"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The War Prayer


The sermon at our small United Methodist church on the Sunday before Memorial Day was titled, “Remembering What’s Important”, and from its content it would appear that what is important (in this particular church at least) has little to do with God. Memorial Day, a SECULAR holiday, invaded the church long ago.

What do phrases like “died for liberty...fought the battle…died for freedom” in the context of those who died fighting the [U.S.]nation's wars have to do with Jesus' life and teachings (aside from the fact that he taught us to love everyone, even those who kill)? War is absolutely incompatible with Christianity! Letting it into the church (and glorifying it) is surely idolatrous, and essentially marries the church to the empire. It is one thing to remember the dead; it is another to glorify the manner in which (and the Empire for which) they died.

That Sunday sermon served as a stark reminder of the wayward church living a schizophrenic existence, worshipping the Prince of Peace on one hand, and the power of the empire on the other. It is a sickness that dwells in the very core of an institution that was co-opted roughly 1700 years ago, and has never fully recovered.

What was said on that Sunday before Memorial Day reminded me of The War Prayer, an anti-war prose poem written by Mark Twain in 1904 as a way of venting his disgust at the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War. Twain despised the blind patriotism and religious fervor that he saw as motivations for war. He submitted the manuscript to Harper's Bazaar, which rejected it (saying it was far too controversial for its time). Twain agreed, but decided that it should be published after his death; he said that, "None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth."

The War Prayer was finally published after World War I. Of all the anti-war writings I have read, none is quite as powerful (for me) as The War Prayer with its powerful language and imagery. It is brutally honest (and creative) in its portrayal of the church as complicit in the nation's military campaigns. You can read Mark Twain's The War Prayer by clicking here.

I find myself wondering how a church can live with such radical contradictions. Can a church be both a War Church and a Peace Church.? So what will it be? What might Jesus say???

Seeking Peace,


Reference: The War Prayer at Quaker.org

Monday, May 25, 2009

U.S. Foreign Aid Needs a Heart


Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday commemorating U.S. men and women who died while in military service. There is no holiday commemorating the countless others, particularly children, who die every year worldwide. Here are just a couple of statistics:

  • 1.4 million children who die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
  • 2.2 million children who die each year because they are not immunized

The world is so infatuated with war that it is unwilling to change its priorities to care for all its people, and if the care the nations provide for the world's children is an indicator of our moral standing, we are approaching bankruptcy. Less than one per cent of what the world spends every year on weapons would put every child (worldwide) into school. Less than one percent!!! Not much more could guarantee health care and adequate sanitation for all.

The United States gives out a considerable amount of money in foreign aid, but it is minuscule in relation to its military budget. And a fair percentage of what the U.S. calls foreign aid should be renamed foreign military assistance. Israel, Egypt and Pakistan all receive "foreign aid" money, much of which goes directly to their militaries. One report stated that, "Of the nearly three billion dollars earmarked for Israel, most is for military credits" (so they can buy U.S. military hardware). The same report warned that since the beginning of the war on terrorism, U.S. aid has taken on "militaristic angles" and this aid will come “largely at the expense of humanitarian and development assistance.”

Whether or not U.S. foreign aid will be overhauled under the Obama administration remains to be seen. If military spending and the continuation of the Global War on Terror are indicators, things aren't looking too good. It will require not only shifting financial resources and reforming the government's foreign assistance policies and programs, but also a fundamental shift in national security policy; it wouldn't be a bad idea to ditch the counterproductive War on Terror.

A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2139, Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009, would require the Obama administration to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for global development and includes other initial reforms to make U.S. foreign assistance more accountable. It's a starting point. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider H.R. 2139 after the Memorial Day recess.

You can send a letter asking your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 2139 by clicking here.

Click here to read an article by David Beckman (Bread for the World) titled, "Debunking Myths About Foreign Aid." Bread for the World supports H.R. 2139.

