Fort Hood's Nidal Hasan – or – Why Today's Soldiers Go Crazy

The tragic recent murders by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood are part of an epidemic of suicides, violent crimes, and shooting sprees among active-duty and former soldiers which stem in great part from their understandable moral and ethical confusion about the nature of war and the uses of power and violence. Women soldiers newly serving in combat positions often struggle with their uncertainties about adopting formerly-despised “male” traditions of violence and dominance, especially since their use of such power—as male soldiers have always known—can and does often lead to a sense of separation from the human race, to feelings of isolation, aloneness, difference, wrongness, fear, inadequacy, failure, loss and rejection.


Add to these moral conundrums of conscience the fact that soldiers are expected to behave in uncivilized and dominating ways while “at work,” and then nimbly revert back to behaving civilly and helpfully at home, flexibly “getting back in touch with their feminine sides” and working in equitable partnerships, building family affection, connections and wholeness. Clearly, twenty-first century soldiers have their hands full to be all they can be.


Military trainers work very hard to try to turn selfless, idealistic, caring young recruits into good soldiers who can be both safe and effective in war zones, prepared to perform as knee-jerk killers, to instantly shoot down complete strangers—often innocents themselves who are protecting their own homes and families and comrades-in-arms—and to carry out the cold-blooded duties of snipers, bombers, interrogators and other executioners who must kill with no hesitation or trace of due process random members of any population demonized as “the enemy,” “others”—i.e., people it’s OK to treat as non-humans.


Good soldiers are offered a fuzzy kind of contextual logic to (temporarily) ethically “cover them” and their bloodiest actions, for at least as long as they can believe that their killing and dying serves a worthwhile purpose—that is, to protect their friends and families and fellow-citizens, or to serve their country in some way, or to further its noble ideals and purposes. Soldiers can often do their duty if they can cling to some hope that their “jobs” are generally positive ones, that they are necessary, valuable and moral, that their terrible personal losses and cruel sacrifices were not in vain, and that they wasted neither their own lives nor the lives of others.


Unfortunately—or perhaps, fortunately—it’s much harder nowadays in the age of media for us to continue to see complicated human instances of violence in simple black-and-white terms. The rapid pace of change, the continual clashing of conflicting old ideas and emerging new ones, our own American biggest-kid-on-the-block mentality, and our often-thoughtless, retributive, greedy habits of government policy-making with respect to war, empire and militarism—added to our too-violent and vengeful culture—together create a mentally and emotionally combustible, dangerous, crazy-making conundrum for even our best, most well-intentioned and professional soldiers.


“Schizophrenic behavior” is defined as behavior which is motivated by contradictory or conflicting principles, or which results from the co-existence of disparate or antagonistic activities. In other words, when your ideals frequently conflict with each other, and when your actions feel equally conflicted, it can drive you nuts. Fallible human attempts to live up to one’s ethics, values, standards and goals can make even the best soldiers feel schizophrenic.


Growing up on military posts, I believed, just as most citizens of most countries are taught to believe, that our military forces were always a force for good, an organization that helped people, supported peace, promoted freedom and democracy. Since then, I’ve learned that military forces everywhere—like violence of all kinds, from abuse to crime to terrorism—usually harm many more people than they help. I’ve also learned that peace, freedom and democracy cannot co-exist with war, because wherever war goes, anything resembling peace, freedom and democracy quickly disappear.


Even the best-trained soldiers—those convinced that military actions are all about duty, honor and country, taking care of one another, following orders, and serving with excellence, integrity and honor in order to further the protection and interests of loved ones and the best nation on earth—in the midst of war, wonder whether their actions are truly helping or hurting people, whether they are on the “giving” or on the “taking” “side.” Every soldier prays that he will someday look back and believe his life and work have served the best interests of humanity—and heaven forbid that they have served on the side of darkness, pain, grief, and cruelty. In the midst of actions far from their homes, all soldiers wonder at times whether their devotion to military ideals and country may not conceal larger, deeper, sadder contradictions about the nature and missions of militarism and war.


When soldiers from any nation come home from their wars, of course they have trouble rectifying all they've participated in, with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious beliefs about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the many understandings parents and teachers carefully taught them about what makes relationships work, and what make life worth living. Many returning war veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives.


Everyone insists that training and fighting animals—cocks, dogs, bulls—is an outrage. We wouldn't, they say, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog! So why do we keep doing it to people?


Every soldier I have known, at one time entered the military with selfless ideals and the best intentions. Sadly, military training and war often work subtly against soldiers’ best interests, leaving them confused about what power and leadership really mean, as well as poorly-prepared for the peaceful, productive civilian relationships they spend years dreaming of forging, at war’s end.


Unfortunately, the many sad, lingering side-effects of military training and war include a heightened tendency to polarize even small conflicts into black-and-white situations requiring a quick, habitual adversarial or violent response to conflict—habits which later work insidiously against both the soldiers and their loved ones. Quickness to violence—while perhaps an asset in effective soldiering—is a terrible emotional burden in civilian life. Recent public-safety statistics indicate that too many soldiers attempting to re-enter civilian life—having spent their impressionable youth on high alert, in kill-or-be-killed situations—have become habituated to violent, lawless behavior, and continue to pay huge, never-ending psychic prices for their previous military involvements after their return to “civilization.”


The number and types of military resources America should maintain may be a matter of reasonable debate, but what is not arguable is our need to develop more thoughtful and deliberate processes for deciding when and why to send our soldiers into war.


The great writers and filmmakers who have told their stories of past wars have consistently described war as “insane.” Insanity is also the only word that most reasonably describes any future war, since humanity has the knowledge and the means now—if only we develop the will—to resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the holocausts which the law of unintended consequences, along with our ghastly weaponry, inevitably spiral us into.


Ethical soldiers like my father relive the remembered insanity of war for the rest of their lives, alternating between waves of the deepest humane compassion, pride and camaraderie, to long periods of dark, impenetrable, self-protective anger, fear and cynicism.


The cruelly gruesome extremes of war sometimes contaminate and twist even the highest traditional military values into thuggery. Professionalism can be turned, at times, into barbarism. Selflessness can be turned into greed. Idealism can become cynicism. Courage can become savagery. Strength can become dominance. Love of country can turn to jingoism and chauvinism. Obedience, leadership and respect for authority can be warped by exigency into a numbed conscience and momentary group-think. Loyalty can become a destructive “us/them” mentality. Integrity can become a morally confusing paralysis, while duty can be pushed into rote obedience.


However admirably motivated, however morally unambiguous in the midst of a firefight, violent military actions still have the look and feel of chaotic lawlessness. No matter how patriotic or mentally-prepared soldiers may be, the act of killing complete strangers goes queasily against soldiers’ moral teachings about how to treat other people.


The ideal of freedom itself—the dream comprising healthy, productive human lives spent in peaceful pursuit of individual dreams—can feel, during war, quite unrelated to the specifics of what soldiers are often asked to do, because serving the freedom of one group often entails dominating and killing another, something which feels less noble in practice than what most soldiers hope for, particularly when their personal boots-on-the-ground experience has already offered clear evidence that many—perhaps most—of war’s victims are as innocent as the soldiers who kill them. Soldiers don’t sign up to defend moral ambiguities. And yet the first victim of war is truth, followed closely by moral clarity, and, too often, by despair.


