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War in Iraq
Reports and comments from

January through June, 2007

This page lists all postings during the first half of 2007.

For the more recent items >>

For earlier stories:

bullet All postings from 2006
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.

If you have news or views to share,
please send a note!
Unless you tell us otherwise, we'll assume it's to be posted here.

A response to Ambassador Chas W. Freeman’s essay on "Can American Leadership Be Restored?"

Click here for a summary of Freeman's essay >>|
... or here for the complete paper >>

On Israel and Palestine: Israel is the victim, the Arabs the oppressors

We have received this comment from Prof. Dr. Earl Tilford, a Presbyterian elder, retired military officer, and professor of history at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

You can read Dr. Tilford’s earlier exchange (if that’s the word for it) in the spring of 2006 with Beth Pyles, a Presbyterian member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq, after the kidnapping and killing of one of their group, Tom Fox.

A little information about Ambassador Freeman >>


Doug:

"The center of the problem of 'terrorism' is 'the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.' We must unshackle ourselves from Israel and its increasingly aggressive policy towards the Palestinians."  You asked for a comment. Here it is. Fiddlesticks. I'm being polite.

"The center of the problem of 'terrorism" is the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by {Israel}."

Can Ambassador Charles W. Freeman tell me exactly how al Qaeda's declaration of war on the United States, Osama bin Laden's Fatwa against Crusaders and Jews, issued in February 1998, is in any way connected to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? For al Qaeda, Israel only recently became a target. Since the Summer War of 2006, al Qaeda makes common cause with Iranian-sponsored and supported Hezbollah and with Hamas, the terrorist group which now constitutes the majority in the Palestinian parliament. Al Qaeda's objectives are global and apocalyptic. If Israel and the Palestinians made peace tomorrow, al Qaeda would not let up for an instant and neither would Iran. And you can be sure there will be no peace between Israel and the Palestinians as long as Damascus, Teheran and other Arab regimes have their way. Keeping their oppressed peoples focused on some mythological Israeli "boogie man" is essential for diverting their peoples' attention from the oppression of the masses by a handful of medieval Muslim oligarchs who have no intention of sharing their wealth with the Arab people. Other than the fatwa stating as one of its goals "to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque...from their grip" there is none. And the "their" refers to "the Americans and their allies."

Can Ambassador Freeman tell me how Shi'ite attacks on Sunnis and Sunni attacks on Shi'ites in Iraq have anything to do with Israel's problem with the Palestinians? Can Ambassador Freeman tell me what role the Israeli-Palestinian conflict played with the Fort Dix Six plotters or the recently uncovered plot to blow up much of New York City along with John F. Kennedy Airport? Or, perhaps, Ambassador Freeman (like Michael Moore and so many other far-left loonies) puts the word terrorism in quotes because he believes "there is no terrorist threat." I don't get it. How is water boarding a malevolent terrorist thug an act of terrorism but attacking the World Trade Center and killing 3,000 innocent people something that must be put into quotation marks?

"by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary..."Israel does not "occupy" any Palestinian lands and has not done so since the Israeli Defense Forces evacuated Israeli settlements from Gaza two summers ago. Incidentally, Hamas's response to the Israeli withdrawal of its settlements from Gaza was, "Next year in Jerusalem!" Any Israeli forces in Gaza are there temporarily responding to cross-border attacks by Palestinian terrorists (1,300 Kassam rockets launched into Israel, mainly into Ashkelon and Sidderoth, in the past twelve months, for instance.) Israel does, indeed, occupy the Golan Heights, which belonged to Syria prior to the 1967 Six Day War. Israel will return Golan to Syria when porcine aviate. In 1967, East Jerusalem was contested territory occupied by Jordanian forces after the ceasefire on November 30,1948, the Israel-Trans-Jordan Ceasefire, ended the open warfare between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Gaza was Egyptian territory in 1967. Israel offered to return it to Egypt but the Egyptians did not want it back, so it became part of the Palestinian territories.

