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War in Iraq
Indexing reports and comments from all of 2006

This page lists all postings from 2006

Click here for the most recent postings.

For earlier stories:

bullet Postings from Jan - June, 2007
bulletJuly - December, 2005
bulletJanuary - June, 2005
bulletNovember - December, 2004
bulletJune through October, 2003.
bulletMarch 18 through May, 2003
bulletMarch 5 - 17, 2003
bulletFebruary, 2003
bulletJanuary, 2003
bullet November and December 2002
bullet Stories posted up through October, 2002

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program maintains a good page of resources on Iraq.

Anti-War Movement Deserves Some Credit

Most media call it marginal, but organized push swayed world opinion    [12-7-06]

Tom Hayden, a former California state senator, was a leader of the anti-Vietnam war movement, and now teaches at Pitzer College in Claremont (Los Angeles County). He argued recently in the San Francisco Chronicle that while the media seem to think the opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq has appeared out of nowhere, in fact a variety of groups on the left have been working successfully over the past few years to advance a critical understanding of the war and U.S. foreign policy in general.

He concludes that

If ever consulted, anti-war voices might propose the following:

•First, seek a dialogue with anti-occupation forces in Iraq, from politicians to insurgents, to work toward a cease-fire and a longer-term conflict resolution process.
•Second, announce the withdrawal timetable that about 80 percent of Iraqi people and 60 percent of the American people want.
•Third, initiate a diplomatic offensive, beginning with Iran, to seek regional global assistance in dealing with security, reconciliation and reconstruction issues.

Hmm. Does that sound a little like the Baker-Hamilton report? Not quite, but there is a resemblance, at least.

Read the full essay >>

The looming question of Iraq – some comments

We recently posted a bit of Michael Moore's declaration that in Iraq today, "cut and run [is] the only brave thing to do."

We've quickly received three thoughtful -- and quite different -- responses.


We should follow Sen. McCain’s advice, and send more troops as needed, to win.

The Rev. John Erthein responded thus:

Hi, Doug,

I hope you and yours had a nice Thanksgiving holiday.

You asked for various perspectives about the US role in Iraq. I would like to provide you with Senator John McCain's perspective, which is opposite that of Michael Moore.

Thank you for your graciousness in providing a forum on the Witherspoon site for different points of view, including ones you undoubtedly disagree with.

Grace and peace,

John Erthein, Elderton (PA) Presbyterian Church

Your WebWeaver responded by referring to a more recent statement by Senator McCain, which suggests that if the American people no longer support the American war in Iraq, we should not continue putting more troops in harm’s way. 

Rev. Erthein responded:

Hi Doug,

Thank you for providing that link ... it is a very interesting article, one that would be of interest to your general readership, I'm sure. By all means link to both of them.

The impression I have is that McCain is saying, "win or get out." Either option looks preferable to a never-ending conflict a la Vietnam. Given McCain's experience as a Vietnam war veteran and POW, I think that informs his thinking on this issue (of course, as the article notes, other Vietnam POWs have a less optimistic perspective as to whether the war is winnable or even justifiable).

However, I still think it is fair to say that McCain considers US involvement justifiable, and that the war can still be won, which is a minority viewpoint nowadays. I appreciate his willingness to say something unpopular.

Blessings,

John

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We should admit "our past follies" and get out

Then came this comment from Gordon Shull, who is a retired professor of international relations at the College of Wooster, and a Presbyterian elder.

Our dilemma is that we are in part responsible for the mess in Iraq, but our continued presence there seems only to make things worse. The great majority of Middle East experts knew two things all along. First, Iraq is an artificial state cobbled by the British of very different nations. Second, our policies in the Middle East since World War II have transformed us from hero to villain in the minds of the great majority there - and hence we have no legitimacy, no ability to take an effective leadership role in the transformation of any Arab or Islamic society.

Conclusion: we should implore the Arab-Islamic countries to form a coalition to assume trusteeship responsibilities in Iraq just as soon as possible; acknowledge that the UN may have a role to play there; offer to help pay the bill for politico/economic reconstruction of Iraq. Setting a date certain for our departure might be necessary to spur immediate attention.

