The Problem in Iraq

The following letter to the editor by WCPeace vice chairman, Gene Weisskopf, was published in The New York Times, December 9, 2005. See online at:

Re “The Next Iraq Offensive,” by Wesley K. Clark (Op-Ed, Dec. 6):

As much as I respect General Clark and appreciate his views on our situation in Iraq, I fear he’s making the same mistake that’s been made before by so many others: expounding thoughtful, complex answers to a nonexistent question.

We invaded Iraq on false pretenses, and that gives us no authority or expertise to make things right there. We’re certainly responsible for the damage and carnage in Iraq, and we are obligated to pay for it.

But stabilizing and repairing Iraq will have to be done by someone else. We’re the invaders, the occupiers, the problem — we’re not going to fix anything by remaining there.

The country that we Americans need to make right is our own, because our disastrous invasion was based on cherry-picked intelligence, exaggerations, innuendo, relentless badgering and outright lies.

General Clark looks toward Iraq for an answer to the war, but the truth lies within our own borders.

Gene Weisskopf
Richland, Wash., Dec. 6, 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Nuremberg and Iraq

The following letter was published in the Tri-City (WA) Herald on Nov. 29, 2005.

The Nuremberg trial 60 years ago established new international law on the conduct of war. The judgment at Nuremberg changed war of aggression from “politics by other means” to a “crime against peace.” (Herald, Nov. 20)

That judgment was subsequently codified in the United Nations Charter, which specifies that Security Council approval is required to launch a war of aggression.

Security Council approval was obtained by the senior President Bush for the 1991 Gulf war. But when the junior President Bush failed to get such approval, he flouted international law and did what Saddam Hussein had done — he invaded a country that had not first attacked his own.

The pretext was an alleged imminent threat to the United States. President Bush raised the specter of a “mushroom cloud,” even though U.N. inspectors had totally dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program by 1995.

Former-Secretary of State Colin Powell then presented a whole dossier of false “intelligence” in his infamous speech at the U.N. He now says that will remain a permanent “blot” on his record.

Some Americans may never be able to face the reality of what has been done by this administration, but as the Blue Fairy said to Pinocchio: “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

~ Jim Stoffels, Chairman
World Citizens for Peace

enough_sign.jpg (8630 bytes)

Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman
World Citizens for Peace

Speech delivered at a rally to “End the War on Iraq”
Sept. 24, 2005, John Dam Plaza, Richland WA

For several weeks, I’ve been brooding about today’s opportunity to express my views about the continuing war on Iraq. With the incalculable loss of life, property, and our own national integrity, how could I sum up the demons we’ve let loose on the world? The lead up to the war back in 2002, the brief invasion itself, and now the long, agonizing occupation of Iraq have all been eating away at our national psyche, forcing the nation, day after day, to accept the unacceptable, to excuse the inexcusable, and to do the unthinkable. The only shelter to find from this madness has been to shield one’s eyes behind a gauzy veil of red, white, and blue. “Freedom isn’t free!” “Support our troops!” “God bless America!”

And now, all I can say, the only word that comes to mind, is—Enough! It’s over. The story line ran out many, many months ago, before the story even began. The grand dirigible of state that was carrying our war president to such lofty heights was only filled with hot air, and that leaked out long ago. Now, what had seemed to so many like a magnificent, invincible craft lies rumpled and lifeless on the ground. ENOUGH!

Yet the commander-in-chief still stands posing in the collapsed cockpit, assuming his neo-Napoleonic stance in his peacock-like uniform and medals, wrapped in the flag and swathed in his alleged religiosity, frothing platitudes and urging us to: stay the course, persevere, don’t cut and run, keep on dying for those who have died before. ENOUGH!

His words are as empty as the noble craft he once thought he commanded. He refuses to see that he is stark naked, exposed to the world, standing in the blinding light of the cold hard reality of this miserable war. The emperor has no clothes and never did. What fools we have been. ENOUGH!

Actually, what I really wanted to say was simply this: “[blank] this war, and all that we have brought upon ourselves and the world. Just [blank] this war.”