"We must unshackle ourselves from Israel and its increasingly aggressive policies towards the Palestinians." What? Hamas has sworn to "throw Israel into the sea." The Hamas-dominated Palestinian terrorist movement attacked Israel last summer when Palestinian guerrillas tunneled into Israel to kill Israeli soldiers and kidnap 19-year old Private Gilad Shalit. If still alive, he remains in Palestinian hands. Meanwhile, over the past year, Palestinians have launched more than 1,300 Kassam rockets at Ashkelon and nearby Israeli towns. While the security barrier dramatically decreased the number of suicide bomber attacks into Israel from the Palestinian territories west of the Jordan River, Hamas has not given up on their ultimate goal of annihilating the Jewish state. From May 1948, when the United Nations declared a "two-state policy," Israel has accepted that a Palestinian state would exist alongside the Jewish state. Although Israel accepted the two-state policy back in May 1948, six Arab armies attacked it and tried to kill the infant Jewish state at birth. That basic hostility remains to this day.

Other postings to the Witherspoon website concerning Israel overwhelmingly (and blindly) favor the Palestinians. Pathetic pleas about homes bulldozed by Israeli forces always fail to mention that those buildings either belonged to the families of suicide bombers or were used by various terrorist groups to store munitions or stage attacks into Israel. Mournful reports about the indignities visited on Palestinians by Israeli soldiers fail to mention the brigades of Palestinians training for terrorist attacks against Israel. Evidently, the Christian Peacemakers Team members and Sabeel do not tune into Palestinian TV to see Mickey Mouse advocating terrorism to Palestinian toddlers. The sad-saga reports of inconveniences caused Palestinians by the security barrier fail to mention the thousands of terrorist attacks into Israel or the sniping at Israeli homes from Palestinian territories that prompted the building of the barrier in the first place. Perhaps CPT and Sabeel would care to comment on the inconvenience of getting oneself blown apart at the Jerusalem Sabarro Restaurant. What degree of inconvenience was involved for the twenty-one families of mostly Russian immigrants who had to bury their kids after a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up in a line of kids waiting to get into the Dophinarium disco back in June 2001? Care to comment Sabeel? Care to weigh in, CPT?

Finally, think about this. Thousands of Arab and Palestinian Muslims live and work in Israel. Muslims can worship freely in mosques inside Israel just as Christians can worship in their churches from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, from Haifa to Ashkelon. How many Jews live and work in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority? How many Jews live and work in any Muslim country in the Middle East?

Earl Tilford



A note on Ambassador Freeman, who may know something about his subject:

A career diplomat, he served as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-92, under Pres. George H. W. Bush; he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs, 1993-94.

In that position he earned the highest public service awards of the Department of Defense for his roles in designing a NATO-centered post-Cold War European security system and in reestablishing defense and military relations with China.

He was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon's path-breaking visit to China in 1972. In addition to his Middle Eastern, African, East Asian and European diplomatic experience, he served in India.

Can American Leadership Be Restored?   [6-4-07]

Former Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS. Ret.), speaking to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs on May 24, 2007, asked how the US managed so quickly to lose its global leadership, and how it might be restored.

How did we lose it? He mentions things like our betrayal of our own values of democracy and human rights, our proclamation of an endless war against a foe that is largely of our own imagining (“a nonexistent ideology of ‘Islamofascism’”), and aiming for unreachable objectives.

He says:

The pain of admitting failure will be all the greater because this disaster was completely bipartisan. Both parties colluded in catastrophically misguided policies of militarism and jingoistic xenophobia. We succumbed to panic and unreasoning dread. We got carried away with our military prowess. Our press embedded itself with the troops and jumped into bed with our government. We invaded countries that existed only in our imaginations and then were shocked by their failure to conform to our preconceptions. We asked our military to do things soldiers can do only poorly, if at all. Our representatives pawned our essential freedoms to our Commander-in-Chief in exchange for implied promises that he would reduce the risks to our security by means that he later declined to disclose or explain.

How to get out of our self-made mess?

Among other helpful ideas, he mentions these:

• Cease our pattern of “belligerent unilateralism,” which has been driving other nations to form political and economic ties with other countries – creating new and flexible alliances among nations of Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

• Stop trusting that even more military power (for which we are spending at least $934.9 billion – or about 6.8 percent of our GDP – in this fiscal year) will help, when that prevents us from doing many other things that could help repair some of the damage we’ve done.

• Recognize that our behavior (misbehavior!) has empowered nations around the world to form their own alliances and make their own decisions. We will no longer be the “deciders” of the world. And that may not be a bad thing.

