Letters to Newspapers Editors and Others  re: The Middle East Crisis
 

1.  Attacks on Credi uncalled-for  (Gannett papers 7/30/91)

        It is disheartening to read the insensitive letters hurled at Mr.  M. Credi simply because he honestly defends the cause of an aggrieved and powerless people.

        Historic claims from ancient times, past grievances or the spoils-of-war theory weigh little in the scales of justice against the present plight of the downtrodden.

        Where are those sentiments of compassion, hospitality, forgiveness and justice we all learned from the Hebrew scriptures as children?  Why does the cry of the poor and the displaced go unheeded and echo off  hearts of stone?

        Why are present  policies so harsh, vindictive and expansionist toward those who also can claim Abraham as their father?  Instead of attacking Mr. Credi, why not search our hearts and see if there is not room for compromise and land for all God's children?

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2. Scrooge off Base - a response to a letter "Holiday for Hypocrits" (The Jounral News 12/1992)

The vicious and ignorant diatribe of Albert Nuccitelli's letter "Holiday for Hypocrits" merits contempt and some comment.

His sarcastic and hate-filled letter questions whether Jesus ever existed.  Before making such an inane statement he should research the writings of first century non-Christian writers like Josephus and Pliny the Younger. It is hardly likely that a non-person could so incredibly alter the course of history.

The fact that many of the traditional customs of Christmas are of non-Christian origin only shows that the church does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it lives as a faith-community-in-history enriched by various customs and cultures. That the secular world has pre-empted Christmas does not  negate the great mystery of the Incarnation - which  is what the feast is all about.

What really indicts this 20th century Scrooge, however, is his stereotyping Christians as "hypocrits" from the lofty tower of his own self-righteouness. The first to cast a stone at his Christian neightbor, this pompous misanthrope ignores countless, nameless Christians around the world, not all Mother Teresas, who work for humanity.

No, Sir.  After Christmas everything will not "go back to normal."  The soup kitchens, hospitals and shelters will not close. The work of Christian charity will continue. May you be spared the indignity of having to spend the last days of a terminal illness being treated by the "hypocritical" hands of a Christian nun.

3. A Call for Rational Discourse  (Gannett papers, June 1992)

        Letters to the editor such as that of Ed. K. (6/25) add little to rational discourse on the complicated subject of the Middle East.  His intemperate and ad hominem attacks on Medhat Credi hardly veil an hysteria that often clouds the issue.  Whether one agrees with Mr. Credi or not, his presentations are always calm, lucid, and well documented.

        Readers like Mr. K. should understand that one need not be a "bigot" nor "anti Israeli" to criticize the behavior of a nation or some of its citizens.  There are, for instance, many Israelis of conscience who deplore the treatment of the Palestinian people. Does that mean that they hate their country?

        Simply stating that Israel "respects the holy places of all religions" flies in the face of the recent joint statement of the Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem enumerating such abuses as the occupation of the St. John's Hospice adjoining the Holy Sepulcher by settlers, the limiting of freedom of access to the Holy Places, the stabbing of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Vicar and assault on his convent, the vandalizing of Byzantine mosaics, the bulldozing of numerous Christian archeological sites for highways, etc.  Obviously all is not "balm in Gilead," Mr. K.

        Rather than heap insults and scorn on Mr. Credi, readers like Mr. K. should welcome the intelligent, moderate, and rational contributions to a complex issue of Medhat Credi who represents and speaks out for those who, in this country, all too often have no voice.

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4. Two views on Israel  (The Journal News, July 5, 1993)

        Two contrasting views of supporters of Israel in these pages within a few days bear reflection.  Arthur C. considers the aid U.S. taxpayers have given Israel (almost 60 billion dollars since 1948) a "cost-effective investment and "our biggest bargain."  He also lauds the "value of the military intelligence which is shared with the U.S."

          How then, upon reflection, does one explain Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard?  A gift from "our most reliable ally"? How does one justify the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty (June 1967) that left 34 Americans dead and 171 wounded?  How does one explain Israeli agent, Victor Ostrovsky's revelation that 241 U.S. Marines might not have been killed had Israeli military intelligence been "shared" with the U.S.?  In sum, Mr. C., in what way is U.S. aid "our biggest bargain.?

        In contrast, Roni Ben E.... challenges the U.S. taxpayer:  "Your government is subsidizing the suffering of the Palestinians."  This person also loves Israel, but is a refreshing voice of conscience shared by many Israelis.  They cannot ignore the cruel oppression of a stateless and powerless people-  an oppression that would not be possible without U.S. taxpayer support.

    Of the two views, I would suggest that the second takes the high moral road.  It is in our national interest that in the Middle East our tax dollars work for peace, justice, human rights, and nothing else.

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5. Letter to Human Events, August 3, 1993

Re: the forthcoming National Christian Breakfast in "Honor of Israel." (Human Events, 7/31/1993) I would remind my fellow Christian Conservatives in their haste to demonstrate their "unconditional love and support for Israel" of the following:

The Christian Gospel mandates unconditional love for all men.  This includes Muslims and Arabs as well as Jews and fellow Christians.  Once that has been established there can be no argument.

As far as "unconditional support" is concerned, however, one can ask how much support we owe an ally who paid (and continues to pay) a Jonathan Pollard to spy on the U.S., an ally who has yet to justify the 1967 attack on the "USS Liberty" that killed 34 Americans and wounded 141 - an "ally" whose shared military intelligence might have spared the lives of 241 Marines in Lebanon.

What kind of unconditional  support does the U.S. owe one of the world's leading colonialist governments that- with American tax dollars - is curently carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people (many of whom are Christians) in violation of international law?

Christian love for all God's children. Yes.  Unconditional support?  No way!

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6. Mother Angelica's EWTN Network  (Journal News, January 15. 1997)

Catholics who look forward to the arrival of Mother Angelica's EWTN network to the Westchester area should not hold their breath.
With a few exceptions it remains for the most part an embarrassment. Surely the Catholc Chruch in America with all its resources can come up with something better.  Mother Angelica, unfortunately, is still recovering from the First Vatican Council (1869-1870).  Judging from the programming, the Second Vatican Council might as well never have happened.

Much of the programming is insipid and nostalic for the "old days" of Cathlic triumphalism.  Furthermore there is much overt anger and bitterness therein directed at fellow Catholics who do not share Mother Angelic's rather reactionary vision of the church.  As a writer in the respected Jesuit weekly  America  pointed out, "The level of vitriol she directes towards some elements of the church would be called Catholic-bashing if it came from other quarters." (8/12/1995)

Sometimes the programs are just plain dumb. How so? Consider a recent call-in program heard over EWTN's short-wave broadcast.  Why, the caller asked, is Wisdom in the Old Testament referred to as "she"?  Because, the omnscient cleric replied, the Latin word for wisdom, sapientia, is feminine.  As if the the books of Proverbs (Hebrew) ansd Wisdom of Solomon (Greek) were written in Latin. Compounding this blooper, he added that all first declension  nouns in Latin, such as agricola, are feminine.  Sorry, but every first year Latin student knows that agricola is an exception to the rule and irrevocably masculine.  Caveat emptor.

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7. The Track of History (National Catholic Reporter, May, 1997)

        Hopefully NCR will not be deterred by the likes of Tom P's letter (5/7/97) from its laudable and courageous coverage of the oppression of the Palestinians.

        He maliciously insinuates that Israel's conflict is with "Muslim Palestinians," hoping we will forget that many of the Palestinians are our Christian brothers and sisters.  Let's be honest.  It is the Arab population, Christian and Muslim, that is the object of a deliberate system of old-fashioned apartheid.

        Secondly, the 1947 partitioning of Palestine was adopted by the UN General Assembly, not the Security Council, and, as such, was but a recommendation.  The fact remains that two thirds of the population of Palestine was Arab and no one asked these people for their opinion about this partitioning.

        Finally, Mr. P. repeats the tired and long discredited propaganda that the Arab leaders "urged the Muslim Palestinians to flee their homes."  On the contrary,  Israeli historian, Simha Flappan, in The Birth of Israel estimates that 84% of the Palestinians left in direct response to Israeli actions.  Irish journalist, Erskine Childers, examined all of the British and American monitoring broadcasts in the area at that time and concluded that "There was not a single order, or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948."

        NCR has not "lost track of the history of Israel,"  but Mr.. has lost track of the truth.

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8.   The  ersatz "Catholic League" boasts of having gotten "Nothing Sacred" off TV. (Fall, 1997)

Mr. William Donahue
The Catholc League

What a sad day for American Catholicism with this latest return to a ghetto mentality and cult of victimhood.  Of course there is Catholic bashing and occasions when we Catholics should to defend ourselves and our values.  But "Nothing Sacred" is not such a case.  Here you have missed the boat completely and acted (overreacted) to a point that you make us look ridiculous.

This latter-day Inquisition you are advocating makes us look plain stupid, anti-intellectual, and anti-art.  For God's sake, can't you tell the difference between good theater and persecution? You folks are the real bigots here, not the producers or sponsors. You shot from the hip and made a fool out of the Catholic Church along the way. Do you think that with all the scandals in the church and clergy you can perpetuate the mythology about the clergy with a boycott?

This is a godawful embarrassment and makes us look like cultural Neanderthals.  You probably would have boycotted the novels of Graham Greene and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales if you could have. And you are crowing away about your Pyrrhic victory while the church's image will be further tainted as antediluvian, defensive and reactionary. Some victory.  Some image of the priesthood.  Some dialog with today's world.

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9. "Dulce Bellum Inexpertis" (The Journal News - February 19, 1998)
 
       Thus wrote Erasmus of Rotterdam long ago:  "War is sweet to those who  have never tasted it."

        The press has by and large ignored the pleas of the pope, the American  cardinals and bishops to "use the instruments of diplomacy and dialogue to avoid any use of weapons." Anglican bishops have also opposed military action against Iraq "on the basis of the Christian conviction that innocent citizens have the right not to become the targets of threats and violence."

        The present embargo is also immoral.   Catholic bishops in Iraq have appealed to all Christians saying that the embargo "is killing our people, our children... our beloved Muslim brothers and sisters."  Health agencies have reported that more than a million Iraqi civilians have died since the embargo, including 600,000 children. One respected theologian described the embargo as
"an act of war that violates the Geneva Conventions by depriving citizens of the means to live normal lives."

        Is there no end to our global arrogance and double standard of selective indignation?  After all, haven't other nations (some we consider friends)  flaunted UN resolutions in the past?  Did we bomb them? We conduct business as usual with China, no paragon of human rights.  And weren't we pioneers in the manufacture and use of "weapons of mass destruction"?  And aren't we front-runners  in the sale of arms around the world to some countries who use these same weapons against their own people?

        There's got to be a better way.  Make your feelings known.

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(9-A)  Isareli Prisoner also Deserves Clemency (The Journal News,  April 21, 1998)

Advcates for clemency and the early release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard would have more credibility if in the same breath they had also called for the release of Mordechai Vanunu from an Israeli prison.

Vanunu, who was released from solitary confinement only last month after 18 years of captivity, is eligible for parole.  The former nuclear technician's crime was to blow the whistle on Israel's nuclear secrets to The Sunday Times of London.  His punishment for this has been egregious and, by comparison, trivializes Pollard's.

If  "enough is enouigh" for Pollard, a spy in prison for 11 years, where is the similar "groundswell of support" among Pollard's advocates for Mordechai Vanunu, a prisoner of conscience for 18 yeaes.  Is it not possible that both desreve our compassion?

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(9-B) Letter in the New Oxford Review, August 1998)

As a church musician for over 50 years as well as a teacher and practitioner of Gregorian Chant I can endorse Father Stravinskas' call for a renewal of reverence and beauty  in the liturgy.  (NOR 6/98)

But his generalized description of today's worship ("banal, pedestrian, narcissistic," etc.) is a bit unfair.  With all due respect, the same might be said of most of what went on before Vatican II.  Has he forgotten the ugly fiddle-back vestments, the unintelligible Latin mumblings and horrible incantations from the altar that passed for Gregorain chant, the mutilple fly-swatting crosses made over the chalice, and, above all, the trite 19th century waltzes that passed for hymns (e.g. "Mother Dear, O Pray for Me" or the insipid Latin Mass of Saint Basil that was sung in most churches?

As fas as "outlandish innovations" are concerned, Father's recommended genuflection before receiving Holy Communion ranks right up there with the best!  There are various modes of prayer - adoration being one.   Benediction of the Bessed Sacrament comes to mind. The Eucharist, however, means "thanksgiving."  It is clear that it is not a private devotion. The Communion Rite includes a communal procession to the sacred banquet (sacrum convivium).  To interrupt this rite with a private devotion is truly out of p;ace, "outlandish" and downright tacky.

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10. Letters to the Editor,  Adoremus, 4/18/1999 on the Roman Catholic liturgy

As one who has been active in music ministry for over fifty years I must take issue with the sweeping generalities in Fr. Pasley's recent lament over "What Happened?" between "Tantum Ergo" and "They'll Know We Are Christians."

Certainly there has been more than enough bad music written since the Council.  But to indulge in such a broad condemnation as part of his nostalgia trip is a bit.

Most of what was sung in our churches in Father's pre-Vatican II Golden Age was not Gregorian Chant.  Nor was it Palestrina, Vittoria or Lassus. Other than the few brave parishes that used the St. Gregory hymnal it was the classic Saint Basil Hymnal that graced our land in those halcyon days.

A recent nostalgia trip of my own into my treasured edition was most revealing.  Of the over forty Marian hymns therein, for instance, there were a good number of trite Victorian melodies that were no more than sentimental waltzes ("Mother Dear, O Pray for Me",  "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother", "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" to name a few. Any musician worth his salt can have a ball with these tunes in 3/4 time.

Then we find such profound theological phrases as "flowering meadows, mirthful praises, seraphic love, fragile bark, diadems crowned, garlands day by day, nestling in thy bosom, bright as moonbeams, sweet as the warbling of a bird, my enraptured ear, life's tempestuous sea, and lisping children," etc.

Do these saccharin bonbons explore the theology of the theotokos, the strong woman of the Gospel, or is it sentimental syrup from another era that is best laid to rest? But this was our Marian diet.  Is this the Mariology of John Paul II?

With all its faults much of contemporary Catholic hymnody tries to be rooted in scripture, especially the psalms.  Can we say the same of the above?  And why, Father, is it such a terrible thing for God's people to sing His words. Are they so dumb they can't sing the scriptures without deifying themselves? Since you seem to have it in for Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) please come up with an English hymn from Saint Basil that is on a par with Dan Schutte's "Holy Darkness" or Bernadette Farrell's "Restless Is the Heart."

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11. Letters to the Editor,  Adoremus, June 17, 1999 on the Roman Catholic liturgy

Your review of the imbroglio over kneeling vs. standing in the liturgy was most welcome and informative, albeit a bit biased.  It may be a slight overstatement to suggest that those who advocate the standing position are any less devoted to the Real Presence or other articles of faith.

Consider the following: 

1. The earliest Christian iconography always depicts Christians at the Agape and (otherwise at prayer) in the "orans" position, i.e. standing with arms extended heavenward. A visit to the Catacombs will verify that.

2. In the ancient Eastern-rite churches (Orthodox and Uniate), from ancient times to the present, the faithful stand (sometimes for hours!) during the celebration of the liturgy. These traditions are older than our present rites.

3. Anyone who has visited the ancient Roman basilicas and the cathedrals of Europe knows that they were never designed other than for people to stand at prayer in the liturgy. The addition of kneelers (and sometimes chairs) is a much later afterthought.  It is not the ancient tradition.

4. The posture of kneeling in Christian art is very much connected with the feudal system: knights in obeisance to their lord, etc. As such it is a wonderful posture of humility, submission, adoration, etc. Agreed.

5. Thus kneeling is an appropriate gesture of adoration, for instance,  in the exposition or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Forty Hours Devotion, private prayer, etc.  But one must ask is this really the same mode of prayer that is called for at the public celebration of the Eucharist?  Is the Sunday Eucharist primarily an exercise in adoration?  Is it not rather primarily an act of Thanksgiving as the name implies? This is not to deny the act of adoration, but I don't think it is not main focus of the sacred action at the altar.

For instance, the liturgy calls for an affirmative sung acclamation of the assembly after the elevation of the Sacred Species as well as the response of the "Great Amen" at the fianl doxology before the "Our Father". Is kneeling for these sung acclamations of the assembly really the right posture for these moments?  Is the espressive mode of prayer at these times simply  adoration or is it not much more?  Does it not perhaps make more sense to have the people on their feet for these sung  acclamations?  From a musical point of view alone (I am a liturgical musician) I find it awkward and meaningless to have the congregation sing these jubilant acclamations of praise and affirmation on their knees. It simply is the wrong modality of prayer. It is not the way to "proclaim the mystery of faith."