This is not "cutting and running"; it is acknowledging both our past follies and our resulting incapacity, and offering to help those who take our place with a better chance of achieving a least bad resolution.

-Gordon Shull, Wooster, Ohio

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What the US should do, it won’t likely do

The most recent comment comes from Scotland – specifically from the Rev. John Mann, formerly a PC(USA) minister, now serving in Glasgow as a minister of the Church of Scotland.

Thanks Doug for this opportunity to engage in a little fantasy -

What the U.S. Should Do ....

After I wrote a number of things down, I thought of how utterly unlikely it is that the United States will do what it should do in regard to Iraq. Apologizing, atoning and taking responsibility for the crimes against humanity would involve putting George Bush on trial as a war criminal. Anything short of that is really just wishful futility.

The folks who were once enamoured of Bush think he is a failure not because they conclude what he did was wrong, but rather that he did not succeed in doing it. America as a nation tends to see self-assessment and admission of error as a sign of weakness and "America can never be weak."

What will probably happen is that there will be recrimination and scape-goating with promises never to do it again. Until next time.

Am I just being cynical? I remember the aftermath of Vietnam, and the aftermath of 9/11. It's just too easy to go down the jingoistic path of "God Bless America." Too much aftermath and not enough forethought.

John Mann - former PCUSA minister and ex-patriot living in Scotland.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We welcome your comments!
What do you think of Michael Moore's prescription?
What about the views offered above?
Please send your own thoughts,
to be shared here.

In a war running longer than our part of World War II, what do we do now??   [11-27-06]

Many Americans are using the fact that our war in Iraq has gone on for 1,3478 days now – longer than our participation in World War II – to offer their thoughts and suggestions about the war.

Here are two comments that provide food for thought:

Michael Moore declares that "cut and run [is] the only brave thing to do."

He argues that trying to transform a nation into a democratic state by invading is hardly likely to succeed, especially when the venture is based on such vast misinformation and deception, and has no real support from the people being "liberated."

He urges (well, "demand" is his word) that the US government do three things:

1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.

2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. ...

3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands ... When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.

In closing, there is one final thing I know. We Americans are better than what has been done in our name. A majority of us were upset and angry after 9/11 and we lost our minds. We didn't think straight and we never looked at a map. Because we are kept stupid through our pathetic education system and our lazy media, we knew nothing of history. ...

The majority [of us] now feel a deep sadness and guilt and a hope that somehow we can make make it all right again.

Unfortunately, we can't. So we will accept the consequences of our actions and do our best to be there should the Iraqi people ever dare to seek our help in the future. We ask for their forgiveness.

We demand the Democrats listen to us and get out of Iraq now.

His full essay >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We need more realism

Another comment comes from George Packer, writing in the New Yorker, says things are more complicated than that. He therefore urges that the US maintain some involvement in order to have a little leverage in getting other nations, especially Muslim ones, to play a continuing role in keeping order and helping the Iraqis move toward some kind of compromise among the three conflicting groups.

Packer's brief article >>

So what do you think the US should do?
Just send a note, and we’ll share it here.

The church can help heal the wounds of war    [10-24-06]

Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and clinical psychologist, describes some of the wounds – especially the internal, psychological wounds – that American soldiers are living with as they return from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. And beyond that, he outlines ways that congregations and pastors can help these trauma survivors move through the vital healing process.

Winning or losing in Iraq?

From Faithful America, October 18, 2006
[posted here10-19-06]

Oooops!  Almost 3 months after posting this item, I discovered that a typo in the link to FaithfulAmerica took you to a very different website, called FaithfulAmerican, which looks as if it may have been designed specifically to look and feel enough like the former site to draw you in, and then give you a good dose conservative and pro-war opinion in a few blog-like notes.  If you went there, you must have wondered a bit.

"Make Love Your Aim." 1 Corinthians 14:1

Yesterday 10 more U.S. soldiers were killed, making October one of the deadliest months on record for the U.S. We are fast approaching a tragic 3,000 U.S. soldiers dying in the streets and sands of Iraq .

Last week an independent report revealed that more than 655,000 innocent people have died in Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion. Just today the Brookings Institution reported a half-million people have been displaced since February - an estimated 100,000 of them children. One report puts the total number of displaced persons at 800,000. Clearly the crisis is spiraling out of all control.

