Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Book Review: We Who Dared to Say No to War

WeWhoDaredWe Who Dared to Say No to War:  American Antiwar Writing From 1812 to NowEd. Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  Basic Books, 2008.

I have just read a public library copy of this gem and it is on my Christmas list for my own copy.  High school and college courses in U.S. history should use this as a supplement.   Beginning with the War of 1812, the editors collect writings against war during every war fought by the USA:  The Mexican-American War, the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and the “War on Terror.” 

A major strength of this collection is the ideological range of the selections.  One editor, Murray Polner, comes from the liberal end of U.S. politics (he leans toward democratic socialism). The other editor, Thomas Woods, Jr., is a strong conservative (libertarian).  But, popular myth to the contrary, war is not a “conservative vs. liberal” issue, but a moral issue that has been opposed on many different grounds. (Likewise, there have been both liberal and conservative militarists.)  Some of the writers collected here were against all war, but others wrote only to oppose particular wars. 

Here we find writings from the famous (Daniel Webster, Henry Clay,  Transcendentalist-Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, Abraham Lincoln (while a U.S. Congressman–against the Mexican-American war), Alexander Campbell (founder of the Disciples of Christ), William Jennings Bryan, Helen Keller, Jane Addams, Eugene V. Debs, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Daniel and Philip Berrigan and others.  But we also find writings from those who are nowhere near as well known, such as Jeanette Rankin (Republican Representative from Montana, first woman elected to Congress and only member of U.S. Congress to vote against entry into both WWI and WWII), John Randolph, Church of Christ minister David Lipscomb, Russell Kirk, Elihus Burritt and others.

I am not certain why the editors began with the War of 1812 rather than the U.S. Revolutionary War (or some of the wars during the Colonial period), nor why the Korean War was omitted, but this is an amazing collection that shows that anti-war speeches and writing is a thoroughly American tradition.  A nice bonus is a comilation of “Great Antiwar Films” described and rated one to 3 stars by historian Butler Shaffer.  Scenes of anti-war protest from every period of U.S. history are illustrated by a great selection of photos scattered throughout the volume.  A great bibliography finishes out the fine volume.

The reading can be depressing since it shows how seldom peace folk have been able to stop the war machine.  It is depressing to realize how many times the press abandoned its duty to uncover propaganda and lies–this cheerleading in place of investigation did not start with the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. (In fact, it is bizarre to find that many of the same bogus arguments were given for invading Canada in 1812 as were given for invading Iraq in 2003.)

But this collection need not be read in such depressing light.  Those who are against war, especially in time of war, often feel isolated and the drumbeats of militarism and shrill cries of their neighbors claim that they do not love their country.  The warmongers try to claim the heritage of the nation for themselves.  A collection like this shows that anti-war feeling and action have a strong claim to the central American tradition.  Protest, agitation, resistance are all part of the warp and woof of this nation (and doubtless of many other nations, too).  Learning this history empowers ordinary people to join in the antiwar tradition–and can work to change the nation from its embrace of a culture of imperialist warfare to a culture of peacemaking.  A war-state undermines democracy and liberty, but working against war strengthens a democratic republic.

It’s now on my Christmas list–put it on yours, too.

October 23, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, books, citizenship, democracy, Iraq, just peacemaking, peace, politics, social history, terrorism prevention, U.S. politics, violence, war | Comments Off on Book Review: We Who Dared to Say No to War

Too Soon the Laureate

One word leaps to mind in considering the Nobel Committee’s announcement yesterday that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to President Barack Obama:  premature.  Alfred Nobel’s will was very clear on who could nominate someone for the peace prize (members of national parliaments or congresses, political science or philosophy faculty in universities, and persons who have already won the prize) and who would determine (in secret) the recipient (a committee formed by the Norwegian Storting or Parliament but whose members cannot include sitting members of the Storting or the Norwegian government).  But Nobel’s will (largely because he wrote it without legal help, distrusting lawyers) is notoriously vague on the criteria for winning the Peace Prize.  This has led to a wide variety of Nobel Peace Laureates in the century plus of the award–from pacifists and peace activists, human rights activists, to politicians and diplomats from many countries, to organizations that work for peace in a wide variety of ways.  The award has been given for diplomatic efforts leading to the end of wars and to signing of peace treaties. It has been given for relief work in the midst of war (e.g., the International Red Cross and Crescent Societies, Doctors Without Borders, etc.), for aid to refugees. It has been given for efforts in arms reduction, or to nonviolent social movements, and for efforts to eliminate major causes of war and violence such as poverty, ethnic or religious conflict, or environmental threats.

