The Common Good

Iraq: One Year Later

Sojomail - March 18, 2004

www.sojo.net03.18.2004
Quote of the Week George MacDonald on liberating love
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Iraq: One year later
Soul Works Kathleen Norris on the psalms of children
On the Ground East Timor's Mother Teresa
In Memoriam A poem for Rachel Corrie: God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land
Politically Connect What if poor nations actually caught up with rich ones?
Global Vision Target Nepal
Building a Movement Tell the EPA to keep mercury out of our groundwater
Web Sitings Faith, films, and fun | Make some joyful noise | The cost of war
Boomerang Riffs on Rifkin

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK ^top

"The love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self, where we mope and mow, striking sparks, and rubbing phosphorescences out of the walls, and blowing our own breath in our own nostrils, instead of issuing to the fair sunlight of God, the sweet winds of the universe."

- George MacDonald

Source: "George MacDonald: An Anthology," edited by C.S. Lewis.

HEARTS & MINDS ^top
Iraq: One year later
by Jim Wallis

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Preaching the Word
Nearly 600 American soldiers have died in Iraq - six more just last weekend. More than 3,000 have been wounded or maimed. Reliable accounts say more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives. No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. U.S. weapons inspector David Kay has reported that they probably weren't there, and that the U.S. government should honestly admit that it was mistaken. They haven't. President Bush and his administration now repeatedly say the fact that the principal argument for going to war with Iraq has turned out to be false doesn't matter. There was no "imminent" or "urgent" threat from chemical or biological weapons and Iraq wasn't developing a nuclear threat, as was claimed before the war. The best explanation is that intelligence was manipulated and selectively reported to justify a worst-case scenario previously arrived at on political grounds. The worst is that the case was fabricated. Either way, the president of the United States misled the American people into going to war. A new book based on documents from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill makes clear that this administration decided to go to war with Iraq even before Sept. 11, and the "facts" were never the decisive factor. CIA Director George Tenet has virtually said that his agency's efforts to prevent the Bush administration from "overstatement" on Iraq were a failure.

Iraq remains chaotic and unstable. Divided factions threaten any political solution, and the largest faction - the Shiites - may not support a new provisional government. In July, the United States plans to turn over sovereignty to a new Iraqi government that does not yet exist, a transition that would clearly not be happening if there were no American election in the fall, again a purely political calculation. It is indeed a good thing that the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein is over. But that worthy goal should and could have been accomplished, over time, in much better ways than a pre-emptive and largely unilateral war that has proven to be both unnecessary and unjust. Iraq is now a big mess with no clear or responsible exit strategy in sight and is likely to remain so for a very long time.

The Bush administration's argument that the war with Iraq was a critical battle in the war on terrorism also is not compelling. It can now be argued that the Iraq war may ultimately make the defeat of terrorism more difficult, because of the division it caused among key allies, the deeper resentment it has triggered in Muslim countries, and the failure of the war to produce the promises of democracy in Iraq or the beginning of a Middle East peace agreement, which seems further away than ever. The war in Iraq has proven to be a great distraction and diversion from the fight against terrorism, rather than a necessary component. Already, one third of Afghanistan is again under Taliban control. Osama bin Laden has yet to be found, and the networks of terror are more dispersed throughout the world. Indeed, terrorists from other countries are now in Iraq, where their bombings of civilians are exacerbating the already violent situation. And al Qaeda has just carried out a successful and massive terrorist attack in Spain.

In Spain 201 people died from bombs on commuter trains, with hundreds more injured. American columnists are attacking the Spanish people for caving into terrorists because they defeated the pro-American Spanish party in last week's elections. What they don't say is that the vast majority of the Spanish people were against their government's decision to support the U.S. war with Iraq, which was therefore an undemocratic decision. Or that the ruling party lied to the Spanish people in an attempt to blame the commuter train attacks on Basque separatists and distract attention from al Qaeda.

What the U.S. government and its media allies seem to be saying is that the proper response of the Spanish people after being bombed should have been to vote for the policy of George W. Bush. They didn't. Good for them.


Read more commentary by Jim Wallis at: http://www.sojo.net/wallis

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SOUL WORKS ^top
The psalms of children

Children who are picked on by their big brothers and sisters can be remarkably adept when it comes to writing cursing psalms, and I believe that the writing process offers them a safe haven in which to work through their desires for vengeance in a healthy way. Once a little boy wrote a poem called "The Monster Who Was Sorry." He began by admitting that he hates it when his father yells at him: his response in the poem is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole town. The poem concludes: "Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, 'I shouldn't have done all that.'"