Today when asked about the President's reaction to the mounting death toll, the White House Press Secretary responded that "his strategy is to win."

When is winning losing? Jesus asked, "What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?" (Luke 9:25) Most people of faith believe in a different kind of winning. Just as wars kill, words can heal. Just as hate destroys, love strengthens. Bonds of understanding and goodwill – whether between persons or nations – are made not with clenched fists, but open hands.

Our hearts are broken by the violence and our nation diminished by pouring U.S. troops and treasure into the middle of what amounts to a deadly civil war, causing untold misery and fueling the very fire that terrorists have been hoping for. Equally tragic is the fact that the majority of representatives in the U.S. Congress have allowed this to happen. That is why your vote this November is more important than ever.

Today we are asking you to do two things:

1) PRAY. Pray for all who are dying daily in Iraq. You may post prayers of all kinds on our prayer page.

2) VOTE. Your vote determines the direction of our nation. If we envision a nation of peace, we must elect people who will stand up against our present policies and forge the changes that will lead to peace. Our friends at Win Without War have developed questions to ask your Congressional candidates around the Iraq War issue. Please use this guide as you search your own heart and as you make your choices that will reshape Washington, our nation, and the world. You may also wish to see their
"Citizen's Toolkit on Iraq"

Blessings to you for all you do on behalf of others.

Vince Isner and the FaithfulAmerica.org Team

Tom Driver urges action against the impending U.S. war on Iran    [10-12-06]

For over a year Scott Ritter has been saying that war against Iran is inevitable. Last spring Seymour Hirsch reported in The New Yorker that war preparations were being made. Now comes Chris Hedges saying that warships are being put in position and an attack by the U.S. is likely within weeks.

Please read what Hedges has to say >>

Hedges was a war correspondent for 20 years. He knows what he's talking about.

I think the only thing that might stop a new war is the knowledge in Washington that the American people won't support it. Please talk to your friends and neighbors. Word of mouth can be more effective than mass media. Tell people to tell other people -- and to call both the White House and the local offices of their members of Congress. The message: We won't support a new war.

Tom F. Driver

Tom Driver is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology and Culture Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary in New York.  Tom, with his wife Anne Barstow, received Witherspoon’s Andrew Murray Award at our luncheon during the 217th General Assembly.

Two more witness-participants report on action for peace in D.C.

We’ve already shared the report on the witness for peace held in Washington this past Tuesday, September 26, through the Presbyterian News Service report on the arrest of former PC(USA) Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase.

We now have reports from two other participants in the action:

On being arrested

Tim Simpson, a pastor at Lake Shore Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL, tells of being arrested along with some seventy others, detained for hours, and then released. He praises the courtesy of the Capitol Police who arrested the demonstrators, and adds:

I cannot tell you what an incredible experience this was for all of us. It was by no means pleasant, but it was nevertheless an experience filled with great joy. It was such a blessing to be with so many hopeful, committed people who were willing to put themselves on the line for peace. ...It is crucial that the pressure for peace be intensified. As one of our number remarked, "If we don't stay at this, the next time we protest it may be over a war against Iran."

His full report, from the Christian Alliance for Progress >>

 

Making clear in a Senate office building that the war must end

Gordon Clark, who is the convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (formerly the Iraq Pledge of Resistance), emphasizes the complex relationships between the police and the demonstrators, and states that many of the police in fact expressed great sympathy with the purposes of the demonstrators.

He concludes his report on the demonstration:

Above all, though, we achieved our goal, and for a least one hour on a Tuesday in September, we brought the work of a Senate office building to a standstill, and made loud and clear our demand that the immoral, illegal and unjust occupation of Iraq must end. If we can continue to ramp up our actions in this way, including the extremely important electoral work for this fall, we can and will compel members of Congress to heed our demand.

His full report >>

For news stories and images of these actions, as well as more information, go to www.iraqpledge.org, or www.declarationofpeace.org

Former moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, and four PC(USA) clergy arrested protesting Iraq war

Antiwar protest part of national 'Declaration of Peace'    [9-28-06]

A former Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly moderator and four Presbyterian ministers were among 71 people arrested in Washington, DC, during a series of peaceful protests against the Iraq war on Tuesday (Sept. 26).