• We face a very different world, in which “the major ideological contest is between those who share our past faith in the rule of law and the new American contempt for the notion that we should, like others, respect the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other elements of international law. In some senses, we have met the enemy and he is who we used to be. We can count on no common threat to rally the world behind us. In the new era, there are no blocs and no clear battle lines.” We must learn to work with these much more diverse and changeable alliances.

• We must recognize that the rest of the world is relying on international institutions and agreements even as we have been defying them. Those institutions (including the G-8, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the Kyoto accord on global warming, the UN, and many more) must be made more inclusive of new powers such as China and India, and must be respected and supported by the US.

• The center of the problem of “terrorism” is “the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.” We must unshackle ourselves from Israel and its increasingly aggressive policy toward the Palestinians.

• He concludes: “[T]o restore our reputation in the region and the world, given all that has happened, and to eliminate terrorism against Americans, it is no longer enough just to go through the motions of trying to make peace between Israelis and Arabs. We must succeed in actually doing so. Nothing should be a more urgent task for American diplomacy.”

The full article >>

We welcome your comments! 
Just send a note, to be shared here.

Is South Korea a Model for Iraq?

A Legislative Action Message from the Friends Committee on National Legislation     [6-4-07]

Can you imagine a U.S. presence in Iraq for the next half-century?

The president can. The White House press secretary announced this week that President Bush wants to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq similar to the half-century long U.S. military role in South Korea. This public acknowledgement confirms what we at FCNL have long suspected: President Bush wants to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq.

A Violation of Law and Reality

Establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq would be a violation of U.S. law Congress has twice passed, and the president has signed, legislation which prohibits the U.S. from spending money to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. That is the law, at least for now. Originally proposed by FCNL, your grassroots lobbying made that provision the law.

The White House announcement that this administration wants to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq also reaffirms that this administration is simply not prepared to acknowledge the reality of what is happening in Iraq. The impression among Iraqis that the U.S. is planning a permanent military occupation of their country feeds the violent groups fighting the Iraqi government, helps them to recruit fighters, and undermines U.S. credibility throughout the Middle East region. Almost every opinion poll conducted in Iraq in the last three years including one commissioned by the State Department has confirmed that a majority of Iraqis fear the U.S. plans to permanently occupy their country, and majorities want the U.S. to leave Iraq.

The White House announcement, by itself, could further destabilize Iraq and the region, by setting off a new wave of anti-government violence; it could recruit more supporters for violent extremist groups such as Al Qaeda.

More >>

Getting out of Iraq: not an either/or debate

from Gordon Shull, Wooster, OH (Witherspoon member and former professor of international relations)  [5-31-07]

As one who has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, I am frustrated by the tenor of the debate on withdrawal. It is so often presented, even in long stories in the New York Times, as an either-or proposition: either get out or stay in. What we ought to be debating is the strategy of withdrawal, with special attention to the Iraq Study Group's recommendation for involvement of the rest of the world, so that others who have more legitimacy than the United States can lead the way to reconciliation and healing.

For many decades US policy in the Middle East has rendered us illegitimate as a dominant figure in the reconstruction of any Arab country. That alone should have kept us out of the war in the first place – and that alone should prompt the Democrats to focus, not just on getting out, not just on setting dates and benchmarks, but on finding a collective substitute to lead the reconstruction task.

It was a virtue of the Tikkun ad in the NYT that it saw this need, and focused on it.

An early version of the ad >>
Reflections after Memorial Day

A war memorial for all the victims
[5-31-07]

John Feffer writes for Foreign Policy in Focus a reflection on Memorial Day that sees the wider (or deeper) possibilities in such an occasion. It begins:

On the island of Okinawa is a very unusual war memorial. The Cornerstone of Peace resembles the Vietnam War memorial in certain respects: large black walls inscribed with names. But the Cornerstone of Peace has a different shape: curved, concentric walls rather than an angled slash. More importantly, the Okinawa memorial lists all of those who died in the World War II Battle of Okinawa: Americans, Japanese, Okinawans, Koreans, and others.