6.  I hesitate to use the same "argumenum ex tourismo" that has been effectively used by those who find great convenience and sense of unity in attending the same Latin mass wherever in the world they travel.....but as a matter of fact standing during the Eucharstic prayer seems to be most prevalent outside the United States and may well indicate a return to perhaps an even more ancient practice.  Who knows?

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12.  "We Stand with Israel"   Response to some of Catholic signers of a paid advertisement in the New York Times sponsored by the American Jewish Committee  (10/27/2000)

        As a fellow Catholic I was truly shocked and disheartened to see your name, together with that of other Catholic leaders, listed in a full page as "We Stand with Israel" in the New York Times.  I feel this is an unbalanced and biased stance and I would like to tell you why.

        I fear you have bought into the carefully cultivated mythology created by the supporters of the state of Israel.  You have signed a statement, along with other pandering politicians, rejecting "terrorism against Israel."  Yet there is no rejection of terrorism against Arabs, no mention of the slaughters of Arab children, the illegal colonizing of Arab lands, and the oppression of an entire people by a state you label "America's partner in democracy."  A democracy for whom?

        I cannot believe that you are unaware of the discrimination and oppression  this apartheid regime has wrought  for decades upon the Palestinian people- many of whom are your fellow Catholic Christians. Are you unaware of the cries of anguish over the years of the various Christian leaders in the Holy Land including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah?

        Have you sat down with your Catholic or Moslem Palestinian brothers and sisters, many of whom are Israeli "citizens" and heard how they are treated and abused in a systematic manner?  Are you aware of how the Christian population of the Holy Land has been decimated;  how once Christian towns like Nazareth and Bethlehem no longer have a Christian majority?  In 1948, the Christian population of the Holy Land was over 18%.  By 1999 it had dropped to 4% and today it is less than 2%.  Why?

        Sadly the damage (caused by  your letter) is done.  You have put your seal of approval, as a Catholic leader, on a truly neo-colonialist state, a once exemplary supporter of South Africa, and today a carbon copy.

        I sincerely regret your endorsement of this manifesto;  yet I remain sincerely in Christ.

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13. Sanctions on Iraq  (The Journal News, September 2000)

        Your editorial, "Defiant Iraq Finds Allies" (9/29? errs in describing Saddam Hussein as "Kicking out U.N. inspectors."  While it is true that Saddam is not allowing the inspectors to return, they left Iraq as usual in mid-December 1998 at the end of their last inspection tour.  Then, UNSCOM withdrew all its personnel from Baghdad just before the US/UK bombing started.

        Also misleading is the statement that "the last direct action against Iraq came in 1998" with US and British air strikes. One need only read the "fine print" in the NY Times to know that US bombing raids on Iraq have been going on almost daily up until the present time.

        Yet another way to wage war against a people is through the kind of sanctions imposed on Iraq.  Dennis Haliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General resigned his post in 1998 protesting the sanctions:  "We are destroying an entire society.  It is as simple and terrifying as that."  Sanctions, he said, are a "totally  bankrupt concept."  That same year UNICEF stated that "approximately 250 people die every day in Iraq as a result" of these sanctions.

        Catholic Archbishop Gabriel Kassab of Basra, pleading for an end to these immoral sanctions, has described the unspeakable suffering of his people resulting in the death of thousands of children for lack of food and medicine as well as "operations done without anesthesia."  He says: "It is the people and only the people who are suffering from the sanctions."

        Though their motives may be far from altruistic three cheers for the French, Russians and others who are beginning to ignore these criminal sanctions."

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14.  Letter to Monsignor John M. (one of the signers of the "We Stand with Israel" manifesto, November 2000)

         Thank you for replying briefly to my letter.  It is reassuring that you are supportive of the peace process in the Middle East and I hope you took a moment to read some of the material I sent you and to respond.

         I am quite sure that your signing the New York Times statement sponsored by the American Jewish Committee was meant to be an ecumenical good-will gesture on your part toward your neighboring Jewish community.  Reading it carefully, however, one can only conclude that it is a highly sophisticated Israeli propaganda effort.  Getting a few Catholic clergymen to sign it was a real coup.  You will note that, although there is an appeal for peace (and who isn't for peace?), there is not one word about justice.  Furthermore the entire blame for the violence in the Holy Land is laid upon the Palestinian population. Israel, on the other hand, is made to look squeaky clean.

         It was my good fortune when touring the Holy Land as a university student with the Centre Richelieu of the University of Paris (a French-led scripture/archeological pilgrimage directed by French priests and scholars) that I came into contact with many Palestinian Catholics, especially in Jerusalem and Nazareth.  I listened to tales of their plight and ever since have tried to become more informed on the whole question of the rights denied the Palestinians and the treatment they have undergone for so many years.

         I am involved with several groups who have been addressing these issues.

         One such organization is The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation ( http://www.hcef.org ) which seeks to increase awareness among American Christians of the urgent needs of Christians in the Holy Land. It is especially concerned, as is the Vatican, about the fact, as I mentioned in my first letter, that so many Christians are leaving the Holy Land because living conditions under Israeli occupation are so desperate. We have a Catholic family from Nazareth in our own parish that has experienced outrages in the past and whose family back home continues to do so. The HCEF web site provides plenty of information on this subject. The Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah, is on the advisory board of this ecumenical organization as well Father Drew Christiansen, Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

         Another organization, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has a web page at  http://www.cmep.org/ A Father Tim Keating, S.M. of the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors, is one of the leaders of this organization.  These folks are also working for justice in the Middle East and their web site is very interesting. They are very concerned over Israeli attempts to make Jerusalem the sole and exclusive capital of Israel.

         I believe I also sent you the web site of a couple of Israeli peace groups as well who are concerned over the injustices Israel inflicts on the Palestinians.  These groups, Bat Shalom, Gush Shalom and others,  put their lives on the line by demonstrating against the policies of their government.

         Thanks again for acknowledging my letter.  I had hoped for a bit more in the way of explanation as to why you signed the statement in question and I am not sure why you didn't say more.  Perhaps a visit to the two above web sites might whet your appetite for a Christian perspective on the policies of Israel toward the Palestinian people.

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15.  To the Director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies (November 10, 2000)

Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies

Dear Sister R.,

             I hope you received my letter of a few days ago wishing you good luck on your visit to Israel.  I hope by this time you will have returned and will have a moment to develop the theme of your brief message as you left- namely that "it pains me to see your responses."  I meant only to tell the truth and I regret that it is painful.

             I want to thank you (I assume it was you who mailed it) for sending me the publication of the two lectures given by Dr. Fischer and Father Stransky which I am in the process of studying.  I am also preparing a few comments on the statement that you sent me "We Are Outraged"  and of which you apparently approve.

             For the present, however, I am wondering how you can reconcile the following two statements culled from what you sent me:

             First, as stated in Father Stransky's 1997 lecture as published by your  Institute:

             "With realism, the Jerusalem Christian leaders join the Vatican (and others) in proposing for the walled Old City a special juridical and political statute, stable and permanent, which the international community guarantees: Jerusalem is too precious to be dependent solely on municipal or national authorities, whoever they may be."

              Second,  the NCLCI May 1999 statement (reaffirmed on the "We Are Outraged" document you sent me which you apparently also approve:

             "NCLCI also reaffirms its conviction that Jerusalem should remain the single, undivided political capital of Israel."

             Which is it, Sister?  Can we have it both ways? It's also interesting that the statement reads that Jerusalem should "remain" the capital of Israel.  Right now it is recognized as  the capital of Israel by  El Salvador and Costa Rica- period.  For the rest of the world it's Tel Aviv and I feel it should remain that way as long as the Israelis are unwilling to share it with the world, including the Palestinians. No  one owns it  exclusively.

             I am eager to hear from you. Thanks again for the interesting literature.

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16.  No One Side Has a Monopoly on Justice (Gannett papers, August 26, 2001)

        Robert G. (Aug 22 letter) may be correct in stating that the Irish Republican Army has been "negotiating in good faith" over the past years.  One would wish that the "Real IRA" faction had subscribed to a similar policy.  It hasn't.  What are we  to think, furthermore, of the three IRA lads arrested last week in Columbia for training FARC rebels in urban warfare and explosives?  Good-faith negotiators?

        Taking a cheap shot at the Palestinians along the way does not further the writer's cause, either.  Speaking of "negotiating in good faith," he says that the Palestinian authorities "do not know the meaning of that word."  This is a simplistic generalization that reveals no grasp of the complex issues in  play in the Middle East crisis.  It also reveals a prejudice unworthy of any third party.  It lacks the balance found in the Mitchell report and the kind of evenhandedness the belligerents in the Middle East deserve from America.  Arab-bashing is also somewhat disingenuous coming from one who supports an organization that in the past has not hesitated to accept arms and financial aid from Libya's Col Moammar Gadhafi.

       The call for justice in Northern Ireland is praiseworthy.  But no one side is a dispute has a monopoly on justice.  To promote one's cause in an overly righteous manner while denigrating others reminds one of the "God-in-on-our-side" extremists on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That's not how problems are solved.

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17.  Fair Solution  (National Catholic Reporter - January 25, 2002)

            Your  editorial "Breaking out of the futile deadly dance" (NCR Dec. 28)  fairly addresses the Middle East dilemma. When however, you ask why "Yasser Arafat  inexplicably walked away from a settlement" the answer is not such a mystery. There is an explanation. He was offered nothing he could take home and sell to his people.  First of all, the so-called "offer" at Camp David was never presented in writing, let alone accompanied by maps.  It was orally conveyed - a strange way of conducting serious negotiations.

             Second, this "generous" offer consisted of dividing the West Bank into three separate cantons surrounded by Israel.  So not only would the Palestinians have to cross Israel to go from the West Bank to Gaza, but also to go from one canton to another within the West Bank.  Such an arrangement would have made the future Palestinian state less viable than the Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government.

            Third, according to this "offer,"  Israel would annex  9 percent of the West Bank in exchange for 1 percent of its own territory.  In addition, it would control 10 percent of the West Bank in the form of a "long-term lease."  This area would mainly be located along the Jordan River, which meant that Israel would also control Palestine's international borders.  Furthermore Israel "offered" to control the air space and the water resources of the new Palestinian state.

            How generous!  As Robert Malley, a member of the American team in the Camp David summit, wrote in the New York Times July 8, "the measure of Israel's concessions ought not to be how far it has moved from its own starting point, but how it has moved toward a fair solution."

            Given the above, the "offer" was anything but fair.  It perpetuated the occupation, albeit under another form.  It did not allow the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and sowed the seeds of another conflict. There is nothing "inexplicable" about the Palestinian rejection of such an offer.  The Israelis, who hold all the cards, must decide whether they want a genuine peace based on justice or an indefinite conflict.

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18.  Quick action against Iraq? (The Journal News, February 15, 2002)

          So Senator Lieberman has joined those hawks salivating to wage another war on Iraq (Journal News, Feb. 11) -  an unwise action that would involve sending  American servicemen into further harm's way.  And for what?

          The "Wolfowitz cabal", made up of such disparate figures as William Kristol, Richard Perle, Tom Lantos, William Saffire, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer et al., is not satisfied that we have bombed Iraq almost daily for the past decade and crippled an entire society with sanctions.  Jim Lobe, in Foreign Policy in Focus (11/30) notes that these "neo-conservatives" (few of whom ever served in the military) "are decidedly aggressive when it comes to supporting Israel, particularly Likud."

            Such lobbyists remind me of the words of the Renaissance humanist, Erasmus,  "War is sweet to those who have never tasted it."  Secretary Powell, who knows war, prudently stated that an attack on Iraq would destroy what remains of the international coalition President Bush has assembled and that there is no evidence linking Iraq to the attacks of Sept. 11. Now, under pressure, even he is being dragged into the belligerent camp. We should recall that former Secretary of Defense William Cohen told the president in January 2001 that Iraq no longer poses a military threat to her neighbors.

            This call to arms is a diversionary tactic; a desperate attempt to distract Washington and the nation from pursuing a balanced policy towards a just solution to the Palestinian problem.

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19. Letter to the Senior Managing Editor (The Journal News - March 5. 2002)

                As an "outsider" third party observer (neither Jewish nor Arab) of your paper's coverage of the Middle East crisis I appreciate any attempts you make to be fair and balanced in your presentation of the terrible events as they unfold daily.

                 It sometimes appears to me, however, that there often emerges some bias on the paper's part in favor of the Israeli position.  In many ways this reflects the very position of the present U.S. administration.  But one expects the press to pose hard questions and do more than simply reflect current popular opinion or official government policies.  Sadly your paper sometimes appears to be more open-minded to the plight of the Israelis via-a-vis that of the Palestinian population.  There are tragedies and horrors on both sides and many innocent victims. I would hope that, reading your paper, one would never infer that the life of an Israeli is worth more that that of an Arab. All life is sacred; no life expendable.

                I will just cite one instance in today's paper that bothered me somewhat.  See what you think.

                In today's (3/5) paper on page 3-A under "Briefings" there is a paragraph entitled "Axis" allies blasted on rights records." The paragraph goes on to single out Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and others.  What the paragraph fails to mention is that the State Department also lists Israel, an supposed "ally,"  as an outstanding member of this list of human rights violators.  Why was this omitted, I wonder?

                I have attached the State Department's document from their web site for your perusal.

               Again, I trust you will try to be scrupulously fair, balanced, and objective when you report of the on-going tragedy in the Holy Land.

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20.   Sometimes Dissent Can Be Patriotic  (The Journal News, March 19, 2002)

            Amid the endless violence in the Holy Land, where Death never takes a holiday, the voices of grassroots peacemakers on either side are rarely heard. One heartening sign of late, however, has been the refusal of hundreds of soldiers of conscience in the Israel Defense Forces to serve in the Occupied Territories.

            One such person is Major Ishai Menuchin, a twenty-year veteran.  Writing in the New York Times (3/9) of his moral convictions he says: “I will defend my country, but I will not participate in a military occupation that has over the decades made Israel less secure and less humane.”

            He will not “obey illegal orders to execute potential terrorists or fire into civilian demonstrations.” He will not prevent civilians from moving from town to town or carry out house demolitions. For Major Menuchin this is a “moral matter.”

            The lesson should not be lost here at home. Moral dissent can sometimes be the highest  form of patriotism. Just as we hold our children to a high standard of behavior and admonish them when they are wrong so too we much hold our nation to its high calling of doing what is right and just. This is why it is wrong to suggest as some official have that it is somehow unpatriotic to ask hard questions about government policies, actions, or the kind of “foreign entanglements” that George Washington warned about.

            The slogan “My country- right or wrong” does not cut it in the moral order. Love of country is a higher calling.   Surely the degree of one's patriotism cannot be measured alone  by the size of the flag on one's SUV.  Serious thinking, probing questions, conscience and prayer may be in order as well.

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21.  The Primacy of Conscience (The Journal News - March 2002)

            It is sad that Laura L. (3/23) of all people would not champion the primacy of conscience, as shown by Israeli reservists, over blind obedience. Listen rather to Rabbi Michael Lerner and hundreds of supporters of Israel in a recent statement:  “These soldiers have witnessed their own army violate human rights, practice torture, destroy homes, and perpetrate violence against civilians...they won't be silent partners to the Occupation any longer."  (New York Times, 3/22)

             Instead of supporting Major Ishai Menuchin's moral courage in refusing to participate in what he considers criminal actions she dismisses him and others who "disobey orders."  After all, she says, "War is hell."  The world needs more hell?

            Has Ms. Lewis never heard of the "Judgment at Nuremberg"?   Doesn't she know that "just following orders" is no longer an excuse for violating one's conscience. Soldiers of conscience like Major Menuchin deserve our support and admiration, not the kind of reproach unjustly heaped upon them by Ms. Lewis. Famed cellist Mstislav Rostropovich describes conscience thus: 

“You know a bad conscience can eat away your body, eat away your health.  And I am happy to say I have a very clear conscience."  (New York Times, 3/23/03)

            Violence on either side of the conflict can no longer be seen as a legitimate means of expressing grievances and must be condemned.  Major Menuchin and the reservists are patriots and show us the way to peace.

            Yesh Gvul, an Israeli peace group, distributed this message to the IDF forces:  “Soldiers, it’s in your hands.”

Sources:

1. Rabbi Lerner:  The New York Times,  March 22, 2002
2. Mstislav Rostropovich: The New York Times  March 23, 2002
3. Publication of Yesh Gvul  (“There is a Limit”) an Israeli peace group and  distributed to IDF soldiers

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22.  Increased Criticism of Israel Justified (The Journal News, April 20, 2002)
 

            Robert K. (4/6) is “troubled” by Mr. Amiri’s reasoned presentation of the Palestinian cause. More troubling to him should be the erosion of good will toward Israel that has long existed in America.

            Ariel Sharon, proposing peace and security, has brought nothing but misery to Israel. Attila the Hun has devastated Palestine. The National Catholic Reporter (4/12) editorializes that President Bush has remained until recently “almost silent about the state-sponsored terrorism that Israel has visited on the Palestinians for decades.” Sharon’s arrogant denial of Bush’s belated request reminds one of Moshe Dayan’s famous quip: “Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.”

