old news", the process known as "rendering", that is kidnapping, torturing and indefinitely imprisoning "terrorists" continues to this day. "According to the Guardian, the rights group 'claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition [handing prisoners over to regimes likely to torture them] since 2006.'" - "Human rights group charges: US continues 'renditions' and operates a floating gulag", wsws.org

The "floating gulag" operates as the ultimate enforcer of imperial control. The evidence has been brought forward by the United Nations, "...the UN’s special rapporteur on terrorism, Manfred Nowak, told the Agence France Presse wire service in June 2005 that there were 'very, very serious accusations that the United States is maintaining secret camps, notably on ships,' adding that the vessels were believed to be in the Indian Ocean region." - "Human rights group charges: US continues 'renditions' and operates a floating gulag", wsws.org

One day, Jesus will ask us what we did for those rendered and tortured in secret U.S. prisons, where He sits and longs for the daylight - a prisoner who longs to see the sky, or in the words of Oscar Wilde,

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.

That "tent of blue" lies within our hearts, if only we can find a way to overcome the compromise with evil that lives next to our compassion.