The rest of the essay >>

Thanks to Witherspooner Betty Hale

"Speaking of Faith" for Memorial Day
[5-27-07]

For Memorial Day, you may want to revisit Krista Tippet's 2006 conversation with Chaplain Major John Morris on her respected NPR program "Speaking of Faith." He offers challenging insights into the spiritual aspect of our current conflicts, and the spiritual imprint that war always leaves on soldiers, citizens, and a nation. The War on Terror, he says, presents its own spiritual challenges.

bullet The transcript of the program >>
bullet An index page of all the material related to that program >>
Democrats, the War, and moral judgments
[5-27-07]

The recent Congressional votes, allowing continued funding for the US war in Iraq (etc., etc.) have raised many concerns and complaints.  Here are four varied responses for your consideration:

Pat Buchanan says the Democrats "caved" because the didn't have the courage to risk their political fortunes.

Rabbi Michael Lerner says they gave in because they can't offer a morally grounded responses to Bush's push for the war.  And more war.  And more war ....

The Network of Spiritual Progressives (of which Lerner is a founder and major leader) offers what we might call faith-based "talking points" on some of the major social-political issues today:  foreign policy, health,

Finally, Gary Dorrien, the new Reinhold Niebuhr professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, discusses the apparent tension between Niebuhr’s "Christian realism" and current value-centered approaches to social issues.

What do you think? 
How do you balance political "realism" and moral values?  This is certainly something worth talking about, so please send a note and your voice to the conversation.

Wise words of warning on the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq

This short speech was delivered in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, on March 19, 2007.    [3-27-07]

"Mr. Speaker, I rise with deep concern that on this very day 4 years ago, our Nation inaugurated a conflict, an unnecessary war, a war of choice, not a necessity.

The most comprehensive intelligence we have, the National Intelligence Estimate and the latest Pentagon report, tells us that Iraq has descended into a state of civil war. Over 3,000 Americans have died, and hundreds of thousands, some even say up to 1 million citizens of Iraq, have lost their lives in this unnecessary conflict.

And while we are telling our veterans of this war, the elderly, the poor, and the sick that there is no room in the budget for them, the American people have spent over $400 billion on a failed policy. We cannot do more of the same. Mr. Speaker, violence begets violence. It does not lead to peace.

President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’’ My greatest fear is that the young people of Iraq and of the Middle East will never forget this war. My greatest fear is they will grow up hating our children and our children’s children for what we have done. Mr. Speaker, the Bible is right. Even a great nation can reap what it sows.

Nothing troubles me more than to see the young faces of these soldiers who have been led to their death.

Some are only 18, 19, 21, 22, 23. It is painful; it is so painful to watch. Sometimes I feel like crying and crying out loud at what we are doing as a nation and what this administration is doing in our name. Our children do not deserve to die as pawns in a civil war.

They do not deserve to pay with their lives for the mistakes of this administration. They never had a chance.

When I was their age, when I was 23 years old, I was leading the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, soon to speak in Washington on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but then we were involved in a nonviolent revolution to transform the soul of America, to create a beloved community.

Forty years ago, I was there in New York City in Riverside Church when Martin Luther King, Jr., gave one of the most powerful speeches he ever made against the war in Vietnam. If he could speak today, he would say this nation needs a revolution of values that exposes the truth that war does not work. If he could speak today, he would say that war is obsolete as a tool of our foreign policy.

He would say there is nothing keeping us from changing our national priority so that the pursuit of peace can take precedence over the pursuit of war.

He would say we must remove the causes of chaos, injustice, poverty, and insecurity
that are breeding grounds for terrorism. This is the way towards peace.

As a nation, can we hear the words of Gandhi, so simple, so true, that it is either nonviolence or nonexistence? Can we hear the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., saying that we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools?

Tonight I must make it plain and clear that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and I cannot in good conscience vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war."

 

Bearing witness in D.C.

Presbyterians and other Christians to rally against Iraq war
[3-15-07]

Thousands of Christians from around the country, including numerous Presbyterians, are expected to descend on Washington D.C. this week to demand an end to the war in Iraq.

The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, to be held on Friday (March 16), will include worship, public prayer, and a candlelight vigil outside the White House that could land some demonstrators in jail.

More than 3,500 Protestants and Catholics, including clergy and other church leaders, have already registered for the one-day, nonviolent, anti-war witness. The event will begin with an ecumenical worship service at the Washington National Cathedral at 7 p.m.