            Israeli columnist Uri Avnery writes that Sharon’s intentions are “to destroy the Palestinian nation, its institutions and leadership, once and for all, leaving only bits and pieces, human wreckage that could be disposed of anywhere… Nations are built on myths. I was raised on the myths of Massada and Tel-Chai that formed the consciousness of the new Hebrew nation. The myths of Jenin and Ramallah will form the consciousness of the new Palestinian nation… No good for Israel will come out of this adventure.” (Ma’ariv, 4/13)

            Speaking of Israeli actions in Jenin, Ta’ayush (4/10) reminds fellow Israelis: “We shall not be silent in the face of these atrocities. Each and every person of conscience among us has the obligation to remind the government and our fellow Israelis of the boundaries imposed by human morality.”
 

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23. Military Solution Leaves No Winners (The Journal News-May 20, 2002)
 

             Charles Krautheimer’s defense of Israel’s “military solution” to the present conflict  is short-sighted (5/15). Citing the “moral and material ruin” of the Palestinians  Krautheimer ignores the real damage to Israeli society itself - another part of the nightmare.  For that we must turn to the voices of Israeli human rights activists - rarely heard in these pages.

             Gila Svirsky of Bat Shalom, an Israeli peace organization working for a just peace between Israel and its neighbors, recently pointed out areas of concern to those who love Israel. She notes the “unapologetic racism (expelling Palestinians -- the avowed plan of several cabinet members)”.

            She expresses the alarm over the “heightened militarization of Israeli children (encouraged by schools to write thank-you letters and send packages to soldiers), the deliberate lies in the media (humanitarian aid given to the refugees, when it wasn't), the clampdown on criticism (an evening in honor of a famous, older singer canceled because she supported the refuseniks), and the ongoing portrayal of foreign protest against Israel as anti-Semitic.”

            While all wars are violent and brutal, she adds, “this war as compared with others has seen more brutal attacks on civilian targets, more flouting of international law, more looting by soldiers, more destruction of non-military property and goods, more humiliation of the other, and more deliberate cover-up -- denial of access to journalists, human rights workers, and relief organizations; and opposition to the UN investigative commission -- than any other.”

            There are no winners in this conflict, Mr. Krautheimer.

Source:  Bat Shalom, April 29, 2002

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24. Catholics Should Be Aware of the Plight of the Palestinians (letter to Catholic New York, June 2002)
 

    Mr. M's attack on his co-religionist, Victor Lama, does great disservice to the cause of the beleaguered Christian community in the Holy Land. This is the home to over 160,000 Christians, many of whom are descendants of the first Christians. In 1948, the Christian population of the Holy Land was over 18%.  In 1999 it was less than 2%.  Why?  In Jerusalem, the Christian population has shrunk from 30,000 to 2,000 since 1944.  Why? Three times as many Christians from Bethlehem live in the Palestinian diaspora as in Bethlehem itself.  Why?

    Because, as the Holy Land Christian Christian Ecumenical Foundation points out, "Christians are leaving the Holy Land because living conditions under Israeli occupation are desperate.  The Israeli government rarely gives Palestinians permits to build new homes;  existing homes are often confiscated or demolished.  There are few job opportunities, and medical care is inadequate.  Road are closed in and out of villages - some roads are for Israeli use only.

    "Identity cards issued by the Israeli government to Palestinians are often confiscated, preventing Palestinians from moving freely within their own territories.  Water is periodically cut off and cisterns have been destroyed."  Palestinian Christians are the "forgotten faithful," ignored by our media and, all too often,  by the Catholic press as well.  While we Catholics must condemn all violence in the Middle East, whatever the source,  we also must demand justice for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.  Peace will only come when justice prevails.

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25. Back to the Stone Age  ( The Journal News - June 28, 2002 )
 

Martin K. (6/20) encourages Israel to abandon “self-destructive ethics” and retaliate to the Palestinians with the same “tactics” as the suicide bombers.  What a disheartening, eye-for-an-eye, Stone Age solution.

Despite terrible failures throughout history, the loftiest moral traditions of all three Abrahamic religions regard violence and vengeance, murder and suicide as evil.  There is no moral justification for the suicide bombing of innocent Israelis; neither is there justification for the killing of Palestinian civilians- casually dismissed by Mr. K.  as “accidental.” Terrorism comes in many disguises. The names and causes of death of 54 Israeli and 232 Palestinian children under 18 killed between September 2000 and March 2002 have been documented. But no numbers game here. The death of one child is one too many.

Pax Christi (Peace of Christ), an organization to which I belong, is a Catholic voice of non-violence. It holds that true patriotism cannot be a motivation for destroying other nations and their civilians. Pax Christi supports both security for Israel and a viable Palestinian state, the immediate end to sanctions in Iraq, the promotion of human rights, reversing the prominent role of the US in the international arms trade, and strengthening international institutions such as the United Nations.

Mr. K.’s approach is a prescription for Death. Life is fragile. We have it in our hands but a short while.  Answering violence with more violence, as he advocates, leads not to life, but to more death. This is no legacy for our children.

Sources:

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
LAW - the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment
The American Educational Trust
Pax Christi USA

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26. Dance of Death (The Journal News, - July 31, 2002)
 

Shortly after an American-made Israeli F-16 destroyed the lives of innocent women and children (Journal News 7/24) Pope John Paul II in Toronto forcefully admonished the world that “Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope.”

The pope’s words sum up the plight of Palestinian children for the past fifty years – “without joy, without hope.” Today it has sadly become the lot of innocent Israeli children as well. How then could Ariel Sharon conduct an operation that will doubtlessly bring further reprisals on the Israeli populace? The Israeli-Palestinian “Dance of Death” will surely begin again.

Referring to Sharon, Ari Shavit, writing in Ha’aretz this week says, “Along with a series of additional racist and brutal decisions he has made in the past month, this latest one raises serious questions about the mental world of the man who is in charge of our fate” and “blurred beyond recognition the moral image of the country.”

Rabbi Michel Lerner of Tikkun put it bluntly, “No wonder, then, that social justice-oriented American Jews feel betrayed by Israeli policies that seem transparently immoral and self-destructive.”

 What of our role in this on-going tragedy? The State Department has finally begun to raise concerns about the use of American-made arms (F-16s, Apache helicopters) by Sharon against Palestinian civilians. These laser-guided bombs might as well have American flags attached to them.  The message is not lost on the Arab world.

 America is not called to arm the world but to work for justice and reconciliation.
 

Sources:

Ha’aretz, July 25, 2002

Fellowship, July-August, Vol. 68, No. 7-8 for quotation of Rabbi Michael Lerner

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27. The Scandal of Catholic Infighting   (The New Oxford Review, December  2002)
 

 This reader is overwhelmed by a sense of sadness in reading page after page of NOR devoted to endless carping directed at perceived heretical co-religionists, not to mention the infighting among those of you who share the same myopic vision of our church.

One is reminded of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s description of those “who dig up vexed long-deceased questions, ridiculous trifles over which they do battle as if their very existence were at stake…who judge, condemn and pass sentence.” One cannot but suspect that many of those who write for NOR and their readers are more concerned with the “institution” itself than the person of Our Lord and suffering humanity.

 You really ought to sit back, relax a bit, contemplate the Gospel, and try to figure out how you might better love those with whom you so obsessively disagree.  This constant bickering has to be a turn-off for those who seek the Lord in simplicity of heart.
Must fighting over the Eucharist, for instance, go on ad infinitum?   In his own day Erasmus found the “present mode” of thinking on the subject “so contaminated with the teachings of Aristotle and the invention of petty human beings that I can hardly taste in it the faint flavor of the undiluted Christ. What does Christ have to do with Aristotle?”

 Yet the word-wars continue as we try to dictate to the Divine how, in human terms. God help those who don’t accept our terminology!  One yearns for the simplicity of an Erasmus who says: “It would be simpler to say that Christ is present in the Sacrament and leave the manner up to God.”
 

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28. Time for Death to Take a Holiday (The Journal News- September 4,  2002)
 

Nobel prizewinner Albert Camus, voice of the French Resistance in World War II, was once asked how, speaking as an agnostic, to deal with the problem of evil. He replied:  “It may not be possible for us to create a world in which no innocent children suffer. But it is possible to create a world in which fewer children suffer. And if we look to the Christians and don’t find help, where else will we go?”

Christians should raise their voices against the obsessive war hysteria emanating from Washington. Fortunately many ecumenical voices have condemned as “immoral and illegal” any plan to attack Iraq. Iraq has neither attacked nor threatened us.  In England the Archbishop of Canterbury, other Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, Protestant leaders, academics and theologians, have deplored the notion that any nation could “regard war, and the threat of war, as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.” Pax Christi USA takes a similar position.

Saddam is evil and the Iraqi people deserve better-  but not more war.  What hypocrisy to condemn today Saddam’s use of gas against the Kurds and Iranians when at that time he was our ally and we said nothing about such war crimes.  As long as Saddam was killing Iranians he was our friend. There are ways to deal with Saddam just as we have learned to deal with North Korea and China, bristling with weapons of mass destruction and worse human rights records.

It’s time for Death to take a holiday.

Sources:

The National Catholic Reporter,  August 16, 2002

Pax Christi USA  “Peace Pledge”

Pax Christ USA   “Pledge of Resistance”

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29. No Grounds for Waging War (The Journal News, October 3, 2002)


President Bush sent envoys to “axis of evil” North Korea to reopen security talks. (Journal News, 9/26) Dialog - but no talk of war - with a hostile nuclear power already bristling with “weapons of mass destruction”!

What about Iraq?  Forget dialog and diplomacy! This is a Bush family vendetta.

Not long ago Osama bin Laden was Public Enemy # 1 - wanted “dead or alive.”  Not having caught Osama, now Saddam has become our focus as if he were another Hitler or Stalin. While most of those in Washington salivating for war have never worn a uniform experienced military men have urged caution. Must our noble republic become an empire?

Bad as he is, Saddam has never attacked us:  On June 8, 1967 Israel attacked the clearly marked “USS Liberty” in the Mediterranean for over two hours with aircraft and torpedo boats killing 34 young Americans and wounding 171.   We did not go to war with Israel.

Retired Israeli General Aharon Levran writes in Ha’aretz, “The Bush administration has no solid grounds for waging war on Saddam. The arguments about the variety of risks Saddam poses are exaggerated.”

A war on Iraq will kill hundreds of American troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians.  It will destabilize the Middle East and alienate our allies. Our attention should be focused on Al-Qa’eda and what created such hatred.  A just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would do more to take the wind out of the terrorists' sails than any war with Iraq.

Sources:

The Journal News, September 26, 2002.
Ha’aretz
, Israeli daily
http://www.ussliberty.org

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30.  Oil Is the True Motivation  for War (The Journal News.  November 5, 2002)

Letters to the Editor

Is anyone still duped by the propaganda about promoting democracy in Iraq?  In reality it’s all about oil.  Joe Lesly (10/15) exposed the real motivation of the administration and sadly of some Americans:  Iraq’s oil does not really belong to Iraq.  It’s ours and we will have it.  War advocates are bent on taking control of these reserves to maintain “our way of life” no matter what the cost.  American servicemen and countless Iraqi civilians will shed their blood for oil. North Korea, a real menace with nuclear capacity has no oil.  So we will talk with North Korea rather than go to war - but not to Iraq.

Contrast this attitude with that of the Sisters of Divine Compassion and other Christian faith communities. (10/22)  An unprovoked, unilateral invasion of Iraq would be illegal, unjust and immoral.  It does not meet the traditional criteria for a “just war” -  even if one accepts such a concept: imminence, gravity, proportionality (the end result outweighs the destruction caused), civilian non-combatant immunity. Nor have all non-violent avenues been exhausted.

Then there’s that outrageously neo-imperialist call for “regime change.” Since when do we alone have the right to perpetrate such a thing? Can’t any country then change the regime of a neighbor it doesn’t like? Such an interventionist policy would put our president in league with a notorious band of scoundrels:  Hitler (Poland); Kaiser Wilhelm (France, Belgium); Stalin (Ukraine); Mao (Tibet); Saddam (Kuwait); Sharon (Palestine); North Korea (South Korea).

Regime change begins at home.  Vote!.

Sources:  The Journal News.  October 15, 2002
           The Journal News.  October 22, 2002

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31. What America’s Critics Are Saying (The Journal News Community View, January 4, 2003 )

Most Americans are in a state of puzzlement or utter disbelief at all the manifestations of animosity and perceived hatred toward the United States.  Why then are so many people trying to get into this country, legally or otherwise, for a better life if we are so bad? Upon examination it becomes clear that most of this hostility is directed at our foreign policy and not the American people themselves who are almost universally admired.

 Much of the resentment and fear of our foreign policy comes from “far-away places with strange-sounding names.” According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (December 2002) a familiar story circulating these days  in the Muslim and Christian Arab world  is “Why did it take President Bush so long to prepare his Middle East policy for his speech at the UN?" The answer?   "Because it had to be translated first from Hebrew.”

But when criticism comes from old international friends it is harder to swallow. It can range from sarcasm to insult.  So we are shocked when 400,000 Italians and other Europeans gathered recently in Florence to condemn our foreign policy as fascist; puzzled when the Canadian Prime Minister’s communications director calls President Bush a “moron;” outraged when, during a discussion of why Germany will not support the Bush administration in its war plans, a commentator suggests that, given their recent history, the Germans have learned to recognize a Nazi when they see one.

Such hyperbole can of course be dismissed outright.  The problem posed by our foreign policy remains, however, and the criticism needs to be addressed.  Much of our domestic media when acting as the voice of those in power will dismiss any criticism from abroad with equally bellicose simplifications. This adds nothing to the discussion.

Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh recently wrote in America magazine (9/9/02), that if one risks asking whether there might be “reasons why the United States triggered such hate, not only in the madness of 9/11, but in the Muslim street, the shrill response is that you are defending the abominations and you think America deserved it”- a despicable thought.

Cannot one ask hard questions, however, and go beyond CNN or Fox News to find out why, unfairly or not, our policies are so hated? Whatever the merit or validity of the criticism it is important to know what others are saying in order to be able to respond with more than simple sloganeering.

America’s critics claim that the main goal of our foreign policy is not about promoting democracy in the world, not about destroying weapons of mass destruction, and not about the violation of UN resolutions.

First, they contend, our goal is not about promoting democracy.  After a positive legacy toward Germany and Japan after World War II we began to cultivate and support a series of thugs and despots in subsequent decades: Trujillo, Marcos, Battista, Diem, Noriega, Somosa, the Shah, Sukarno, Pinochet, Duvalier, Mobutu, etc. Our critics do not buy our stated goal of promoting democracy in the world.

Nor, our critics say, is it about eliminating weapons of mass destruction; because the United States is not eliminating its own weapons of mass destruction. We wrote the book on the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians by our nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people,” (Howard Zinn). Our critics note that we are the world’s leading arms dealer. They consider breaking the Anti-ballistic Missal Treaty hypocritical, as well as our rejection of the Kyoto, land mine, and international criminal court accords, our boycotting of the recent international conference on racism

Nor is it about the violation of UN resolutions. Our critics note that, while Iraq has indeed violated 16 UN resolutions, Israel has violated 65 documented UN resolutions; yet no one is advocating war with Israel.

What then, in their eyes, really is our goal?  Anatol Lievan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment, sums it up as the emergence of the U.S. as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole supremacy and authority as planetary policeman.  The leadership in Washington is committed to “unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority,” he writes. It is about the arrogance of power, other critics say, about pre-emptive war, when and where the president chooses, about control of the world’s resources for our own use. I suspect this is the main reason for their distrust, fear, even hatred. I would suggest it is helpful to recognize, question and respond to such criticism.
 

Sources:

 America magazine. September 9, 2002
 Other Voices: The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Dec. 2002
 Fellowship of Reconciliation
 Catholic Peace Voice
: Pax Christi U.S.A. Vol. XXVII, No.3\
 Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the US/Israeli
            Relationship
  (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1993), pages 166-192.
 C-Span

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32. Letter to Charles Krauthammer, columnist

Having read your recent article in the Gannett paper, “The United Nations has again demonstrated its growing irrelevancy,” my comment is as follows:

 Your column only confirms a bias and hidden agenda I have long suspected.  Why don’t you have the honesty to come right out and admit that the interests of Israel are your main concern. It comes as no surprise to learn that you would have no use for the UN: while Iraq is in violation of 16 UN resolutions Israel remains in violation of 65 well-documented resolutions (attached) about which you say nothing whatsoever.

 Have you not the courage to acknowledge your bias toward Israel in your efforts to link US interests with those of IsraelAmerica’s interests are not the same as Israel’s. .  It is precisely the fact that this administration is captive to the desires of Mr. Sharon and his supporters in America like yourself that we are in the mess we find ourselves.