But the vagueness of criteria for the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize has led to some very odd choices:  most notoriously when former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s chief negotiator Lu Duc Tho (neither a person of peace) were awarded the Prize jointly for negotiations toward ending the Vietnam War.  Lu Duc Tho became the only person in history to turn down the Nobel Peace Prize saying, rightly, that no peace had been achieved and that the talks were breaking down. Another time the Nobel Committee made an embarrassing choice designed to encourage a peace process was when they jointly awarded the prize to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat.  Both Rabin and Arafat had previous histories as terrorists and some argued that Arafat had not yet abandoned that role.  One member of the Nobel committee quit in protest.

The selection President Obama is not that bizarre.  In fact, if his ambitious foreign policy agenda is successful at any of his peacemaking goals:  a just two-state peace between Israel and Palestine, reversing the nuclear arms race, etc., then I fully expected that he might be a future Nobel Laureate.  But this seems, at best, premature  –even to Pres. Obama to judge from his reaction.  Yes, he has stopped U.S. torture, although failing so far to hold any of the torturers accountable and pushing for the continuation of the practices of indefinite detention without trial (for some al Qaeda members that the administration believes guilty of crimes but cannot prosecute because the evidence was obtained by torture under the Bush regime) and rendition.  But the prison at Guantanemo Bay is not yet closed and the “detainees” have not been either tried in regular courts or released.  Yes, he has begun the slow ending of the occupation of Iraq, but most of our troops are still there.  Yes, he wants to restart the Israel-Palestinian peace process, but has failed so far to get Israel to stop building new settlements or get Palestinian factions to reconcile with each other or stop stockpiling weapons for future attacks against Israel–nothing has yet happened.  Yes, we are scheduled to have nuclear arms reduction talks with Russia–but they haven’t yet taken place.  He has expanded the war in Afghanistan and started an undeclared one in Pakistan with predator drones.  He wants a new engagement with Iran that leads to their abandoning of their nuclear weapons ambitions and, eventually, to the first resumption of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic ties since 1979–but no progress has yet been made and recently he seemed to imply a willingness to bomb suspected Iranian nuclear plants.

The hawkish Obama has proceeded apace, but the Obama who dreams of peacemaking has yet to move from hope to actual change.  Thus, I call this award premature, and Obama himself calls it “a call to action.”  That, I suggest, is how peace activists from around the world should react–not by mocking or condemning this choice, but by using it as moral leverage in encouraging real peacemaking from this administration.  As filmmaker Michael Moore said yesterday, “Congratulations, Mr. President–now go out and earn it.”  That should be the unanimous note of peace activists–encouraging this president to live into the award that he does not (yet) deserve.

Later this weekend, I will email the White House with this message and a list of suggested actions that Pres. Obama can take between now and the formal presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize in December that will act as steps toward fulfilling that “call to action.”

  • Announce that the U.S. will “re-sign” the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty “unsigned” by former Pres. Bush.  Since the legality of “unsigning” a ratified treaty is murky (and unprecedented!) under both U.S. and international law, I doubt that this would even need ratification by the U.S. Senate–but with 60 Democratic Senators, such ratification should be pro forma.
  • Announce that the U.S. will “re-sign” the Treaty of Rome that authorized the creation of the International Criminal Court and will join the ICC instead of continuing the Bush-era attempts to evade the ICC’s jurisdiction.  Joining will require Senate confirmation, and some will balk out of fear that the ICC might attempt to try members of the Bush admin. for war crimes related to torture and rendition if the U.S. does not prosecute them, but Obama should take that risk.
  • Sign the International Treaty Banning Landmines.  The U.S. is one of the few democratic holdouts even though American Jody Williams (who won the Nobel for her efforts) founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.  Even many famous generals around the globe support this since landmines are of limited military value in war, but continue to kill and maim civilians long after wars are officially over.
  • Sign the Treaty Against Child Soldiers.  Former Pres. Bush refused because he wanted the U.S. to still be able to have 17 year olds in the military–but out military will hardly crumble without them.  And this treaty gives some teeth to efforts to stop the kidnapping and forced induction of adolescent and pre-adolescent children into both government and rebel armies–most notoriously by the so-called “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda.
  • Announce an increased pace of the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.
  • Announce an end to use of the predator drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of the enormous loss of civilian life.
  • Deny General McChrystal’s request for additional troops in Afghanistan. Freeze at current levels while re-thinking Afghanistan–seeking a new way forward.
  • Announce that the U.S. will unilaterally reduce its nuclear weapons by 10% across the board. We need MUCH deeper cuts around the globe, but this unilateral step could jump-start the talks with Russia and show the world that you are serious about reversing the nuclear arms race. It could be a transforming initiative that invites similar moves on the part of others.