The witness is partly the brainchild of Rick Ufford-Chase, executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) and moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2004.

Your WebWeaver will be there, and will report as soon as he can.

Is it time for a Presidential apology?    [3-13-07]

By Daniel Malotky, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, and Director of Ethics across the Curriculum at Greensboro College.

President Bush has acknowledged on several occasions that mistakes have been made in Iraq. His statements, however, have been framed to present him as a strong leader who is willing to take responsibility for his actions. None of his public remarks has constituted an apology, and he scrupulously avoids any suggestion that the invasion as a whole was a mistake.

In these non-apologies, we confront the tragic gap between the ideal and the real. Repentance is at the heart of the faith this president so publicly espouses; the intersection of spirituality and morality, for Christians, lies in the ironically positioned capacity for admitting one's moral failure. The redemption that the President surely desires is only possible by shedding the sense of his own — and, by extension, America's — inherent righteousness by admitting wrongdoing.

The rest of the essay, from Sightings, published by The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School >>

Rolling Stone publishes good discussion on Iraq:  "Beyond Quagmire"     [3-13-07]

Rolling Stone, the influential magazine that young people still read, has published a blue-ribbon discussion on Iraq in its latest issue. "Beyond Quagmire" includes the views of Middle East Policy Council President Chas. Freeman, along with those of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Juan Cole, Richard Clarke, Michael Scheuer and others. The "news" is this: the United States has lost the war, and its presence can only prolong the conflict and inflame terrorism worldwide.

Who Are You to Challenge Me?    [3-13-07]

Bruce Gagnon, Secretary/Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, has shared with us his poem reflecting on the way the media have become the unquestioned -- and unquestionable -- authority in our society.  The media seem able to dismiss movements of protest against the war -- defining reality for us in ways that distort it until there's little left of reality or truth.

Stated Clerk sends letters to Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad

Urges 'direct, unconditional talks' between the U.S. and Iran     [3-3-07]

Sharon Youngs, Office of the General Assembly communications officer, sent this news release on March 1:

Amid growing tensions between the United States and Iran, Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent letters late last week to Presidents George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, encouraging them to hold "direct, unconditional talks" between the two nations.

The Stated Clerk joins a chorus of religious leaders worldwide who are appealing for the direct talks amid deepening concern after the passing of the deadline for Iran's compliance with United Nations Resolution 1737 to end its move toward the development of nuclear weapons capability.

Late word yesterday of the possibility of direct talks happening next month is "very encouraging news to receive," said Kirkpatrick.

In his letters, the Stated Clerk lifts up the decades-long commitment of the General Assembly to "the preferential use of nonviolent means for conflict resolution and social change."

For the full texts of both letters >>

US religious leaders return from a fruitful visit to Iran     [3-3-07]

FaithfulAmerica reports that recently "a delegation of U.S. religious leaders returned from a courageous week-long mission in Iran, the purpose of which was to meet with religious and political leaders in Iran to help diffuse tensions and explore ways to forge peace between Iran and the U.S.. Among the members of the delegation was fellow FaithfulAmerican and NCC Interfaith Chief, the Rev. Shanta Premawardhana.

"The mission included a fruitful meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the first time an American delegation has held such a meeting with a sitting Iranian president in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Members of the delegation gave the following statement to the press."

US RELIGIOUS DELEGATION FINDS HOPE IN IRAN

As Christian leaders from the United States, we went to Iran at this time of increased tension believing that it is possible to build bridges of understanding between our two countries. We believe military action is not the answer, and that God calls us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community.

We were a diverse group of Christian leaders that included United Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonites who have 17 years of on the ground experience in Iran. We were warmly welcomed by the Iranian people, and our time in Iran convinced us that religious leaders from both countries can help pave the way for mutual respect and peaceful relations between our nations.

During our visit we met with Muslim and Christian leaders, government officials, and other Iranian people. Our final day included a meeting with former President Khatami and current President Ahmadinejad. The meeting with President Ahmadinejad was the first time an American delegation had met with a sitting Iranian President in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The meeting lasted 2.5 hours and covered a range of topics including the role of religion in transforming conflict, Iraq, nuclear proliferation, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What the delegation found most encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad was a clear declaration from him of no intention to acquire or use nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved through political not military means. Finally, he said, "I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some good will."