Rick Ufford-Chase, 42, moderator of the PC(USA)'s 216th General Assembly in 2004, confirmed by cell phone that he was taken into custody while leading an interfaith anti-war procession on Capitol Hill.

"This one is really personal," said Ufford-Chase, an elder at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ and currently executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. "It just feels like I've spent three years trying to find proactive ways to insist on our (Christian) values about war and the situation in Iraq is getting worse. I finally decided it's time I have to do something to say no."   

Also arrested were the Rev. Roger Scott Powers, 47, associate pastor of First and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD; and the Revs. Gwin E. Pratt, 57, and Tim F. Simpson, 43, both pastors at Lake Shore Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL.  The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, pastor at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, was also arrested.

For the full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

Rick Ufford-Chase will join witness against the Iraq war in Washington, Sept. 26  [9-4-06]

The former Moderator of the PC(USA), now Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, says " I will risk arrest to make it clear that I believe the War in Iraq is a violation of my most fundamental beliefs as a Christian."  And he invites other Presbyterians to join in.

His blog explaining his intended action >>

7 Facts We Might Not Know About the Iraq War    [8-23-06]

Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, who has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency, and on American business and government dynamics, lays out seven realities of the war in Iraq that are generally ignored.

Very briefly, they are:

• The Iraqi government is little more than a group of "talking heads"
• There is no Iraqi army
• The recent decline in American casualties is not a result of less fighting (and anyway, it's probably ending)
• Most Iraqi cities have active and often viable local governments
• Outside Baghdad, violence arrives with the occupation army
• There is a growing resistance movement in the Shia areas of Iraq
• There are three distinct types of terrorism in Iraq, all directly or indirectly connected to the occupation

He concludes: "One might say that the war has converted one of President Bush's biggest lies into an unimaginably horrible truth: Iraq is now the epicenter of worldwide terrorism."

But, he adds, "There is still some hope for the Iraqis to recover their equilibrium. All the centripetal forces in Iraq derive from the American occupation, and might still be sufficiently reduced by an American departure followed by a viable reconstruction program embraced by the key elements inside of Iraq. But if the occupation continues, there will certainly come a point - perhaps already passed - when the collapse of government legitimacy, the destruction wrought by the war, and the horror of terrorist violence become self-sustaining. If that point is reached, all parties will enter a new territory with incalculable consequences."

The full article >>

The Altar of Mammon
[8-15-06]

King David got in baaad trouble when he sent a man into battle, and to his death, based on deception, and to satisfy his own wrongful desires. Taken note of Yahweh’s wrathful response, Victoria Furio asks about the recent actions of the United States government.

If David’s sin was so unfathomable, she asks, "then how would we judge a king who overpowers a nation, driven by wrongful desires, coveting its wealth and position, and sends the kingdom’s sons and daughters into battle for it under false pretenses? What sin could be more despicable than using one’s own children for the king’s illicit gain, exacting the final sacrifice of their lives based on a lie?"

These are serious charges, she acknowledges, saying "We would have to be sure of the facts to make such a judgment." And she proceeds to lay out those facts, with helpful brevity and clarity.

She concludes that "What is fundamentally wrong here is the notion that one nation has a right to another’s resources, and that they can even be taken by force! This violates the most basic human and divine laws and assures that there will be no peace."

Victoria Furio served for 15 years as mission personnel for the National Council of Churches and The United Methodist Church in Latin American human rights programs, and is currently on staff at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Thoughts following Memorial Day

What our war really costs
[5-30-06]

On the day before Memorial Day, the New York Times Magazine featured an article by Scott Anderson, tracing the lives of some veterans of Alpha Company of 112th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard , after their grim return home to Butler, PA.

He focuses on Chuck Norris, a 37-year-old father of three, the son and grandson of steel-mill workers, who went through a series of low-paying jobs and was finally doing a little better as a TV repair person.