However high-minded the justifications given during a soldier’s training, the actual waging of war—the killing, the maiming, the brutalizing—feels more “against” than “for” humans. Unless “the enemy” has successfully been completely dehumanized in the minds of soldiers by war propaganda, military fighting too often seems rather more against than for human value and worth, human liberty; love, individuality, uniqueness; against the highest religious and moral traditions, against human ideals, values, beliefs, against the teachings of history’s great moral teachers, against humanity itself.


Soldiers schooled in war fortify their emotions against moral confusion by coldly dehumanizing and demonizing their enemies, but such temporary moral adjustments don’t serve nearly as well at war’s end, when all the former “non-humans”—the Vietnamese, Germans, Irish, British, Russians, the terrorists, whomever—experience a miraculous rebirth, having been rediscovered somehow to be human beings after all. Soldiers who wisely shut down their feelings against tragically ambiguous memories unfortunately also become emotionally unavailable to their children, parents, and spouses. This happened in my family.


Soldiers who have followed orders to loose destruction and death upon “combatants” and “noncombatants” alike in someone else’s country, often become cynical later even about their own country, about the human capacity for goodness, and the worth of people in general.


“Human” values which specifically exclude certain portions of humanity—Muslims, for instance, or Christians, or certain races or ethnicities —ultimately prove uncomfortingly weak and useless. Nations claiming a constitutional and traditional embrace of “human ideals” and “human rights”—who then insist upon them only for their own citizens and at the expense of citizens of other countries—rapidly lose not only their allies, but also the loyalty and pride of their own citizens; while patriotism which rests shakily upon chauvinism and exceptionalism breaks down quickly into partisan bickering, and too-easily collapsing into division, bigotry, political hatred and violence, and even civil war.


Wars’ costs go far beyond blood and treasure.


All the war books and movies I’ve “enjoyed” shared similar conclusions about their experiences of war. Over and over, each artist expressed the point of view that their war had been insane, cruel, hard, sad, misguided and stupid, and created more problems than were resolved. The grisly killings aspects of war were consistently experienced as pointless, chaotic, numbing, unreasonable, inhumane, confusing, wrong—and sometimes thrilling, in that the pointy end of the sword went into the other guy, and not them. Soldiers throughout history have been urged by their leaders to keep such stories to themselves, or share them only with other soldiers who were there, so as to avoid bringing harm or shame to a unit, or turning the next generation against war itself. 


In nearly every war book and movie, bleak, terrified, mutilated children emphasize the meaninglessness and human tragedy of war, while fear for oneself and one’s friends drives soldiers to acts of cruelty and immorality unimaginable during peacetime.


War never turns out to be at all what anyone expects when they join up, and not much like what they train for either. When at war, every soldier longed for home, and when finally back home, they missed having friends they could talk to, buddies who understood them and their experiences.


All these artists told how their necessary training in hate and fear had carved a black chasms into their psyche, changing them (and their families) forever in ways inexpressible to anyone who hadn’t shared such experience—so mixed are war’s memories with guilt, pride, and loyalty.

A Very Good Save-the-World Software Development Idea. Please Help Yourself! :-)

Will some brilliant programmer please step up and design a google-type software program that can linguistically analyze and determine a speaker/writer’s cooperative tone and intent?


Your new program could identify and distinguish among those writers/speakers whose communications promote a sense of division, partisanship, negativity, polarization, blame, attack, incivility, rudeness, destructiveness, unfriendly competition, bickering and hate—and those promoting a sense of positivity, creativity, life-affirmation, support, harmony, acceptance, forgiveness, productivity, civility, courtesy, equality of opportunity, caring, cooperation and unity.


Your software could have endless useful and profitable applications. For immediate profitability, please consider using your product for security purposes, to helpfully ward off unfriendly attacks and attackers (of whatever kind) upon individuals and enterprises (of whatever kind.)


Imagine leaders young and old in every field vying for their communications to be screened and certified via your software. Why not simultaneously award a “Truth-bearer” (or some other such logo) “gold seal of approval” identifying individuals and organizations as positive communicators, healers, light-bearers?


Your prestigious and desirable software “accreditation” could motivate many people to investigate and understand the important distinctions between peaceful and contentious communication purposes, and to recognize and encourage humanity-unifying goals as non-threatening and potentially beneficial to all earthlings, while discouraging communications with adversarial, hostile ends. Your software would also surely stoke national dialogue, while heightening awareness about the many distinct (although often confusingly-disguised) differences between helpful and harmful human communications. Your software would take care not to exclude any gentle, friendly, cooperative practitioner of any ideology, religion, political party, nation, organization, affiliation, etc.


One important goal of your software would be to educate. Hopefully, everyone would eventually become enlightened enough to merit universal inclusivity (by acting as good, positive communicators) according to your accrediting software, which might also be developed Wikipedically, or perhaps Amazon-style—i.e., open-sourced, by inviting motivated reviewers and voters opportunities not only to build your site, but also to offer feedback opportunities and provide needed talent to shape and debug upgrades and develop next-generation software.


Recipients of your approving nods (such as Nobel prize winners and mild-mannered third-graders) could proudly display and announce their cherished new affiliation and certification on their websites, on Facebook, business cards, in TV commercials and advertising, on coffee cups, tee-shirts, shopping bags….


Additionally, your software could assist web surfers to more-judiciously select helpfully-screened websites, products and opinions as the very ones they will most benefit from investigating. Perhaps your software could also eventually include a function which would recognize and refute inappropriate co-opters of your symbol of acceptance and stamp of approval—an iterative process that would call out abusers while encouraging more awareness and discussion.


Your software will stimulate lively dialogue; increase the impact and number of creative, thought-provoking, and controversial-but-civil exchanges; reduce (by virtue of indifference and neglect) the quantity and influence of divisive communications arising anywhere in the world; universally improve facility in verbal and mental processing of complexities, innuendo and nuances; and inspire us all to pull together cooperatively to resolve our common personal, local and global problems.


While you're programming, please give extra points for humor?


And if you're not a programmer, but merely a earthlinged, godlinged promosapient like me, please pass this idea on to any similarly-inclined programming/software folk or foundations, or to whomever might be interested!


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace




















































































Is Moqtada al-Sadr One of the Good Guys?

I only know what I read in the papers, and I’m nervous about speaking up for someone who is, for the moment at least, being demonized by the Bush administration, especially someone who is currently shooting back at American forces, albeit in self-defense. But I must raise the question of whether Moqtada al-Sadr might not be one of the “good guys,” a strong, spiritual leader whom world opinion should now be ecumenically supporting.


Al-Sadr is apparently a wildly popular leader of the Shiite poor, who, time and again, has demonstrated his commitment to peacefully resisting the overwhelmingly-superior military forces bent upon murdering him. Aside from his courageous refusal to relinquish the ancient homelands of his followers to invaders who would steal and exploit them, and his stubborn unwillingness to be assassinated, what has he done to deserve universal media condemnation and abandonment in the west?