We believe it is possible for further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S. – Iranian relations. The Iranian government has already built a bridge toward the American people by inviting our delegation to come to Iran. We ask the U.S. government to welcome a similar delegation of Iranian religious leaders to the United States.

As additional steps in building bridges between our nations, we call upon both the United States and Iranian governments to:

bulletImmediately engage in direct face-to-face talks
bulletCease using language that defines the other using "enemy" images
bulletPromote more people to people exchanges including religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress, and civil society

As people of faith, we are committed to working towards these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war towards a more just and peaceful settlement.

~~~~~~~~~

FaithfulAmerica suggests that others may want to share this message of hope with their local papers, on their email lists and through other channels, to amplify its message.

Read more in the "Iran Diary," on the FaithfulAmerica website >>

Hundreds of thousands of protesters converge on Capitol Hill     [1-29-07]

Hundreds of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush's plan for a troop increase in Iraq in what organizers hoped would be one of the largest shows of antiwar sentiment in the nation's capital since the war began.

Read the story on TruthOut.org >>

You can also see this report as originally published in the New York Times, with photos – but you may have to register to see it.

What’s the point of such protests?

Foreign Policy in Focus ("A think tank without walls") offers a lengthy reflection on the Washington demonstration, and on the possible efficacy of such actions.

The full essay, with links to other good discussions >>

It begins with a lovely vignette:

At Saturday's anti-war demonstration in Washington, my 84-year-old mother slipped as she stepped off a curb and fell backward. A young man in a small knot of anarchists caught her and gently restored her to the vertical. And on we marched. Leave no grandmother behind!

  

It’s time to Unite For Peace and Justice
January 27th to 29th, 2007

[1-25-07]

This weekend, United for Peace and Justice is hosting a massive demonstration and effort to lobby against the War in Washington D.C. Click here to find out more about that event.

Also, the Network of Spiritual Progressives will be hosting an Interfaith Prayer Service that will take place on Saturday morning as a part of the larger, UFPJ organized events during the weekend.  Click here for more information. 

For the Presbyterian group most involved in this event, please visit the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.
 

Also ... we hope you will consider joining, too, in the CHRISTIAN PEACE WITNESS FOR IRAQ in Washington, March 16th, 2007.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is urging: Help us to turn out 5,000 Presbyterians in Washington, and thousands more for local events, for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

March 16th, 2007

7 p.m. - Worship at the National Cathedral with thousands of Christians who are committed to the Prince of Peace!

9:00 p.m. – Candlelight Procession three miles down Massachusetts Ave. to the White House.

10:00 p.m. – Late night/All night witness and prayer vigil at the White House with an opportunity for those who desire to participate in "Divine Obedience" (nonviolent civil disobedience)

There will also be workshops on nonviolence, torture, economic justice, etc. on Friday during the day, and an opportunity for Presbyterians to gather on Saturday afternoon to plan "next steps" on living our faith as peacemakers.

END THE WAR!
SUPPORT THE TROOPS!
REBUILD IRAQ!
SAY "NO" TO TORTURE!
SAY "YES" TO JUSTICE!

Go to www.christianpeacewitness.org to learn more and register online. (Space in the National Cathedral will be limited! Register Now)

If you are willing to help organize in your church or Presbytery or on your campus, please contact the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship at ppfcpw@presbyvoicesforjustice.org.

The Obsolescence of Raw Military Power
by Craig Barnes      
[1-23-07]

Jane Hanna, former President of the Witherspoon Society, sent us this article with this comment:

I think this article is particularly important because what he has written is true, and perhaps not obvious to many of our fellow citizens. Our nation has gone in entirely the wrong direction to think for a minute that our security and well-being can be assured through military power. Our brains and economy would more likely create a safe world if used to assure food, safe water, health care, education, healthy environment and hopeful future for all, [rather] than by developing death-dealing, environmentally destructive weapons that enrich the few at the expense of the rest of humanity. How could we possibly imagine that programs designed to kill other people and destroy their communities would assure safety and security for a nation using its treasure in such a way!

Barnes writes:

We have built a military to fight armies in countries which mass their troops along battle lines. We are prepared to fight World Wars I and II better than we ever did before. But this is a new world and we have been preparing for the wrong war. We cannot change the government (or that is, the source of moral authority) in Iraq or Afghanistan or in Cuba or Venezuela or Russia or China, with the tools that we have been relying upon this last 50 years. They are the wrong tools. We have wasted our treasure and the lives of our young on the wrong strategy.

His full essay >>

NCC says Bush Iraq troop increase plan is immoral   [1-23-07]

PC(USA)’s Kirkpatrick urges administration to use ‘other means’

NEW YORK January 18, 2007 – The National Council of Churches in the USA (NCC), a long-standing critic of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, has criticized President George W. Bush’s call for additional U.S. troops to be sent to the region.

"Sending more troops is not a change in policy, nor is it even a change in strategy; it is more of the same," the NCC said in a statement about the president’s declaration that he wants to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by 21,500.

The rest of the story >>
http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2007/07040.htm

Martin Luther King, Jr., Presbyterians and Iraq

Bruce Gillette, Presbyterian minister and frequent contributor to this site, has just sent this very helpful compendium of thoughts and resources for our reflection and celebrations on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  [1-13-07]
 

"It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history's most cruel and senseless wars. During these days of human travail, we must encourage creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria. Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war, we must spread the propaganda of peace. "
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
February 27, 1967


This weekend around the USA and elsewhere, people will remember and give thanks for the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project and Professor of History at Stanford University has a web page with "Frequently Requested Documents and Audio Clips" that includes "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (this famous letter was written to respond to a Presbyterian minister and other religious leaders who opposed King), March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (King’s "I Have A Dream" speech given after Presbyterian Eugene Carson Blake’s speech), Acceptance Speech at Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and I've Been To The Mountaintop (King's last speech). I sent this web page to our congregation’s members and friends in my weekly pastoral note to encourage people to read. The Nov/Dec 2005 issue of Church & Society looks at "Trusting the Nonviolence of Jesus Christ Today" from diverse Presbyterian perspectives; it is a fine print resource that also makes good reading for this holiday and other times.

If someone were to pick one of King’s speeches for its relevancy today, it would be a tough decision between his unpublished "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam" (quoted above) and his better known "Beyond Vietnam," King’s address delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, in Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 (exactly one year before his death): "…Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men [and women] do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against the conformist thought within one’s bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on."

One can argue about how many parallels there are between Vietnam forty years ago and Iraq today, but the struggle continues for many people of faith to "move on" from their silence to publicly opposing our government’s war policies in Iraq. The 214th (2004) General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) did a careful study on the war in Iraq, Iraq: Our Responsibility and the Future, and found it to be "unwise, immoral, and illegal." While national governing bodies and national church leaders have spoken out prophetically in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., too few local church pastors or lay people have "moved on" to public opposition to the war today.

"How Many Deaths in Iraq Before U.S. Churches Say Enough?" by Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, was posted online the second day of the New Year with the 3000th death of an American soldier in Iraq; it is quickly becoming very important reading for all who are concerned about the war and faith. This brief essay (only two pages) lays out in clear numbers the cost in lives and money that this war is costing Americans and Iraqis. Beyond the Americans killed, 22,000 U.S. troops have been seriously injured. Over 2,180 Iraqis were killed in December for a total number of civilian deaths between 52,297 and 57,871. The U.S. Congress has appropriated over $500 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and other anti-terrorism operations since 2001 and has been asked to increase funds by 45% in 2007 over what was spent in 2006 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. American intelligence agencies’ assessment has found that the war in Iraq has resulted in an increase of the overall terrorist threats.

This week President Bush proposed more military solutions to the war, ignoring diplomatic solutions recommended by the Iraqi Study Group chaired by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton. Bush’s proposed escalation has been opposed by American generals and troops in Iraq. Professor Stephen Zunes of the Foreign Policy in Focus has done an in-depth annotated analysis of the President’s speech, pointing out its numerous misunderstandings and untruths.

For Christians, Parham states "Surging troop levels violate three of the time-honored rules of a just war. First, a surge does not provide a reasonable hope for success. It only prolongs the failed war. Winning the war is a myth. Second, a surge does not ensure non-combatant civilian immunity from war. It only escalates in a civil war the number of deaths and disfigurements. Third, a surge increases the war's costs which already outweigh the original goals for the war."