But I decided I wouldn’t use that oh-so appropriate phrase, since it wouldn’t convey much except my own outrage at the war and the people who started it. More importantly, though, I had this lingering concern that some people might be offended by the phrase, even if it accurately reflected their own feelings—in polite society, we just don’t talk like that.

And yet, I wondered why I was feeling restrained in uttering a popular profanity, when there was so little offense being taken in this country over the war itself? No weapons of mass destruction? No Iraqi link to 9/11? No threat to the United States? Torture? Unending incarceration for alleged enemies of the United States without trial or hearing? The killing of prisoners of war? The deaths of almost 2000 American soldiers and over 10,000 wounded? And most important of all, what about the uncounted but countless deaths we have caused in Iraq, and the generational damage we have caused to their country? ENOUGH!

An article in yesterday’s news: “Three former members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.” “They wanted intel. As long as no [prisoners] came up dead, it happened.” We kept it to broken arms and legs.” This was before the abuses at Abu Ghraib came to light in those photographs that, we were told, simply captured the abuses of a small group of “bad apples,” pulling what amounted to “fraternity pranks”. Nothing like that was happening anywhere else….. ENOUGH!

And perhaps the saddest and most appalling were the recent words of Colin Powell, who in an interview said he now regrets his infamous speech to the U.N. before the war began. From my perspective, he had used his well respected reputation to put his seal of approval on the pending invasion of Iraq. Without his lapdog support, the Bush administration would have had a much harder time selling the war to the American public. And now Mr. Powell expresses regret over having been so wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the sole reason we went to war. Does he tear off the general’s stars from his old uniforms? Does he express his regret and then fall on his sword to make a spiritual payment in kind? Does he donate all his money to the rebuilding of Iraq? No, he throws his regret on the table and, while the killing continues in the war he spawned, goes on to his next $25,000 speech. ENOUGH!

For how many years can so many American citizens trudge through their daily lives while our armies occupy their killing fields in a country 10,000 miles away, one that had been of little or no threat to the United States? What happened? Where did our scruples go? Where is the outrage? ENOUGH! End this war now.


Jim Stoffels, Chairman
World Citizens for Peace

Speech delivered at a rally to “End the War on Iraq,”Sept. 24, 2005, John Dam Plaza, Richland WA

How do we extricate ourselves from the biggest U.S. policy disaster since Vietnam?

How do we defuse the still-growing insurgency that has made Iraq an even greater “center of terrorist activities” (U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan) than Afghanistan was under the Taliban?

And most importantly, how do we end the indiscriminate killing of children and other Iraqi civilians and the destruction of their cities?

Our military is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of troops (138,000) in Iraq for four more years. A Mideast expert (Juan Cole, University of Michigan) says the guerrilla war is likely to go on for 10 to 15 years. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has acknowledged (June 19) that America’s involvement in Iraq is “a generational commitment,” meaning 20 or more years.

When President Bush insists on “staying the course,” he denies the reality that our occupation is the main cause of the Iraqi insurgency, not its cure. Continuing our occupation will only bring about more death and destruction. How can we “stay the course” in the face of an Iraqi movement calling for U.S. withdrawal and the end of our occupation?

The New York Times reported in July that majority Shiites collected one million signatures against our occupation in only three weeks. And according to our State Department’s own surveys, at least half of Iraqis interviewed say they feel unsafe because of the presence of American troops.

No wonder! With the indiscriminate tactics used by our armed forces, whole towns — Fallujah, Ramadi, and Qaim — have virtually been flattened and rendered uninhabitable. At least one million refugees have fled the country.

But the Bush administration doesn’t want to let go of its failed adventure in Iraq. It doesn’t want to let go of the oil, first of all. It doesn’t want to let go of the 14 permanent military bases it has begun building in Iraq. It doesn’t want to let go of its plans for the largest U.S. embassy complex in the world — to be staffed by 3,000 people, including 500 CIA and Special Forces agents.