Peace through Compassion,


Global Issues, Poverty Facts and Stats
Global Issues, U.S. and Foreign Aid Assistance

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weapons System Acquisition Reform??? Which word doesn't fit?


What's wrong with this phrase, "Weapons System Acquisition Reform"? O.K., here is a clue. Include the word "Pentagon". Now you've got it; it's that word "Reform". This is definitely not a word in the Pentagon's vocabulary, and when a couple of U.S. Senators tried to institute a bit of reform with regard to the way the Pentagon buys all those expensive weapons, like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, the bill didn't do to well; you might say it was eviscerated.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (MI) and ranking member John McCain (AZ) introduced the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (S 454), which promised to significantly reform Pentagon spending practices. When the bill got to markup, the committee stripped all of the regulating ability from the bill, and made many changes at the direct request of the pentagon (according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation).

It's the old story of the fox guarding the hen house; the amended or re-written bill would allow the Pentagon to conduct its own oversight AND permit it to waive many provisions of the legislation for "national security" reasons. Well that should just about cover just about any purchase the Pentagon should want to make. The committee also weakened the requirements for the Pentagon to seek competitive military contracting.

The Pentagon has evidently gotten so used to getting a blank check for its pet projects that it has absolutely no intention of letting anyone reign in its spending habits. And as luck would have it (for the Pentagon) the Senate version recently passed.

The House version of the bill currently being developed looks more promising (but don't hold your breath). It would require independent oversight of acquisition processes, and more effectively enforce oversight guidelines if it isn't also gutted like the Senate version. Of course, if it is stripped of all its teeth, then it will be easy for to reconcile the bills when they go to committee.

The bottom line - Don't let any of the "We're going to get tough on military spending" bravado fool you. Although any substantive reform of military spending is a step in the right direction, the problems with military purchasing are so deeply systemic that they can't be fixed with a few pages of legislation. It's all about a deep seated culture that has developed around defense spending (and particularly acquisition) that will require a significant paradigm shift if there is any hope of stopping the massive amounts of tax dollars being poured down the drain. There are enough rules that already exist, which, if followed, would prevent much of the waste that has been discussed recently.

The Pentagon has poured billions of dollars into the F-22 Raptor, conceived during the Cold War to fight a Soviet fighter that never materialized. There is finally talk of deep-sixing the program, but I wouldn't bet on that. Defense contractors have spread their operations all over the United States - a prime example is the C-17 Globemaster - all but guaranteeing support for their programs by members of Congress who will go to great lengths when they smell the pork, even continuing unnecessary programs like the F-22. Don't count on any substantive change coming out of Congress on any form of military spending unless the people bring significant pressure to bear. Congress and the Pentagon are like shopping addicts; they need some serious aversion therapy.



Click here to read a detailed analysis of S-454 at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Click here to read FCNL's letter asking Senators to amend S-454.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Price, The Siege on Gaza?


With all the mind boggling (and perhaps mind-numbing) issues I see in the daily newspaper it is no wonder that the continuing siege on the Gaza Strip is not even on the radar; definitely not front page news. And yet, the crisis only grows worse day by day for Gaza's residents, women, men, children, trying to survive in their tiny strip of land.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in a recent column, Hamas offers Israel the peace of the Grave, that "the Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It's called Gaza." Well, isn't that just wonderful? Thanks for that bit of news Charles. All is well with Gaza! We have given them so much. I am sure that it will be welcome news to the Palestinians living there.

Perhaps Charles could tell that to the family highlighted in this YouTube video, Palestinian child pays price of Israel's siege, from Al Jazeera Television. WARNING: This is NOT a story with a happy ending (but it must be told).

One need only compare maps showing land ownership in Palestine to see the graphic inequity, and understand the prison camp that is Gaza. Until 1917, Jews owned 2.5 percent of the land in Palestine. Between 1947 and 1967, Israel gained 78 percent. By 1995 Israel had 90 percent of the land, and the Oslo Agreement gave control of some land to the newly established Palestinian Authority (now controlled by Hamas). The Israelis have continued to take Palestinian land by virtue of the continued construction of Israeli settlements.

The narrow strip of land (appropriately called the Gaza Strip) is 360 square miles, and into that are packed 1.5 million Palestinians, 75 percent of them registered refugees. It has one of the highest population densities in the world, limited land access and strict Israeli control on passage through border checkpoints. It is essentially a Palestinian prison.

But beyond the statistics, there are human beings; people like you and me (like that family in the video). Imagine losing your child because you could not travel freely to seek medical care. Charles Krauthammer's editorial judgements and stereotypes effectively transform (in a few keystrokes) Palestinians into distorted caricatures, justifying the continued violence against them by the Israelis.

Henri Nouwen, in The Road to Peace, said "that long before we start a war, kill people or destroy nations, we have already killed our enemies mentally, by making them into abstractions with which no real, intimate human relationship is possible." Ironically, the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians what was more than once done to the Jews, making them into an abstraction; and as Nouwen said, "for abstract problems there are abstract solutions."

But life is not so abstract. It is flesh and blood and tears. Both Jews and Palestinians are victims in this tragedy, and each one has a face. Each is a son, a daughter, a father, a mother... Children of the same loving God.

One of the tragedies of this situation is that the very people who suffered centuries of persecution have become the persecutors. When will my people learn the lessons of the past??? When will they stop being prisoners of their own fear? When will they see that through their imprisonment of the Palestinians, they have built a prison for themselves. It is time to free all the captives!



Notes: Read an analysis of The Siege on the Gaza Strip at B'TSELEM, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Here is the link to the original video story at Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roses and Guns for Mother's Day


If you were enthusiastic about CodePink's Mother's Day vigil at The White House, you MUST check out this YouTube video. It seems that the weekend was not just about roses; in fact it was about GUNS and roses. CodePink's Real News Network put together the following video about the weekend's events in D.C. It seems that CodePink's Mother's Day event was not the only one occurring on the National Mall. The Department of Defense decided to use Mother's Day to promote its own agenda. See it to believe it!

More at The Real News

The irony of CodePink's Mother's Day theme, "I will not raise my children to kill another mother's child" sharing the same day with the Pentagon's "public relations and recruitment event" is stark. Can you say "INDOCTRINATION"?!?!?!?!?!?!?

As Julia Ward Howe said in her 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation, "The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." When will we learn? When will we listen to the mothers? It is time to disarm! "Use Words Not Weapons," to paraphrase the theme for another Mother's Day event in which I participated.

Rise up for PEACE! Support counter-recruitment! Learn more at CodePink's counter-recruitment site. You can also find groups (listed by state) working on counter military recruitment campaigns at United for Peace and Justice.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Towards a "women-centered" World!


CodePink: Women for Peace, that group of rowdy, dedicated peacemakers, have come up with a most beautiful statement for their Mother's Day action 2009 - "I will not raise my children to kill another mother's child." This Mother's Day they will spend 24 hours in front of The White House "calling for peace in our communities and around the world," and for an end to war.

Here is some of what they have to say about the event on their Web site: This Mother's Day... we will honor all mothers and women who live where war is happening— where women are paying the price with their bodies, loved ones, homes, future. We want to recognize the price they pay and honor their courage and power, and stand with them in solidarity to not only tell their important stories but to model what women-centered community looks and acts like. We want to encourage other organizations and community groups around the country and the world to bring their stories and their sisters to DC to celebrate Julia Ward Howe's original call for Mother's Day.
I know it's inconvenient for most people to travel to Washington, D.C. on such short notice for such an event, but if you are remotely considering something different this Mother's Day, search the Internet for an event in your area; you may be surprised. I found something in mine, in the heart of Puget Sound. Women in Black are hosting a Mother's Day Peace Walk at Heritage Park, Olympia, WA on Sunday from 1:45 to 2:00 pm. I will be honoring mothers on Saturday at a vigil and direct action at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Washington.