What to do? Come to Washington, DC on March 16th and bring friends to join thousands of Christians for a Christian Peace Witness for Iraq: Worship at the National Cathedral; Candlelight procession to the White House; Prayer vigil and witness for peace in Iraq; Pre-witness workshops and training; and Post-witness organizing and strategizing. This ecumenical event has five goals that are explained in an invitational flyer: End the U.S. Occupation, Support Our Troops, Rebuild Iraq, Say NO to Torture and Say YES to Justice.

Former Presbyterian General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, now serving as the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, is one of the key organizers of this event and has written about it on his Blog, "Christian Peace Witness for Iraq March 16th." For more information go to www.christianpeacewitness.org to learn more about the event and to register to attend. If you want to help us organize, you can contact Rick at ppfcpw@presbyvoicesforjustice.org to get involved.

Beyond organizing for March 16th, Presbyterians can pray, preach, study and advocate. Diverse prayers for peace can be found on the National Council of Churches web site. Dick and Charlene Watts’ "Staying Alive Spiritually for the Long Haul as Peacemakers" has 17 points worthy of pondering and following. "How to Preach Peace (Without Being Tuned Out)" is a very practical resource for preachers by Dick Watts and Mark Koenig. General Assembly’s Iraq: Our Responsibility and the Future (available online with a study guide) is good for personal and group study. The Thoughtful Christian online resources include The War in Iraq: Why Then? What Now? Discussing Tough Issues is a Presbyterian Peacemaking Program resource to help congregations discuss issues around the war in Iraq. Sojourners offers several different free emails (daily scripture with quotes, news and more).

On the eve of the war with Iraq, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote a hymn-prayer ("God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger") that included this verse about the power of Jesus’ non-violent love:

Love is patient, kind and caring, Never arrogant or rude,
Never boastful, all things bearing; Love rejoices in the truth.
When we’re caught up in believing War will make the terror cease,
Show us Jesus’ way of living; May our strength be in your peace.

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

Bruce Gillette is the co-pastor of the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware and a member of the National Committee for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

 

King's voice of peace resounds amid Iraq woes    [1-14-07]

Echoing the material shared here yesterday by Bruce Gillette, this morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published in one of the cities most important in the life of Martin Luther King, and most transformed by his witness, carried an editorial pointing to the courage shown by King as he took a stand against the war in Vietnam. It is written by Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor.

Excerpts:

In an odd coincidence of timing, President Bush launched his plan to escalate U.S. military involvement in Iraq on the cusp of the national celebration of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose courageous denunciation of the American strategy in Vietnam is better appreciated now than it was then. When King came out against the war in 1967, he was harshly criticized.

Little has changed in 40 years. As recently as last February, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a veteran of the civil rights movement, drew harsh criticism when he used the occasion of Coretta Scott King's funeral to blast Bush's policies. ... Supporters of the war responded with outrage, claiming Lowery had cheapened King's legacy and disrespected his widow's memory.

...

With so many preachers behaving like politicians — stoking prejudices, watching the polls and fearing a backlash from the pews — King's decision to speak out against the war in Vietnam is all the more admirable. ... King agonized over his decision to oppose the war. ... Some respected civil rights leaders urged him to keep his mouth shut.

But his conscience wouldn't let him. In a pivotal speech at New York's Riverside Church in April 1967, King said, "I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart. ... I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."

That's not among the quotes we tend to trot out in our annual commemorations of King, when we're more comfortable with a sepia-toned man of softer edges. But the man who insisted that America live up to its ideals believed in a nation that promoted peace and justice around the world and around the clock. That's the man who ought to be remembered and celebrated.

The full essay >>

A Dictator Created Then Destroyed by America   [1-2-07]

Looking deeper behind the crimes of Saddam Hussein

Robert Fisk revisits the circumstances that resulted in Saddam Hussein's rise to power, and asks, "Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability."

The full article on Truthout.org, or in The Independent UK

This page lists all postings from Jan. through June,  2007.

For earlier stories:

bullet All postings from 2006
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 have now been acted upon by the presbyteries, confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

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

Our three areas of primary interest have been:

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

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.  Disapproved, because as an amendment to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not receive that.

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

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Some blogs worth visiting

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.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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