A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Archive for the ‘War’ Category

“Peacemaking is more courageous than warfare….” Pope Francis

Iraqi Children

A perspective from religious leaders to consider before President Obama’s address:

Dear President Obama:

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.

Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him.” But how, we ask?

In addition to the complex factors spilling over from the civil war in Syria and pressure from other neighbors, decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate social reconciliation programs, have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

The current state of crisis and the breakdown of state institutions in Libya provide another stark example of the failure of a militarized strategy. Like Libya, the air strikes in Iraq will ultimately fail to build and maintain sustainable peace in the long-term.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even when tactics of violent force yield a short-term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary” to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the “suicide of humanity.”

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace” ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United States should take the following steps:

  • Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence among its supporters.
  • Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. Provide food and much-needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.
  • Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq. Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with influence on key actors in the Islamic State.
  • Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.
  • Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts have suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic non-cooperation.
  • Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.
  • Bring in and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.
  • Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.
  • Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace will require peace-building and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

With hope, deep-felt prayers, and a splash of courage, we ask you to move us beyond the ways of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.

Sincerely,

Susan T. Henry-Crowe, MDiv.DD
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Janet Mock, CSJ
Executive Director
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Shan Cretin
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Sandy Sorensen
Director, DC office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Eli McCarthy, PhD
Director of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

Marie Dennis
Co-President
Pax Christi International

Gerry G. Lee
Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Scott Wright
Director
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Rev. Michael Neuroth
Policy Advocate for International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM
U.S. Regional Superior of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX
Provincial Superior of Xaverian Missionaries in U.S.

Very Rev. Domenico Di Raimondo, M.Sp.S.
Provincial Superior of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Christ the Priest Province

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

María Teresa Dávila, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Andover Newton Theological School

Bill Barbieri, PhD
Professor of Religion and Culture and Moral Theology/Ethics
Catholic University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC
Ethics Professor
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Laurie Johnston, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Emmanuel College

Rev. Priscilla Eppinger, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion
Graceland University/Community of Christ Seminary

Peter Phan, PhD
Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought
Georgetown University

Fr. Ray Kemp, S.T.L.
Theology Professor
Georgetown University

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Parkman Professor of Divinity
Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard University

Betty Reardon, PhD
Founding Director Emeritus
International Institute on Peace Education

Maureen O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of Department of Religion
LaSalle University

Amir Hussain, PhD
Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

Kathleen Maas Weigert, PhD
Carolyn Farrell, BVM Professor of Women and Leadership
Loyola University Chicago

David Cortright, PhD
Director of Policy Studies
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Notre Dame University

Margaret Pfeil, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology/Ethics
Notre Dame University

John Berkman, PhD
Professor of Moral Theology
Regis College, University of Toronto

Gerald W. Schlabach
Professor of Theology
University of St. Thomas

John Sniegocki, PhD
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Director, Peace Studies Minor
Xavier University

Kathryn Getek Soltis, PhD
Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Villanova University

Suzanne C. Toton, EdD
Theology and Religious Studies Department
Villanova University

Rev. Louis Arceneaux, CM
Promoter of Peace and Justice
Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, USA

Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ
Priests of the Sacred Heart
Chicago, IL

Fr. John A. Coleman, SJ
Saint Ignatius Parish
San Francisco, CA

Fr. John Converset, MCCJ
Director, Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
North American Province of Comboni Missionaries

Doreen Glynn, CSJ
Justice Coordinator
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province

Bro. Michael Gosch, CSV
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Jude A. Huntz, Director
Office for Peace and Justice
Archdiocese of Chicago

Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Promoter

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM
Marianist

Brian Reavey
Lay-Marianist

Bro. Jerry Sullivan, SM
Marianist

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Wells
Justice LED Organizer
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Bro. Stan Zubek, SM
Marianist

cc:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
  • Department of State, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall
  • USAID, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg
  • Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Shaun Casey
  • Special Assistant to the President for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers

When war comes home

This letter came to me from Kathy Kelly. I offer it as a way to honor the life of Daniel Somers and so many like him who can no longer bear the burden of war.

The tragic reality that 22 veterans a day commit suicide it an important and often silenced piece of the conversations of troop withdrawal, national security and honoring those who have served.

Daniel’s letter is an invitation to begin to think of war being “over” differently.

Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-2005, he was mainly assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee, interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents and terrorist suspects. In 2006-2007, Daniel worked with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) through his former unit in Mosul where he ran the Northern Iraq Intelligence Center. His official role was as a senior analyst for the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and part of Turkey). Daniel suffered greatly from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and several other war-related conditions. On June 10, 2013, Daniel wrote the following letter to his family before taking his life. Daniel was 30 years old. His wife and family have given permission to publish it.

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried

I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Daniel Somers

We remember them: the Kandahar killing spree

I am haunted this week by the Kandahar killing spree. I keep thinking of the young men I met through the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative, some as young as 12, and I wonder what if they were one of the 16? What if one of those brave young men working for peace in Afghanistan had been dragged from their bed at 3 a.m. and shot in the head?

I am haunted by this soldier. After his third tour and traumatic brain injury he believed he would be sent to Hawaii for a desk job, instead he was sent to the most unstable area in yet another war zone. What had happened to him that the only option left was to shoot men, women and children in the middle of the night and then light their bodies on fire?

I am haunted by Leon Panetta who bluntly told the press, “war is hell,”  and to expect that this type of tragedy would happen again.

I am haunted by the story we keep telling ourselves that in this war there are “good” deaths and “bad” deaths as if the loss of any human life fits into such cheap categories.

I am haunted and yet I know that peace, justice and healing find their roots in what haunts us, what disturbs us and what will not allow us to say death and suffering and horror are what we should expect. So I borrow from the traditions of healing I have been taught in Colombia. Another war zone, another place where too often death is treated as a normalized outcome of “war.”

The Colombians have taught me the power of memory and how in honoring those who have suffered, those who have died, you hold open the space for what can be – for what we do not yet see but refuse to ever relinquish our hope for…

So as a way to honor memory and pray for hope I offer this prayer for all those who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and all the places of war around the world…

Leader: In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the glowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the blueness of sky and in the warmth of summer,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

All: We remember them.

Leader: In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we are weary and in need of strength,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we are lost and sick at heart,

All: We remember them.

Leader: When we have joys we yearn to share,

All: We remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live,

For they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

From Prayers for Life, Edited By: Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Killing Osama bin Laden: Justice?

The headlines are filled with the killing of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. Special Forces. One headline in Chicago read, “Justice Has Been Done.” The images of Americans celebrating in the streets, waving flags and soldiers abroad cheering all seem to indicate that we just completed something monumental. We achieved a goal or overcame a dire obstacle and so it is time to herald a new beginning free of the danger of the past.

It would seem that we are in a nation-wide pep rally and not that just we killed a man in his home in front of his family. Literally in front of his family since we shot one of his wives to be able to shoot him.

Interesting that the over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the killing of Osama bin Laden even though that is why we invaded that country 10 years ago. Equally interesting that the troops who have been in Iraq, our other war, since 2003 were also not involved.

No, a Special Ops Team went into Pakistan, our ally in the double wars, and killed him. Interesting that we have spent close to a  trillion dollars on two wars and what “got us” the intellectual author of the 9/11 attacks was intelligence and a small group of soldiers none of which were harmed.

So our double occupation and destruction of two countries in the end had nothing to do with the killing of America’s “enemy number one” – and yet we celebrate.

Equally interesting that we kill a man without even the pretense of a trial and we call it justice. We kill a man who according to our own laws, no matter how horrible the crime, had a right to have his innocence or guilt proven in a court of law. We celebrate and announce justice as if the entire story exists between Osama bin Laden and those Special Ops.

No dead civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq, no families who lost their sons and daughters to two wars, no corruption of our own rule of law, no Abu Grahib or Bagram, no torture and indefinite detention, no environmental devastation and extravagant debt. Nope all we have is a victory, at last, the U.S. has been avenged as was our right.

There has been a lot of misinformation and outright lies that we as a country have been expected to overlook as we struggled through the unknown territory of the “borderless war on terror” for the past ten years.

But to be asked to celebrate this assassination and call it justice, to see “victory”  or closure with two ongoing wars is too much. We cannot afford to cede any additional moral ground to the disaster that is the “war on terror.” Join with the Quaker Friends Committee and click on the link below to contact your Reps and Senators and ask them for real solutions to the two wars and real justice for the victims of 9/11.

http://www.capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=44473501&type=CO

Tag Cloud