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

Time to Close the School of Assassins

ESPECIALLY FOR U. S. READERS (but also if you have friends or relatives in the U.S):  The U.S. Congress will vote THIS WEEK on whether to close the infamous “School of the Americas” at Ft. Benning, GA (re-named WINSEC, but with the same mission). This school, originally located in Central America, has been a sponsor of state-funded, pro-government, right-wing terrorism since the 1970s, at least. Here, the U.S. military and CIA, with American tax dollars, trains Latin American militaries in “counter-insurgency” tactics–including torture, assassination, the “disappearances” of whole families, etc.  Until Abu-Ghraib and the Guantanemo Bay Gulag, this school was the largest source of U.S. shame to human rights activists.  Those who murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero were trained here. So were those who slaughtered the Jesuit school in El Salvador, those who wiped out whole villages in Guatemala, and those who raped and tortured nuns in Nicaragua.

In the aftermath of 9/11 George W. Bush said many things with which I strongly disagreed.  But when he announced a U.S. mission to close down terrorist training camps, my immediate reaction was, “Good. Let’s start with SOA/WINSEC and lead by example!” This week we have our closest opportunity, yet.  The bill will clearly pass the House of Representatives–but will it have enough votes to override a presidential veto?  That is why we must act now to encourage our legislators, even Republican ones, to vote for the McGovern Amendment which would close and defund SOA/WINSEC.  Click here to send an email or fax to your Congressional Representative.  Then phone or email all your U.S. friends and relatives and get them to do the same thing!

UPDATE:  The Maiden, whose blog is dedicated to eliminating torture, gives this link to a new book on Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the Catholic priest who started SOA Watch and the movement to close the School of Assassins.

I am happy to say that my Representative, John Yarmuth (D-KY)(who is one of the freshmen Representatives who took control of Congress aways from the Republicans–but not in enough numbers to end the war in Iraq, it seems!), is a co-sponsor of the legislation to close and end funding for SOA/WINSEC.  Some of those sent to Washington last November, quickly sold out their mandate, but Yarmuth has not. I have been very happy that I supported his candidacy and proved that not only Democrats, but fairly progressive Democrats, can get elected in the South.  (Yarmuth is also a practising Jew, from the Reform branch, I believe,  breaking the stereotype that Southerners will only vote for conservative Christians!)

UPDATE WED. AM:  CONGRESS WILL VOTE TODAY.  CALL 202-224-3121 and urge your Congressional Representative to vote to cut all funds for SOA/WHINSEC!!


June 19, 2007 Posted by | economic justice, human rights., terrorism prevention, torture | 3 Comments

Iraq Invasion Has Increased Global Terrorism

Those of us who realize that violence creates more violence in a downward spiral predicted this. Now, a new study shows that while al-Qaeda was disrupted after 9/11 and global terrorism was declining, it has increased sevenfold since the Iraq War. The Bush Admin.’s claim that “we are fighting them there so we don’t fight them here,” is revealed as fallacious: Yes, the Iraq war is attracting some foreign fighters, but mostly they are learning terrorist resistance tactics that they are then taking elsewhere. And Iraq has become a cause celebre for radicalized Islamists–so that terrorism, which received a very bad rep. in the wake of 9/11, has now become glorified and “heroic” in the resistance to the U.S. occupation. We are, as I have said many times, creating terrorists faster than we can kill them. This study shows just how much faster. Hat Tip to DLW at the Anti-Manichaeist. I had heard this study discussed on the BBC, but he gave the link to the article reporting it in Mother Jones.

Terrorism must be resisted, but we need a new model than an unending “war.” (I’ve been thinking of a blog on why the “war on terrorism” is a lie.) Glen Stassen has shown how the practices of Just Peacemaking can prevent terrorism here, and in 3 published articles reprinted on his website here. As usual with Glen, each article is filled with concrete examples from real life–well-documented statistics, etc., not just sweeping generalizations. I’m also hoping to review David Cortwright’s Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for an Age of Terrorism in this space in the near future.

All the more reason for us to pressure Congress to stop Bush’s Iraq war and prevent his planned war with Iran.

