The Common Good

Quick Read: Social. Justice. News.

A Commitment to Find Common Ground

Thomas P. O’Neill III, son of Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, reminds us of the relationship between his father and former President Ronald Reagan. After describing some of the bruising political battles between the two, he writes:

 “Historic tax reforms, seven tax increases, a strong united front that brought down the Soviet Union — all came of a commitment to find common ground. While neither man embraced the other’s worldview, each respected the other’s right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man.

“President Reagan knew my father treasured Boston College, so he was the centerpiece of a dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel that raised $1 million to build the O’Neill Library there. When Reagan was shot at that same hotel, my father went to his hospital room to pray by his bed.

“No, my father and Reagan weren’t close friends. Famously, after 6 p.m. on quite a few work days, they would sit down for drinks at the White House. But it wasn’t the drinks or the conversation that allowed American government to work. Instead, it was a stubborn refusal not to allow fund-raisers, activists, party platforms or ideological chasms to stand between them and actions — tempered and improved by compromise — that kept this country moving.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: This Week in Drones.

• During the week, reported drone strikes killed 3 in Pakistan on Monday and 5 in Yemen on Thursday. 

• A group of U.S. activists is in Pakistan this week protesting the drone attacks. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink writes of the reasons for the trip, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy describes a meeting with Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland. The group is planning to join Imran Khan, a charismatic Pakistani politician campaigning to become prime minister, in a march Sunday into South Waziristan to protest drones. The News International in Pakistan reported that Amb. Hoagland told the group there would be no drone strikes in Waziristan during their presence there.

• In Pakistan, DAWN reported on a Wall St. Journal story about the CIA drone program. Once a month, the CIA sends a fax to a Pakistani general outlining the places where it might conduct drone strikes. The Pakistanis do not respond, which the CIA takes as tacit consent to the strikes, and then cites as legal justification for them.

• Ahmed Wali Mujeeb reported for BBC on a trip to Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan, site of most drone attacks. Noteworthy was his description of the psychological impact on local people; fear, stress, and depression caused by the constant presence of drones hovering in the sky.

• The Christian Science Monitor wonders if drone warfare makes us safer, and takes a look at the top three dangers of drone warfare to America

• In the UK, The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have written to Foreign Secretary William Hague, expressing their concern over the humanitarian and legal implications of the US drone campaign and urging him to distance the UK government from it.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: Jobless Rate Falls

The U.S. jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since January 2009, President Obama’s first month in office. The Associated Press reports:

“The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The rate declined because more people found work, a trend that could have an impact on undecided voters in the final month before the presidential election.

“The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work.”

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

U.S. Preparing Potential Targets in Libya Attack

The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that secret “target packages” are being prepared by the U.S. for potential action against militants suspected in last week’s attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“The American military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is preparing detailed information that could be used to kill or capture some of the militants suspected in the attack last month in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, senior military and counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday.

“Preparing the “target packages” is the first step in a process that the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency are taking in preparation for, and in advance of, any orders from President Obama and his top civilian and military advisers to carry out action against those determined complicit in the attack on the United States Mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

“Mr. Obama has a range of options available — including drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden; and joint missions with the Libyan authorities — but all carry substantial political, diplomatic and physical risks.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: Pa. Voter ID Law Blocked

A Commonwealth judge this morning blocked a Pennsylvania law requiring a photo ID to vote from being enforced in the upcoming election. The law was one of the most stringent in the country and has sparked a divisive political debate. AP reports:

“A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania's divisive voter identification requirement from going into effect before Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting.

“The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.”

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

A DREAM Economy

Two words are dominating our current political dialogue: jobs and economy. Everyone seems to want more of the former and a quicker revival of the latter. Logically then, our nation should take any and all sensible and easy steps towards achieving those goals. If those actions also had positive humanitarian and moral outcomes, even better, right?

Sadly, Washington seems to be devoid of logic these days. The Center for American Progress has released a study showing that passage of the DREAM Act would create an economic boom of over $300 billion dollars and create nearly 1.5 million jobs — not to mention, it is just the right thing to do.

The politics needs to stop. The DREAM Act needs to pass. Read more about the economic difference it could make if Washington would take action by clicking HERE.

Knox Robinson is a semester intern at Sojourners. He’s currently a senior at LaGrange College, where he’s majoring in Sociology and Political Science.

+Leave a Comment | Immigration

A Resurgent Anti-nuclear Weapons Movement

Ken Butigan writes on Waging Nonviolence about the emergence of a new anti-nuclear weapons movement.  The Washington Post recently reported that the U.S. government is planning to refurbish its nuclear weapons complex over the next 10 years at a cost of $352 million. In response, writes Butigan:

“So we are in the midst of the next phase of the movement for nuclear disarmament, where a series of campaigns across the U.S. are pumping life into the seven-decade struggle. … For those of us who first came to political activism by tackling the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s, the announcement that the U.S. is online to refurbish and reassert its nuclear might far into the future has a glumly déjà vu feel. At the same time, we know the power of people power movements to change history. Together we can build on this emerging next phase to take action, to stoke alternatives and to prompt a powerful nationwide debate…”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Yemen President Approves Drone Strikes

In a speech last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadiexpressed his support for U.S. drone strikes in that country.  According to the New York Times,

“They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” said Mr. Hadi, a former army officer and the successor to Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after protests against his three-decade rule.

The United States “helped with their drones because the Yemeni Air Force cannot carry out missions at night,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.”

In an interview with reporters and editors from the Washington Post, Hadi said that he personally approves all drone strikes in Yemen. According to the piece:

“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. …

“Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft targeting an al-Qaeda franchise that is seen as the most potent terrorist threat to the United States.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Living Under Drones

Researchers at Stanford University and New York University law schools released a major study on the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan, commissioned by a London-based human rights group Reprieve. The study, Living Under Drones,” took nine months to complete, including two trips to Pakistan and more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is cited in the report for “the best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes.”

The four major conclusions of the study, highlighted in its executive summary, are:

“First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.

“Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.

“Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%

“Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US.”

You can read the entire report, along with data, victim’s stories, and resources.

News stories on the study include BBC,Guardian,Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times, and CNN

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Five Dead in Pakistan Attack

In the second attack in three days, a drone attack late Monday in northwest Pakistan killed five militants, including two linked to al Qaeda. DAWN reports

“Two key al Qaeda linked operatives, including an operational commander have been killed in Monday’s US drone strike in North Wazirsitan Agency, official sources said.

“The al Qaeda linked militants killed in the drone strike have been identified as Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi and Saleh Al-Turki, an intelligence source told Dawn.Com.

“Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi, hailing from Iraq, had arrived in North Waziristan Agency in 2001 and had since been one of the key operational commanders of the al Qaeda in North Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said.”

The Associated Press and Agence France Presse carried earlier reports of the story, before the identifications were made.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence