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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hear, Oh Israel: ENOUGH Already!!!


The best military U.S. money (also known as "security assistance") can buy went well beyond what any sane person would deem appropriate in its response to the approaching Gaza Freedom Flotilla early this morning. Under cover of darkness Israeli military commandos boarded the largest of the Flotilla's ships using Black hawk helicopters and small craft (we're talking "shock and awe" here folks) while the ship was still in international waters. At this point at least nine activists have been confirmed killed and dozens more were wounded. The Israelis seized all six boats and everyone on board (including human rights workers, diplomats, journalists and academics).

The State of Israel has, through this brazen and illegal action, demonstrated its complete and total disregard for international and humanitarian law; of course it has been doing this for years, but this morning's act was its most brazen action to date. Why could they have not pulled alongside during daylight hours and asked to come aboard for tea with the ship's captain to discuss the options for delivering the tons of humanitarian aid supplies weighing down the ships???

Speaking as a Jew I have had enough of this (I'm sure God had enough of this madness long ago) and must speak out against the atrocities that my people perpetrate against others. How little we have learned through centuries of oppression and atrocities against our own. The powerful pro-Israel lobbies (such as AIPAC) keep U.S. aid flowing in the form of money and weapons systems (President Obama has requested $3 billion in "security assistance" to Israel for fiscal year 2011). And to make matters worse the Christian Zionist cheering section fans the flames even higher (What's up with that? First they blame the Jews for that crucifixion incident ages ago, and now they're in love with Israel. Motive???).

The U.S.-Israel alliance is stronger than ever, and the Israelis know they can continue to get away with murder (quite literally; remember the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967!!). As everyone screams for sanctions against Iran, we continue to look the other way regarding Israel's nuclear program (as we have since the 1950s).

It is time to rise up and take to the streets and call on our government to hold Israel accountable for its actions. No more blank checks. It is time to call on our members of Congress to stop accepting blood money from pro-Israel lobbying groups and start being accountable to the American people (instead of the Israeli government).

Today many of us took to the streets around the United States; here in Seattle we stood (and marched) in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the people of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The actions will continue, and we will continue to try to help people see this madness and understand why we all must work to stop it. Watch for actions in your area. If you are in the Seattle area come out tomorrow (Tuesday): 4:30 PM, meet at Westlake Plaza (4th Avenue and Pine Street). 5:00 PM, walk together to Federal Building (2nd and Marion).

Here is a brief slide show of today's protest rally in Seattle.

Raise your voices for our common humanity!

Call for an end to the blockade!

Call The White House at (202) 456-1414 or click here to send President Obama an email.

Call or email your members of Congress. Find their contact information by clicking here.

Or lodge a protest with the U.S. State Department at (202) 647-4000.

And if you are in the writing mood, write a letter to the editor!



Read the latest editorial (and find more) at The Electronic Intifada.

Find out more about the Freedom Flotilla at WitnessGAZA.com.

Get news at ALJAZEERA.

Learn more at Voices of Palestine.

Updates since this post:

Read Dennis Kucinich's June 2nd Letter to President Obama regarding the incident.

Friday, May 28, 2010

War Is Making You Poor - No Kidding!!!

Dear Friends,

For many years a number of organizations have highlighted (and attempted to engage in a public dialogue regarding) the cost of war. The rather indigestible pie shown below (courtesy of Women's Action for New Directions) is right out of Little Shop of Horrors; one can almost hear the man-eating plant screaming "Feed meeeeee!!!" as it devours everything in sight, including the U.S. Treasury (Your Tax Dollars).

Well, move over Tea Partyers! You've been dumping stuff off the wrong boat. You want to talk about taxation without representation??? Perhaps I should qualify that; defense contractors are definitely well (and overly) represented. For those of us who believe that this kind of military spending is unsustainable (besides making the world a far less stable place) it's like some guy just rode into town on a white horse. I'm rubbing my eyes, wondering if I'm dreaming folks.

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has had enough of allocating tens of billions of dollars in endless defense spending without so much as a "Hey, can we talk about this???" in Congress. He has introduced legislation to change this sorry state of affairs. The War Is Making You Poor Act (HR 5353). Although he voted for the 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations, Grayson is now trying to make an important statement and begin a long-needed discussion about how we fund our global military machine and endless wars. Check out the video below where Congressman Grayson introduces HR 5353:

I find it hard to argue with Grayson's straightforward, simple math. Grayson's bill "demands that the Pentagon live within its budgeted means, cancels next year’s $159 billion budget allocation for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and gives everyone a $35,000 income tax credit (couples get $70,000)."

For those of us who want to bring the discussion and debate about military spending out into the open, here is our opportunity. If you agree, please support Grayson's bill. Click here to join the more than 29,000 people who have signed the petition supporting The War Is Making You Poor Act! Then share this with 10 more people; it's time to initiate a public debate. And don't forget to tell your Representative to support Grayson's bill.

War is bankrupting our nation! It is time to fund Peace (for real, sustainable returns).

Toward Peace,


Note: Read more about HR 5353 (and take action) at Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"The hand not raised in protest..."


War is, indeed, hell. Here in the United States, the nation that has been making most of the war these days (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), we regularly see coverage in the newspapers and on TV of U.S. soldiers who have suffered injury and death - casualties of war. Yet we pay less attention to the civilian casualties, the "collateral damage" of war (especially modern warfare). It is not unlike the near daily front page coverage of the Gulf oil spill contrasted with the news vacuum surrounding (documented) massive oil spills in places like Africa's Niger Delta. Not our problem folks.

It seems that we have not paid attention as the percentage of civilian deaths in war has increased during the past century. At a recent international meeting on gender justice Sister Joan Chittister shared these sobering statistics*:
  • At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians
  • In World War I, 15% were civilians
  • In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed
  • By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians
  • Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians-the majority women and children
For all the U.S. investment in high tech weaponry and rules of engagement allegedly intended to reduce collateral damage, it just ain't so! And we wonder why people don't like us??? As we see the increased use of drones and other unmanned/robotic war machinery (and make the killing easier), so the most recent numbers cited by Sr. Joan are bound to seem paltry in years to come.

And yet most of us go about our daily business, untouched by war's violence, without so much as raising a hand in question or protest. Laura Carlsen, in an article titled Within the hell of war lies a private hell, stated that, "The hand not raised in protest appears genteel alongside the hand stained with the blood of the victim." Although Carlsen was speaking in a specific context of violence against women (and we must not forget that women and children are the disproportionately affected in violent conflicts), I believe this quote also speaks in a universal sense to all of us: If we feign ignorance and do not raise our hands in protest, those genteel hands are,indeed, stained with the blood of the victims.

As the U.S. Congress prepares to rubber stamp another $33 billion for Afghanistan (wonder why Karzai was in town last week?) we should be raising our hands (perhaps dipped in red paint for emphasis) in protest, writing letters to the editor and flooding Congress (and The White House) with phone calls and emails calling on our "leadership" in D.C. to stop this madness. Remind them that if they choose to continue on this murderous course, the blood on their hands will not wash off.

If you aren't already tied in to Peace Action, FCNL, Just Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice, or a host of other organizations working to change our nation's disastrous militaristic course, check out the list of "Actions You Can Take Right Now!" on this blog. Raise your hands for PEACE NOW!



* The statistics quoted from Joan Chittister are from Laura Carlsen's article titled Within the hell of war lies a private hell. Laura is the Director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.

Photo: "The face of US 'collateral damage' in Iraq, 22 March 2003"; Source: Asia-Pacific Network

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nobody Wins in War!


I was fortunate to recently host a delegation from the Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) which had come to the Seattle area to bring its message of peace and a nuclear weapons-free world. One of the high points was learning the word "Peace" in Japanese - "Heiwa". The delegation's message of peace and a world free of nuclear weapons was well received by everyone they met.

Meanwhile (and in stark contrast), the U.S. keeps fighting its endless War on Terror, which is currently manifested in its entrenched presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan as well. Of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, who not long ago boasted of military success in, changed his tune last week when he said that, "nobody is winning".

Ironically, no one (except those who profit financially) has been "winning" all along (in any war). As for the U.S., we are sending our sons and daughters off to either die or return physically, psychologically and spiritually wounded. In addition we are bleeding the Treasury and squandering resources (including oil) that would be better used for peaceful purposes.

As for the countries we invade and occupy, their losses are incalculable. We have no idea how man men, women and children we have murdered (courtesy of General Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks). From the human losses to the destruction of their infrastructure to the environmental damage, we have wrought an extreme tragedy on them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues with its knee jerk (and impotent) responses to each new "terrorist" attack, trying out something new each time in a frenzy of retaliatory drone attacks and reductions of civil liberties back on the "homeland".

Of course, the worse casualty for the United States is the loss of our collective soul, our humanity. We ignore the pain and suffering of others so long as they are far out of sight (except for the sanitized media images and brief news bits). We are not much different, if any, from the world of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" in which citizens watch news of their wars in neighboring lands on huge wall screens. Only in the end does war come home to roost.

Following the Gensuikyo delegation's presentation at First United Methodist Church of Seattle I had a delightful conversation with Tom Bruhns, the person who handled the sound system for us. Tom later shared a photo he took while in Scotland; in the email he said that:
There is a Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, just down from the castle. It’s a bit off the street on a pedestrian walkway, with a bit of a courtyard out front. In the courtyard are set some paving stones inscribed with writings of some Scots writers. One caught my attention, and I took a picture of it… The inscription: "Weird hou men maun aye be makin war insteid o things they need." -- Tom Scott (1918-1995) (Scots dialect: hou = how; maun = must)
Indeed, it is high time we start making things we need instead of making war. We can start by ending the absurd and self-defeating War on Terror. To that end we will need to change course and work on diplomatic rather than military solutions; killing lots of civilians with drone strikes and Special Forces raids tends to make more enemies than friends. Ending the occupation of Iraq and creating a comprehensive exit strategy for Afghanistan are necessary if we are to move in this more positive direction. If we succeed, the only losers will be the war profiteers. And as for us??? Perhaps we will win back our humanity.

TAKE ACTION!!! Learn more and get engaged at Just Foreign Policy's Website. Urge Congress to stop funding war, and create a just, lasting foreign policy.