Actions speak louder than words. The plans and actions of the Bush administration do not speak of freedom and self-determination for the Iraqi people. They speak of perpetuating the occupation and domination of Iraq by the United States.

In Iraq, hospitals still lack basic medicines and equipment, water and electricity are in short supply, pools of raw sewage stand in the streets, and half the population is unemployed. Among children, malnutrition has doubled since our invasion and mortality has tripled. Civilian casualties are in the tens, and perhaps hundreds, of thousands — and rising.

When President Bush declared “mission accomplished” on May 1st, 2003, 140 U.S. troops had died in Iraq. That death toll is now approaching 2,000.

In order to let the Iraqi people live and bring our own troops back alive, we have to let go. We must relinquish control of our failed attempt to establish order in Iraq following the chaos of our invasion. We must relinquish control to the international community — the United Nations, the Arab League, and any other multinational body that can help establish internal security in Iraq, negotiate with the opposition to begin a political settlement, and broker a global aid package for reconstruction of the country we have so devastated.

Mr. President, let go and let live!

(This speech is derived from the article "Internationalizing Iraq is our best option" by George Hunsinger.)

There is power in the act of witnessing

The following editorial (edited here) appeared in The Daily Astorian, Astoria OR, on July 28,2005, following the visit of the Interfaith Peace Walk that began in Richland on July 16-17, 2005.

There is something inherently powerful and aesthetically pleasing about the simple act of witnessing. That is one way of describing the presence of the multifaith group that visited Astoria last week as part of a 300-mile Hanford-to-Bangor pilgrimage.

We live in a highly confrontational world. That's what television and radio talk shows are about. That's what political campaigns are built on. And unfortunately, that's what our legislatures and the Congress have become.

Short-term thinking is what typifies our public discussions. If you look at the universal or long-term nature of things, you are regarded as hopelessly antique.

The Buddhist monks and others in our midst last week were plowing that field. It does the rest of us good to stop and think about their message. It's later than we think.

– PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Imperial church allied with closed-world system

by Fr. Tissa Balasuriya OMI, Sri Lankan theologian

The prevalent world order is a result of European colonial expansion since 1492 into most of the available spaces of the world. Western peoples still take up much of the world's land, as in the Americas and Oceania, and these lands operate along a closed-world system within a so-called free-enterprise liberal economy. People outside this system, particularly the peoples of Asia, cannot now gain access to a great portion of the world's resources and their quality of life suffers because of it.

The whole world order, born of violence and maintained by force of arms, needs to be radically remade so that all may have the chance to live and earn their daily bread. The teaching of the church failed to oppose this colonial and imperial world order and is not yet reflecting seriously on the required global reforms. Neither does the present church have strategies to help lead the vast majority of the poor peoples "out of the desert toward the place of life." Is this because the church as a whole, even in its leadership, is still de facto allied with the powers that be in its thinking and in its strategies?

Mahatma Gandhi found inspiration for his philosophy and strategies of nonviolence especially in the Sermon of the Mount. But in recent centuries, the Christianity presented to our peoples has been a source of death and destruction in many parts of the world. It has also at least implicitly supported the unjust and closed-world system.

While the Jesus of the Gospels is life-giving and enlightening for us, the Christ of imperial Christianity has been destructive. How did the original Jesus Christ become the ally of imperial Christianity? This is an area into which present-day Christians must inquire.

– edited from the National Catholic Reporter, May 27, 2005
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

john_dear.jpg (2680 bytes)Pharisee nation

by John Dear

Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. "Now let me get this straight," I said. "Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,' which means he does not say, ‘Blessed are the warmakers'; which means, the warmakers are not blessed; which means warmakers are cursed; which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, you have to work for peace; which means we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq."

With that, the place exploded, and 500 students stormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, "Bush! Bush! Bush!"