Beyond these steps, the way grows harder and must include cooperation from both Congress and international partners.  Grassroots peace and human rights organizations should do our part by supporting the actions the Obama administration takes for peace, praising them, and encouraging more and criticizing steps in the wrong direction.  Also, not waiting for governments or prizes, we need to continue our own, independent, actions for peace.

October 10, 2009 Posted by | foreign policy, human rights., Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, peacemaking | 12 Comments

Investigative Journalism?

Jed Lewison asks the disturbing question, “If the mainstream media put had put 10% of the effort they are expending into finding out if Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner or Sen. Dodd (D-CT) stripped anti-bonus legislation out of the stimulus bill into examining the Bush admin.’s bogus claims about WMD in 2002, what are the chances we’d have gone to war with Iraq?”  Considering that Thursday marked the 6th anniversary of that invasion, 6 LOONG years for an illegal, unnecessary, war of choice against a nation which had not attacked us and had NO MEANS TO DO SO, that”s a very important question.  (As just one example of the journalistic malpractice that happened in the run up to the invasion, how many “journalists” STILL owe apologies to Lt. Col Scott Ritter, a highly decorated marine veteran of Gulf War I, who had been chief weapons inspector in Iraq under both Pres. Bush I and Pres. Clinton.  When Col. Ritter kept refuting the Bush admin.’s claims that Iraq had WMD, numerous TV talking heads questioned his patriotism–even accusing him of being in Saddam Hussein’s pay.  He was right; they were wrong; no one has apologized. The Obama  admin. should give Col. Ritter the Medal of Freedom.)

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Iraq, media reform | 3 Comments

World Can’t Wait: Nationwide Peace Protests 19 March 2009

Protests of “Obama’s War,” against continuing occupation and war in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Pakistan will take place on 19 March–the 6th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.  It is sponsored by the World Can’t Wait coalition and other anti-war groups.  Although I disagree with the tone of the advertisement, I am all in favor of these protests.  Peace doesn’t come just by an election.  We need to keep up street pressure and other kinds of pressure from to counter the pressure of the hawks:  Politicians in this country tend to protect their right flank, and be more sensitive to attacks on their patriotism and “dovishness.” Without countervailing pressure from peace groups nothing happens.

FDR once said to workers pushing for Social Security, “I agree with you. Now MAKE me do it.”  At the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Pres. Johnson that a voting rights act was needed next. LBJ replied that the votes were not there and wouldn’t be for another 10 years.  “I’ll get you those votes in the streets,” replied King and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. 

I may be naive, but I think Pres. Obama wants to end the Iraq Occupation COMPLETELY on a faster time table than he has announced–if for no other reason than he needs the money for his domestic agenda.  I think he is realizing that there is no military solution to Afghanistan, but is afraid to leave safe havens for al Qaeda in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Peace folks definitely need to propose alternatives here.)  The Beltway Consensus that we need to escalate in Afghanistan as we de-escalate in Iraq–which was nearly absolute as recently as last summer–is coming undone.  It is being challenged in the media and in Congress–and not just from peace or progressive circles.  Polls show the majority of Americans AT LEAST WORRIED about escalating in Afghanistan.

So, now is the time for street pressure.  19 March is a good place to begin. Look up local marches in your area.

UPDATE:  Thanks to citizen activism, the debate is widening in Congress and the press. Today, Rep. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a strong progressive who was a role model for Obama when he first ran for the U.S. Senate, urged Obama to speed up his Iraq withdrawal, deeply cut the “transitional forces” and to re-think Afghanistan entirely.  Keep it up, folks.  And drop Sen. Feingold an email thanking him for speaking out–then send a copy to your Rep. and Senators.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, foreign policy, Iraq, peacemaking, terrorism prevention | 1 Comment

Obama Announces Iraq Pull-Out

See the full text and video of his speech here.