Because al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership is seen by the west’s most powerful leaders as a major barrier to their hegemony in the Middle East, few journalists seem willing to raise this question. Yet several times throughout this conflict, when it has seemed temporarily expedient for the U.S. to leave al-Sadr in peace, he has urged patience and forbearance among his followers even as the wide-scale destruction of his country by foreign occupiers has continued.


Currently, American forces are attacking al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in oil-rich Basra, which is right across the border from Iran. Perhaps Mr. Cheney hopes to provoke just enough Iranian retaliation for this particular aggression to finally justify his own longed-for invasion of Iran’s oil fields? Patriots in Basra and Iran share far more in common with one another than with their American attackers; surely the Iranian government cannot be expected to indefinitely contain the passions of their red-blooded youth, currently standing passively by, watching while their brother-Shiites in Basra are being slaughtered.


Isn’t it time we reconsidered the unquestioned place we have given al-Sadr in our western pantheon of demonized enemies? He is a leader to whom the majority of Shiites in Iraq currently pledge their allegiance, one who has often turned the other cheek even while his beloved followers were being killed. Despite being repeatedly stalked, discredited, attacked, betrayed, and occasionally befriended by President Bush, his millions of followers trust him unreservedly to make their decisions for them. Shouldn’t journalists be speaking out loudly and clearly against the attacks upon him? Who are the bad guys here, and who are the good guys?


How can we expect al-Sadr’s forces to passively turn in their guns when our own country feels free to unilaterally initiate pre-emptive wars, invade, occupy and shoot up foreign country sides and villages and cities, interfere with sovereign nations’ internal affairs, drop nuclear and conventional bombs on civilian populations, disrupt livelihoods and lives, kill innocents, and stockpile armaments enough to end life on earth many times over? Al-Sadr has not invaded America. The reverse has happened.


The Bible does not say “the lamb shall lie down with the lion,” but “the lion shall lie down with the lamb.” In other words, powerful countries must first let their weaker neighbors live in peace. Our own interests, even as citizens of the mega-powerful United States, are served only when our leaders humble themselves to offer good will to all other nations, and treat all our neighbors as we would wish to be treated. It is the traditional moral duty of the military to protect the weak from those who would hurt them, not to push the weak around in order to get whatever a highly unpopular, unresponsive and unrepresentative administration wants when they want it.


The willingness to turn to violence to resolve conflicts, whether through state (military) terrorism or through civilian terrorism, turns out to be the problem itself, and not, as many have tried to persuade us, any particular ideology, ethnicity or religion. The burning question too often overlooked in every conflict is: which side is committed to accommodation, compromise and non-violent resolution of this conflict, and which side isn’t?


In the past, partisans loyally embraced only their own leaders as the “good guys,” regardless of their personal records of using violence or keeping the peace–whether Bush or bin Laden, Saddam or Arafat, Hirohito or Mao or Stalin or Cheney or Eisenhower or Hitler. In the future, we will realize that the “good guys” are those real leaders, found in homes, businesses, communities, nations, and throughout the world, who are committed to resolving difficult conflicts—which are perfectly natural and human—harmoniously and peacefully. On the other hand, those violent soldiers and suicide bombers representing belligerent aggressors and extremist zealots will in the future clearly be identified as “the bad guys” of our time.


All-out war makes sense to me only when people are cornered in their own homes, fighting for survival against overwhelming odds, as al-Sadr’s followers currently seem to be.


More and more people today are recognizing man’s inhumanity to man—whether seen in bulldozed homes, in the shattered bodies of innocent children, or in the maimed and traumatized minds and bodies of young soldiers from every land—exactly for what it is, regardless of context, and despite all the attractive ideological, ethnic, religious, and national colors and flavors violence always comes wrapped in.


Around the world, journalists, activists and average citizens are turning away from the angry diatribes of opportunistic demagogues and ideologues bent upon stirring their fellow-citizens to torture and murder, and instead, embracing the world’s highest universal values: the oneness of all mankind and the sanctity of human life.


Shouldn't we all be supporting those who are upholding these important values, and resisting the use violent solutions in the present conflict in Iraq?


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“Attack-Dog Hillary Heals Nation and World.” (Not Likely.)

I find watching Hillary Clinton’s baseless attacks against Barack Obama repellent, if unsurprising. It's now clear she'll do and say whatever is necessary to win this election, which is exactly why Obama is running for President: because he wants to change American politics.


In recent weeks, and in last night's debate in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton lost my respect and my vote, in any election, along with the votes of many other Americans. I’ll vote for an honest conservative, or sit out the race, if my only choice is a slippery politician who will lie to my face again. I’m so tired of listening to lying Presidents.


Bill Clinton subconciously must want his wife to lose, because his smear attempts, like hers, aren’t doing her any good. Bill’s just mad because he told Barack to wait outside the kitchen door another eight years and that uppity whipper-snapper had the sand to tell him no. No! To him! Bill Clinton! Regrettably, Bill Clinton is destroying his solid legacy in an enfeebled attempt to extend it. (It's called hubris.)


Maybe I should be glad the Clintons are out of integrity, because such behavior can only help the Obama campaign. Still, I hate to watch.


Barack speaks so persuasively and eloquently because he’s been writing and saying the same things to anyone who will listen since his college days; nowadays he just has bigger audiences.


If Obama were killed today, he would be mourned as one of our greatest and most beloved American heroes for the priceless vision he came so close to successfully pulling off—the transformation of American politics. Like Dr. King, Obama has served the American people passionately for many years, fighting for the same values, ideals, and goals, and winning many important fights. May he live to fight and win many more.


Barack Obama, like Dr. King, is at great risk for assassination, because an Obama Presidency would completely upset the applecart for all the moneyed insider special interests in America on both sides of the political aisle. And there are some scary white supremacists out there who would kill him just for being presumptuous.


Obama is not only popular, well-organized, politically astute, and brilliant, he is a very viable political candidate, which makes him a huge target for assassination. Historically, America kills her charismatic popular leaders, those few and rare individuals who are brave, talented, and daring enough to actually stick their necks out to serve the people instead of established interests. Obama and his family are incredibly courageous, as courageous as Dr. King and his family were.


What are Obama’s odds of just surviving this campaign? Of living through a two-term Presidency? Of just plain living long, and prospering? I, for one, don’t intend to wait around to support him until after he’s dead. I only hope many more Americans will soon recognize what an unusual and precious political commodity Obama is, and what a rare opportunity we have for real change, if we will come together right now under his capable leadership.


How many Americans once misunderstood or opposed Dr. King, who now wish that they had dropped what they were doing to walk beside him? Well, we’ve got our chance again.


“Barack Obama Heals Nation and World.” Yes, I can see it. And I will hope and work to see it happen.


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Everyone Says We Wouldn't, We Couldn't, We Shouldn't Do It To A Dog…. So Why Do We Keep Doing It to People?

I just read Sally Jenkins' sports column in the 8/22/07 Washington Post, about Michael Vick and his dog-fighting choices…. Jenkins said that people who train animals to fight, and then make them fight, are “brutal…sleaze…wallowing in gore by choice…out of sheer dumb meanness…punishing…torturing…battering…killing…enslaving and tormenting…with unnerving ruthlessness…. (Fighting animals is) a bloodsport…barbaric…a gratuitous form of cruelty…a calculating, deliberate and sustained cruelty….” 