I was not at all surprised that George W. Bush was reelected president. As I travel the country speaking out against war, injustice, and nuclear weapons, I see many people consciously siding with the culture of war, choosing the path of violence, supporting corporate greed, rampant militarism, and global domination. I see many others swept up in the raging current of patriotism. Since most of these people, beginning with the president, claim to be Christian, I am appalled that they support war and systemic injustice, that they do it in the name of God, and that they feign fidelity to the nonviolent Jesus, who gave his life resisting institutionalized injustice.

Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. We have become a culture of Pharisees. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

North American Christians are now becoming more and more like those hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons, and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. We have become a mean, vicious people — what the bible calls "stiff-necked people." We do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

These nominal Christians now run the American empire and teach a subtle spirituality of empire to back up their power in the name of God. This spirituality of empire insists that violence saves us, might makes right, war is justified, bombing raids are blessed, nuclear weapons offer the only true security from terrorism, and the good news is not love for our enemies, but the elimination of them.

The empire is working hard these days to tell the nation — and the churches — what is moral and immoral, sinful and holy. It denounces certain personal behavior as immoral, in order to distract us from the blatant immorality of the U.S. bombing raids that have left tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, or our ongoing development of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Our Pharisee rulers would have us believe that our wars and our weapons are blessed by God.

The first thing we Christians have to do in this time is try all over again to follow the dangerous, nonviolent, troublemaking Jesus. I believe war, weapons, corporate greed, and systemic injustice are an abomination in the sight of God. They mock God and threaten to destroy God's gift of creation. If we want to seek the living God, we have to pit our entire life against war, weapons, greed and injustice — and their perpetrators. It is as simple as that.

If we do not want to be part of the Pharisaic culture and do want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, we have to get in trouble just as Jesus was constantly in trouble for speaking the truth, loving the wrong people, worshiping the wrong way, and promoting the wrong things — like justice and peace.

We have to resist this new American empire, as well as its false spirituality, and all those who claim to be Christian yet support the murder of other human beings. We have to repent of the sin of war, put down the sword, practice Gospel nonviolence, and take up the cross of revolutionary nonviolence by loving our enemies.

John Dear is a Jesuit priest, former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and author/editor of 20 books including "Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action"(Doubleday, 2001).

This is an edited version of a full article is available at:
Also see:

PeaceMeal, July/August 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Two years and descending

by Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman, World Citizens for Peace

The following is a talk delivered at a Rally for Peace in Iraq, March 19, 2005, Richland, Washington.

Welcome to the second anniversary of our war in Iraq. Two years and counting, how many more to come? I’m Gene Weisskopf, current vice chairman of World Citizens for Peace, that’s, and I do, indeed, welcome you here today and thank you for coming out. This event gives us all an opportunity to express our views and make a firm statement about the war in Iraq.

To those who wanted to come today but were unable to attend, I send my greetings and offer our presence here as a proxy for you.

To those who did not join us today because they support the war in Iraq and are comfortable with its consequences, I offer you my respect. For even though your views may be 180 degrees apart from mine, we each need to find our own views, because that’s how democracies work, especially with world-shattering issues like war.

But what about the countless millions of citizens who are not comfortable with the war, who feel it is not at all in our best interests, and yet did not come out today to express their concerns? That’s the unsettling part of wartime American politics—the great myth that if you support the war, you’re patriotic, and if you oppose it, you’re not. It’s been demonstrated again and again over the past two and a half years (and for thousands of years before that, too). It’s a myth that helped reelect the president and his swaggering "Mission Accomplished" facade, and it’s the myth that keeps 150,000 American troops in mortal danger as occupiers of a foreign land.

Which only makes me appreciate your presence here today all the more. I hope our voices encourage others to find their own voices. Whether they agree or disagree with my own views, it’s important that they take a stand when the issue is war. The consequences are too great to ignore.

So where are we now as a nation? For the past two and a half years, the buildup to the war in Iraq, the invasion itself, and now the long military occupation have dominated our national consciousness and driven our national policies. Who would’ve predicted in March of last year that we’d be meeting again today to note the second anniversary of the war? Well, yes, a lot of people predicted it quite loudly, but they weren’t in the seats of government.