This is not everything a Christian pacifist and nonviolent activist like myself could want, but it is a GREAT step in the right direction.  He has adjusted the timeline:  “Combat” troops out by August 2010; Residual force (mostly for training Iraqis) of 30-50,000 (seems large); ALL troops out by 2011–respecting the Status of Forces Agreement Bush made with Iraq.  We’ve been in Iraq WAAAAY too long and if we in the peace movement can put pressure into stepping up the pace, we should.  But ALL troops out is more than Obama would commit to as a candidate. 

Some on the left and some peace folk are purists who are never satisfied when politicians make good steps.  Others are “true believers” who never want to criticize their leader.  I think both stances are a mistake.  I have criticisms to make, but I want us to notice the good and celebrate it first:

  • Obama was against the  invasion of Iraq from the beginning. This is important to note because this marks a first in U.S. history: The very first time that a principled opponent of a particular war was elected president WHILE THAT WAR WAS STILL ONGOING–and while campaigning to end it.
  • The economic crisis (recession, depression–who knows) helps him work to end it–we simply cannot afford this war any longer.
  • The phase out will involve the United Nations and the surrounding countries–a huge change from Bush’s “go  it alone” policies. 
  • Honoring the SOFU with Iraq,  honoring Iraqi sovereignty, is a major step in rebuilding our compliance with international law.
  • Obama’s withdrawal timetable now has the support of McCain and other Republicans!  I know, this surprised me, too, especially since McCain spent the entire general election campaign last year calling Obama “naive” on foreign policy and suggesting that he wouldn’t care if we were in Iraq 100 years!  But this bi-partisan support–even if the number of GOP supporters is few–will make it harder for the rightwing hawks (in and out of the military) to pressure Obama into slowing down the withdrawal or stopping it–or make political hay out of his keeping this campaign pledge.
  • On the other hand, both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)  are expressing concern about the number of residual troops in Iraq and the speed of withdrawal.  This is also good news on several levels:  It shows Congress reasserting itself as a separate and EQUAL branch of government again (per the Constitution, remember?) even with the same party in charge of both houses of Congress and the presidency.  It also gives us allies in pushing for quicker, more complete withdrawal.  (Pelosi noted in that interview that the House voted to end the Iraq war repeatedly in ’07 and ’08, but a timetable got out of the Senate only once and Bush vetoed it.  She did not say why she then kept impeachment off the table–since that could have ended the war sooner.)


Now for the major criticism:  As we are winding down Iraq, we are increasing troops in Afghanistan–and without much national or Congressional debate, with no timeline, no clearly defined mission.  I have mentioned before that I believe Afghanistan could be for Obama what Vietnam was for LBJ–the Achilles’ heal that undoes much  of the good he tries to do domestically.   We need to Get Afghanistan Right! and that means recognizing that there is no military solution–even if there theoretically was one when Bush largely abandoned Afghanistan to invade Iraq–a nation uninvolved with al-Qaeda or 9/11 and which was no threat to us! 

Watch the video, sign the petition, and contact your members of Congress to Rethink Afghanistan!  New polling suggests that the American people want to find a way out of Afghanistan, too–certainly by 2012 at the very latest.

Meanwhile, Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), points out that the country needs to get ready for the return of these vets. We already have too many homeless and jobless vets and these returning soldiers will be coming back into the worst economy in decades.  We aren’t prepared for their return and MUST get that way, quickly.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to the Middle East next week to begin work on peace in the region and between Palestine and Israel particularly.  It  is my hope that she lays the groundwork for a full Middle East Peace Summit by July–with full participation by the Arab League, the EU, the UN, the US, etc.–and with Pres. Obama front and center in this process. (A July date gives time for planning, is during Congressional recess so Obama can’t work on more of his domestic challenges just then, and is hopefully soon enough that the hawks of the new Israeli cabinet will not be able to sabatouge things.  Hawks from other groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, however don’t seem to operate on a predictable timetablee.  Much to pray about here!)

Overall, these are positive developments. Now, as peacemakers and persons of faith, let’s do our part to keep things moving in these directions.

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, foreign policy, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking | 20 Comments

Third Annual Christian Peace Witness for Iraq

Wednesday, 28 April 2009, 7 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.  Make plans now to attend the third annual event of ecumenical worship and activism by Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.  Originally formed to bring church pressure on Congress and then-President Bush to end the Iraq War, CPW is now focusing on keeping pressure on Congress and President Obama to speed up the end of the U.S. Occupation and to bring ALL the U.S. troops home.