If anyone did such things to people, Jenkins says, we would call it genocidal fascism.

No. We would call it military training, and war, and we would perpetrate such crimes without thought, everywhere, every day. We would take innocent, gentle, ethical young men, and put them through military (or terrorist) training, and then throw them into combat, to kill and maim or be killed and maimed, along with their buddies.

We would condition and indoctrinate our soldiers into forgetting everything they’ve ever learned about how to treat other people. We would turn them into knee-jerk mental, physical and emotional monsters, so that they can efficiently “do their jobs” without thinking of their victims as human beings.

After excruciating training, we would turn them loose upon strangers, many of whom are themselves innocents protecting their own homes and families. We would make our young heroes into snipers and bombers and interrogators and other cold-blooded executioners, to do “work” they can do only because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking of whole populations as demonized “others,” as “the enemy.”

Wars are about powerful, misguided leaders taking for themselves whatever they want—resources, power, money, land—by killing large swaths of people. But soldiers are carefully taught a very different kind of morality, a kind of contextual fuzzy logic that ethically “covers” their bloodiest actions for as long as they can believe that they’re fighting, killing, and dying to protect their friends and families, and to further their country’s noblest ideals and purposes. Soldiers cling to the illusion that that their jobs are necessary and valuable and moral, in hopes that their losses and sacrifices are not in vain, that they have not wasted their lives–and others'.

Unfortunately, when soldiers come home from wars, few can morally rectify the gore they've participated in with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious belief systems about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the understandings which make relationships work, and which make life worth living. Many veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives. 

Everyone says training and fighting animals is an outrage. We wouldn't, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog. So why do we keep doing it to people?

It's time to reconsider the inevitability of our centuries-old practice of solving problems through violence.  Human conflict is perfectly natural and unavoidable, since people will always have competing interests, misunderstandings, old grievances…. In fact, conflict is very beneficial, because it nearly always points to inequities or confusions which need addressing.

But violent resolutions of conflict only make things worse.

We can teach all people to resolve conflicts peacefully just as easily as we can raise them to respond to problems violently. It's time for America the beautiful, the once and future leader of the free world, to take the first step toward committing to building a world culture of peace.

Rachel Corrie Uncensored, Bullies and Martyrs, Lambs and Lions, AIPAC, and Messianic Voices Off

I was privileged to recently attend a one-woman play called My Name is Rachel Corrie, about a young American tragically killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she protected Palestinian homes from destruction. Art-upon-art lavishly swirled in layer upon layer, as a dedicated actor-artist nurtured a compelling script crafted by two talented playwright-artists from the lyric insights of writer-activist Corrie—herself one of God’s great artistic creations….


After the play, I was grateful to Rachel and her parents, to the actor and playwrights, to the director and leaders of the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for collaborating so beautifully to share Corrie’s insights as she matured into a loving, idealistic, modern-day David out to slay her Goliath-of the-moment.


Rachel Corrie had no affection for bullies. Burning with a wish to stand up to power and deadly violence, she seemed born to resist injustice. I think she would have been just as eager to oppose Palestinians attacking innocent Israelis, were she drawn to their plight first.


I was saddened to think that some who cherish holocaust narratives like The Diary of Anne Frank would try to censor Rachel’s inspired voice and words for partisan reasons. I doubt any peaceful Jew seeing this play would urge such censorship.


But after it opened successfully in London, extremist Jewish organizations protested its further production, and it was dropped in New York City, Florida, and Boston. The Shepherdstown festival lost a $100,000 pledge and risked a boycott for their decision to stage it. During production, the protest in West Virginia continued in several purchased and prominent playbill pages presenting the Israeli-extremist side of the story, including six touching photos of Israeli “Rachels” tragically killed by Palestinian violence (implying an erroneous six-to-one death toll of Israelis to Palestinians,) along with a dehumanizing and demonizing suggestion about how all Palestinians want only to kill Israelis and put an end to Israel, while all Israelis want only peace.


Christians, Jews, and Muslims have found relative safety from prejudice in America, and I can understand why each of these groups would want to zealously guard such hard-earned respite, especially in view of their respective ghastly historical memories of exploitation and persecution. Which is why, wherever Muslims in America gather to air grievances, polite, respectful Jews show up to tell their side of the story.


American Muslims, however, rarely feel welcome to speak at Jewish events which accede to violent solutions in Israel/Palestine. In both America and Israel, the Jewish-extremist viewpoint is so well-funded and orchestrated as to saturate media and government; it also has much to answer for, in egging on the Bush administration’s current war on Islam, or should I say on Iraq, or should I say on terror…all of which have worked out to be pretty much the same thing. To the extent that nearly every influential comment opposing extremist policies in Israel is instantly reprimanded, often with accompanying accusations about the speaker’s anti-semitism—to that extent is the Palestinian/Islamic world-view grossly under-represented and out-of-balance in America, and of course in Israel/Palestine.


Considering all the pre-play controversy, I was nervous myself about attending it, and hoped I wouldn’t be thought anti-Semitic. I still hope to avoid that charge, although I welcome the labels of pro-peace and anti-violence.


The voice in the Israeli-Islamic conflict consistently drowned out in America and Israel is the moderate/peaceful Islamic voice, although peaceful Muslims are working hard to change this. AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other American Jewish organizations are too vigilant for their own good, defending themselves too assertively against slights both perceived and real, and attacking perceived attackers. An anti-Jewish backlash in reaction to such strategies, and to Israel’s typical knee-jerk disproportionate violent responses to aggression seems sadly inevitable.


Peaceful Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other Americans are often so aggressively intimidated by their own extremist factions that they rarely speak out publicly against the vengeful actions, bloody rhetoric, and sheer barbarism of all they see, on all sides. Caught within the context of a violent century’s heightened emotions, most moderates—peaceful Jews and Christians and Muslims and citizens of all nationalities everywhere—are too frightened even to say “Enough” to the extremist voices within their own groups.


As long as demagogues and partisan extremists freely pressure and intimidate moderates, worldwide anti-Islamism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism will continue to grow. And if the hot-blooded AIPAC successfully pushes extremists in America and Israel into another bloodbath, this time against Iran, the potential for anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Islamic blowback upon moderates in all these groups everywhere will be as terrible as the cataclysmic impact upon the direct victims of the war.


The Bible does not say “the lamb shall lie down with the lion,” but,“ the lion shall lie down with the lamb”—meaning, the powerful shall offer peace to weaker opponents as a wise first step toward peaceful resolution of conflicts. Even the mega-powerful United States is finally learning that everyone’s interests are best served when the mighty dare to humble themselves to acceptance and generosity toward weaker “others,” and truly begin to see—and treat—their neighbor as they would want to be treated, to love their neighbor as their own self. Our learning curve in America, meanwhile, has been excruciating for Muslims worldwide.


In the peaceable kingdom, the powerful will “lie down with” (a tender, intimate metaphor) all their lambish neighbors. This means that the biggest and toughest of the terrorizing thugs on every block, whether they be the American or Chinese nations, whether Iranian, Jew, or Muslim, Irish or British, a strong band of criminals, a tough group of insurgents, whether militias, tribes, national armies, navies, air forces, or even the marines, all the mighty and powerful will come to realize that their job is to protect the weak from those who would hurt them, and not to push the weak around in order to prevail in conflicts, however troublesome or longstanding.