 One waits in vain for you and others who share your unspoken agenda to come out openly and admit your real interests.  I fear that will never happen because you are having your way just fine right now.

Respectfully,
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33. Letter to Joseph P. attacking me in the Gannett paper.

Dear Sir:

I read your letter to The Journal News (Feb. 12) with interest concerning the “hundreds” (800 + to be exact) of demonstrators against Mr. Bush’s war. I was among the group of so-called “hippies and children of hippies” as you describe them.  You are a bit off base, sir.  I am a registered Republican with two masters degrees, the son of a Republican judge.  My family was Republican probably before your ancestors even came to America.  My great grandmother bounced Wendell Wilkie on her knee in Elwood, Indiana at the turn of the century.  Do you know who he was? Check your Republican history?

 I do not need a lecture on patriotism, sir.  I am a Son of the American Revolution (SAR) with four ancestors who participated in the American Revolution. My great grandfather was in the Union Army at Vicksburg; another relative died in the Confederate Prison in Andersonville, Georgia. My dear sir, the Party of Lincoln has been hijacked by the cabal that is presently rushing into an unprovoked and immoral war.  Abe Lincoln would turn over in his grave if he could witness the war lust of that born-again Caesar in the White House and the gang of neo-cons and Israeli lobbyists who are calling the shots around him.

I doubt if you listened to Ozzie Davis at all even though you made sure to note his color.  There certainly were people of color there.  And judging from the honking cars with thumbs up during the march it is obvious that people of color, Hispanics and others know only too well who will be in the front lines as canon fodder when the war starts, while the big shots who never wore a uniform courageously send them into battle.

You entitled to your fantasy that “Westchester is firmly behind this war,” as you state.  Wait till the body bags start to come home and see how popular the war becomes.  This president (and you, sir) is willing to sacrifice the cream of American youth for the oil barons to which he, Cheney and Ms. Rice are so inseparably linked.

Among the 800 demonstrators you dismiss so cavalierly were priests, nuns, Protestant ministers, Quakers, and members of Pax Christi (the Peace of Christ), an international Roman Catholic peace and non-violence organization I represent. If you think we fit into your definition of “hippies and the children of hippies” you really need help.

 You would have done better to have listened to the woman speaker who lost a relative in 911 and who belongs to a group of family survivors of 911 who area against war and violence.  Then tell me something about patriotism.

 In the peace of Christ,  I remain

Richard E.  Cross, M.A., M.S. 

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34. Follow-up letter to Joseph P. in response to a Feb. 12, 2003 letter

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for your courteous response to my letter in response to your own letter to the Journal News of February 12. The fact that you bothered to answer me was quite encouraging.

Although you did not respond to all the matters that I brought up in my letter I do appreciate hearing from you.  If you are on the Internet we could continue our exchange via e-mail. You could reach me at:  recross@cloud9.net

You asked me to be honest in my assertion that I am a registered Republican and if the GOP’s views were that of my own “ideology.” I repeat what I said to you, namely that the present GOP is no longer the party of Lincoln that he would find it unrecognizable, that it has been hijacked- and by whom? I would say, first of all, by the so-called neo-cons who are in the pocket of the oil industry  (if you are not aware of how deep into oil Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Ms. Rice are I can send you the data- up to their necks in fact. Condy Rice even has an oil tanker named after her!) and, secondly, by those close to Bush who just might have a disproportionate concern for the interests of Israel, i.e. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary, Douglas Feith, Under Secretary for Policy, Div Zakheim, Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, chairman Under Secretasry of Defense for Policy, Kenneth Adelman, Eliot Cohen, David Jeremiah, Henry Kissinger, James Woolsey to name a few.

 In my view the incentives for the proposed war is therefore first for oil and secondly for the interests of Israel, her security and her Middle East dominance as the only nuclear power there enabling her to blackmail all her neighbors with a nuclear threat. So if you want to question my Republican loyalties you may do so.  My point is that the party as it exists today has strayed from its traditions.  The present administration is arrogant in its imperialistic world view, its over-involvement in the kind of  “foreign entanglements” George Washington so warned us about.

I rejoice that you say you do not want war but I despair when you say you that you don’t need “any more evidence.” I am curious as to what evidence you have.  The UN Security Council seems to want more evidence than its has right now World opinion is certainly not as sure as you and Mr. Bush seem to be.

Now to address some of the specific points you raise in your letter:

1. You say, “I don’t want any more 9/11’s.”  Neither do I. The fact is, however, that Saddam Hussein, bad as he is, had absolutely nothing to do will 911. In fact 15 out of 19 of the 911 terrorists came from our “ally” Saudi Arabia where the particular distorted version of Islam is cultivated. Furthermore, by his very action, Mr. Bush is creating new Bin Laden clones and fresh terrorists every day to the point that by leading our nation into this Middle East train wreck he is assuring Americans that they will never be safe again either at home or abroad.

2. You speak of “one million gassed Iraqis.” This is totally unsubstantiated and an exaggerated figure.  I would like to see the source for your statistics. First of all, any gassing that was done was during the Iran-Iraq War during which both Iran and Iraq used poison gas against one another.  Because Saddam was our man at the time and our friend, as long as he was killing Iranians we said nothing about his use of poison gas.  Now as to the claim that he gassed his own people.  Once again we did nothing about the event at the time because Saddam was out friend.  The indignation comes a bit too late, don’t you think

Here are some facts for you to ponder:

Fact 1.  The North Koreans captured the “USS Pueblo” many years ago (perhaps before your time of recollection).  They killed our men on board, imprisoned and tortured others. This was an act of war. We did not go to war over it.

Fact 2   The Israelis strafed, bombed and attacked the “USS Liberty” in international waters for several hours- an American ship, clearly marked, killing many Americans while the survivors to this day have not had justice.  This was an act of war. We did not go to war with Israel. In fact the Johnson administration covered up the event and to this day the survivors of the Liberty have not seen justice.

Fact 3. Today North Korea not only has nuclear capability, but continues to threaten us daily basis. It has a huge standing army ready to go to war and is armed to the teeth. Bush says he will dialog with North Korea while he goes to war with Iraq- a humiliated and weakened nation with no air force, no navy, but plenty of oil.

Fact 4.  Iraq, on the other hand, has never attacked America, has never threatened America. All it has said is that, if attacked, it will defend the homeland. What nation would not do the same?

Fact 5.  The UN inspectors have already established the fact that today Iraq is NOT a nuclear threat and has no nuclear weapons. The chief nuclear inspector said that clearly last Friday before the Security Council. British intelligence has said this, and even Israeli intelligence as well.

Fact 9.  You cannot demonstrate that whatever kind of government the US imposes on Iraq post-Saddam will be "democratic" What it will be is a government that bends to our will as far as oil is concerned.  Will it be democratic like our “friends” the Saudi royal family?  Will be democratic like the dictator Mubarek in Egypt?  Will it be democratic like some of the other thugs we cultivated and pampered in the past: Trujillo, Marcos, Battista, Diem, Noriega, Somosa, the Shah of Iran, Sukarno, Pinochet, Duvalier, Mobutu, to name a few.

Fact 6. Both Bush administrations have been caught in several big lies (below) which I would like you to consider and discuss –

Thanks against for your letter, Joe.

Wishing you and the world the peace of Christ, I remain sincerely,

Richard E. Cross

Addenda: 

Four Administration lies exposed:

1. During the first Gulf War the "testimony" of Nayirah, so-called "volunteer nurse" in Kuwait who spoke before the Congressional Human Rights Committee on Oct. 10, 1990.  Her testimony was repeatedly rebroadcast in the American media: that she had witnessed Iraqi troops stealing incubators and throwing babies on the floor to die.

     After the war, Sixty Minutes did a follow-up study of this "event" only to learn that it was a total fabrication. "Nayirah" turned out be was the daughter of Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington. She had been in her family's palace and nowhere near a hospital during the Iraqi invasion.  She had been coached on how to lie by the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm hired by the State Department.

2. The so-called British government dossier that Powell cited in his speech before the UN turned out to be not  "intelligence material" at all but was directly lifted from published academic articles, some of them several years old.  According to The Guardian, 4 of the 19 pages were copied "from the internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September. 6 more pages relied heavily on articles that appeared in Jane's Intelligence Review in 1997 and last November." This was outright plagiarism, an embarrassment to Tony Blair and another blight on the reliability of this administration. The report didn't even bother to correct the spelling and grammatical mistakes in the plagiarized material. The British have since apologized for this sham but we have yet to hear a word from Powell or the Administration.

3. The New York Times (Feb. 8) reveals that the so-called "poison and explosive training center camp" located in northeastern Iraq that Mr. Powell "exposed" was also a fraud. The Associated Press states that "journalists who visited the site depicted in Powell's satellite photo found a half-built compound filled with heavily armed Kurdish men, video equipment and children but no obvious sign of chemical weapons manufacturing."  No running water, no toilets. More mythology.

4. The so-called claim that Saddam "gassed his own people" specifically at Halabja, as a reason to topple Saddam Hussein. This myth was recently destroyed by Stephen C. Pelletierre, the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, who was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. He headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States. (cf. Mr. Pelletierre's  Op-Ed piece in the NY Times of January 31.) How many more lies have we been told since the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco?

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35. Letter to Jacques Chirac before the Iraq War began and his reply the following October.

Cher Monsieur le Président Chirac,

Je vous admire justement comme j'aime aussi la France. Je vous écris à ce moment de crise pour exprimer mes sentiments de gratitude pour vos efforts pour la paix en Iraq. Sachez que beaucoup d'Américains sont tout à fait en accord avec votre position contre la guerre. La sagesse que vous apportez à cette crise mondiale est beaucoup appréciée surtout en contraste avec la folie sanguinaire manifestée dans la politique de notre président.  Il faut vous ajouter que je suis de partie un Républicaine, né d'une famille Républicaine pour des générations. Malheureusement la partie de Lincoln n'est plus reconnaissable. C'est honteux. Lincoln se renverserait dans sa fosse, comme nous disons,  s’il savait ce que Monsieur Bush est en train de faire.

 Je n’accepte pas cette soif pour la guerre de  Monsieur Bush si belliciste. Heureusement les allemands, les français  et les  belges ont gardé leur raison dans cette crise mondiale.  Maintenant c'est la France, la plus ancienne amie d'Amérique, sur laquelle nous avons confiance dans ce drame.  Employez votre "VETO" à l'ONU si c'est nécessaire.  Vive la France.  Vive Jacques Chirac.  Homme d'État extraordinaire et homme de paix.

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 A Response to my letter from the Présidence of Monsieur Jacques Chirac, President of France (received weeks later)

Monsieur Richard CROSS

24 Summit Street
TARRYTOWN, NY 10591
ETATS-UNIS D'AMERIQUE 

Cher Monsieur,


Votre message est bien parvenu à Monsieur le Président de la République française.

Particulièrement sensible à votre soutien, Monsieur Jacques CHIRAC m'a confié le soin de vous en remercier chaleureusement.

Comme vous le savez, les insultes en disent souvent bien plus long sur ceux qui les profèrent que sur ceux qu'elles prétendent décrire.

 

Bien cordialement. 


Le Chef adjoint de Cabinet

Gérard MARCHAND

 

translation:

Your message has certainly reached the President of the French Republic.
 
Especially touched by your support, Mr. Jacques CHIRAC has given me the task of thanking you affectionately.
 
As you know, insults very often tell us more about those doing the insulting that than they do about those they presume to describe.
 

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36. Letter to The Journal News, February 5, 2003
 

 “Children may suffer most in war,” (The Journal News, January 27). This is no great  surprise. The real surprise is why someone who claims to have given his heart to Jesus is rushing us into such a war. Those who take the words of Jesus seriously (“Blessed are the peacemakers”) wonder which Gospel imperative drives our president to an unprovoked attack on an already downtrodden people?

Here at home over 40 million Americans lack health insurance; over 32 million Americans live in poverty; over nine million Americans are jobless with thousands more losing their jobs daily. Seniors are losing Medicare benefits and poor folks, unable to meet their heat bills, boil water on the stove for warmth while the president spends billions on his own “weapons of mass destruction.” “If war is forced upon us we will fight,” he says.  Is he serious?  Who’s forcing this war?

Mr. Bush can’t seem to wait to turn Iraq, the cradle of civilization, into a graveyard.  What did the people of Iraq have to do with 9/11?  Must Iraqis, “whose hospitality, kindness and wisdom date back to Iraq’s Garden of Eden,” pay for the sins of Saddam  Hussein?  Can our leaders excuse “collateral damage” - that obscene euphemism for civilian casualties? Must we destroy an entire people in order to eliminate a dictator?

“Softer than butter is his speech,” say the psalmist, “but war is in his heart.  His words are smoother than oil.  But they are drawn swords.”

Did somebody say “oil”?

Sources:

The Journal News, January 27, 2003
The Catholic Peace Voice, Jan/Feb 2003
Matthew V, 9.
Psalm 55

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37. Letter to the Editor.  The Journal News, March  10, 2003
 

“Messages from U.S. embassies around the globe that many people in the world think President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein” should serve as a wake-up call.  (The Journal News, February 24)

Who is poised in the Middle East with a huge armada for a preemptive and unjust war against a Third World country with no navy, no air force, and a population debilitated by years of war and sanctions?  Who has his finger on the trigger of a plethora of “weapons of mass destruction”?  Who bullies and denigrates the UN calling it “irrelevant” if that world body does not agree with him?  Who threatens to go it alone if he can’t have it his way?

“There may still be two superpowers on the planet:  The United States and world public opinion.” (Patrick Tyler, The New York Times, February17) It is not Jacques Chirac who is “tone deaf” but George Bush who has shut his ears to the cries of the world for patience, diplomacy, peace and non-violence.

Better to listen to old friends like Germany and France – yes, France, “America’s oldest ally” without whose help Mr. Bush and the rest of us might well be subjects of Queen Elizabeth today. Let Donald Rumsfeld deride “Old Europe.” While Mr. Bush and friends may know all about oil, Old Europe still knows something about war and human suffering.  We hear a lot about “gratitude.”  Well, true friends tell you when you’re wrong and don’t side with you simply out of “gratitude.”

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38.  Letter to the Editor.  The New York Times, March 12, 2003 (not published)

French Fries and More

True American patriots should not only consume voracious amounts of French fries, but brie, croissants, and burgundy as well. Let ersatz "patriot" nationalists in their illusion deprive themselves of these delights.  It is Jacques Chirac, and not our tone-deaf president, who best exemplifies the values America stands for with his efforts for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.  France is America's oldest ally.  Just as any true friend worth her salt would confront you when you stray from a righteous and moral path, France now justifiably chides a misguided Bush administration in its rush to war.  As France once came to our aid during the American Revolution she now comes to rescue her old friend from making a disastrous mistake.

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39. Letter to the Editor.  The Journal News, April 8, 2003

Lent in Iraq: When the Innocent Suffer

Christians approaching Holy Week around the world contemplate the suffering and death of their Lord. They might also recall that this is not just a memorial of a past event 2000 years ago.

As Pascal wrote: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of time.” How can this be?   The reason is that Jesus also said:  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you have done to me.” And who are the least of our brethren today if not the suffering people of Iraq?  Why then are we Christians today killing these least of our brethren - innocent  civilians, women and children who have done us no harm?

What has become of our Christianity?  We have a “born-again” warrior savior with a new gospel, a  misguided and arrogant crusader who is leading his people into Armageddon with an enterprise carefully wrapped in the flag and supercharged with ersatz patriotism.

So many of us, like our president, have turned a deaf ear to the voices of the world’s religious leaders - a wide spectrum from the pope to the leader of the president’s own church. We have embraced instead this new religion of violence, domination and vengeance.

The rest of the world trembles at our abuse of power, our “weapons of mass destruction,” while our president squanders all the good will that we earned after 9/11. Today we find ourselves no longer perceived as a glorious republic but as an ominous “evil empire.”

Empires tend not to survive.

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40. Letters to the Editor. The Journal News, May 8, 2003

Expanding the Pax Americana

History’s oldest lesson, “The empire imposes its law on the vanquished,” is still valid. Today we have our emperor’s proconsul, General Jay Garner, imposed on Iraq. Shades of imperial Britain’s imposition of Clive on India and Kitchener on South Africa

Having found no weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D) – the President’s mantra for months and supposed rationale for war – attention is now focused on Iran and Syria.  Why not look even further?  If we really want the Middle East to be a W.M.D-free zone, let’s send some UN inspectors into Israel and see what they find.

According to MSNBC inspectors might find something at the following sites:

The Rafael and Yodefat sites near Haifa - where high-tech weapons research and assembly of Israel’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have been under way for years.

The Eilabun site near the Syrian border - a storage facility for Israeli nuclear artillery shells and land minds.