Update: The view that invading Iraq has decreased, rather than increased, our security as a nation is NOT just a “liberal” idea, nor even a pacifist one. Many retired generals and security experts made the argument before the war and are still making it. One of the most prominent is Lt. Gen. William Odom, who was National Security Advisor in the Reagan administration (hardly a peacenik), who testified to Congress against invading throughout 2002 and has since called this invasion, the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster in modern history. See his latest article in the Washington Post here. You can hear the general interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” here (streaming audio available after 6 p.m. EST on 22 Feb. 2007.

February 21, 2007 Posted by | just peacemaking, terrorism prevention | 1 Comment

U.S. Army Sold Forbidden Equipment to Iran & China!

See here for further details. One of the major principles of Just Peacemaking is to reduce offensive weapons and the weapons trade! Far too often, we send U.S. troops to face weapons “Made in the U.S.A.” Preventing proliferation, not only of WMDs, but of conventional weapons and military technology, is key to the long-term elimination of terrorism. Yet the U.S. government continues to be the biggest arms dealer on the planet.

“Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be, resisted by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly, we have no defence. . . . The fact that the fool is often stubbon must not misled us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken home of him. He is under a spell, he is blinded, his very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), from the essay, “After Ten Years,” written New Years’ Day, 1943 and published as a prologue to the English edition of Letters and Papers from Prison.

January 16, 2007 Posted by | just peacemaking, terrorism prevention | 3 Comments

Olbermann on GOP Terrorism

Thanks to Gil Gulick for the heads up on yet another great comment by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, one of the few journalistic commentators to have the guts to call this administration’s evils for what they are. Watch; share; remember come the 7th!

October 27, 2006 Posted by | terrorism prevention | 4 Comments

Racial Profiling vs. Terrorism

A new poll shows that Americans back the racial profiling of people who “look Middle Eastern” at airports as a way to increase security against terrorist attacks. Blogger Wasp Jerky thinks that make sense since everyone knows that white Americans never commit terrorist acts. Oh, except for these people. My thanks to WJ for telling the truth in a very funny manner.

August 30, 2006 Posted by | race, terrorism prevention | 1 Comment

Separating ‘Fanatics’ From Real Muslim Grievances

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do: Compliment Pres. George W. Bush. I made this compliment right after the event happened, but I didn’t have a blog then, so it bears repeating. Bush showed more wisdom than his base shortly after 9/11 by reminding the nation and the world that the terrorists who want to kill us are extremist fanatics who twist the teachings of Islam–not all or even most Muslims. While Christian leaders who should have known better (e.g. Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, etc.) were busy fanning flames of hatred, Bush reminded the nation that Islam is a religion of peace. Muslim terrorists were and are no more representative of genuine Islam than cross-burning Klansmen are representative of genuine Christianity. Although some of Bush’s policies reinforced the fear among Muslims that the U.S. had declared war against Islam itself, much of Bush’s early rhetoric denied this. That was both wise and good.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t lasted. In the wake of the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, Bush has begun to use the term “Islamic Fascists,” a variation on “Islamo-fascists,” a term long favored by rightwing pundits and bloggers. Fascism, which Mussolini defined as state power plus corporate power, has little to do with the ideology of the Islamic terrorists. The term seems to be a propaganda move–intended to bring the Nazis to mind and reinforce the Neo-con view that the so-called “war on terror” constitutes World War III–lasting for years and justifying all kinds of suspensions of civil liberties. This doesn’t seem accurate at all, unless we make it so. There are real threats out there, but it is important that they be named and described accurately, if we are to respond in such a way that actually deals with the threat effectively.

Writing in the Guardian, Max Hastings points out the folly of Bush’s recent remarks that indicate a global Islamic conspirancy against the West. Some, like al-Qaida, are fanatic madment. Others have legitimate beefs against Western policies (e.g. failing to push Israel for the creation of a viable Palestinian state and supporting autocratic dictators like the House of Saud) and failing to address those could send them into the arms of some terrorist group. Painting all Muslims with one brush makes it all the more likley that we get a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Hastings’ words:

If the United States insists upon regarding all Muslim opponents of its foreign policies as a homogeneous enemy then that is what they become.