The war has marched along without end, cutting its own path through history, a path that over the past 12 months was littered with 1000 more dead Americans, 7000 more wounded Americans, a hundred billion more American dollars, and a so-called insurgency in Iraq that has, by our own conservative estimates, ballooned from a thousand or two to over 20,000. The only thing that hasn’t changed in the past year is the number of Iraqis killed. Because we don’t count them. They’re collateral damage. Simply a regrettable reality of war.

But the ravages of this war go far beyond death, maiming, and financial disaster. The dogs of war that we unleashed so readily in 2003 have turned on us again and again in the past year, puncturing and shredding our national character and reputation, what I call our national soul.

Since March of 2004, the ugliest gash in our soul came when we learned that torture is acceptable now, at least when used for our own purposes.

So, too, is the "disappearing" of those we suspect of harboring bad intentions towards us. In a warm nod to George Orwell, our government uses the term "extraordinary rendition" to describe this grotesque perversion of justice.

In the past 12 months, still more prisoners under our lock and key in Iraq and Afghanistan have died. The circumstances in dozens of those deaths were so suspicious that the military is, thank goodness, investigating the deaths as homicides. And I wonder, for every prisoner brutalized to death, how many more were brutalized but did not die?

On our nightly news, we’ve seen one of our soldiers murder an unarmed, wounded Iraqi prisoner, yet one more chink taken out of our national psyche. We tore apart the city of Fallujah in the name of freedom, but learned yet again that it is not buildings that are rebelling against our occupation. We hear of civilian deaths on a daily basis, but always it’s just a regrettable turn of events in a war.

Yes, in the past year our nation’s soul has slid ever further into the abyss of this war and violent occupation.

The passage of time has not only left a ruined path behind the war, it has also brought forth a new reality for the future. Our blitzkrieg invasion of Iraq two long years ago has grown into an unending occupation with no exit strategy in sight. That’s called a quagmire. Over the next 12 months, the U.S.A. will continue to pour more soldiers and more money into Iraq, and make more and more excuses about why we’re there. And so on and on until we gather again in March of 2006. Yes, sad to say, I’m quite sure we’ll be wanting to meet again 12 months from now.

The children not left behind

by Jim Stoffels, Chairman, World Citizens for Peace

The following is a talk delivered at a Rally for Peace in Iraq, March 19, 2005, Richland, Washington.

"No child left behind" is a popular slogan of our President.

The children not left behind that sadden me are the children we have killed with our wars in Iraq, beginning with the Persian Gulf War. After we routed Saddam Hussein’s military in 1991, we went on to make war against the civilian population of Iraq. We bombed Iraq around the clock for 40 days and 40 nights.

According to one postwar assessment of the destruction, Iraq — which had been a modern, thriving country — was bombed back to a "pre-industrial era." Ninety-five percent of the electrical system was knocked out, rendering useless everything that runs on electricity. Such targeting of civilian infrastructure is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

As a result of our bombing, there were no water and sewage treatment plants functioning in Iraq. Raw sewage poured into rivers from which people downstream drew their drinking water. By the summer of 1991, children under the age of five in Iraq were dying at the rate of 17,000 a month — mostly from intestinal disease due to contaminated drinking water, but also from starvation.

Our war continued for 12 years as a siege war of economic sanctions that prevented recovery of Iraq and continued to deprive the children of essential food and medicine. By 1996, according the United Nations children’s organization (UNICEF), more than a million people died in Iraq as a direct result of the economic sanctions led by the United States — and more than 600,000 of the deaths were children.

When then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright was confronted with those appalling statistics on national television (60 Minutes, May 12, 1996), she did not deny them. She replied, "We think the price is worth it."

That callous disregard for the lives of people outside our borders goes a long way toward explaining the anger and hatred we saw demonstrated in the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001.

Now we are mired in another devastating U.S. war of aggression against the people of Iraq that began with the "shock and awe" bombardment of Baghdad and other cities. What must it have been like for the children in those cities?