The Soreq Center near Yavne - where, according to a 1989 Pentagon study, “runs the full nuclear gamut of activities,”

Of significant interest is Nes Zionyaa near Tel Aviv - site of Israel’s chemical and biological warfare facilities.

Then there is Dimona near the Jordanian border - where  weapons grade plutonium and thermo-nuclear weapons are produced.

Would inspectors have to look as hard for W.M.D in Israel as they did in Iraq? Peace will never come to the Middle East without disarmament. But what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Let the inspections begin.

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 41. "Community View" (The Journal News, June 18. 2003)
 
French-bashing 101


Barbara Nachman’s light-hearted article “The French Reconnection” (6/7) is a welcome invitation to re-examine the fallout of French bashing still pervading our country. One struggles to get beyond the “freedom fries” silliness and ludicrous boycotts of all things French to comprehend the petty nastiness of such attitudes.

France and its people are accused of being ungrateful to their old friend for not supporting the preemptive war launched by this administration. Although “gratitude” (which happens to be a two-way street) is not the real issue here it deserves a comment.

Critics of France have very selective memories and forget the fact that France is “America’s oldest ally.”  As President Jacques Chirac reminded us recently, France’s friendship for America is “bicentennial.”

Historians tell us that, even before France formally signed the treaty of “amity and concord” with the Continental Congress in 1778 that brought the full weight of her forces to the American cause, many young idealistic Frenchmen, committed to the principles of freedom and justice, slipped out of France and came to America to support our efforts. The most famous, of course, was Lafayette. But there were many others such as the Baron de Montesquieu whose grandfather’s “Spirit of the Laws” became one of the inspirations and sources of our revolution. (Five of my own ancestors were engaged in this historic war for independence.)

As the war progressed the Continental Army suffered from chronic ill health, malnourishment and  exposure to the elements.  At this moment of crisis France formally entered the fray with her armies and fleet led by such legends as the Comte de Rochembeau and Admiral De Grasse to rescue us, as Patrick Henry stated, from the “dreadful precipice from which we have escaped by means of the generous French.” No country acts purely out of altruism, of course, and there are always national interests at play. But when France came to our aid at this low point in the war George Washington, one historian wrote, “near tears of relief and joy” celebrated this new alliance with a great parade praising “the Almighty Ruler of the Universe for raising up a powerful friend ….to establish our liberty and independence.”

Ignoring this, Francophobes bemoan France’s seeming “lack of gratitude” for our role in rescuing her in the two world wars. America also acts out of its own national interests.  But we did indeed help save France.  Anyone who has lived in France and speaks the language knows that France remembers and is grateful. I have traversed the battle fields of both wars from Chateau Thierry and Bellow Wood where my grandfather earned the Croix de Guerre to Normandy and can assert with certitude that the French both honor their own war veterans (perhaps better than we do our own) and continue to honor those Americans who died in France.  I can take you to a remote corner of Brittany where but a few years ago a monument was erected to the American mothers whose sons gave their lives for freedom.  I was in Paris for the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, an event that was filled with pro-American spirit.

But “gratitude” is not really the issue here.  Just because I am grateful to my friend should I automatically support him in something that I consider illegal or immoral?  What kind of friendship is that?  Shouldn’t I instead admonish him and point out the error of his ways?  It may come as a surprise to French bashers to realize that France is a democracy too and, in the case of the war on Iraq, the overwhelming majority of the French population considered it wrong. Nor were they alone in this as we know from the strong condemnations of other Europeans, the pope and most world religious leaders who opposed the war as unprovoked, unnecessary and a violation of the UN Charter to which the United States was an original signatory. The position of the French president in supporting the UN Security Council reflected exactly the will of the French people. We may disagree; but this was democracy at work. Contrast this to the leaders of Italy and Spain who ignored the sentiments of their population by endorsing the war.

Given its long history Mr. Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe” is tired of war and fearful of imperial power.  France, imperialistic for centuries, is now a republic. America, founded as a republic, has now become an empire.  Alas.  Empires tend not to survive.

Source: 

Page Smith.  A New Age Now Begins, Vol. 1 and 2. McGraw-Hill


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42.   The President’s “Road Map” for Peace      (The Journal News, July 29, 2003)


Does anyone remember Rachel Corrie, the Jewish peace activist from Olympia, Washington? She should have graduated from college this past June. Instead she was bulldozed to death by the Israeli Defense  Forces (IDF) while attempting to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp.

According to Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel and other human rights organizations 93 Israeli and 415 Palestinian children under the age of 18 have died from violence between September 2000 and February 2003.

Whether it be from state-sponsored terrorism or immoral suicide bombings the death of a child is one too many. This is why Americans should support the President’s belated but welcome “road map” for peace.

There are extremists on both sides of the conflict who are resisting these peace efforts. Here at home as well there are those who are trying to block the President’s initiatives:  hard-line Zionists such as those who have written this paper condemning the President’s efforts. There are also those influential Christian Zionists in the evangelical community like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Cal Thomas, and – ominously even in Congress - the likes of Tom Delay.

An unscholarly and distorted interpretation of Scripture, for example, led Robertson’s CBN network to declare that May’s damaging tornados were a repercussion of the President’s pressure on Israel: “When Israeli settlements are touched, there are also occurrences of hurricanes, tornados, and major problems in the American economy.”

Americans should resist such craziness and support the President’s road map for justice and peace.

Sources:

1.  “Christian Commitment to Peacemaking Distorted by Christian Zionists” in
Churches for Middle East Peace, June 2003.

2. “Remember These Children” A joint project of The American Educational Trust,
    Jews for Peace in Palestine, Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc.,
    Black Voices for Peace. March 2003.

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43. Letters to the Editor (The Journal News, August 29, 2003)

Since the president triumphantly declared last May 1 “an end to major combat operations – Mission Accomplished” the tally of 143 (and counting) brave Americans killed in Iraq has surpassed the 138 killed during the actual war.  One must hope that the masses of the deceived American public will re-evaluate and reject this wasteful misadventure that has led us deeper into such an inextricable quagmire.

This on-going unpopular occupation  (Where are those strewn flowers and beaming smiles?) costs the US taxpayer four billion dollars a month - great for our economy – and the loss of precious American lives. (Don’t Iraqi lives also matter?) The case for this war was built on countless deceptions.  That illusionary “coalition” aside, most of the world stood against this preemptive and illegal war - sometimes even in defiance of their leaders. Should we be surprised that no one in history ever loved an occupying power?

The president did not have the patience to allow the UN inspectors to finish their work. But now we are asked after months to give the administration more time to find the elusive (non-existent?) WMDs. Meanwhile the Taliban and war lords in Afghanistan continue to cause havoc and death.  Ben Laden, Saddam Hussein and their followers remain on the loose causing mayhem.

The 20th century saw the dissolution of the British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Spanish and Soviet empires. What leads us to think that an American empire as envisioned by the cabal behind the present administration will fare any better?

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44. Letter to the Editor (The Journal News, October 6, 2003)

History will eventually determine whether this war on Iraq was a just war - or just a war. The administration’s rationale for it now seems more to have been based on false intelligence and downright deception. What was the excuse for invading a country that is not waging war with you?

Given that Iraq never attacked us once during the past decade it is no wonder that “Churches for Middle East Peace” warned last March: “The suspicion of imperial objectives, the diversion of funds and attention away from domestic and other international issues will characterize, and perhaps, haunt the Bush administration.”

After all, Saddam was but one of a “terrible rogues gallery of criminals” who were supported over the years by those at the helm in the White House.

As for pre-emptive war, senior British Labor MP, Tom Dalyell, admonished Tony Blair,
“The doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense against an attack that might arise at some hypothetical future time has no basis in international law.” We have set a precedent, writes Benjamin Barber: “Pakistan can argue for pre-emptive war against India, anticipating an Indian strike in Kashmir; North Korea can justify a strike against South Korea, anticipating an American action (based on American rhetoric) against North Korea.”

Faced with a fait accompli, however, the question now facing us is how do we get out of this terrible quagmire in Iraq? Will Seneca’s words prove prophetic: “Wherever the Roman conquers, he inhabits” or John Paul II’s: “War is an adventure with no return.”

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45. The Cost Beyond Dollars ("Community View" published in The Journal News,  December 3, 2003)

(N.B. The editor of the paper changed the title of this article (without asking me) to "Immoral for Leaders to serve up Americ'as Youth as cannon fodder') No complaints here.

The extensive coverage by The Journal News honoring our veterans was admirable.  Commendable as well were the stories illustrating how not all those who return from war zones are better off for their experience.  Aside from physical war wounds we read of suicides, domestic violence, and addiction. Many veterans languish for years forgotten in VA hospitals – scarred in mind and body.  In the glare of bright uniforms, waving flags and martial music one can easily forget the brutality and dehumanization that accompanies warfare.

One Green Beret was recently charged with “cowardly conduct as a result of fear,” later downgraded to dereliction of duty, because he had a panic attack upon seeing an Iraqi cut in half by a machine gun. While some soldiers were laughing as the corpse of the dead Iraqi was dragged past him, this man threw up and shook for hours with a pounding head and chest pains:  “From his waistline to his head everything was missing.”

I would suggest that his only crime was that of being all too human. Erasmus (1517) said it well:  “War is like a vast ocean of all the evils combined: under its influence sprouting buds wither, plants shrivel up, the frail collapse, the strong perish, and sweet things turn sour. It wipes out all traces of piety and religion. You cannot conceivably address a credible prayer to the father of all men when you have just driven a sword into your brother’s bowels.”

In war young men are called upon to kill other young men whom they don’t know.  They are ordered to do so by old men sitting in their war room who know, but do not fight, the old men on the opposing side. It brings to mind the photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand when he was our ally.  Erasmus put it succinctly:  “Nowadays princes declare war in perfect safety, and the generals get fat on it; but the heaviest burden falls on the peasants and poor artisans who stand to gain nothing from it and had nothing whatever to do with declaring it.”  The leaders are not the bleeders.

Today more and more of our youth, born weaponless and now in their early 20’s, trained to be soldiers and not policemen, are being served up as cannon fodder.  They perish every day. I submit that the moral guilt of those who sanctioned this senseless war is mounting. The powers behind this tragedy make sure we never see any body bags; nor the returning coffins; nor the funerals that the president never attends.    So our dead heroes are buried in obscurity and the general public is shielded from a wake-up call.

I do not know how many of these dead heroes were poor Southern white kids, Blacks and Hispanics.  But I suspect quite a number. I wonder how popular this wasteful war would be with Westchester residents if Charlie Rangel’s proposal to reinstate the draft became law. Perhaps the hawkish mood of some armchair warriors would quickly evaporate.


Sources:

Desiderius Erasmus, The Complaint of Peace, in “The Praise of Folly and Other Writings.”  W.W. Norton & Company.  New York, 1989.

For the story of Sgt.
Pogany see The New York Times.   November 6, 2003

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Version française:

Dépenses au delà des Dollars


L’étendue de votre reportage en honneur des anciens combattants de guerre furent louable.  Louable aussi furent  les histoires qui nous montrent à quel point ceux qui retournent des zones de guerre se trouvent dans un état pire qu’auparavant à cause de leurs expériences de guerre.  Les blessures physiques de guerre à part, nous apprenons des histoires de suicides, de violence domestique, et d’abandonnement aux drogues.  Beaucoup d’anciens combattants languissent pendant les années – oubliés dans les hôpitaux militaires – cicatrisés d’âme et de corps. Dans l’éclat d’uniformes brillantes, de drapeaux ondulants, et de la musique martiale on peut facilement oublier la brutalité et dé-humanisation qui accompagnent la guerre.

Un Green Beret fut accusé récemment de “conduite lâche à cause de peur » - accusation plus tard amoindrit à « la négligence de devoirs » à cause d’une peur de panique en  voyant un Irakien coupé en deux par une mitrailleuse. Pendant que quelques soldats riaient de voir le cadavre de l’Irakien traîné devant lui, ce soldat se mit à vomir et tremblait sans contrôle. Son supplice a duré pendant des heures et furent accompagnées de maux de tête et de poitrine.  Il balbutiait : « A partir de sa ceinture tout avait disparu. »

Je voudrais suggérer que son seule crime fut d’être trop humain. Erasme (1517) a bien dit :  « La guerre est comme un vaste océan où tous les maux sont combinés :  sous son influence les bourgeons se dessèchent, les plantes se ratatinent, ceux qui sont fragiles s’affaissent, les costauds périssent,  et les choses douces deviennent amères. La guerre efface toutes traces de piété et de religion.  Tu ne peux pas adresser une prière honorable au Père des hommes après avoir enfoncé une épée dans les entrailles de ton frère. »

Pendant la guerre les jeunes sont exhortés de tuer d’autres jeunes gens qu’ils ne connaissent pas.  Ils reçoivent leurs ordres de vieillards qui sont bien assis en sécurité dans des centres de commandement et qui connaissent  les vieillards de l’autre côté mais ne leur font pas la guerre.  On peut rappeler l’image de Donald Rumsfeld en train de serrer la main de Saddam Hussein quand il fut notre allié. Erasme dit succinctement : « Aujourd’hui les princes déclarent la guerre en toute sécurité et les généraux jouent à la guerre;  mais le fardeau  le plus lourd tombe sur les épaules des paysans ou des ouvriers pauvres qui n’en tirent aucun profit et qui n’avaient rien à faire avec la déclaration de cette guerre. »  Les chefs de guerre ne sont pas ceux qui saignent.

Aujourd’hui  plus en plus de nos  jeunes – nés nues et désarmés et qui maintenant viennent  d’avoir vingt ans à peine, s’entraînes comme soldats non gendarmes –sont exploités comme poudre à canon.  Ils périssent tous les jours. A mon avis la culpabilité morale de ceux qui ont sanctionné cette folle  guerre s’accumule.  Les puissants qui sont responsables de cette tragédie se rassurent que nous ne verrons jamais les sacs à cadavre, ni les cercueils qui retournent  chez nous, ni  les enterrements auxquels le Président n’assiste jamais.  Donc nos héros morts sont enterrés dans l’obscurité et la masse du public est empêchée  de voir la cruelle réalité de ce qui se passe.

Je ne sais pas combien de ces héros morts furent de pauvres blancs du sud de notre pays, combien de Noirs et de jeunes gens d’origine hispanique.  Mais je soupçonne qu’ils sont un grand nombre. Je me demande si cette guerre gaspilleuse  serait aussi populaire avec nos citoyens si la proposition du Congressman Rangel pour restaurer le service militaire obligatoire devenait la loi.  Peut-être l’attitude belliqueuse de nos guerriers de salon  disparaîtra  bien vite.


(traduction française grâce à l’aide de Robert Boisvert
 et Medhat Credi)

Sources:

Desiderius Erasmus, The Complaint of Peace, in “The Praise of Folly and Other Writings.”  W.W. Norton & Company.  New York, 1989.
For the story of Sgt. Pogany see The New York Times.   November 6, 2003

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46.Religious Leaders Oppose Iraq War  (The Journal News, January 9, 2004)


It is dismaying how some Christians have tapped into the president’s pipeline to the Almighty, at the same time turning a deaf ear to the voices of their own religious leaders while embracing his vision of manifest destiny.

Only this month Pope John Paul II reiterated that the unilateral use of force can never be justified. He recalled Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to which America is a signatory, prohibiting the use of force except “in the context of the United Nations.”  He also quoted the adage: Pacta sunt servanda: accords freely signed must be honored.”  (How many other treaties have we abandoned?) “Universal principles are prior to and superior to the internal law of states.”

 Cardinal Renato Martino of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said it is clear that “the pope believes the US-led invasion of Iraq was not a just war.”

On terrorism the pope stated:  “The fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations.”  There must also be a “lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks … eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts.” Few people in high places worry about this. “The absence of a specific international tool for dealing with terrorism does not justify one nation acting on its own and in violation of basic human rights. The end never justifies the means.”

Equating military power with human power is an error that leads a nation to self-destruction.

Sources:


1. John Paul II. "Message for the World Day of Peace 2004".
Vatican City
http://www.vatican.va

2. Catholic New York,  January 2004, page 17

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47. Israel's Weapons of Mass Destruction  (The Journal News,  February 12, 2004)
 
Recently the administration quietly pulled a 400-member team of weapons inspectors out of Iraq, implying perhaps that Saddam’s phantom weapons of mass destruction were either never there or have simply evaporated.  The once committed chief weapons inspector, David Kay, is now "embarrassed" by his earlier predictions.  He wonders, "Why could we all be so wrong?"   (The Journal News, Jan. 26)
 
Besides the absence of WMDs in Iraq there is also good news out of LibyaMoammar Gadhafi has invited international weapons inspectors to visit his sites and offered to dismantle his WMDs. Similar news out of Iran is equally heartening.  The world yearns for a Middle East that is a nuclear-free zone – free also of chemical and biological weapons.
 
In this region only Israel remains dominant today with over 300 nuclear warheads and other WMDs. It has advanced nuclear facilities at Dimona, Rafael and Yodefat as well as chemical and biological war facilities at Nes Zionyaa and elsewhere.
 