The 7 p.m. worship and witness follows events at National City Church earlier in the day:  an Opening Convocation at 1:30-2:30 p.m. and nonviolence training at 2:30 p.m.  Then, on Thursday 29 April 2009  at 9 a.m. there will be a witness and nonviolent action at the Capitol. 

For the Wednesday night event, featured speakers include:

  • Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, retired professor of sociology at Eastern University in Philadelphia, Associate Pastor, Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia (a mostly African-American congregation, though Campolo is white), noted author and evangelist, founder and President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education; gadfly, social critic, progressive evangelical social activist.
  • Rev. Lennox Yearwood,  Jr., Minister, community activist, President of Hip Hop Caucus, and U.S. Air Force Reservist.
  • Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Catholic nun (and Louisville native), former missionary to Guatemala, U.S. born torture survivor in Guatemala (Sr. Ortiz was tortured during Guatemala’s military dictatorship during the ’80s.  Though she was blindfolded, she insists her torturers were supervised by an American who was identified as a CIA agent.), Founder of Torture Abolition and Survivors’ Support Coalition International. (I met Sr. Ortiz in the late ’80s shortly after she was released and returned to the U.S. She worked then with Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean [KITLAC].)
  • Elizabeth McAlister, former nun, peace activist and co-founder of Jonah House, an intentional Christian Community.
  • Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Catholic priest, biblical scholar, poet, and peace activist.

Worship that evening will be followed by a processional to the White House.

At the website of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq one can also find their Open Letter to President Obama and suggestions for holding similar events around the country if one cannot travel to D.C. for this event.

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Iraq, nonviolence, peacemaking | 2 Comments

Bill Clinton Said WHAT??

O.K., I know that the context was his criticism of Republican-backed tax cuts during time of war–the only time in our history as a nation when we have financed a war by borrowing instead of taxation.  But I still could hardly believe my ears yesterday when former U.S. President Bill Clinton (D-AR), campaigning on behalf of his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a leading Democratic candidate for U.S. President, stated boldly that he “opposed [the invasion of] Iraq from the beginning!” Really, Bill?  Then why didn’t you advise Hillary not to vote to authorize the war?  I don’t recall Bill Clinton speaking out against the war in ’02 or early ’03 when it might have made a difference.  In fact, having just “Googled” this topic, I am pretty sure he did no such thing.

I can’t stand these attempts by politicians to re-write history in their favor–whether Republicans or Democrats do it.  I am very angry about this remark by Bill Clinton–angrier than I have been at him since he bombed Kosovo to distract the public from the Lewinsky scandal or when he caved to GOP pressure and signed into law a “welfare reform” law that did nothing to solve the problem of poverty, but was, instead, draconian in its effects on the poor–especially poor children!! Why am I so angry? Because opposing a war takes more than thinking privately that it is a bad idea–it requires speaking out and that takes courage and usually involves consequences:

  • Col. Scott Ritter, the highly decorated former U.S. Marine, who was the Chief UN weapons inspector for Iraq during the 1990s, had that kind of courage. He spoke out against the invasion of Iraq, arguing that Iraq was no longer a military threat and had little if any WMDs left.  Ritter paid a price: having his name smeared on every news show in the U.S., with blowhards like Sean Hannity claiming that he had been paid off by Saddam Hussein and others claiming that Ritter should have his medals revoked!
  • Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to the first Pres. Bush (George H. W. Bush), wrote an article in the 15 Aug. edition of the Wall Street Journal called “Don’t Attack Saddam!” which argued that containment was working and the invasion would distract from fighting terrorism and from the need to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the real key to a stable Middle East. 
  • Some retired military officers and some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued against the invasion, including, most prominently, Gen. Wesley Clark and Gen. Anthony Zinni.
  • Several career diplomats with years of experience in Middle East Affairs resigned in protest over the coming invasion of Iraq–including many who supported Gulf War I.
  • Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst who now works for the publishing arm of the Church of the Savior, spoke out, forming VIPS: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, and exposing the holes in the Bush admin.’s case for war. In 2004, McGovern had a public run-in with Donald Rumsfeld, charging him with war crimes.
  • Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had once faced down Saddam Hussein face-to-face, and was decorated by the first Pres. Bush (George H. W. Bush) for his role in getting all Americans out of Iraq before Gulf War I, opposed this war and exposed part of the lies on which it was based–and the Bush admin. retaliated by “outing” his wife, Valerie Plame, as a deep cover CIA agent, ruining her career and putting lives at risk. 
  • Social justice advocate Medea Benjamin, put her business at Equal Exchange on hold to found CODE PINK: Women for Peace. She opposed the war and has been repeatedly jailed for it.
  • Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) was almost alone in the Senate in 2002 in calling for a real debate and careful hearings before rushing any kind of authorization for war. He was joined by a few including Sen. Russ Feingold and Sen. Edward Kennedy.  Byrd’s call for vigorous hearings and debate and defense of the Constitutional role of Congress in declaring war (or not)  was ignored or ridiculed.
  • Both the present Pope (Benedict XVI) and the previous Pope (John Paul II), spoke out against the Iraq invasion, with the ailing John Paul even sending the Vatican papal nuncio to meet with Bush in an attempt to stop the invasion.
  • Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners led a major ecumenical Christian effort to find ways to deal with any possible threat that Saddam might pose without war–and when he could get no audience for his plan in the White House, met with British PM Tony Blair to plead the case.
  • Other religious leaders such as Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun and Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Centre, spoke out against the war.  I drafted the open letter against the war by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.  Members from Christian Peacemaker Teams and other faith-based groups tried to be human shields against the invasion–and several were kidnapped by insurgents and one lost his life because of this. 
  • In Feb. 2003, 10 million worldwide, 1 million in New York City alone, marched in the streets to stop the war. I was in New York. Bill Clinton was not.  Any peace rally would gladly have let him speak–he could have made a difference.  But he remained silent. 
  • Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made one remark against the impending war in a London concert and the band went overnight from the hottest country band in the world to having their CDs publicly burned and radio stations refusing to play their music–and being burned in effigy.  I don’t recall Bill Clinton, supposedly a longtime fan, speaking out in their defense. Even G.W. Bush defended their right to free speech, but Bill Clinton was silent!
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) spoke out, as did former Pres. Jimmy Carter and former VP Al Gore. So did Howard Dean, Barack Obama (then a state senator in Illinois), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM). Bill Clinton was silent.
  • The list might be expanded, but it is so easy to name those in public life who spoke out BECAUSE THEY WERE SO FEW! Soon we had the stupidity of renaming French Fries “Freedom Fries” because French Pres. Chirac opposed the invasion! In that kind of atmosphere, most prominent Democrats, including Bill Clinton, kept quiet and showed zero moral leadership. To say otherwise now is a lie of incredible proportions–like all those white guys who claim to have “marched with Dr. King” now when they actually were silent. (An African-American friend of mine says he has yet to find a white Southerner of the proper age who admits to having been a segregationist at the time. Surely they didn’t all die already? Surely many changed their minds–and simply are too afraid to admit it, now.) This Clintonian lie is as large as “I did not have sex with that woman”–and, as far as the public good is concerned (rather than just the consequences to Clinton’s marriage or soul), this lie is far worse.

People paid various prices for opposing the invasion of Iraq “from the beginning,” Mr. Clinton!  My family received anonymous death threats for our letters to the editor opposing the war. My wife was stalked and had to remove an anti-war bumper sticker for 6 months because of physical danger for opposing this war.  My daughters were ostracized in school.  The majority of the public did not turn against this war until late 2004 or early 2005.  Before that it was lonely and hard to oppose this war. It took courage–courage that was sadly lacking in Bill Clinton if he truly was against it “from the beginning.” 

This is Bill Clinton’s pattern. He “opposed” the Vietnam War as a college student. But did he resist the draft and risk jail or exile as did so many? No, he used political connections (much like George W. Bush did!) to be passed over and then waited until he was safe at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship before speaking out against the war. He did this, he told us back in the ’90s, in order to preserve his future political viability. So, his convictions have never cost him anything.  Real opponents of war–whether all wars or particular ones–risk something. Bill Clinton, instead, plays it safe. So, did Hillary vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq because she believed the case for war, or to strengthen Bush’s negotiating hand at the UN (as she claims)–or because she, like so many spineless Dems, believed the GOP when it said the war would be short and didn’t want to be seen as “soft on defense?” Did Bill Clinton say to her “Honey, this invasion is the wrong way to promote regime change in Iraq or Middle East Democracy, but if you ever plan on being president you better vote for it?”  Was Bill rewriting history yesterday in order to shore up Hillary’s support with peace folk and progressives among Democrats? If so, I hope it backfires.