You can also show your support for the The White House vigil by sending a Mother’s Day rose to Washington, D.C., and let the mothers of soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan know that you stand with them against war. Roses will be presented to the mothers and tied to the fence outside the White House as a memorial to the dead and a call for peace.

Do you ever wonder how different things might be in our communities if they WERE more "women-centered". President Obama recently said (in response to a question about the violence suffered by Israeli and Palestinian children), "...sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved." He might be on to something there. How might a "women-centered" world look, and how might it be different than the one in which we now live? Just imagine!



Click here for CodePink's Mother's Day 2009 homepage.

Click here to send a rose to Washington, D.C. for the Mother's Day vigil.

Click here to see the schedule for the Ground Zero vigil and direct action.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Let's Really Honor Mothers!

Dear Friends,

In 1858, Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker tried to improve sanitation through what she called Mother’s Work Days. During the Civil War she organized women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides. In 1868 she began working for reconciliation between Union and Confederate neighbors, and tried to establish Mother's Friendship Days as a way to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. .

Inspired by Anna's work, Julia Ward Howe proposed an annual Mother's Day for Peace in 1872. The first Mothers' Peace Day festival was held in Boston on June 2, 1873, and continued for at least a decade. Although Julia failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace, Anna Jarvis' daughter (also named Anna) later revived the idea of a day for mothers, even though it did not share all her mother's or Howe's original intentions.

In 1914 the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution signed by President Woodrow Wilson establishing Mother's Day, emphasizing women's role in the family (not as peace activists in the public arena, as Howe's Mother's Day had been). That was pretty tricky, don't you think? So much for mom the peace activist. Mother's Day was now safely in the hands of American commercial interests; honor your mother - rescue her from the kitchen for a day and buy her something!

Interestingly enough, Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother's Day: "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She opposed the selling of flowers and also the use of greeting cards: "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."

I wouldn’t dream of calling for a boycott of flowers or greeting cards (Hallmark might sue me), but there are other ways of honoring your mother and other inspirational women in your life – ways that will make a difference in many women’s lives. One is making a financial contribution (and getting involved with) one of the many organizations working for women’s issues; here are three of my favorites: Global Fund for Women, Women's Action for New Directions or CodePink: Women for Peace. This Mother's Day make mom happy by making a difference!

Happy Mother's Day (for Peace),


Photo Credit: "Mother's Day Rally Against The War 13 May 2007", source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avatar1/501521292/in/set-72157600226880806/

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Mother's Day Proclamation


In 1870, Julia Ward Howe (who is widely known for having written "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") called for women to rise up and oppose all forms of war. Believing strongly that peace and equal rights for all people were crucial global issues, Julia hoped to inspire an international movement of women for peace with her Mother's Day Proclamation of 1870.

As peacemakers, Julia’s Mother’s Day Proclamation goes to the heart of our struggle in a violent world, and from a universal and timeless feminine perspective. During this year’s Mother’s Day weekend vigil and nonviolent action at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor (home port for eight Trident nuclear missile submarines and the largest storehouse of nuclear weapons in the United States) we will read this proclamation as we honor mothers and create hope for the children as we work for a nuclear weapons-free world.

Some people will scoff at the notion of a nuclear weapons-free world; to those I humbly request that they explain their position to the children who may suffer the consequences of the world's nuclear folly, should we fail in our task. Peacemaking (in every form and at every level) is not optional, and it must be universal. It must be our central focus in an increasingly violent world. And nuclear weapons are the ultimate violence.

The Psalmist writes, “Long enough have I been dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for fighting” (Psalm 120:6-7). Long enough have we listened to the men in power who continue to tell us that they know what is best; just look at the results. Have they ever bothered to ask the women? Here is a woman’s voice speaking to us from well over a century past, but with a voice that is as true and clear today as it was then saying, “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.





Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
"From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
"Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -In the name of womanhood and humanity,
I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.


Note: Learn more about Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action's May 9th vigil and nonviolent action at http://gzcenter.org/.