Lambs, too, are opening their eyes to the fact that the terrible lions they so fear may in fact be more fearful themselves than fierce, and desperately in need of peaceful perspectives from ancient cultures and wise elders willing to patiently remove the painful thorns of ignorance and fear from their dripping paws.


Extremist Jewish leaders preaching the wisdom of ten-eyes-for-an-eye, and depicting Israel as a tiny beleaguered island within a vast sea of murderous Muslims all wanting to kill Jews and “erase Israel from the map” (please see the writings of Arash Norouzi) are as repellently manipulative as extremist Palestinian leaders claiming to be nothing more than a defenseless band of ragtag refugees confronting the combined wrath of the world’s largest and most powerful military forces, or American Christian-extremists sounding the alarm of American invasion from rapacious outsiders and infidels, or American patriots bristling with nuclear arms, self-righteously claiming to be the potential victims of nations working frantically to develop even a single one.


Violence, or violent extremism, or terrorism—that is, resorting to violence to resolve conflicts—turns out to be “the problem” itself, and not, as many have tried to persuade us, any particular ideology, ethnicity, religious tradition, or national affiliation. The burning question is always: who is committed to non-violent resolution of conflicts, and who isn’t?


Whether Bin Laden or Bush, Communism or Capitalism, Shiite or Sunni, Hamas or Abbas, Judaism or Islam, the U.S. or Iran, Saddam or Arafat, Hirohito or Mao or Eisenhower or Hitler—it is increasingly evident that “the good guys” are the ones who are committed to resolving conflicts non-violently, while “the bad guys” are the extremist zealots who turn to the use of violence to resolve their conflicts, whether through conventional warfare, street-fighting, or assassination, whether by suicide-bombing, napalm, nuclear weapons, torture, or IEDs. The choice of violent extremism IS the problem; and violent extremists ARE the terrorists.


Disproportionate retaliation against aggression makes sense only for cornered wild animals fighting for survival against overwhelming odds. Unfortunately, this is the very vision offered up by violent extremist leaders, regardless of affiliation, who deliberately stoke up fears and urge violent responses by perceiving all situations through dire scaredy-cat doomsday lenses.


Fortunately, the world seems to be developing new improved crap-detectors, and violent tactics in our small, interconnected, and media-rich world don’t play so well in Peoria anymore. People now recognize man’s-inhumane-violence-to-man for what it is, regardless of context, and despite all the varied ideological, ethnic, religious, and national colors and flavors that violence so often comes wrapped up in—whether it be bulldozed homes, the shattered bodies of innocent children, or maimed and traumatized young soldiers from every land.


The sanctity of human life has finally emerged to be the world’s highest human value, rising ever more clearly above even the most rabble-rousing words of demagogues and ideologues bent upon stirring their fellow-citizens to torture and murder.


In the promised land we are approaching, constructive criticism of the policies and actions of various peoples and organizations won’t be called anti-semitic or anti-American or anti-Islamic or un-patriotic. Instead, powerful, messianic, moderate voices of Jewry and Christendom and Islam and all other isms will speak freely and softly of peace, cooperation, and compromise in all our holy lands, where we will all work side-by-side, undivided by ancestry or belief or tradition, letting go of old grudges and offering olive branches of reconciliation, as we non-violently resolve each day’s natural conflicts freshly and openly, as they arise.


May we learn without having to endure more lessons from ever-greater tragedies, wars, and environmental catastrophes, and may we all awaken together to begin with a convert’s zeal our great shared task of peacefully saving our tiny blue planet, and all our brothers, every one.


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The Best (and Only) Way to Solve Our Terrorism Problem

As a history major, I know about what western corporations and governments have done to Muslim (and other) nations—exploited resources, manipulated politics, set up friendly regimes, assassinated opponents, and armed and funded those willing to serve our interests. So when Thomas L. Friedman, in his 4/7/07 New York Times column, “At a Theater Near You…” (copied below) wonders how Americans have grown so “numb to just how crazy” scattered Muslim suicide bombing attacks are,” I wonder in turn how we in the west can be just as numbly indifferent to the horrors we’ve perpetrated upon Muslims.


One member of Congress after another argues for withdrawal from Iraq so that not one more American life will be added to the number lost, without a word about the millions of Iraqi lives already lost or maimed or ruined, and the hundreds dying daily–those same Iraqi lives President Bush so often claimed we had come to rescue.


Mr. Friedman wonders, how could a doctor ever become a terrorist? Many Muslim doctors in London and elsewhere have been dealing for five years and more with the tragic effects upon almost everyone they know of the western occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. These doctors are educated humanitarians, knowledgeable about the histories of western aggression and oppression in their countries of origin, histories we certainly don’t teach or discuss here at home. They are doubtless grief-stricken, paralyzed, and hopeless enough to prefer dying to doing nothing at all. I think they intended to terrify the British into feeling their heightened vulnerabilities more personally, without harming them, hoping they would urge their new Prime Minister Brown to address Islamic concerns and stop the carnage.


Consider: what if an imagined, vastly more powerful Muslim alliance had invaded and occupied the United States five years ago? We wouldn’t be “generating vigorous, sustained condemnation” about an occasional American suicide bomber way over in Iraq, consumed as we would we be already, here at home in America, with simple day-to-day survival, with burying and mourning our million dead brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, with caring for five times that million beloved wounded, with desperately fleeing the violence along with the millions of our fellow Americans abandoning childhood homes and trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and dreams anywhere else….


Just who is it, Mr. Friedman, who is “erasing basic norms of civilization” by terrorizing—Islamic suicide bombers, or our own invading and occupying armies?


Both, of course.


I have no doubt that many extremist Muslims are every bit as crazy as some of our very own home-grown terrified fundamentalist Christians and Jews who stand ready to nuke whole Islamic nations right now with no more questions asked. Yes, there are violent, ignorant, vengeful people everywhere, and this is a big big problem. And adding more violence, suffering, anger, and fear to all of their lives is being done to what good purpose?


Islam and Christianity, as practiced by their most devout and informed followers, are both peaceful religions. To be sure, the Koran requires believers to protect Muslim lands from those who would attack, occupy, and impose different traditions upon them, just as American Christians and Jews alike pledge to defend the Constitution even to the death from all enemies foreign and domestic. That doesn’t make either of us crazy. Yet Mr. Friedman implies that crazy-fanatic-Muslims are “the problem.”


Surely he can’t mean to compare the terrible 9/11 attacks perpetrated by misguided young mostly-Saudi Arabian radical intellectuals, with the American government’s own calculated five-year attacks and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in the deaths of a million people, the wounding of five times that many, the loss of 3,600+ of our own precious youth, the blighted hopes of millions of refugees, and the transformation of vast swaths of culturally-rich Muslim home towns and cities into bullet-ridden ghost towns?


Surely Friedman can’t be comparing the current outbreaks of desperate suicide attacks, however horrific, here and there in the west, with the deliberate, incalculable damage done to Muslim countries by western governments and corporations over the last several hundred years? Only the biggest, comfiest bully on the block could get away with making up such comparisons.