Then his Army Reserve is called up for duty in Iraq.  Norris goes through painful discoveries: What it’s like to pull bombed vehicles away from burning bodies. How it feels to recognize that the people you’ve come to help just want you gone ... or dead.

And he has to deal with the death of his best friend in Iraq, Carl Morgain, who dies when his Humvee is attacked by a suicide bomber.

Anderson follows Norris and some of his friends as they try to adjust to being home, and have a very hard time of it – sleeping badly, terrible dreams, anxiety as they drive in fear of things along the roadsides, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression – all the stuff of post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are bright spots, too, as friends gradually begin to get together again, and finally as Norris is able to acknowledge his friend’s death, and begin to deal with it.

The cost of this war?? Billions beyond counting. But more. Much more.

The full article >>

Bush setting up attack on Iran        [5-8-06]

Marjorie Cohn, writing for TruthOut.org, building on reports by Seymour Hersh, lays out the evidence that the US military is making preparations – including the use of nuclear weapons – for an attack on Iran.

Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.

On war and peacemaking in Iraq -- a continuing conversation    [4-11-06]

Since the release of three members of the Christian Peacemakers team in Iraq after months of captivity, a lengthy conversation has gone on between two Presbyterians with rather different backgrounds and views.

Some of the notes are long, but we believe this discussion offers a helpful example to two differing views of the Iraq war, efforts to work for peace in the midst of the war, and much more.

The most recent of the notes is a response from Beth Pyles, a member of the Christian Peacemakers Team, to criticisms that Earl Tilford has leveled against the whole CPT enterprise, and specifically against what he has seen as its lack of gratitude for the efforts of America troops to rescue the three hostages.  You can scroll down to follow the conversation back to the beginning, or click here for the beginning of the story, and work your way back up the page.

If you have thoughts about the concerns and convictions expressed here, we welcome your notes, and will share them here unless they become too hostile and personal.  Just send a note!

More from Christian Peacemaker Teams –

Beth Pyles, back from Baghdad, responds to criticism from Prof. Tilford    [4-8-06]

Beth Pyles, a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams who recently returned from Baghdad, recently sent us a thoughtful response to the sharp critique of the work of CPT, from Prof. Earl Tilford, a Presbyterian elder, a retired military officer, and professor at Grove City College. 

In her cover note she says of her commentary:  "I know it's long, but there was much to respond to. Thank you for all your good work."

We're happy to share it with you here.

From fighting the Enemy to building the Peace – a question of framing   [3-25-06]

The Rev. Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, offers helpful reflections on the never-ending war in Iraq, and the President’s struggles to regain support for that war – and for his presidency. It’s time, he says, to shift the focus. And that’s something that churches can do well: not the conflicted questions of policies, but the larger framework within which we view them.    Sawtell's essay >>

Madeline Albright seems to agree: "Good versus evil isn’t a strategy."

The Bush administration's newly unveiled National Security Strategy might well be subtitled "The Irony of Iran," according to Madeline Albright. Three years after the invasion of Iraq and the invention of the phrase "axis of evil," the administration now highlights the threat posed by Iran - whose radical government has been vastly strengthened by the invasion of Iraq.   More >>

Christian Peacemaker Teams on the release of 3 of their hostages in Iraq
[3-24-06]

Christian Peacemaker Teams has issued a statement on the release of three of their people after months of detention as hostages in Iraq.  They say in part:

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

The full statement >>

Beth Pyles, a Presbyterian member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq, returned to the U.S. from Iraq a couple days before the three surviving CPT hostages were released    [3-24-06]
 

bullet Presbyterian News Service published a story on Pyles’ thoughts as she left for Baghdad in December.
 
bullet CPT has also posted interviews with a number of Iraqis on the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
 
bulletAnother report from Anita David, another Presbyterian CPT member
Anti-war protesters rally around world on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

Associated Press provides one early report of anti-war protests in Australia, Asia, Europe and the US.   [3-18-06]

The story begins:

Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the world Saturday, marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with demands that coalition troops leave immediately.

Wael Musfar of the Arab Muslim American Federation addressed more than 1,000 people who gathered in Times Square near a recruiting station, which was guarded by police.