Historically Israel, unlike the other nuclear powers, has never admitted to having such weapons nor signed any related treaties. It still remains in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 487 (1981) that calls on Israel to turn its nuclear facilities over to the trusteeship of the IAEA.

The world will be watching and waiting to see if Israel will also invite international inspectors to visit its many WMD sites and would welcome such a good will gesture. Is this too much to ask in order to promote peace in such a troubled area?
  
Sources:
 
National Catholic Reporter, January 23, 2004
MSNBC website
U.N. Security Council Resolution 487 (1981)
    Paragraph 5:  “Calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

The Journal News, January 26, 2004

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48.  Letters to the Editor - America Magazine
 
In his efforts to assuage the sensitivities of  Mel Gibson's film critics Eugene Fischer (1/16) goes a bit overboard in his efforts to demonize and lay blame on Pilate.  "Ruthless" as he may have been in most instances,  Pilate was stopped dead in his tracks and deeply troubled in conscience during his confrontation with Christ. Mr. Fisher would do well to revisit the words of Peter in Acts III to those gathered in the Portico of Solomon:  "Men of Israel, ...   It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after he had given his verdict to release him." (Acts III, 12-14)   A bit closer to the scene than Mr. Fischer,  Peter appears to let Pilate off the hook far more than others.
 
 
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49. A Victory for Democracy   (The Journal News, March 2004)

Joseph Kohler’s attack on Spanish voters (The Journal News, 3/17) is ludicrous. The ouster of the Aznar government  was a triumph of democracy.  “One of Mr. Bush’s closest allies” (The Journal News, 3/16),  Aznar had ignored the will of 90% of the Spanish population (just as Berlusconi ignored the Italian people).  Instead Aznar joined the misguided and unilateralist Bush enterprise of preemptive war in Iraq: a failed and costly policy that for months had ignored Ben Laden’s Al Qaeda while plunging America into a bloody quagmire. This policy has not addressed the root causes of terrorism, has alienated valuable allies, and made the world less safe. Meanwhile those who hate us multiply faster than we can kill them. The Spanish people have paid a terrible price. One can only pray that the same fate does not befall other populations.

Instead of heeding the advice of wiser heads in “Old Europe” the Bush administration ridiculed and denigrated them. It defied the will of the international community and violated the United Nations Charter. Echoing earlier inane remarks of Donald Rumsfeld,  right-wing ideologues like Charles Krauthammer continue to attack old friends who do not agree with Bush’s imperial agenda.

We would do well to heed the admonitions of people like Senator Joseph Biden and stop acting as if we were the sole divinely inspired arbiter of international affairs and rejoin the community of nations at the UN in cooperation rather than defiance.

Mr. Aznar is gone. Can Berlusconi, Blair and Bush be far behind?


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50. The Path to World War III ( The Journal News, April 20, 2004)


The president seems hell-bent on dragging America into World War III with the entire Islamic world. His mal-administration has already embroiled us in an asymmetric war in Iraq, a type of conflict at which our military has not excelled.  Local Iraqis have found vulnerabilities in our occupying forces and are learning to exploit them.

To make matters worse the president has allowed himself to be manipulated by the bully Ariel Sharon into an action that will only create more hatred of America in the Islamic world.  Bush has been flattened by “The Bulldozer,” as Sharon is known. The Right of Return has long been invoked by Jews around the world. Yet now, according to the Sharon-Bush doctrine, that same right is denied to the Palestinians.  This is not only a violation of UN General Resolution 194 but also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The so-called “disengagement” from Gaza consists only in the removal of settlers. Control of borders, natural resources and air space remain under Israeli control.

The Palestinians are abandoned to their ghetto; passions are inflamed; another target is handed to Hamas.   Terrorism is but a symptom of an underlying malady that this administration (and others) has failed to address. U.S. supported undemocratic regimes in the Middle East have marginalized Islamic peoples for years. The West’s convenient neglect and disinclination to understand other cultures together with decades of un-evenhandedness in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have radicalized whole populations. This week Mr. Bush has only added fuel to the fire.

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51. Israeli Voices of Conscience (The Journal News,  May 27, 2004


Those who would look to the Bush administration for moral leadership in condemning the outrages committed by Ariel Sharon and his army in Gaza will look in vain.  Instead they will find a president who applauds Sharon as “a man of peace” and whose only votes in the UN are vetoes or abstentions while he panders for votes at home.

Rather let us heed the heroic voices of conscience emanating from Israel itself – rarely heard in our media:

-    Brit Tzedek v’Shalom
, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace: “The destruction of homes in Rafeh has made thousands of people homeless,… innocent Palestinians have been killed or gravely injured. These actions represent a reckless disregard for human rights, which we must condemn.”

-     the women of Machom-Watch or of Bat Shalom demonstrating against the demolition of houses in Rafah:  “Soldiers, stop! The black flag of war crimes is flying!”

-     the voice of “The Other Israel” –  founded in 1983  by Uri Avnery – describing Sharon as someone “unable to accept defeat and ready to use anything that comes to hand, unscrupled and careless of what may be trampled in the process.”

-    the demonstrators of Gush Shalom whose posters read: "Stop the Killing in Rafah!", "Sharon, Man of Blood", "Tanks Get Out!", "They Shoot at Demonstrators, Too!",  "Remaining Silent Makes You an Accomplice!", "Not in My Name!".  Hear these same Israeli demonstrators shouting: "Refuse! Refuse!", "Soldier, Listen - You Can Refuse!"  "Soldiers, Get Out! Don't Take Part in War Crimes!"

Sources:

Gush Shalom
, May 23, 2004
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) Newsletter
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, May 21, 2004

The Other Israel  No. 113/114 April-May 2004

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52. Pandora's Box  (The Journal News, June 29, 2004)


A public trial of Saddam just might open a troubling Pandora’s Box of his past relationships with various Washington administrations. Patriotic Americans may well wonder why for years some politicians chose to coddle such a notorious violator of human rights in what Christopher Hitchens, a supporter of the current Iraq war, called “a long-standing effort to make a pet of Saddam Hussein.”

Would we learn more about Saddam’s 1982 meeting with a smiling Donald Rumsfeld; or the sale of 60 Hughes helicopters to Saddam in1982 and 45 Bell 214 helicopters in 1984 – most of which were easily converted to military purposes without a peep from Washington?

Why, when Saddam’s warplanes dropped chemical weapons on Kurdish villages like Halubja in 1988, did the administration not even make a symbolic gesture of displeasure and why did the State Department even instruct diplomats to propagate the myth of Iran’s complicity?

Could Saddam explain how, according to US Commerce Department records, 14 consignments of biological material were exported to Iraq between 1985 and 1989, including 19 batches of anthrax bacteria and 15 batches of botulinum, the organism that causes botulism?  29 batches of these and other toxic materials were even sent to him after his gassing of the Kurds in Halubja.

And what of Saddam’s famous July 22, 1990 meeting with Ambassador April Glaspie shortly before the Kuwait invasion? According to the transcript she told Saddam, following instructions, “We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts….. the issue is not associated with America.”  Did Saddam take these words as a green light?

Sources:

1. ITN report of February 13, 1998

2. Transcript of July 25, 1990 meeting of U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie with Saddam Hussein

3, Murray Wilson, What Washington Gave Saddam for Christmas, in “The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents and Opinion.”   Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, eds.   A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003.

4. Christopher Hitchens, Realpolitik in the Gulf:  A Game Gone Tilt, in “The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents and Opinion.” Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, edsA Touchstone Book published by
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003.

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53. Nationalism is not patriotism  (
The Journal News, July 31, 2004)

Today in America the toxic fumes of nationalism are polluting the pure air of true patriotism.

Nationalism says, no matter what, there can only be allegiance and loyalty to my country’s government and actions – “right or wrong.”   It casts aside rational thought and wraps itself in the flag. It follows the leader of the day while questioning the patriotism of anyone who disputes his agenda.  It assumes a divine mandate for the cause.  The crusaders of old cried, “Deus vult” (“God wills it”).  The German motto in World War I was “Gott mitt uns” (“God is with us”) This kind of allegiance is the mother of all tyranny.

“After all,” wrote Hermann Goering,  “it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is a simple matter to drag people along. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism – it works the same way in every country.”

True patriotism, in contrast, requires loyalty to the principles on which our republic was founded. It requires serious, analytical and rational thought and avoids imperial pursuit. It always first questions the leader before charging into battle. None other than Theodore Roosevelt best stated this principle:  “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”


Sources:

R. Lee Wrights, What’s Wrong with Patriotism?
R. Lee Wrights, Patriotism versus Nationalism.

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54. Base Catholic Vote on Multiple Issues  (The Journal  News, September 4, 2004


Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our Christian faith.  It is the common misconception of politicians, however, that the Catholic vote can be counted on by addressing a narrow range of issues.

Abortion is a case in point. To characterize the whole content of our faith in a single issue is inappropriate and a detriment to the whole of Catholic doctrine. “While the right to life stands as a primary human right, getting the child born does not finish our moral, economic and political responsibilities to defend life. A single-issue voter trivializes the complexity of the life process.”  (Father John Rausch)

Issues of poverty, hunger, violence, the death penalty and modern warfare are part of a consistent life ethic as well. War, for instance, is a defeat for the culture of life and political leaders who bring about or perpetuate war can hardly be considered “pro-life.”

As the American bishops have stated, “Our responsibility is to measure all candidates, policies, parties and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, whether they protect the poor and vulnerable and advance the common good.”

Hopefully Catholics will seek those candidates who work best for peace and global justice; who demonstrate compassion for the poor and homeless; welcome strangers, promote health care for all; who recognize the earth’s goodness and our responsibility as stewards of God’s creation.


Sources:


“Christian Principles in an Election Year” (National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA)
“Faithful Citizenship” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Pax Christi USA
Rev. John S. Rausch, “Choosing a Presidential Candidate” (National Catholic Rural Life Conference, www.ncrlc.com)

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55. Letter to the Editor (The Journal News, October 7, 2004)

 

“Old Europe” Got It Right


It’s no surprise that the Vatican stated this week, “The US-led war in Iraq hasn’t made the world safer.” (Journal News, 9/30) The world’s religious leaders knew this war was morally wrong, a dangerous precedent that would lead to disastrous results.

“Old Europe,” much maligned by an arrogant US administration, has been proven right as well.  France, America’s oldest ally, was viciously attacked by simplistic people in America for not joining the administration’s violation of the UN Charter in its unilateralism. Yet the first head of State who came to New York in solidarity after 9/11 was Jacques Chirac (“We are all Americans.”)  France lost 70 soldiers in the Bosnian conflict. There are 5,500 French soldiers side-by-side with American forces today in Afghanistan and France was the only nation to send bombers to assist our forces there.

Our old allies are not pacifist.  But they learned from history: for France, bitter lessons in Algeria and Vietnam, something we failed to learn. Good friends tell you when you’re wrong; don’t let friends drive when drunk, even drunk with power.  They begged the US to allow the inspections mandated by UN Resolution 1441 to continue.

 Before the war French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin pleaded, “Is the use of force the last resort? Do we have an alternative to war? Will force in Iraq give us the most secure world? Will the Middle East be a safer region? Won’t it lead to frustration, humiliation, division?  War is always the sanction of failure.”

Prophetic.

Sources:

The Journal News, September 30, 2004
ABC News: George Stephanopoulos interview with Dominique de Villepin, March 2, 2003
Address of Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs to the UN Security Council, February 14, 2003.
Press & Information Office, Embassy of France, Washington, DC

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56. Letter to tthe Editor (The New York Times - 10/12/94 - unpublished)

Re:  "Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry" (New York Times -  10/12/04)


 As if the American bishops didn't already have enough problems, now a group of right-wing single-issue bishops are embarrassing the faithful with their meddling in politics and using the Eucharist as a weapon. Like Mr. Bush  they see only black and white and not a speck of gray. They are trying to be more Catholic than the pope who has managed to give communion to both Protestant and pro-choice dignitaries.
 
There is simply no honesty in Mr. Bush's pretensions at being "pro-life." Which party's agenda will best lead to a lessening of abortion? Which party's social agenda will drive more women into poverty? The right to life is more than simply the right to be born.  To characterize the whole content of our faith in a single  issue, as these misguided prelates do,  trivializes the complexity of the life process. Mr. Bush's record on the death penalty, for instance, while governor of Texas, demonstrates how pro-life he really is.  Why do these tunnel visionists also ignore  Bush's  immoral war in Iraq with its untold casualties?   How does that promote  the culture of life?
 
The efforts of these stern shepherds are not only embarrassing but also might  invite a review of the tax-exempt status of their dioceses.


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57. Letter to the Editor (The Journal News, November 10. 2004)

Morality Goes beyond Fundamentalist Issues

 Monsignor William Smith (Journal News 11/4), who invites “urban liberals… to visit other parts of the country," should himself make a visit right  here in Westchester if he thinks regular "Mass-going Catholics" relate only to Bush and that “Kerry does not understand them”.

He should realize that many conscientious "Catholics  who go to mass every week"  do not buy into the single-issue morality of a few right-wing fundamentalist bishops and  that many “Ten Commandments people” consider a wider range of moral issues like justice, poverty, war and peace.

These same embarrassing shepherds and many “born-again” evangelicals ignore issues like the death penalty as applied by a certain “pro-life” Texas governor to 152 prisoners.  They also ignore the thousands of innocent civilians killed in an immoral war condemned by the pope.

Catholics have more to rely upon than tunnel vision.  We have John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” stating the war is no longer “an apt means for vindicating violated rights.” We have the Second Vatican Council’s “Gaudium et Spes” that teaches us that “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”  Pro-life is a multi-faceted issue.

Catholics, enlightened by the Gospel in all its dimensions, are not likely to crawl into bed with narrow-minded fundamentalists.  As Father John Dear, SJ, writes, they will challenge our culture of war and “discover anew how to be Christian in these post-Christian times.” 

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58. Letters to the Editor (The Journal News,  December 11, 2004 )

:
Steve Goodman (“Community View” 12/4) engages in classic sophistry and subterfuge when he blames the Palestinians for a failed peace process.

At a wink and nod from President Bush, Ariel Sharon, the “man of peace,” constructs 1500 new housing units in the West Bank in violation of  Bush’s own Road Map. The administration talks the talk, while walking backwards.

Writing in the Washington Post Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann describes how US Caterpillar earthmovers are cutting into Palestinian terrain as a first step in Israel’s E-1 plan to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank “virtually ruling out the possibility of East Jerusalem ever becoming the national seat of Palestine….Jerusalem is interpreting the messages it is receiving from Washington, their style and substance, as a green light to proceed.” There is method in Sharon’s madness.

Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Meron Benvenisti writes in Ha’aretz that “annexation of territories and the establishment of the settlements and the fence is illegal in terms of international law.”

Americans must realize that Sharon’s policies and our embrace of them are directly related to the threat of terrorism.  M.J. Rosenberg of Israel Policy Forum rightly states that every day the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues “America’s standing in the Muslim world deteriorates and the threat of terrorism directed at Americans and American interests increases.”

The Hebrew scriptures, echoed in our own civil rights movement, remind us that there will be no peace without justice first.  “No justice, no peace.” Mr. Goodman would do well to remind Mr. Sharon of this.

Sources:

Churches for Middle East Peace, Fall 2004.
Israel Policy Forum, August 27, 2004
The Washington Post, August 26, 2004
Ha’aretz, August 26, 2004

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59. Letters to the Editor (The Journal News, January 20, 2005)
 
 Post-election polls suggest that the issue of “moral values” was a major factor in election results. Together with “preserving our way of life” these phrases will mean different things to different people and bears scrutiny.

For instance, while many will have no problem with the forty-plus million dollar expenditure for the inauguration of the president who was re-elected as a paragon of “moral values,” others with visions of starving children in Sudan consider the forthcoming festivities as “unseemly” or “a shameful celebration of war, greed and intolerance.”

Bernard Ries in The Washington Post notes that in 1945 wartime President Roosevelt was inaugurated with a “buffet luncheon, fried chicken and pound cake and not a single ball.”  Our “values” have certainly changed.

Forty years ago Thomas Merton warned that when we speak of our liberties, our rights, values and way of life we may actually be talking about “irresponsibility, good times, a comfortable life.”  In other words, our “affluence.” Merton suggests that much of what is proclaimed under the aegis of Christian values in this post-Christian world is simply “neo-paganism with a Christian veneer.  “Spiritual religion,” he writes, “has yielded to the tribal totalitarian war dance, yielding to the hegemony of naked power.”

Should we be satisfied with “passive acquiescence to injustice,” Merton asks, sloganeering about “values” without critical thinking while our world is “spinning downhill without brakes”?  Bombarded by spin and propaganda from every side the individual citizen can easily be seduced into “moral blindness and stultification of conscience.” Values require clarification.