- Kathleen Norris, from Amazing Grace


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May 23-25, 2004
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* Plenary Panels * Washington National Cathedral Worship Service featuring Rev. James A. Forbes * Keynote Luncheon with Bill Moyers * Congressional Prayer Breakfast and More! Register at: http://www.calltorenewal.org


ON THE GROUND ^top
East Timor's Mother Teresa
by Benedict Rogers

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Tree Givers
East Timor is now free from the tyranny of Indonesian occupation, but it is engaged in a new war - against poverty. In this battle are the same heroes of faith who struggled for the island nation's independence. One such person is Sister Lourdes - East Timor's Mother Teresa.

East Timor, situated 800 kilometers off the north coast of Australia, was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. That invasion came with the tacit approval of the United States and Australia - President Ford and Henry Kissinger were in Jakarta the day before the invasion - and the U.S. and Britain continued to sell arms to the Indonesian occupiers.

During the occupation, it was Sister Lourdes who went into the most dangerous areas. When a massacre occurred in Liquica and a humanitarian crisis developed, most village leaders fled. They passed Sister Lourdes on her way in, driving through militia roadblocks with food and medicines. Watched closely by the Indonesians and their militia, she restricted her speech to spiritual encouragement. According to Dr. Daniel Murphy, an American doctor in East Timor, her ability to communicate was extraordinary. Faced with row after row of militia roadblocks, he recalls, she would get out of her car and speak to the militia. "Within minutes she would have them laughing with her, then crying with her, and then on their knees praying with her."

Read more at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_archives&mode=current_opinion&article=CO_040310_rogers


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IN MEMORIAM ^top
God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land
i.m. Rachel Corrie
by Linda McCarriston

Around you the father gods' war. This
Father. That father. The other father.

What more dangerous place could
A woman stand, upright, than on that sand, as if
She were still antiphon to that voice, the other
Mind of that power. The very idea!

Crush her back in to her mother!
Crush her. Crush her. Consensus. War.

Linda McCarriston's most recent collection of poetry is Little River: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Publishing, 2000). She teaches creative writing at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

In observance of the anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death, learn more about her life of activism and her death under the treads of an Israeli bulldozer: http://www.rachelcorrie.org


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POLITICALLY CONNECT ^top
What if poor nations actually caught up with rich ones?

Proponents of unbridled economic globalization often criticize so-called anti-globalization activists for not recognizing the benefits of free-market growth to developing countries. In favoring neo-liberal policies instead of increased foreign aid, their argument goes something like this: instead of trying to redistribute the world economic pie, we're making it possible for developing countries to make the pie bigger - or to make their own pies. But even former International Monetary Fund economist Kenneth Rogoff questions the fantasy of an infinitely expanding world economy. In a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine he asks, "What if 1.3 billion Chinese and 1.1 billion Indians suddenly all had cars and began churning out automobile exhaust at prodigious U.S. rates? While the sun might not turn black and the ozone layer might not vaporize overnight, the environmental possibilities are frightening.... If globalization really works, then what is the endgame?"

Read more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=2445


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GLOBAL VISION ^top
Target Nepal

For many, the mention of Nepal conjures peaceful and idyllic images of sherpas, yaks, and snow-capped Himalayas. Few are aware that Maoist insurgents and a U.S.-supported monarchy are engaged in a civil war that has claimed more than 8,000 lives since 1996. The Communist Party of Nepal (CPNM) is now on the State Department's terrorist "Watch List," and, according to Conn Hallinan of Foreign Policy in Focus, U.S. Ambassaor Michael E. Malinowski is advocating an all-out military offensive - even though attempts to crush rural unrest likely sparked the civil war in the first place.

King Gyanendra, the U.S. ally in Nepal, is no poster boy for democracy. One of his first acts was to dismiss the elected government for alleged "incompetence." There have been protests for the reinstatement of parliament ever since, as the disenfranchised political parties support popular movements and express hopes that the CPNM will abandon violence and join them in seeking a political solution.

But with U.S. support solidly behind the king, and the arrival of M-16s, U.S. "advisers," and British-made helicopters, civilian death rates have increased sharply, along with fears that the conflict could spread to neighboring China-occupied Tibet and northern India.