I am so angry and disgusted I could spit.  How many lives of U.S. soldiers could have been saved if someone of Bill Clinton’s stature had really “opposed the war from the beginning?”  How many lives of Iraqis?  Would we have been spared Abu Ghraib, the Gitmo gulag, and much else?  True, Bill Clinton did not create these evils–Bush and cronies did.  But Bill Clinton’s silence is a guilty silence–a silence much like that of the “good Germans” who let the Holocaust take place (if not–yet–on that scale).  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that for evil to triumph all that was required was for good people to do nothing. 

I am not angry at those people who were truly taken in by the Bush phoney case and who later repented–like former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), for instance.  As a friend of mine who moved from Republican to Democrat over these issues said, “It is truly hard to believe that your government could lie to you so thoroughly.” But Clinton did not say that he was taken in by Bush’s phoney case. He said he opposed the invasion of Iraq “from the beginning.” To have opposed but said nothing is an act of moral cowardice of tremendous proportions. If his wife is equally guilty, then she is nearly as unworthy of the office of president as the current occupant.

Let’s demand some basic honesty and moral courage in our leaders–or get new ones.

November 29, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, peace, taxes, U.S. politics | 6 Comments

Poll: Sizable U.S. Majorities Want Congress to Cut War Funds

A new poll by the Washington Post shows that a sizable majority of the U.S. public wants Congress to cut funding for the war/occupation of Iraq.  Only 27% favor giving the president the full $190 billion he has requested.  I guess Congress isn’t listening.  The power of the purse is the way to stop this war and that is why the Framers gave Congress that power.

The same poll showed that most Americans favor the S-CHIP expansion that Congress just passed and Bush has threatened to veto. Well, we already knew the president wasn’t listening to the people.  He has said repeatedly that his reelection in ’04 was his only “accountability moment.”  But maybe Congress should try to override this veto.  We have the votes in the Senate. So far, the House falls 2 dozen short of the needed 2/3 majority–but maybe those Representatives (ALL of whom must stand for reelection next year) will read the polls–or listen to floods of phone calls.  As Oscar Wilde said, “the prospect of a hanging in the morning wonderfully concentrates the mind.”

The Washington Post poll showed Bush at new lows in approval ratings, but Congress even lower.   The public is rates Congressional Republicans lower than Democrats, but not by much.  Much of the disatisfaction with Congress is over a failure to end the war.  That should tell Congress something.  It should also tell presidential candidates something–the refusal of Clinton, Obama, or Edwards to commit to having all troops home by 2013(!!!) is likely to anger their base.  If discouraged, that base could stay home or not work hard to “get out the vote” in the general election–and if the general election is close, that will spell defeat.  Didn’t the Democrats find out with Kerry that if the two candidates sound nearly as hawkish in foreign policy, the public will vote Republican? 

It’s hard to end an unpopular war.  About 70% of the public now want this war over–which is about the same as had turned against the Vietnam War by ’68–and yet that monstrosity dragged on for 7 more years!! God help us.

October 2, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, just peacemaking | 3 Comments

John Edwards’ Response to Bush Speech

  Last night’s speech by President Bush revealed that he plans to continue a military presence in Iraq indefinitely. And he continued to beat the drums against Iran.  But John Edwards bought time on MSNBC and told the truth boldly.  His challenge was not only to Bush, but also the Democratic leadership in Congress–and I hope Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Majority Leader Reid were paying attention.  The challenge is also to ordinary U.S. citizens.  Our elected officials work for us and we need to make them hear our voices and end this occupation–or else. 

Edwards has set a new standard for the top-tier candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, too.  Only longshots like Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson have been this bold–and never with such a national audience.  Will Senator Clinton or Senator Obama step up to this challenge?  Will we?

September 14, 2007 Posted by | Iraq | 2 Comments

Lt. Col. Andrew Horne, U.S. Army (Ret.) on the Petraeus Report

Andrew Horne, a Louisville attorney and veteran of the Iraq War (and, hopefully, a Democratic candidate for Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s senate seat) has a very different take on the war from Gen. Petraeus.  Here the interview here [link corrected].

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Iraq | 1 Comment