Is that what we really want? Do we love war and alerts and the militarization of everything so much? In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush rejected this path as foolishness. Now, he has apparently embraced it completely. That is both foolish and dangerous. The nation and the world could have reason to wish Bush had remembered his earlier wisdom. Call the White House comment line and remind him today. Ask the president to separate the legitimate Muslim complaints (which should be addressed quickly) from the irrational hatred of the terrorists–and to reject global conspiracy theories and misleading terms like “Islamo-fascist.” 1-202-456-6213.

August 15, 2006 Posted by | interfaith, Islam, terrorism prevention | 7 Comments

Global Baptists Support Londoners/Condemn Attacks!

We must oppose violence wherever it is found!

Worldwide Baptists Express Support and Condemn Terrorist Violence in England
An outpouring of support for victims of the terrorist attacks in England and concern that violence against innocent people continues, has come in from around the world to the Baptist World Alliance. With it has also come the confidence that the Baptist World Congress scheduled for Birmingham, England, July 27-31, 2005 must continue.
On behalf of the worldwide family, Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the BWA, expressed the sorrow of Baptists and the hope to which the Congress will testify. In a letter to the British Ambassador in North America, Sir David Manning, also sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair and David Coffey, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and incoming President of the BWA, he expressed sympathy and condolences to the British people for “the horrific and evil attack upon innocent men and women in London.”
Lotz said, “It is particularly sad when such tragedies are done in the name of religion,” and he pointed out that “Baptist people have defended religious freedom throughout our long history.” Baptists are concerned that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and everyone else have the right to practice their religion freely.
“It is to the British Baptists,” Lotz said, “such as Thomas Helwys, John Smyth, John Bunyan and John Milton that we have looked for that strong defense of religious freedom since 1612. We shall continue to defend religious freedom, separation of church and state, and respect for men and women of whatever faith tradition.”
Billy Kim, Seoul, Korea, President of the Baptist World Alliance, said, “We are praying for the British people during this time of sorrow. I have asked my people to pray for both those who are injured and the families who have lost loved ones. We are confident that the Congress will continue to be blessed by God.”Turning to the Congress, Lotz said that thousands of Baptists will gather to celebrate the BWA Centenary in Birmingham “to affirm our faith and to encourage all people to follow the example of Him who walked the shores of Galilee and preached peace.”
Lotz emphasized Baptists will go to England “to show our solidarity with the British people in their time of sorrow. Our very travel to Britain from every corner of the earth will be a testimony to our belief that faith is greater than fear, hope greater than despair, and love greater than hate,” Lotz said.
Already more than 11,500 from 107 countries are registered for the Congress and that number is expected to swell with people who will come on day passes.
“In Birmingham men and women of various languages and cultures will celebrate that it is possible for religious traditions to live together in harmony,” Lotz says.
In a statement released yesterday, July 7, Coffey said: “The events that that took place in London today fill us with horror, and our prayers go out to the bereaved and the injured, together with all those who are seeking to offer help and comfort, including the emergency services, security forces and chaplains. In a world of violence, where there is too little respect for life, we want to stand alongside all those who are the victims of such brutality, sharing their pain and anger, and embracing them with compassion.”
Coffey continued: “This is a time when we are called to answer the evil of violence with an unswerving commitment to the ways that make for peace and justice,” he said. “We join in Christian hope with all who seek the common good at this critical time.”
Regina Claas, General Secretary of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany, told British Baptist leaders that German Baptists are deeply moved by the news of the catastrophe. “It is just unbelievable for us how people can do such a cruel thing,” Claas said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with you and especially with our sisters and brothers in London at this time,” Claas wrote.
On behalf of the Central Youth Committee from the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha, leaders wrote that the terrorists had caused death, injuries, destruction not only in the United Kingdom but in the whole world. “It is not an attack on the UK people,” they wrote, “but to the human civilization. We are always against such terrorism and intolerance among the different faiths, which happens very frequently against us in our daily life.”
Baptist leaders in Nepal, which continues to suffer from political instability, pledged to pray for “peace and normality” in the United Kingdom so that the BWA Centenary Congress will go on smoothly. “We are also praying for the families who have lost their loved ones,” wrote Yukta Man Gurung, General Secretary of the Nepal Baptist Church Council. Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, expressed shock and sadness on behalf of European Baptists. He recalls as a student in London in the 1970s the bombing campaigns of the Irish Republican Army and the fear which they struck into everyone moving around the city.
“We must continue to demonstrate that the terrorists who seek to change the world by bombing and killing will be defeated by those who stand up for truth and justice in the world using peaceful means of argument and protest,” Peck said.