Sourcees:
Thomas Merton,  Peace in the Post-Christian Era, Orbis Books, 2004.
Bernard Ries in The Washington Post. January 9, 2005

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60. Letters to the Editor (The Journal News, February 21, 2005)

Amid the brouhaha over Iran’s suspected nuclear program some questions arise.

The administration’s name calling and saber rattling must appear disingenuous to the Muslim world and the Iranians in particular.
Given our own history of using nuclear weaponry the Iranians must ask why America insists in preventing other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons if not to intimidate those who oppose its policies. From the Iranian’s vantage point their possession of such weapons would deter us from invading them.

The United States is bound by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as well as Iran.  Yet, instead of disarming our own nuclear weaponry as required by the Treaty we continue to maintain 480 nuclear weapons in Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey and Germany

Worse still, instead of engaging in “significant reduction” as required by the Treaty the administration is currently engaged in developing even more sophisticated nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile not a word is uttered about Israel’s continued production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons for 30 years in violation of UN Security Council resolution 487 (1981). To this day neither the Israeli nuclear weapons assembly plant at Yodefat nor the Negev Nuclear Research Center at Dimona has been subject to IAEA inspection.

Is Israel alone to be free to have sole nuclear dominance in the Middle East? Might not other nations in the area ask why what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander?

When will the administration set an example of disarmament while demanding the same of other nations including Israel?

Sources:

The London Independent – story 609500
UN Security Council resolution 487 (1981)
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: map of Israel’s nuclear sites

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61. Letter to the Editor (The Journal News, published March 31, 2005)


How quickly the Bush administration seized upon the 2004 UN resolution 1559 requiring  Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.  Although Syria, demonized by Mr. Bush, was initially invited into Lebanon by the Lebanese it had outworn its welcome.  Yet the administration jumped into action immediately after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

Contrast this with 35 years of UN resolutions requiring that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory – resolutions consistently ignored or vetoed by our government though based on the same international law required of all UN positions. 

Compared with Israel’s uninvited occupation of Palestine the Syrian presence in Lebanon has been almost respectful:  The Syrians never destroyed Lebanese dwellings, fields, and olive groves with US-provided bulldozers.  They did not bomb Lebanese civilians with US-made Apache helicopters.  The Syrians did not build walls or fences or colonize the land with unwelcome settlers.

People in the Middle East must wonder why, when Syria proposed to the UN that the Middle East be declared a nuclear-free and biological-chemical-free zone, the US shot down this resolution. Whose interests were being preserved by such US action? When will America quit using a different and lower standard for Israel than it does for the Arab world and Iran?
 
The people of the Middle East do not hate Americans; but our foreign policy and lack of basic fairness is despised.  The world in general asks that we as a superpower adhere to the principle of universality: that is, apply to ourselves and our favorites the same standards we apply to others.

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62. Letter to the Editor (The Journal News, published July 1, 2005)
 

Your June 29th story "Bush: War is worth losses" should add "as long as it’s somebody else's kids."  Who in Mr. Bush’s entourage has a child fighting the war in Iraq?

This disenchanted Republican has had it with the con artist in the White House and his crony warmongers who have hijacked the party of Lincoln and my ancestors.

 The American people are hopefully beginning to wake up from the stupor brought on by the lies and propaganda they have been fed from the outset of this imbroglio.  Iraq had nothing to do with 911 no matter how many times Bush continues to try to create a linkage. Americans know that Iraq never attacked the United States, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, was weak and could not retaliate as North Korea or Iran could.  World opinion meant nothing to him because Iraq was in his crosshairs from the get-go. Bush creates enemies faster by his policies than our forces can kill them.

 So here we are:  twenty-five months since Bush stood beneath the "Mission Accomplished" banner.   We are still at war with no end in sight; the Taliban are alive and well in Afghanistan and Al Qaida on a rampage in Iraq where they never were before our invasion.  If this war is worth the loss of 1744 dead Americans and thousands of heroes wounded and maimed for life (carefully hidden from our eyes) Americans deserve a better rationale for this carnage than they have been given.

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 63. Israeli. Wall intended as a land grab (The Journal News, August 16, 2005)

One wonders who Mr. Saland thinks he's kidding when he refers to Israel's land-grabbing apartheid wall as "defensive"? If you build a fence on your own property because you don't like your neighbor, that's certainly your right. If Israel had built its wall along the Green Line and on its own land, one could justifiably call it "defensive."

But the wall Israel is building is deep inside Palestinian territory — on someone else's land. It encloses Palestinian territory on the Israeli side, de-facto annexing it to Israel. It is deliberately serpentine, dividing communities, separating farmers from their fields, families from their relatives, children from the schools, and the sick from access to medical attention. The wall cleverly expropriates sources of water while creating a series of Bantustans that guarantee that any future Palestinian state can never have territorial integrity. This is just what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants.

Meanwhile, while Israeli hardliners gobble up more of the occupied territories and fragment its population, the Gaza Strip in Sharon's grand design is destined to become the world's largest prison camp, with no real independence, no control of its borders or its air space.

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64.
Church teaching clear on Iraq war (The Journal News, September 26, 2005) 
 
Bravo, Father George Kuhn for his Christian witness urging parents in "poor and urban neighborhoods" to resist the military's efforts to recruit their children as canon fodder.
(article in the Journal News 9/25) Already far too many Blacks, Hispanics and poor southern whites have paid the ultimate price for Mr. Bush's immoral and unprovoked war in Iraq.
 
Catholic teaching on this kind of unjust warfare is clear.  The saintly Pope John XXIII reflected on the long-standing teachings on war and peace in his memorable encyclical Pacem In Terris (Peace on Earth, April 11, 1963).  The Iraq war does not meet the criteria for a "just war."
 
Pope Paul VI in turn stood before the United Nations on October 4, 1965 and uttered these famous words: "Jamais plus la guerre." War never again.  Pope John Paul repeated the same theme before the Security Council on March 17, 2003.  The fact that many Catholics still don't  get it is a tragedy. 
 
Religious leaders from a wide spectrum of faiths - the Archbishop of Canterbury,  the pope,  the head of the President's own Methodist church - have  roundly condemned this immoral war that has cost nearly 2000 American lives and thousands of Iraqi lives.  Of course, Mr. Bush and war zealots can always count on Rev. Pat Robertson for their inspiration. Father Kuhn has chosen better company.
 
"War is sweet to those who have never tasted it," wrote Erasmus.  How many in Mr. Bush's entourage have children presently tasting the Iraq war's "sweetness"?
 
It is time to "declare war on war".
  
Sources:
 
1.     For "War is sweet" ( "Dulce bellum inexpertis" ) see  Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1538) "Complaint of Peace"
 
2. "Declare war on war"   Pope Pius XII (1944) as quoted in "Peace in the Post-Christian Era" by Thomas  Merton.     Orbis Books, 2004)

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 65. History Will Someday Prove Bush Wrong (The Journal News,  November 22, 2005.)
 
It is encouraging to read in The Journal News  ("The Senate Prods Bush on War") that Congress and the American public are beginning to realize what a con job was perpetrated on them by this administration. As Lincoln Caplan of Yale's Legal Affairs notes, "The outlook of Richard Nixon was that he was above the law." (Watergate proved him wrong.) "The position of George W. Bush is that he is a law unto himself."  History will prove him wrong as well.

People in the Middle East are rightfully skeptical of Mr. Bush’s  "promoting democracy" mantra.   Iranians especially will recall how a former Republican administration overthrew the democratically elected secular Iranian government of Mohammad Mosadegh in 1953 and imposed our despotic puppet, the Shah. This in turn spawned a revolution that led to the fundamentalist regime we face today.

Sadly, "friendly" Middle Eastern despots up till today have only been strengthened by our support – from the Saudi royal family through Egypt’s Mubarak, to our former ally Saddam himself.

Hopefully the Senate will expose the whole truth as to how the Bush cabal led our country into this misconceived and unprovoked war against an already defeated and contained two-bit dictator -  a war that has cost  thousands of innocent lives, and sullied American reputation abroad because of Abu Ghraib.

Voltaire said it well: "The beauty of war is that each leader of a band of assassins has his flag blessed and invokes God before setting off to exterminate his neighbors."

Sources:

Nat Hentoff in “The Progressive”, November 2005, quoting from “Legal Affairs” (Yale Law School)
"Verba Volant" for quote from Voltaire.  Origiinal text as follows:

« Le merveilleux de la guerre, c'est que chaque chef des meurtriers fait bénir ses drapeaux et invoque Dieu solennellement avant d'aller exterminer son prochain »

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66.
Success of Hamas Is Tied to Israel (The Journal News, January  26. 2006)

 
The further success of Hamas in local Palestinian elections (The Journal News, Jan. 22) should remind us that free and democratic elections do not always lead to results favoring U.S. policy.  The Bush administration cannot be happy with the successes of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or Eva Morales in Bolivia.
 
Historically, democratically-elected governments adverse to American foreign policy tend not to survive (Haiti, Algeria, etc.)  A U.S. sponsored coup d’état in 1973, for instance, successfully overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile. As a result the bloody dictator General Augusto Pinochet became president and our man.
 
In 1953 the CIA director Allen Dulles in a plot nicknamed "Operation Ajax" managed to overthrow of the democratically-elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadech.  We installed Mohammed Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, our man, whose dictatorial rule eventually led to a revolution and the mess we face today.  It’s no surprise that President Bush's mantra of "spreading democracy" is viewed with jaundiced eye and derision in the Middle East today.

Ironically the success of Hamas is tied to Israel.  In the late 1970’s, Tel Aviv gave direct financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. The rationale was to use Hamas as a religious counterbalance to the secular PLO.  In fact in 1978 Hamas was legally registered in Israel by Sheikh  Yassin, its spiritual leader. 

This Israeli policy of divide and conquer has obviously backfired over the years.   Today Hamas is seen by Palestinians as a viable alternative to the corruption-ridden Fatah party.

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67. Nothing Noble about Iraq War  (The Journal News, February 27, 2006)

Re: (cf. The Journal News tragic “Role of Honor” daily profiling servicemen and women killed in Iraq.)

 
The public has been cannily manipulated by sophisticated propaganda into believing that our “cause” in Iraq is just and that the dead and maimed are being sacrificed in a noble war.

No one wants to believe their loved ones died for nothing.  We need and seek to find meaning for this wasted humanity.  Yet the world is strewn with the graves of those who died for some “cause” that was once deemed “just”.

Our friends abroad are mystified at our lack of wisdom in bringing such a hollow yet dangerous man into office: the first time around - an understandable mistake; the second time - inexcusable.

For Paul Schroeder who lost his son in Iraq it “was a waste…. in the belief that a democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator – a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires.”

"Such frank talk isn't much heard these days,” continues Coleman McCarthy in the National Catholic Reporter,  “especially not when the media dutifully follow the hallucinating president from military base to military base pledging victory … and obedient audiences of soldiers, befogged in their own caverns of illusion, hoo-haw and cheer."

Retired Admiral and combat veteran Gene LaRoque said it best:  "I hate it when they say, 'He gave his life for his country.'  Nobody gives their life for anything.  We steal the lives of those kids. We take it away from them.  They don't die for the honor and glory of their country.  We kill them"

Sources:

The Washington Post: for the original story about Paul Schroeder's comments on the death of his son, Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II.

 National Catholic Reporter, February 3, 2006, for the article by Colman McCarthy's article "There's Nothing Noble about War."

******************************************************

Mike Reynolds attacked Richard's letter as follows:

Writer's comments on troops unfair (published March 4, 2006)

 It's OK to think that the Iraq war is a bad idea (Richard Cross, Feb. 27 letter). It's even OK to hate George W. Bush. However, it is a horse of an entirely different color to imply, with quotations from like-minded people, that the fathers and mothers and sons and daughters who are standing in harm's way in Iraq are ". . . befogged in their own caverns of illusion, hoo-haw and cheer . . ." This is an insult to the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen and women who are performing their hazardous duties far from home. It is also a insulting and hurtful calumny to all the families of service men and women who wait anxiously at home.

These are not naive conscripts. These are people who know and believe in what they are doing, many going back for second and third tours of duty. Any person who would deny them the dignity and honor that they have earned is lacking at the very least, a sense of fairness and, if a Christian, a scandalous lack of Christian respect and charity.

Mike Reynolds, Tarrytown

****************************************************
Richard's personal reply to Mike Reynolds (sent via e-mail )

Thank you for your comments on my letter.  Although I believe you have disingenuously twisted the content of my letter for your purposes it is a welcome addition to the discussion at hand.
 
First of all the comments I quoted came from someone else. They were not my words as you imply.  Mox Nix.  If you have a problem with Admiral LaRoque, for instance,  you should take it up with him.
 
The misquotation about the cheering masses again referred to Bush's carefully chosen audience on a military base where no dissenting view would be allowed.
 
I did believe the public, yourself included, has been brainwashed by this administration.  And I speak as a registered Republican whose ancestors were Republicans before yours ever came to America.
 
This is not the party of Lincoln or of my fathers.  It has been hijacked by a bunch neo-cons and Zionist ideologues and you ought to be bright enough to realize it.  If you like an imperial America you are welcome to it.  I happen to live in a country that once was republic and still ought to be.
 
I had no intention of insulting the parents or victims of this war and it is unfair you to suggest it.  If you really love America you would want these troops out of this misbegotten war and pronto. Nor was there anything "un-Christian" in my quoting an article from a Christian newspaper. (The National Catholic Reporter). Another low blow.
 
Tell me, Mike, why did 50,000+ American die in Vietnam? So that Saigon could be called  Ho Chi Mina City today? So we could be doing business as usual with a Communist Viet Nam to which we have given "most favored nation status."?  So one may ask down the road why did Americans have to die in Iraq?  For oil?  For empire?
 
I think that my letter must  have touched  a raw nerve with you. This is not the first time you have attacked me in print and I'm sure it feels good.  In your frenzy of misbegotten patriotism you might pause to give a thought to the words of Julius Caesar who seems to have learned a lesson or two.
 
“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fever, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their right unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done and I am Caesar.”

Mr.  Reynolds did not reply to this letter.

*****************************************************

68.  Starvation Policy against the Palestinian People (The Journal News, March 31, 2006)
 
Democratic elections are just fine as long as we get the results we want. Free elections in Palestine, however, were met with hostility, derision and name-calling that have only led to greater alienation.

Meanwhile Israel and its surrogates have done everything they can to insure failure for the fledgling Palestinian democracy. Despite an agreement on the control of Gaza border crossings brokered by Secretary Rice last November “Israel has kept the main cargo crossing shut, creating food shortages for ordinary Palestinians and financial losses for Palestinian farmers and merchants.” (Haaretz)  There is no doubt that continued pressure on the Palestinian people will only result in their greater resolve to fight back against Israel.

Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population has been on the rise ever since the election:

-    withholding Palestinian tax revenues that are rightfully theirs.
-    prohibition of the free flow of foodstuffs (wheat, milk, flour) and medicine into the Gaza Strip, as in the closing of the
     al-Mentar crossing. Meanwhile health conditions and life in Gaza deteriorate.
-    The exportation of agricultural products from Gaza has been banned. BBC-TV showed truckloads of rotting strawberries,
      tomatoes and other produce being dumped for lack of export.
-    preventing Palestinian workers from reaching their places of work in Israel
-    expanding the illegal “separation barrier” to create a “new border” deep into Palestinian territory. (The Journal News, 3/26)

The collective punishment of civilians by an occupying power is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Who cares?

Sources:

Haaretz
, Israeli daily March 25, 2006
The Journal News, March 26, “Israelis head into election with dampened dreams.”

*********************************************************************************8
My letter was subsequently attacked by Richard Rosen, as follows:

Why not ask Hamas to recognize Israel(published April 6, 2006)

(Original publication: April 6, 2006)


In his March 31 letter, "Starvation policy and the Palestinians," Richard Cross decries the "hostility, derision and name-calling" which, he claims, lead to greater alienation of the Palestinian people, who have freely elected a Hamas-dominated government. He speaks of "Israel and its surrogates." The latter characterization sounds very much like descriptions used in anti-Semitic screeds, but that aside, the idea that an elected government automatically merits the respect and cooperation of other governments is without any basis. The demand, for example, that Israel support economically and otherwise a government that persists in its refusal to recognize it, and vows its destruction, is ludicrous.

Mr. Cross would have Israel recognize the Hamas government because it was elected, but he seems to prescribe no such requirement for the Palestinian government. There is no demand that it recognize Israel. Indeed, "hostility, derision and name-calling" seem to be its main method of dealing with Israel.

Richard A Rosen, MD, Mount Vernon

*******************************************************************

Salem Mikdadi wrote the following response to Rosen's attack: (April 8, 2006)

The Great Silencer

 Anyone who questions the actions of the Israeli government risks the predictable accusation of "anti-Semitism."  This much-abused word is the last refuge of those who would end all discussion of an issue and silence anyone who dares to hold Israel to the same standard of behavior as other democratic nations. As a tactic it intimidates and works beautifully.