I remember my son, when he was little, being frightened on the Fourth of July by the sound of fireworks. The sounds heard by the children of Iraq were not the sounds of a celebration, but of war — deafening sounds accompanied by death and destruction all around them.

We don’t know how many thousands or tens of thousands of children we have killed in Iraq since our invasion two years ago. Nor do we know how many thousands are left behind — physically crippled and emotionally traumatized. We do know that the hospitals in Iraq are devastated and psychological counseling is nonexistent.

The Pentagon hasn’t tried to keep track of the numbers of those we were supposedly liberating but killed instead. One reputable study puts that figure at 100,000, which means we are well on our way to matching Saddam Hussein’s record for killing his people.

Neither does the Pentagon keep track of American children left behind. But Newsweek magazine has — and found that more than 1,000 American children of U.S. troops have been left behind by a father or mother killed in Iraq. Those American children are also victims of this atrocity.

Peeking under the national Christmas tree in 2004

by Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman, World Citizens for Peace

Because I was born a Jew, I was never obligated to buy into the Christmas spirit that swamped the country each December. Nonetheless, coming from a long line of culturally proud but non-practicing Jews, our family always had a piney "Chanukah bush" to celebrate Christmas as a day of gift-giving and family get-togethers. Besides, my father was always ready to boast that December 25th marked the day that the world’s most famous Jew was born.

As I grew older and the Christmas season expanded to months, not days, I grew weary of the intensity and commercialization of what was presumably a very holy religious celebration for Christians. I’ve long felt that we’d all be a lot happier if we could simply divorce the Santa day from the Jesus day and celebrate the two independently.

This year, however, beyond the issue of bearded jolliness versus bearded holiness, something dark and ominous over-shadowed any "joy of Christ-mas"—our war in Iraq. The invasion, conquering, and relentless occupation of Iraq have been so abhorrent to me that a national celebration of the birth of Jesus seemed quite disingenuous, if not downright sacrilegious.

The past two and a half years have been filled with a ruthless onslaught of war fever. Each day revealed new horrors, and they were attributed not to Saddam Hussein but to us, the citizens of the U.S.A.

But the worst offense, for me, was not measured in dollars or deaths, but in the savaging it did to our personal and national soul—our conscience, character, and reputation. After more than 200 years of building our credibility as a nation that succeeds by playing by the rules (at least, most of the time), we have now proudly proclaimed that "Torture is okay!" That is, when the torturing is done in our name and for our purposes, then it’s all right.

The early, ominous reports by the Red Cross and our own Army and FBI about abuses of prisoners at Guantanemo and Abu Ghraib prisons were pooh-poohed by the administration, until a flood of unauthorized photo-graphs appeared of Arab prisoners being brutalized under our watchful eyes. Only then did the pooh-pooh hit the fan. But the administration was quick to blame the "pranks" on a few "bad apples" at the bottom of the chain of command. That, in spite of the fact that the administration spent many tax dollars concocting their own legal interpretation of the Geneva Conventions and our laws forbidding torture, while tossing civil rights aside in favor of Executive branch-directed arrests and imprisonments, without the fuss of judges, lawyers, and the rest.

When Christmas day finally arrived, the day Christians celebrate the birth of the son of their God, I looked under our national Christmas tree and found only endless days in which murder, torture, destruction, lies, and hubris ran rampant in our own nation. I wasn’t looking beneath the tree on the floor, but underneath the cheery and familiar symbols of love, peace, and together-ness in which the holiday is wrapped. The idea of celebrating a single day of peace and love within the context of a horrific, immoral, and illegal war was just too overpowering.

So for my Christmas card (a "holiday card for us secular types), I wrapped one of the most haunting photos from the war within those very symbols of a merry Christmas, as displayed here.

The inspiration for the card came from artist Richard Serra’s stunning drawings based on those same photos. I only sent the card to a few friends who’d understand; I was reluctant to spread my shadows and gloom over the happy holiday that others might be having.