"We say enough hypocrisy, enough lies, our soldiers must come home now," Musfar said from a parked flatbed truck. Participants chanted, "Stop the U.S. war machine, from Iraq to Korea to the Philippines."

Many attendees emphasized that they support the troops. "I have friends in Iraq and I just want them to know that I may not be able to support them there, but I can here," said Jose Avila, 36.

The reporter adds that many of the demonstrations drew fewer people than organizers had hoped for.

The whole story >>

A litany in remembrance of Tom Fox, and of resistance to the war in Iraq
[3-16-06]

A "litany of resistance" has been prepared by Christian Peacemakers Teams, celebrating the life and witness of Tom Fox, whose body was found in Iraq after he was held hostage for some time.

It is also a litany for forgiveness, for deliverance, and for the strength to stand against the war.

You might want to use this in a service on Sunday, marking not only Tom Fox’s life and death, but the third anniversary of the beginning of the US war in Iraq.

Click here to download this file, which is in PDF format, set up as a bulletin insert.

Thanks to Betty Hale.

On the death of Christian Peacemaker Tom Fox in Iraq    [3-13-06]

Witherspooner Arch Taylor writes:  Tom Fox was one of four Christian Peacemaker Team members kidnapped in Baghdad in November. The other three were recently shown alive on Al Jazeera TV. The Gospel reading for March 12, 2006 is Mark 8.31-38, Jesus’ prediction of his own death and his call to disciples to take up their cross and follow. Here is a genuine example of one who did just that.

Read the Peacemaker Teams' response >>

"A Christian who fought war with the selfless courage of the truly nonviolent"

R J Eskow, writing for the Huffington Post, offers a thoughtful memorial to Tom Fox.   More >>

Is This War Worth the Price?    [3-13-06]

Pittsburghers were captivated this week by the 7-year-old Iraqi boy who arrived here for reconstructive facial surgery at Children's Hospital, having been badly disfigured in an American bombing raid in 2004.

On a shoestring budget, the American group No More Victims arranged for his medical care, got visas for the child and his father, paid their expenses in Jordan until the documents came through, and is still trying to raise the cash to cover the travel. A Massachusetts philanthropist kicked in $50,000 for the hospital bill. A single mom in Banksville has taken father and son into her home during their stay.

It's a story that bores right through peoples' defenses without regard to politics, position on the war, religious beliefs or lack thereof (the family is Muslim; the U.S. Army veteran who spent six weeks in Jordan working on their visas is an atheist; the host family is Catholic; the philanthropist is Jewish).

No one with a beating heart could look at Abdul Hakim Ismael's scarred face and the happy, excited, nervous child behind it, and not be moved. No one could look at the many people who've stepped up to help and not be inspired.

But this story does not begin and end with an injured little boy, or the other wounded children that the group is helping. It begins with the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq war, and the thousands of innocent civilians it is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of its unintelligible goals. Where it ends, no one knows. ...

The rest of the story >>

Originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (but without the boy's photo)

Prayers asked for peacemakers
 [3-3-06]

Sunday, March 5, marks the 100th day since Tom Fox, Norman Kember, Jim Loney, and Harmeet Sooden were kidnapped in Baghdad. Pray for their safe release and restoration to their families. Pray for the 14,600 Iraqis illegally detained by the Occupation forces.

Doug Pritchard
Christian Peacemaker Teams 
Toronto ON

Thanks to Amy Ukena

And more ...

Vigils scheduled to mark 100 days since peacemakers’ abduction in Baghdad

Interfaith events will feature prayer for safe delivery of 3 CPT hostages

from a report by Alexa Smith (Presbyterian News Service) and Ecumenical News International

March 3, 2006 – Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have issued a worldwide appeal asking churches to observe the first Sunday of Lent by lighting 100 candles to mark the number of days since four western peace activists were kidnapped in Baghdad.

Sara Reschly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based organization, told the Presbyterian News Service that some cities, including Chicago, are holding public vigils, and some churches are integrating candlelight services into their regular worship. ...

The candles also are intended to honor the largely unnoticed peacemaking efforts of Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis at a time of escalating civil strife in Iraq, she said.

Prayers, litanies, and other vigil-related materials are posted at http://www.for.org.uk/bpf.html.