Mr. Friedman believes Islamic countries are benighted because they haven’t embraced western modernity, and it is true that the west and the east have much to learn from one another. But if only we would get out of their way, Muslims would have a better chance to embrace what they admire about western culture, as the Japanese did after WWII. Maybe when freed of western interference, Muslims, like the Vietnamese, will amaze us not only with their productivity, but with their generosity to former enemies as well.


The last thing Americans want to confess is our culpability in the Middle East, so painful is it to see our own shortcomings clearly, and so comforting to chalk disastrous policies up to Muslim backwardness….just as we’ve chalked everything bad happening in China up to Chinese backwardness, until now, when, whoops, here they come too, industriously going about doing things in their own way, and the bigger and stronger for it. In fact, they’ve succeeded so well that many in the west are working to boycott attendance at the Beijing  Olympics on various pretexts, not wanting to risk letting the west see how well the Chinese are doing.


I wish our government would stop creating enemies out of everyone “different,” and stop encouraging well-paid radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh to keep up their steady drumbeat of xenophobia (“fear of outsiders.”) Demonizing and colonizing distant oil-rich nations does guarantee big profits for oil and for military/industrial corporations which thrive in a political atmosphere of fear. Regrettably though, capitalizing on America’s abysmal ignorance and fear of the rest of the world will never unify or save our nation, or our planet. We are young, brash, and powerful, and we want to “be right” about everything, want to “settle” conflicts “quickly” through violent means. Both goals are fantasies. Instead, we could choose to work to befriend everyone on the planet, accepting all nations and peoples as-is along with their weaknesses and mistakes (including our own), extending a welcome hand of caring and assistance to all….


But unless we voters suddenly get a lot smarter before the 2008 elections, the U.S. government will continue to be run by politicians elected by money from big corporations whose only interest is making high profits for their stockholders, and with no interest at all in changing the aggressive foreign policies which so successfully fill up their bank accounts.


And why should such corporations care if Muslim or American innocents are killed here or there? Why would corporations want to stop endless wars, when they can reinvest their gargantuan war profits into more government lobbying, a strategy which has successfully created for them a safe, lucrative niche within this nation of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations, which may yet perish from the earth. Few politicians disproportionately influenced by corporate donations will risk their powerful status to educate voters about the U.S.’s abysmal history of empire-building.


Friedman seems blissfully unaware of the two clear and oft-repeated “concrete political demands” which Bin Laden and his violent cohorts have stated time and again: in order to stop Islamic terrorism, the west must withdraw military forces from Islamic lands, and must stop arming and supporting Israeli anti-Islamic aggression.


The strategy of beating weaker nations into submission through gunboat lack-of-diplomacy and war has not proved robust. The west will be far more effective at spreading the best of our culture when we first offer generous support for popular cherished Islamic projects and problems.


No matter how far we fling our military forces in attempts to resolve east/west political conflicts, “our” dangerous and costly “terrorism problem” will only become worse until we withdraw our military forces from Islam, and offer generous support only to those Israeli leaders working for peaceful co-existence and equal rights for all ethnicities and religions. Until that time, grieving, patriotic, angry, jobless Muslim youth with no national military hope of prevailing against western oppression or against regional enemies newly armed and militarized amidst the lawlessness and chaos of life in a rapidly spreading war zone, will keep on choosing to throw in with terrorist/insurgent bands and militias.


If we continue to insist upon our American right to impose upon distant cultures our own “superior” political and economic values, multinational corporations profiting from war and terror will continue to misuse our ideals to serve their own greedy purposes:  to drive ever-deeper wedges into foreign lands, and to buy and sell (or take) whatever they want at criminal prices.


Friedman argues that it’s up to Muslim leaders to “remove this cancer” of terrorist violence. No. It is up to western leaders to remove this cancer of military-backed hegemony, this cancer of “might makes right,” this cancer of trampling the rights and traditions of smaller and weaker peoples.


Unless Mr. Friedman and I can somehow agree upon which of our children and grandchildren we’re willing to trade for a steady flow of cheap Middle Eastern oil, and which of our cities we’ll willing to exchange for bigger earnings for American stockholders, we should support leaders capable of shifting our nation and the world into to a new era of non-violent global cooperation, for the sake of all in both the east and the west.



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July 4, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

At a Theater Near You …



I knew something was up when I couldn’t get a cab. Then there were sirens and helicopters whirring overhead. I stopped a passerby to ask what was going on. He said something about a car bomb outside a disco six blocks from my hotel. A few hours later, I finally found a taxi. The driver warned me that it was nearly impossible to get across town. Another bomb had been uncovered in a car park. Next day, more news: a suicide bomber had driven his Jeep into an airport and jumped out, his body on fire, screaming “Allah! Allah!”

Where was I? Baghdad? Kabul? Tel Aviv? No, I was in England. But it could have been anywhere. The Middle East: Now playing at a theater near you.

But this movie gets more confusing every time you watch it. When you watched it on 9/11 it was about America’s presence in the heart of Arabia. And when you watched it on 7/7 it was about unemployed and alienated Muslim youth in Britain. In Jordan not long ago it was about a wedding at a Western hotel. In Morocco recently it was about an Internet cafe. And two days ago in Yemen it was about seven Spanish tourists who were killed when a suicide bomber drove into them at a local tourist site. Wasn’t Spain the country that quit Iraq to get its people out of the line of fire?

Because these incidents are scattered, we’re growing numb to just how crazy they are. In the past few years, hundreds of Muslims have committed suicide amid innocent civilians — without making any concrete political demands and without generating any vigorous, sustained condemnation in the Muslim world.

Two trends are at work here: humiliation and atomization. Islam’s self-identity is that it is the most perfect and complete expression of God’s monotheistic message, and the Koran is God’s last and most perfect word. To put it another way, young Muslims are raised on the view that Islam is God 3.0. Christianity is God 2.0. Judaism is God 1.0. And Hinduism and all others are God 0.0.

One of the factors driving Muslim males, particularly educated ones, into these acts of extreme, expressive violence is that while they were taught that they have the most perfect and complete operating system, every day they’re confronted with the reality that people living by God 2.0., God 1.0 and God 0.0 are generally living much more prosperously, powerfully and democratically than those living under Islam. This creates a real dissonance and humiliation. How could this be? Who did this to us? The Crusaders! The Jews! The West! It can never be something that they failed to learn, adapt to or build. This humiliation produces a lashing out.

In the old days, you needed a terror infrastructure with bases in Beirut or Afghanistan to lash out in a big way. Not anymore. Now all you need is the virtual Afghanistan — the Internet and a few cellphones — to recruit, indoctrinate, plan and execute. Hence, the atomization — little terror groups sprouting everywhere. Everyone now has a starter kit.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, recently noted in a speech that during the cold war “the enemy was easy to find, but hard to finish,” because the Soviet Union was so big and powerful. “Intelligence was important” back then, he added, “but it was overshadowed by the need for sheer firepower.”

In today’s war against terrorist groups, said General Hayden, “it’s just the opposite. Our enemy is easy to finish, but hard to find. Today, we are looking for individuals or small groups planning suicide bombings, running violent Jihadist Web sites, sending foreign fighters into Iraq.”