Except the shadows evoked by the picture on my card weren’t my own! Like all shadows, they were formed by the blocking of light, in this case the reality of the horrors we have unleashed on the world through our war in Iraq. While the nation unwrapped packages and sang Christmas carols, the blood flowed and our national soul slid further into the abyss.

In spite of my gloom, I survived the Christmas season as I’ve survived the past several years. It’s only that the contrast between the light of the Christmas mania and the blackness of the ongoing war was just too blindingly stark. Nonetheless, in the spirit of Christmas (the non-Santa variety), I continue to hope that justice will one day be served, and real peace will be born into the world.

– PeaceMeal Jan/February 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Negative U.S. image due to flawed policies, says report
"Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies."

"America’s negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," according to a report by a Pentagon advisory panel completed in September. The harshly critical report by the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation’s diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.

The 102-page report, "Strategic Communication," states categorically: "The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of ‘dissemination of information’ or even one of crafting and delivering the ‘right’ message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none. The United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam."

The report alludes to President George W. Bush’s address to a joint meeting of Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when he described the motives of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups: "They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." On the contrary, the report says, "Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."

The Defense Science Board (DSB), a federal advisory committee of non-government experts established to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense, released the report November 24 on its website after the content was disclosed by The New York Times.

( For the full report, see: )

The DSB report says U.S. institutions charged with "strategic communication" are broken and calls for a comprehensive reorganization of government public affairs, public diplomacy, and information efforts. The report proposes a "strategic communica-tion structure" within the White House National Security Council and urges elevated roles and responsibilities for a designated senior officer within other government organizations, including the State Department and the Pentagon. "Strategic communication is not the problem," the report says, "but it is a problem."

The report also recommends that the President work with Congress to establish an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit Center for Strategic Communication to regularly provide information and analysis to civilian and military decision makers on issues vital to U.S. national security, including global public opinion and the role of culture, values, and religion in shaping human behavior, along with non-political advice that will sharpen their judgment and provide a basis for informed choices.

Implementing the sweeping reforms that are required, the report states, will occur only with sustained, enthusiastic, and deeply committed presidential leadership and bipartisan support of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees of Congress. The scale of the recommended changes is such that some progress may be visible within a year of implementation, "but we are dealing with at least a decade to have a significant impact." The report cites U.S. public diplomacy efforts in the Cold War as an example that required a comparable time scale, "and the challenges we face today are potentially more complex."

The theme of increased coordination among various informa-tion sources in the international arena is reiterated throughout the report, which asserts that: "Policies will not succeed unless they are communicated to global and domestic audiences in ways that are credible and allow them to make informed, independent judgments. Words in tone and substance should avoid offence where possible; messages should seek to reduce, not increase, perceptions of arrogance, opportunism, and double standards."

The DSB report does not constitute official policy, but it is described by the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership as capturing the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not only the Defense Department but the entire U.S. government. The debate centers on how far the United States can and should go in managing — even manipulating — information to deter enemies and persuade allies or neutral nations. The problem, in an environment of 24-hour news and the Internet, is that overseas information operations easily become known to the American people, and any specific government-sponsored disinformation campaign not based on fact risks damaging the nation’s overall credibility.

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said the report has elevated the debate within the Defense Department, but that no formal decisions have been made about reorganizing how the Pentagon and military communicate. "We’re wrestling with this," Di Rita said. "But it doesn’t change the underlying principle, at least with respect to the Department of Defense. Our job is to put out information to the public that is accurate, and to put it out as quickly as we can."

The report compares the national security challenge of the post-September 11 world to the decades-long struggle against Soviet communism. But the study then argues that the government’s Cold War-era communications institutions have not understood that the Islamic world and extremists operating within it present different challenges. The report scolds the government for casting the new threat of Islamic extremism in a way that offends a large portion of those living in the Muslim world: "In stark contrast to the Cold War, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire," the report says, "but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western modernity — an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a ‘War on Terrorism.’ Today we reflexively compare Muslim ‘masses’ to those oppressed under Soviet rule. This is a strategic mistake," the report states. "There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies — except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends." In the eyes of the Muslim world, the report adds, "American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."