Beth Pyles, a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is one of seven CPT activists living in an apartment in Baghdad. numerous Christian communions.

PC(USA) Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, of Tucson, AZ, is a CPT member. He has served in Hebron in the West Bank. Anita David, a Chicago Presbyterian, is living in CPT’s Baghdad apartment with Pyles and five other Christians.

The whole story >>

When is a brink a brink?

A Christian Peacemaker reports from Baghdad

This note was sent on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006, and is posted here on 2-27-06.

Dear All,

The last few days have been spent in virtual lock down here in Baghdad as curfew after curfew has been imposed to try to control the situation since the bombing of the Shi'a shrine in Samara on Wednesday. Below I set forth some of my journal musings; the odd references in parentheses refer to the sounds I am hearing as I write. The noise of Baghdad is defining in many ways of the experience of it.

Friday, 4:35 am (jets and howling dogs) I fell asleep in exhaustion last night. On Wednesday, while doing a taped radio interview with a friend and her son, our translator, we learned of the bombing of the shrine. Then reports came in that there were other bombs and shooting in the streets of Baghdad. As we talked, first trying to carry on with the interview, then breaking away to call various folks, we were still not too shaken; our neighborhood, after all, remained quiet. The shattering of my own sense of calm came with a call from a Palestinian Team friend: Baladiat, his neighborhood, was under gunfire attack by the Mehdi army.

I can only speak with him through our translator, who said he could hear the gunfire over the phone. The same friend called later to report that two mortars were dropped on Baladiat. I have never felt more powerless or hopeless. I saw the horror on the face of our translator (a young Palestinian himself) as we talked together, realizing that the gun battle was happening in the now and that our friend's call for help could not be answered by any rescue from us.

Then [we learned] that a Catholic priest friend had been shot and was pinned down at the church by gunfire, unable to get to a hospital. . . he answered the phone himself . . .

We later learn that our priest friend was not actually shot, but that flying debris from gunfire had entered his leg. He is at home recovering at present, but will probably go to have surgery in the coming week. As with the Palestinians, we could talk with him while he was literally stuck in place, unable to move because of his injury and the gun battle outside.

[A Team mate] left to get supplies for the coming days and found himself in front of a car that was then moved because it was thought to be a bomb -- we still don't know if it was.

The strange thing in retrospect is that when he returned and told us, he was quite matter of fact and we barely registered the remark; in such an atmosphere, if you aren't on the critically injured list, your near miss reports are of little interest.

It was dusk, just after sunset. Helicopters flew round and round, circling the Green Zone. I wanted to scream at them, but knew I could not -- there is danger even in a raised voice here. So I . . . whispered my angry sad chant, 'Go home! Go home!'

Thursday was spent in phone calls to Team friends to make sure everyone is all right. Gun battles continued in the streets of some neighborhoods, but things generally quieted down. To say it was generally quiet is not to ignore the reality, however, of intense violence; Friday and Saturday were more of the same: general quiet and pockets of extraordinary violence. Foreign Arabs held in jail in the south were taken from the jail and executed on the streets. Mosques were invaded and destroyed. A journalist was killed and shots were fired at others during her funeral. Home invasions and executions are reported in various parts of Baghdad. But there are also signs of peace and reconciliation and hope: Shi'a and Sunni marched together in numerous locations, demonstrating solidarity. Leaders of various factions on both sides have issued solidarity statements. Ayatollah Sistani, the leading Shi'a cleric in Iraq, has called for peace and non-violence. Various groups within Iraq, as well as surrounding nations, have pledged assistance to rebuild the shrine. Sunni in Baghdad play the words of a Shi'a leader. Shi'a and Sunni worship together.

What wisdom about the situation do I have from here? The truth is, not much. What I can say is that if any commentator, politician, or theorist of any stripe pretends to know what is happening here, unless he/she is the perpetrator, they are speaking from ignorance or speculation. The fact is that, from here, there is no clarity about what has happened, who lit this latest spark or why. The question posed is always the same: who profits from Iraq's descent into open, full-blown civil war? The answer varies depending upon the person speaking. But there is a keen sense that this is a brink moment in Iraq. People who have been hopeful in the past are sad and resigned. Leaders call again and again for peace, some of them, even as they openly foment something else entirely. And in my own experience, the more a leader cries peace, the more likely war is. Do I know which way this tidal moment will break? I have no idea; like the rest of Iraq, for now, I sit and I wait and I pray. I pray that one, if not all sides, let go of the rubber band which is Iraq, before it stretches beyond the breaking point.