Read more at: http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2004/0402nepal.html

BUILDING A MOVEMENT ^top
Tell the EPA to keep mercury out of our groundwater

Mercury is a dangerous substance that, once in groundwater, can cause serious damage to small children - yet the EPA is considering rules that allow power plants, a major source of mercury pollution, to continue polluting at high levels. Read more and let the EPA know that you care about mercury in our air and water at: http://cleanairnow.org/cleanairnow.asp?id2=11185&id3=cleanairnow

Read more about faith and the environment in Sojourners' special issue at: http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.contents&issue=soj0403


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WEB SITINGS ^top
Faith, films, and fun

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Make some joyful noise

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The cost of war

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BOOMERANG ^top
Riffs on Rifkin

Penny Brown writes from Cedar Falls, Iowa:

Regarding Ira Rifkin's "Blessed are the greedy" [SojoMail 3/11/2004]: Certainly no one can disagree that it is cruel and unfair that jobs are taken away from hard-working Americans and sent to other countries, but isn't that the symptom rather than the problem? I am no economist, but, as I see it, the problem is that we allow greedy corporations to exploit countries and their citizens. The corporations should not be allowed to keep all the profit from these exploits for themselves. A goodly portion should stay there to help build schools, community centers, small businesses. The workers should be making enough money to have a higher standard of living. They should be able to buy stoves, refrigerators, cell phones, TVs, VCRs, etc., which could stimulate more jobs for us. Then, too, if they received wages sufficient for them to do this, it would cut the competition, and more jobs would stay here. Everyone, (all of us are God's creatures) deserves all the good things of life, education, good medical care, sufficient food. With their added buying power, it seems to me the economy would be stronger for everyone and maybe America would have friends again.

I think if Democrats would attack corporate greed, not Bush per se, they would make more points with the voters; hopefully, the voters will see the connections soon enough. Dare the "ins" do this to all their lobbying buddies? Can they take that much of a cut in their income?

----------

Van Jones writes:

Back in the '70s there was a saying, "When in doubt, mumble." That's what I got out of Mr. Rifkin's article. The truth is you can't buy inexpensive merchandise made by highly paid American workers. To get low cost, you have to pay low wages. WE, as a nation, have decided, with our checkbooks and cards, that low costs are more important than jobs. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

----------

Mike Wattier writes from Deming, New Mexico:

I'm simply amazed at the so-called "progressive/liberal Christian" view on this topic. As an American software developer (self-employed), I have had to compete head to head with people in India, Russia, Romania, and other countries where the labor rates are anywhere from 33 cents an hour to 3-4 bucks an hour. This is not anything new. It's been going on for eight to 10 years.

As someone who is directly impacted by outsourcing I can say that the entire "problem" has been politically blown way out of proportion. We should be happy that there are thousands of people who are now able to feed their families in these other countries. Should we not welcome the fact that China now has the means to solve their horrible poverty problem? And it's being done without new taxation on the already overly taxed middle class in both the U.S., U.K. - and other Western countries, I might add. In India, I personally know many people who joyously welcome the 33 cents an hour over the 5 cents an hour they were making before. That is not to say we do not have more work to do.

As Christians, Jesus tells us that we have the obligation to teach the rest of the world how to feed themselves, not how to be dependant upon welfare and handouts. This is not limited to those outside the U.S.A. Here at home we simply need to re-train those who are out of work due to outsourcing. I seriously doubt that those out of work are unwilling or incapable of learning a new trade.

----------

Barbara Germiat writes from Appleton, Wisconsin:

Herman Sutter [Boomerang 3/11/2004] asks which is more important - the needs of starving children or of starving souls.

If the children are not fed, they will not remain alive to house their souls. Please recall Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: food, shelter, clothing are at the bottom because without them the person will not be able to live to realize or satisfy any other needs. First things first!

----------

Roy Flanigan writes from Niagara Falls, New York:

Over the past couple of years I have come to re-think my religious views. The rise of the evangelical Religious Right has me wondering if Nietzsche may not have been on to something when he referred to Christianity as "the single greatest misfortune of humanity so far." Groups like the Christian Coalition, American Values, ...CBN (Pat Robertson), and others present "Christianity" as bigoted, exclusionary, uncaring (the environment, poverty, justice), arrogant yet ignorant, and dishonest (particularly in their attempt to portray the United States as being founded as a "Christian" country, with our legal foundation being the Ten Commandments).... The current attacks on gay marriage expose their shallowness - claiming that allowing gay couples to marry would somehow destroy our society, and that marrying gays is a threat to our national security. Their version of "Christianity" does not seem to me to be very Christ-like. If asked about my religion, I cannot answer Christian unless I have an opportunity to include all sorts of disclaimers.

Your organization remains my sole connection to Christianity. You provide just a bit of hope that the faith and values that Jesus inspired may yet survive. For now, I'm hiding out at the local Unitarian Universalist Church.

----------

Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: boomerang@sojo.net . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.



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