I’d go one step further. The Soviet Union was easy to find and hard to kill, but once it died, it was dead forever. It had no regenerative power because it had no popular base. The terrorists of Iraq or London are hard to find, easy to kill, but very difficult to eliminate. New recruits just keep sprouting.

Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. But it’s been widely noted that virtually all suicide terrorists today are Muslims. Angry Norwegians aren’t doing this — nor are starving Africans or unemployed Mexicans. Muslims have got to understand that a death cult has taken root in the bosom of their religion, feeding off it like a cancerous tumor.

This cancer is erasing basic norms of civilization. In Iraq, we’ve seen suicide bombers blow up funerals and schools. In England, seven out of the eight people detained in the latest plot are Muslim doctors or medical students. Doctors plotting mass murder? Could that be? If Muslim leaders don’t remove this cancer — and only they can — it will spread, tainting innocent Muslims and poisoning their relations with each other and the world.



Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company










David Addington, Dick Cheney, and Desperate Deeds in the Dark

My husband hates politics, but when I have a nightmare, he listens kindly to my ranting. Here’s my bad dream: President Bush suddenly dies of some inscrutable injury secretly inflicted by the next President Dick Cheney, who appoints a worthless investigative commission, goes scot-free, and uses his brief presidency to orchestrate the succession of his fave cohort-in-conspiracies-against-the-Constitution, David S. Addington.

The few times I have inflicted my politics upon my husband, he’s listened with resigned patience. But this time he gently suggested that I might consider dreaming about something more likely to happen than Vice-President Cheney overthrowing the government. I told him that of course I hoped he was right. “But in my dream, it wasn’t a violent overthrow, you know, some kind of revolution…. All Cheney had to do was stage a mysterious assassination, and bingo, he was the government.”

“That’s what I mean by highly unlikely. Can’t you find something else to fret about…?”


But I’m still worrying. Will I wake up tomorrow morning to hear the unthinkable, as I did when the Kennedys and King were assassinated, as I did when the twin towers went down? Will I wake up to the death of another American president? Not that I’m that crazy about President Bush, but I want him to be better informed, not dead.


Is it legal to dream that our nation’s VP might be a traitor, a murderer? Is it treasonous? Libelous?  I do hope it’s OK to wonder, because I do….


It was Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post who got me started on all this, by reminding me (in his column) of the three little words that kept him (and me) from calling for President Bush’s impeachment: PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY.


Right after I read Mr. Robinson’s column, I happened to flip over to the New York Times Book Review, to read the following question from the diary of murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya: “Were we seeing a crisis in Russian parliamentary democracy in the Putin era? No, we were witnessing its death.” (My emphasis)


Quite suddenly, I quit denying the very real possibility that America’s brief and beautiful moment in the sun as a sincere attempt at a truly representative government could actually come to a shuddering halt, right here, right now, during our era, undermined by a Cheney/Addington presidency following the inexplicable death of George W. Bush….


Because Richard Cheney and David Addington, lifelong public servants, family men, talented hard workers, and clever strategists, are also feeling a bit cornered and desperate these days because their secretive machinations have finally irretrievably tangled them in their own web…..


Because no one would benefit more from an assassination than Cheney and Addington….


Because no one has done more to undermine the Constitution than Cheney and Addington, however pure their intentions in amassing great power to “save America” (their way)….


Because no one has so much to answer for, or so many wolves at their door, than Cheney and Addington….


I doubt not that Cheney and Addington are deeply unsatisfied with their measly vast powers. I’m confident that they feel increasingly marginalized by their own party, and threatened by mounting opposition from Congress, the State Department, the CIA, not a few top military brass, and even by President Bush, who recently reversed several of Cheney’s war-on-terrorism policies, who apparently is drawing back from Cheney’s influence, and who may even now be feeling the first tingles of fear in Cheney’s presence….


Am I crazy even to wonder whether Cheney and Addington would actually consider using their old military or CIA contacts to quietly engineer an insider-job presidential assassination? Apparently, neither of these men has had a single qualm about wasting hundreds of thousands of lives in the Middle East to further their purposes; what difference would one more life make, when you've spent your whole life pursuing executive power and only one man stands in your way? I admit I haven't had any real experience with power politics…but I've read Shakespeare….


Cheney has deflected negative attention in the past by creating diversions. If Congress calls Cheney’s bluff regarding non-compliance with the NARA executive order (and just why is it that Bush hasn’t stepped forward to interfere with this, hmmmm…?) or if the Justice Department crowds Cheney with BAE slush fund allegations, a presidential assassination might prove as effective and timely a diversion as a war with Iran (Cheney's other all-purpose fall-back diversion.)


Here’s a great comment recently posted by “razzi” in response to an internet article about Cheney:


“Let's have no game-playing with a man this dangerous who's just a heartbeat away from the presidency. Hearings on his abuse of authority and war crimes need to begin immediately and need to persist for the remainder of his term so that in the event Bush is incapacitated, the case for instant impeachment will already have been built. The evidence needed for an eventual war crimes trial after his term is over also needs to be built. This is a…man who needs to be investigated, prosecuted, and punished for what he is doing to the republic.”


After my dream, I googled “David Addington” to find a quantity of expensive, high-end investigative reporting (see especially Chitra Ragavan's 5/21/06 article in U.S. News & World Report) about how directly Cheney and Addington have been involved on every unconstitutional effort the Bush administration has pushed forward in its drive to amass executive power


I still hope that I’m delusional and conspiracy-theory-crazed, that my nightmare about all this assassination skullduggery is the sheerest nonsense and that I need to be taken off to the funny farm.  I have my fingers crossed that Bush and Cheney and Addington will soon be politely deposed by Fred Thompson, or defanged to mere bumbler and bungler status by our blessed checks and balances, which will keep them from further running amuck and taking our beloved-if-benighted country down with them.


I’m writing, in fact, primarily in hopes that so many other people will begin openly discussing the idea of an assassination-plot-possibility, that anything of the kind will hastily and blessedly be abandoned.


Then, at least, if and when Cheney or Addington or Bush are brought low for doing desperate dark deeds, it will not be after another assassination, or after the death of American democracy.





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Saddam Hussein’s Hanging, The Bush Administration, Forgiveness, and Happy New Year

Saddam Hussein, who is very much one of God’s beloved, fallible children (just like the rest of us) met his death with dignity and courage.


If all such world leaders who wreak ill-conceived, reckless, needless mayhem, who destroy innocent lives in their ambitious pursuit of influence and power, deserve such grisly ends, then some of our current world leaders ought to be feeling a bit queasy just about now.


A fully-functioning Department of Peace (see ) would do much to make such dismal futures less likely for all.


There is a lot of irony in the sad fact that we’ve spent hundreds of billions of hard-earned and greatly-needed tax dollars to kill off one violent despotic regime in Iraq, simply in order to install another one equally unpopular and equally dependent upon maintaining its power via the same undemocratic brutish means—armies and secret prisons and assassinations and torture. Why else would we need to send ever more armies into Iraq to prop them up?


The Bush administration sold us their disastrously costly war by drumming up American fears of an evil madman imminently threatening U.S. citizens, yet not only could we not find such weapons, we couldn’t even pull off a demonstrably “democratic” (i.e., fair) trial convincingly proving that Saddam Hussein indeed deserved death by hanging for even one single alleged killing spree.