Wednesday at dusk, I cried at the sky. Friday at dusk, I sat with my team mate, Maxine, on the same roof, in quiet conversation. A white dove with tan wings flew directly overhead (I remember because I looked up and then thought better of that, given the habits of birds). It then circled back and came to rest on the ledge, where it sat and watched us for five minutes or so. It did not startle when we spoke or fly off when we moved. I truly thought I could have walked over to it and stood beside it without disturbing its vigil. After a time, it simply and quietly left. Maxine said that usually such things are a sign to us, but that it felt as if this bird was watching us, looking for a sign from us instead of being a sign to us. If God was coming to us in the symbol of Peace seeking a sign or an answer, I wonder what the question is?

May you be blessed with God's peace now and always,

Beth


Read her earlier report, sent last September from Baghdad >>

More on the Christian Peacemaker Teams >>
 

Your WebWeaver asked Beth if she would like to hear from some of our visitors – with a little warning that sometimes we get fairly nasty notes. She replied that she thought she could deal with that. We suppose a little warfare now and then keeps those nasty notes in perspective.

Anyway, if you’d like to send her a note of your own, she’ll be happy to hear from you.  Just click here >>

The Cost of War

How much is too much?
[2-24-06]

Ever wonder how much the wars are costing us? Us as individuals, as families, as a society (the cost to our educational system, our public housing, health care, hunger??

Check out CostOfWar.com to see for yourself. Just be ready to count pretty fast to keep up with the ticker.

Mark Engler reflects on watching the numbers fly by:

So how much will the war cost? The question occasionally appears in the media, never a new issue, never a settled one either. Still, there are some certainties about the costs of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One is that it keeps going up. The President has now submitted a "guns over butter" budget to Congress that increases Pentagon spending to $440 billion, while taking away funds from social services at home and development assistance abroad. One of the great curiosities of this huge sum is that it does not include funding for the wars we are actually fighting. Those are appropriated separately - this year, the White House will reportedly be asking for another $120 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly equal to what it spent in 2005.

The rest of his essay >>

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and a contributor to Newsday, In These Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and TomPaine.com

Signers sought for a Women’s Call for Peace  [1-24-06]

Anuradha Mittal, of the Oakland Institute, sends this note:

I am one of the initial endorsers of this exciting new campaign: Women Say No To War! From now until March 8, International Women's Day, we will be gathering over 100,000 signatures on the Urgent Call for Peace in Iraq (below). On March 8, we will deliver the signatures to the UN, U.S. embassies, consulates, and federal offices all over the world. This is your opportunity to unite with international women everywhere, and voice our opposition to the illegal war in Iraq.   

(PLEASE NOTE: Men in solidarity with 'WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR' are invited to join us! )

The text of the Call for Peace, and links to add your name >>

A Policy of Collateral Damage
A troop drawdown in Iraq could mean more civilian casualties
[1-20-06]

The January 13 air attack on a Pakistani village, which killed many civilians and perhaps a few al-Qaida members, illustrates the United States' policy of bombing from the sky and letting the chips (and bodies) fall where they may. As Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker, the US military now seems to be relying on drawing down troop numbers on the ground while shifting focus to its air assault capabilities.

Nick Rose provides a good summary of this issue, and links to many reports and analyses, in Utne Webwatch.

This page lists all postings from 2006

Click here for the most recent postings.

For earlier stories:

bullet Postings from Jan - June, 2007
bulletJuly - December, 2005
bulletJanuary - June, 2005
bulletNovember - December, 2004
bulletJune through October, 2003.
bulletMarch 18 through May, 2003
bulletMarch 5 - 17, 2003
bulletFebruary, 2003
bulletJanuary, 2003
bullet November and December 2002
bullet Stories posted up through October, 2002

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program maintains a good page of resources on Iraq.

 

GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

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