"To succeed," the report says, "we must understand the United States is engaged in a generational and global struggle about ideas, not a war between the West and Islam. It is more than a war against the tactic of terrorism. We must think in terms of global networks, both government and non-government. If we continue to concentrate primarily on states (‘getting it right’ in Iraq, managing the next state conflict better), we will fail."

– compiled from The New York Times and Defense Science Board report
PeaceMeal Nov/December 2004

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

How many more Iraqis must die for our revenge?

by Andrew Greeley

The election is over and so we can forget about the Iraq war. It is no longer a political issue and hence matters to no one. The American electorate has followed the tradition of standing by a wartime president and thus endorsing the president’s war. It was once his war. Now the election has made it our war. The issue is closed.

A recent report suggested that if one compares the number of deaths that usually occur in Iraq per year with the number since Bush’s invasion, the cost of the war in dead Iraqis may be more than a hundred thousand human beings. Now Iraqi deaths don’t count because they look funny and talk funny and have a funny religion. Besides they’re Arabs, and we have a score to settle with Arabs because of their attack on the World Trade Center. Yet if we are able to sustain the number of deaths that have happened as a consequence of the invasion, we will soon have accounted for as many as Saddam Hussein did. That’s a lot of dead Arabs — and a lot of bereaved spouses, parents, children, other relatives and friends. How many will we have to kill before we’re satisfied with our revenge?

Someone might say that when leaders of a country have caused so many deaths that they might just deserve to be hauled before an international court of justice as war criminals — especially if the war was based on false premises and conducted with an ineptitude that staggers the mind. It is an unnecessary, unjust, stupid, sinful war. The majority of Americans have assumed responsibility for the war. Therefore they share responsibility for all the Iraqi deaths.

OK, lets say there’s only 50,000 extra dead. So that’s not so bad, right? Americans are never going to have to render an accounting to their Creator for having supported such a massacre. Right?

I don’t judge the conscience of anyone, leader or follower. I am merely saying that there is objective sin in the Iraq war, and our country as a country is guilty of sin. I’ll leave it to God to judge the guilt, because that’s God’s job. I also leave it to God to judge whether there ought to be punishment for that sin. However, I think Americans — so serenely confident that the Lord is on our side — should live in fear and trembling about punishment.

The terrorists blew up the World Trade Center because they believed that the United States has done terrible things to Palestinians. The next explosion will be revenge for what we have done to Iraqis. We may not have been responsible for the plight of the Palestinians — though very few Muslims believe that. We are certainly responsible for what we have done and will do to the Iraqis during the next four years of folly. God help us all.

Because we are the only superpower, there is little chance that our leaders will be indicted as war criminals or that an invading army will punish the American people the way we punished the Germans after the war.

Don’t give me that stuff that the Iraq war is not comparable to World War II. That argument deliberately misses the point that a country is responsible for the deaths it causes because of an unjust war, even if the deaths are numerically small compared to deaths from another war. An unjust war is an unjust war and the death of innocents is the death of innocents. Where does one want to draw the numerical limit after which the unnecessary deaths of the innocent become a horrible crime? How many hundred thousand?

The United States has fought unjust wars before — Mexican American, the Indian Wars, Spanish American, the Filipino Insurrection, Vietnam. Our hands are not clean. They are covered with blood this time, and there’ll be more blood this time.

The one faintly bright spot is that our victorious wartime president, now that he has been re-elected, might be able to extricate himself from Iraq more quickly than John Kerry. The war will never end unless and until the American government or the American people say that it’s time to get out. Will that require four more years?

(And before Catholics write me hate mail saying that I’m a disgrace for attacking the war, they should ponder writing a letter to the pope who has made no secret of his opposition.)

Andrew Greeley is a Catholic priest, sociologist, and author of about one hundred books — both non-fiction and best-selling novels. See:

– Chicago Sun-Times, November 12, 2004
PeaceMeal Nov/December 2004

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)