The west is absolutely accountable for forcibly creating a country called “Iraq” from out of many original tribes, and for supporting their own preferred despot, Saddam Hussein, with only a single aim: to keep cheap oil pumping west. When Saddam later thumbed his nose in the direction of his original kingmakers (Rumsfeld/Cheney they were so incensed that they were willing to do anything and everything to depose and replace him with yet another (hopefully more loyal) crony—regardless of how despotic and evil—again with their sole goal of keeping cheap oil pumping west. (The Bush administration recently reclassified all their original distasteful and disgraceful historical machinations with Saddam Hussein in order to cover up their bloody incestuous tracks.) What a grievous waste in every sense—human, material, political, financial, spiritual—this terrible war has been.


And to think that all we ever had to do was humbly stand in line to pay for oil at the market price, just like every other country.


The “war-for-democracy-and-for-love-of-Iraqis” notion came up briefly only when the American public (and, probably, our still-innocent and idealistic president) could no longer stomach the evil-Saddam-imminent-weapons-fear-thing. Rather than admit that this had always been a war about oil, Cheney/Rumsfeld used Rice to convince Bush (and the public) that continuing the war in order to spread democracy and save Iraqis (at least the ones who weren’t currently shooting at us) was important and necessary. Now they’re finally admitting, at least to one another and to a few others, that this war is indeed a smarmy geopolitical struggle for power, money, resources, and influence; that admission, however, doesn’t make the war any more wise or moral.


Democracy cannot be spread by war, just as peace can only arise from peace. We aging hippies used to say in the 60’s that fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity….


We need to begin acting like Americans again. We need to generously support peaceful leaders everywhere, and use our power and influence in ways that demonstrate our highest, most deeply American ideals. We need to stop acting like big bullies, and rebuild international good will with generosity and acceptance and statesmanship and diplomacy. We need to build up our economy ethically, and base our businesses and long-term trade partnerships on mutual advantage, not unbridled greed, power, and indifference. Peace on earth will come only when each of us learns to offer peace. And yes, we need to be the ones to go first, to take the first step, because we are still the most powerful, most envied, most influential nation on earth.


We can still use multilateral international police forces well-trained in non-violent intervention as necessary to lock up and re-educate violent criminals of all stripes. But we must simultaneously teach our next generation (every child on this small blue planet) to live peacefully with one another, to share, to love our mother earth, and to live and work morally, generously, and sustainably. (Again, please consider the beautiful Department of Peace proposed legislation already supported by 75+ congressional leaders, at ).


The world of the future will not be one of vengeance and anger, but one of reconciliation and forgiveness (if it is to be, at all.) Human beings—we ourselves, as well as Saddam Hussein, George Bush, all those we love and all those we fear–each of us–will always make mistakes. Of course we should be held accountable. Of course we should see the grief we have caused others, and learn to regret our mistakes and make amends. But just as I would rather not be condemned or tortured or killed or thrown in prison forever for the harm I’ve done in my life (frankly, I’d really rather be forgiven, and supported in doing better) so too do I hope that in this new year and in all the coming new years, we will all learn to live and love and forgive others their trespasses, as we would have others forgive us our own, and then move on to build a new world, together, with love.




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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ

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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
People like to feel good about themselves, and Americans are no exception; so only a relative handful of scholarly Americans are even aware of their government’s direct historical responsibility for a century of violent regime changes in fourteen countries from Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras, to South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer offers a compelling case that, without exception, all this violent meddling has worked against the overall best interests of Americans, and—with the possible exception of Grenada—against the citizens of all these exploited nations.
Kinzer’s brilliant decision to summarize the colorful particulars of who-what-when-where-how leading up to, during, and following each overthrow, give range to his best journalistic talents, while reducing his biographer’s breadth and historian’s bounty of facts, figures, places, and times into fourteen short, lively, memorable tales of derring-do, intrigue, overreaching, ignorance, prejudice, greed, and mayhem.
Reading Overthrow brought to mind the darker aspects of Margaret Meade’s assertion, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” while adding credibility to the mounting evidence that the tragedy of today’s Middle East is indeed directly traceable to the benighted machinations of a few dedicated, powerful, and sorely misguided neocons in Washington, D.C. For each case of regime change, Kinzer implicates a small group of daring individuals usually acting for corporate interests, and always acting with presidential authority.
Kinzer’s reasonable-length history is backed by over twenty pages of end notes, as well as an impressive international, multilingual twentieth-century bibliography of nearly five hundred on-the-spot memoirs, biographies, government documents and news accounts, and a twenty-page index. Kinzer definitely entertains, but more importantly, he connects the dots and fills in the necessary details of significant historical events which many would prefer to erase, to our nation’s peril.
I’m very grateful for the years of persistent and generous scholarship necessary to produce this readable summary which surely deserves wide consideration. Overthrow fills in the many gaps and blanks left by incomplete reporting-at-the-time, and offers an opportunity for synthesis, analysis, and reconsideration of the patterns, results, and morality of our past violent involvements in the political, economic, and social lives of people in faraway nations, as well as their implications for the present and future:
“There is no stronger or more persistent strain in the American character than the belief that the United States is a nation uniquely endowed with virtue…. This view is driven by a profound conviction that the American form of government, based on capitalism and individual political choice, is, as President Bush asserted, ‘right and true for every person in every society.’…By implication, it denies that (culture) changes only slowly, and that even great powers cannot impose their beliefs on others by force…  For more than a century, Americans have believed they deserve access to markets and resources in other countries. When they are denied that access, they take what they want by force, deposing governments that stand in their way. Great powers have done this since time immemorial….When the United States intervenes abroad to gain strategic advantage, depose governments it considers oppressive, or spread its political and religious system, it is also acting in its commercial self-interest….Most American-sponsored ‘regime change’ operations have…weakened rather than strengthened American security. They have produced generations of militants who are deeply and sometimes violently anti-American; expanded the borders that the United States feels obligated to defend, thereby increasing the number of enemies it must face and drawing it ever more deeply into webs of foreign entanglement; and emboldened enemies of the United States by showing that despite its awesome power, it has a soft and vulnerable underbelly….Most of these adventures have brought (Americans), and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation.”
These are important lessons we need to learn, and Kinzer has assembled the foundational stories, facts, and figures necessary to establish their credibility.
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent with reporting experience in more than fifty countries on four continents, including service as New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua. He has previously written four well-received histories focusing on Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Kinzer prefers patient diplomacy to violent regime-change, pointing to the efficacy of our productive continuing dialogues with China, the former Soviet Union, South Korea, and countries in South Africa. While he asserts that nations always act in their own self-interest, I wish he had also concluded that, on today’s tiny, interconnected, fragile blue planet, everyone’s national self-interests are irretrievably tied to the interests of everyone else, everywhere else. Pragmatically, we can no longer afford to think in terms of “them,” but only “us.”
I pray that President Bush will soon decide to become presidential, Christian, politically astute, humble, and visionary enough to boldly shift from a doomed-to-fail, self-centered foreign policy based on international competition, to one of enlightened, self-interested global cooperation. Neither approach is simple, obvious, or guaranteed, but only one has any chance of succeeding.
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