July 9, 2005 Posted by | Baptists, terrorism prevention, violence | Comments Off on Global Baptists Support Londoners/Condemn Attacks!

Draining the Swamps of Terrorism

We are all Londoners this week. Who could not be in complete solidarity and grief with those facing such senseless carnage. London will survive–it survived the Battle of Britain (daily bombings for a year!) and all the IRA attacks in the ’70s and ’80s. Our admiration for the courage and tenacity of Londoners cannot be topped.

But our grief and solidarity must not prevent us from concluding that the bombings show the war on terrorism is not working. Bush’s “we must fight them there” (and then going after the wrong people) “so that we won’t fight them here” has produced more, not less, terror. Blair was a fool to go along with it. Trying to wipe out terrorism by killing all the terrorists is not just immoral but stupid–like trying to end malaria by killing more mosquitos. Until you drain the swamps that breed the mosquitos, the mosquitos will produce faster than you can swat or spray (and your sprays will kill much else as “collateral damage.”) Likewise, preemptive wars to kill terrorists creates terrorists faster than they can be killed. We have to drain the swamps of the conditions which make it easy for fanatic terror groups like al-Qaeda to recruit.

First among what is necessary is a just, stable, and peaceful Middle East. Ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and finding a just 2-state solution with a shared Jerusalem capital is essential. Palestinian suffering can only be manipulated for terrorist gain when they are suffering. As Alice Walker might say, “Justice for Palestinians will stop the curse of the Middle East.” (See her essay, Only Justice Can Stop a Curse.) Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, perhaps with the UN playing a role in a transition to a stable Iraq, is also necessary.

The attacks on London were probably aimed at disrupting the G-8 summit. The goals of the G-8 agenda are anathema to groups like al-Qaeda. Ending the impoverishment of Africa, creating a stable, uncorrupt, and sustainably developing Africa shrinks the terrorist recruiting pool considerably. Ending poverty is not only morally right, but a smart answer to terrorism. It’s not appeasement, but cutting the ground out from under the terrorists. Not only are desperately poor and oppressed people ripe for simplistic/fanatic “answers,” but if the U.S. and Europe are hard at work ending Africa’s impoverishment, it is much harder to paint them in demonic terms. The Bushies talk about winning “hearts and minds,” but their actions seemed designed to lose hearts and minds daily. Thankfully, the G-8 work on ending African poverty, though less than hoped for, was a powerful step in the right direction.

Bush blocked the agreement on global warming reversal. The other G-7 countries should simply bypass him and reengage the U.S. under a new president. Again, saving the planet is the right thing to do for both humans and other living things. But since it also involves ending the West’s dependency on Middle East oil, it also drains the swamps of terrorism. As long as the U.S. and Europe are hooked on oil like junkies are hooked on drugs, they will do anything for the needed fix. Western oil junkies support some despotic regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and invade others (e.g., Iraq) in desperation for the oil fix. Thus, they make it easy for groups like al-Qaeda to paint them as “the Great Satan.” A U.S. and Europe that is on a strict carbon-minimizing diet and has turned to multiple sources of clean, renewable energy, is free to pressure Saudi Arabia to reform and democratize. They are free to leave Iraq for Iraqis–shrinking again the recruiting pool for terrorists.

Terrorism is also caused by religious extremism, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. I have argued in this blog that we need to push for the renewal of prophetic religion and oppose authoritarian religion wherever it is found. That’s beyond the G-8 goals, but the G-8 goals will make provide a context that automatically will favor prophetic religion. When people are not hungry or oppressed, can breathe the air, drink the water, and live in relative freedom and stability, the easy answers of authoritarian religion are far less persuasive.

Despite his lockstep following of George W. Bush off the Iraqi cliff, there is some evidence that Tony Blair understands these realities. Could he please explain them to George W before it is too late?

July 9, 2005 Posted by | just peacemaking, terrorism prevention | Comments Off on Draining the Swamps of Terrorism