 Richard Rosen (The Journal News, April 6) excels in this when he refuses to address the hard issues raised in a previous letter to the paper concerning Israel's abuse of human rights by depriving the Palestinian population of the free flow of foodstuffs and medicine.  Instead of responding to the facts presented  Mr. Rosen attacks the messenger, dodges irrefutable facts and takes refuge in the familiar "anti-Semitic" label. For Rosen, no one has the right to hold Israel to the norms of the Geneva Conventions or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  it is "anti-Semitic" in principle to do so.

 Professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Wait of Harvard in a recent study at the John F. Kennedy School of Government  call this tactic "the great silencer."  "Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions," they write, "stands a good chance of getting labeled anti-Semitic. This tactic is very effective, because anti-Semitism is loathsome and no responsible person wants to be accused of it."

Even though readers have heard  it all before,  Mr. Rosen should be congratulated for a successful  application of this all-too-common, but effective strategy. Once more a weighty word has been disingenuously manipulated and rendered meaningless.

Salem D. Mikdadi
Dobbs Ferry, NY


***********************************************

69.
Double Standard on Iran (The Journal News, May 2, 2006)

Iranians cannot but be skeptical about President Bush’s pretenses of following the diplomacy route - given his track record in diplomacy leading up to the Iraq war, his flaunting the United Nations inspection teams of Hans Blix,  the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and ultimately launching a “preemptive” war in violation of the UN Charter.

One truly authentic democratic election Iranians had not long ago was that of Mohammed Mossadegh.  But a successful CIA-led coup d’état in 1953 ended that.  The subsequent US imposing of the autocratic Shah on Iran has haunted our relations with the Iranians ever since. Not only was the US in bed with this despot; so was Israel, while at the same time it was pandering to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

More ironic is the fact that Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while Israel is not. Iranians know that for the past three years the IAEA has had inspectors in Iran. They also know, however, that no one from the IAEA or the UN has ever been allowed near Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Iranians have good reason to suspect a double standard, therefore, when every time there is an effort in the UN to place Israel’s arsenal on the IAEA’s agenda the US vetoes the resolution.

Iran’s proposed nuclear ambitions do not pose any threat to the US - nor to Israel - despite what war-mongering pundits say. “Israel can already turn Tehran into a radioactive desert - and quickly.” (Forward, April 21)

Sources:

Columbia University Press Encyclopedia. Mohammed Mossadegh

Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
  Signatories of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Marc Perelman, “International Agency Eyes Israeli Nukes,” in Forward, September 5, 2005, for the US blocking of Arab states’ efforts to put Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the IAEA’s agenda.

Martin Van Creveld“Knowing Why not to Bomb Iran Is Half the Battle.” Forward, April 21, 2006)

Third World Traveler. Irangate: the Israeli Connection” page 169.

Country Studies.  “South Africa – Relations with Other Countries.”  One of the most hidden but critical of South Africa’s strategic relationships during the apartheid era was that with Israel.  http://countrystudies.us/south-africa/85.htm

******************************************************************

Richard  Dubin attacks Richard's letter in the  Journal News: (May 10)

Israel and Iran don't compare


 I find it ironic that Richard Cross' letter, "Double standard on Iran, Israel" appeared on May 2, Yom Hazikaron, Israel Remembrance Day for the murder of one-third of the world's Jews, as well as many other victims of the Nazis including Gypsies, mental patients, and even members of the Christian clergy who protested the Holocaust.


Mr. Cross stands almost alone in denying that Iran is not a threat to us and our allies, quoting from "The Forward" — a Jewish jingoistic newspaper that stated: "Israel can already turn Teheran into a radioactive desert and quickly — which is like quoting "Commentary" (an ultraconservative magazine) for its opinion of Hillary Rodham Clinton. And I'm sure many Jewish anti-Semites agree with Mr. Cross that Zionism is racism. Anyhow, he must find comfort in the fact that the Iranians feel that Israel is a "warmonger" and must be destroyed.

Richard Dubin, Scarsdale

70.  "Married to Failure" (The Journal News, June 15, 2006)


Historian Barbara Tuchman’s quotations and perceptive analysis of the folly of the Vietnam War have a familiar ring even today. (The March of Folly, 1984) 

“Every quantitative measurement we have shows we are winning the war” (Secretary of State Robert McNamara in July 1961– Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld?)

“So much of the area …was controlled by the guerillas (‘the insurgents’) that I could find no American who would drive me outside Saigon (Baghdad) in his car.” (Theodore White 1961 – think of the international press today.)

“We are not going to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” (Lyndon Johnson, 1964.  before an election).

In a classic case of historic misgovernment the present administration is repeating the follies of war.  It is infected with the disease of “divine mission“- (“civilizing mission” as the French called it):  arrogance of power that seeks to impose our way of life and values on other cultures; that attempts nation building through “regime change” as if nations are built from the outside.

By turning a deaf ear to wiser voices in the military and friends abroad and ignoring feasible alternative courses of action this administration has pursued a counter-productive policy in the persistence of unattainable goals while reaping only the fear and enmity of most of the world.

Tuchman’s analysis of the Vietnam War rings ever true today.

As John Kenneth Gailbraith wrote in 1962, “We are married to failure.”

SOURCES:

Tuchman, Barbara. The March of Folly. New York: Alfred . Knopf, 1984.

White, Theodore.  “So much of the area” quoted in Schlesinger, Arthur
Jr. A Thousand Days, 1965. , 544.

McNamara, Robert. “Every quantitative measurement” quoted in Schlesinger, op. cit., 549.

Johnson, Lyndon. “We are not going to send” quoted in Wicker, Tom, JFK and LBJ, 1968, 231-232.

Gailbraith, Kenneth. “Married to Failure” quoted in Schlesinger, op. cit., 548.

***************************************************************

71. Response to Israeli terrorism (letter to the Editor published in The Journal News July 23, 2006)

 

No one should be surprised if Israel gets a small dose of its own medicine – medicine it has been dishing out to the Palestinians for years: house demolitions, target assassinations, bulldozing olive trees, indiscriminately bombing civilian targets (with “Made in USA” equipment), imprisoning thousands of  Palestinian men, women and children.  Collective punishment has now become an art form:  bridges demolished, sources of water supply and electricity destroyed, borders closed, sea ports blockaded, and airports wasted.

Damn the Geneva Conventions! Full speed ahead!

When the downtrodden are driven to violence they are called “terrorists”.  When bullies perpetrate violence and play the victim they are said to have a right to defend themselvesTerrorism?  What’s in a name?

Terrorism of any kind and from any source should be equally condemned. But it isn’t.  Israel can act with impunity getting away with things no other nation could. Recall Israel’s massive, unprovoked, daylight attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 in which 34 American servicemen were killed and 171 wounded. There was no US response.  To this day when any effort is made in the UN to criticize its behavior Israel can count on its client state to veto any resolution presented.

Israel has gone beyond all bounds in its destruction of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. When will John Q. Public address the hard questions as to what policies have driven so many ordinary people in the Middle East to extremism and why the United States is seen as complicit in their oppression?

Sources:

 One of many sources for the “USS Liberty” incident:  http://www.ussliberty.org/
“Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”  - Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, 1864.

*****************************************************
72. Letter to the Journal News, August 26,  2006


Camus said it best when it comes to the foreign policies of George Bush & Co., Lieberman and (closer to home) Hillary Clinton:  “Politics and the fate of mankind are formed by those without ideals and without greatness.”  (1)
>
The disappointing Mrs. Clinton’s local pandering for votes by favoring the actions of the Israeli state are disgusting. Lauding Israel’s apartheid wall, ignoring the Lebanese tragedy, “scoffing” at Hezbollah, all reveal a self-serving bias that is all too apparent. (2)
>
While demanding the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah Senator Clinton says nothing about the nearly 10,000 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, in Israeli prisons. Hezbollah “broke international rules,” she proclaims, while saying nothing about the IDF’s kidnapping of democratically-elected Palestinian government officials. Only last week, for example, this paper noted how “Israeli soldiers burst into the home of the Palestinian deputy prime minister,” arresting Nasser Shaer, a former university professor. (3)
>
Hillary Clinton’s double standard, in collusion with the Washington cabal, failed to recognize and condemn Israel’s bloody blitzkrieg in Lebanon with our government’s tacit blessing.  This is not lost on the Muslim world.  Nor are we safer because of such misguided policies.  We are making more enemies daily and losing friends among moderate peoples through our lack of evenhandedness.  Mrs. Clinton’s worries about “containing” Hezbollah are disingenuous and her fear that “Israel is in a very dangerous position” will come as news to the Lebanese population that managed to survive such terrible war crimes.
>
Richard E. Cross
Tarrytown, New York

**********************************************************

Sources :

(1) Albert Camus (1913-1960) “La politique et le destin des humains sont  forgés par des hommes dépourvus d’idéaux et de grandeur.  Les hommes qui possèdent cette grandeur n’entrent pas en politique.”
>
(2) The Journal News. August 19, 2006. An article entitled “Hillary: Hezbollah should release captive Israelis”
>
(3) The Journal News. August 20, 2006. A “Mideast Update.”

**********************************************************

73. Letters to the Editor, The Journal News, September 27, 2006

Benedict XVI Looking Backward


Benedict XVI’s condemnation of “fanaticism” in religion was welcome. But letters to the Journal News (9/20) defending his unfortunate and insensitive quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor miss the mark. Acts of violence in the name of God are not limited to one religion. Embarrassingly the pope. while condemning religious extremism, violence and intolerance,  opened a window on his and my own church’s tainted past.

Would Benedict also quote Pope Urban II’s call for the First Crusade (1095) for “great glory in arms” to destroy the  “accursed race” of Muslims? Would he also mention the crusaders’ slaughter of fellow Orthodox Christians in the siege of Constantinople during the fourth Crusade, the burning of “heretics”, the Inquisition, or the forced conversion “by the sword” of indigenous peoples in Central and South America?

Benedict might better have quoted the proclamation of his modern-day predecessor, Pope Paul VI, “urging all to forget the past and to work for mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.” The pope also praised “the faith of Islam,” its reverence for Jesus as a “prophet.” Muslims “honor Mary, value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”  (Nostra Aetate, 1965)

Elsewhere Pope Paul stated: “the plan of salvation includes Muslims who acknowledge the Creator, hold the faith of Abraham and adore the one merciful God.” (Lumen Gentium, 1964)

Inflammatory quotations from the past are no more helpful in fostering dialog, understanding and reconciliation than the empty rhetoric of our crusader president about “Good and Evil.” 

Sources:

Urban II’s call for a crusade:  The First Crusade, The Account of Eye-Witnesses and Participants, ed. and trans. A.C. KretPrinceton University Press, 1921.)

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI, November 21, 1964.

Declaration of the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

“Rhetoric about good and evil” see Noam Chomsky’s Failed States. Metropolitan Books, 2006, page 125.

The Journal News. “Letters to the Editor” September 20, 2006.

**********************************************

74. Religion Hijacked by Men Published in The Journal News, November 12, 2006)
 

Historian Karen Armstrong has noted how most religions have been “hijacked by men.”  In Islam, the period of the Prophet’s own lifetime was characterized by an absolute moral and spiritual equality of the sexes. Islam gave women equality of legal rights such as the right to independent ownership and disposal of her property, the right to inheritance, to practice a profession and to divorce her husband - all these rights enjoyed centuries before their sisters in the West would achieve them.  Over the centuries, however,  times have changed.  Moral and cultural shortcomings have been incorporated into legal interpretations that often discriminate against women and impose restrictions not found in the Qur’an.  The voices of women in Islam need to be heard.

The Catholic church has undergone a similar hijacking by men.  Recent church controversies within the clerical cast system, illustrated in letters to the editor in this paper, illustrate this phenomenon. An all too arrogant all-male hierarchy is out of touch with the needs and concerns of the faithful.  One wonders if all the scandals, in-house maneuverings and cover-ups would have been tolerated if women were in positions of authority in the church.
 
My beleaguered church will continue to flounder as long as women are denied their full rights to ministry and authority. The prophetic voices of women in the church have been ignored far too often.  It is time to recognize the potential leadership of women and allow them to restore health to our wounded church.
 

Sources:

Karen Armstrong. A History of God.  Gramercy Books, 1993.

R. Marston Speight.  God Is One:  The Way of IslamFriendship Press, 1924.

*******************************************************
Richard's letter (above) rebuked in the Journal News, November 22, 2006

Non-ordination is not a Slight

 
"Richard Cross writes (11/12) that "his beleaguered" Catholic Church has been hijacked by an arrogant male hierarchy, which lacks sensitivity for the "needs and rights" of the faithful regarding the ordination of women.

This assessment appears to mistake both desires for needs and a yearning for empowerment for rights.  More important, it forgets the essence of the priesthood itself, and that despite his choice for a  male priesthood, the founder of the priesthood could have intended no slight to women.  What is called arrogance is merely obedience.
 
The   church simply does not consider herself authorized to ordain women to priestly ordination. (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Inter Insigiores) because Christ did not proceed on the basis of sociologial or cultural motives in esablishing the theological anthropology of his church.  In doing so he was sovereign, and emphacized the dignity and vocation of women without conforming to the culture of the times.  He chose whom he willed.  There can be no proper plebicite on such a plan.  The church cannot do other than to obediently confirm the perennial norm. That the blessed virgin - "Mother of God - and "Mother of the Church" - received neither the mission proper to the Apiostles not priestly orders demonstrtes that the non-ordination of women connotes neither a lesser dignity nor a a discrimination against them.  It is simply the universal plan.  The holiness of the faithful is that to which the hierarchical structure is ordered. "The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints.
 
Mr. Cross' s quarrel is not with the church's mortal hierarchy. The problem is much more fundamental.

Raymond W. Belair
Bronxville,

***************************************
Richard replies to Mr. Belair (unpublished via snail mail)
 
Dear Mr. Belair,

You might note that there was no mention of “women’s ordination” anywhere in my letter to the paper.  You do me an injustice in your rebuke by devoting your entire letter to this subject.  If you want to read more into what I said feel free to do so.  But don’t malign me in print for something I didn’t say. (When you lift long passages from papal documents you might try using quotation marks lest people think they came from yourself.) Also, if you are going to quote me, please do so accurately:  I did not say “needs and rights,” but rather “needs and concerns.”

With a masters degree in theology from the oldest existing Catholic University in the world (1425) I think I know of what I speak. 

Furthermore you missed (or chose to ignore) the main thrust of my letter:  namely, that the current mess our church finds itself in would never have been allowed to happen were women in positions of authority and responsibility in the church. Women simply would not have allowed it to happen. You may disagree.  Then say so and give reasons to support your argument.  If you think the all-male hierarchy in the church has been doing a super job in handling the daily scandals that occur, say so and give your readers proof. I fear it may take a while.

If you don’t think our church is “beleaguered” tell us why.  To equate “arrogance” with “obedience” is ludicrous and misses the point. The grassroots clergy and laity know the difference between the two.  Listen to them.

Our Lord who lived in a patriarchal society was anything but patriarchal in his dealing with women.  Nor did He ever forbid His apostles or their successors from  “ordaining” women.  But that’s your issue; not mine. As a matter of fact, women were probably more actively involved in the ministry of the apostolic church than they are allowed to be today.  Read the Acts and Saint Paul and learn something about the ministry of women in the early church. 

As far as your reference to “perennial norms,” the history of the church reveals that very little that has been presented as “perennial” turns out to be so. As history shows, and some have said, change is the church’s “dirty little secret.”

“Ecclesia semper reformanda” has been proven to have far more validity throughout the ages  than “Roma locuta, causa finita.”
“The church is always in need of reform” vs. “Rome has spoken, end of discussion”

Please don’t put words in my mouth as you did in the paper. It is unfair and un- Christian.  The discussion will continue regardless. Vox populi, vox Dei.

Respectfully in Christ,

Richard E. Cross, M.A., M.S.
****************************************
Follow-up lettern to Mr. Belair (11/30/06)

Dear Mr. Belair,


Thank you for your letter of November 25.  I do not wish to engage in lengthy exchanges with you since, in the issue at hand, we are poles  apart. No, I am not a member of the Voice of the Faithful. But I think the powers that be had better start heeding the voice of the faithful if the human institution we know as “church” is to survive.  Right now it is moribund. If you don’t think we are in the last days of the ancien régime there’s nothing I can say that will enlighten you.

Nor will I beat a dead horse over the issues I raised in my letter that you have chosen to ignore:

-         your misquoting me: “needs and rights,” rather than “needs and concerns.” 

-         Whether women in positions of authority would have put up with and covered up the scandals in the church or   how well you think your all-male hierarchy is doing in navigating the bark of Peter

-         Your lifting quotes from papal documents without using quotation marks.

Your main problem, as I see it, seems to be  the degree of credibility one must give to various Vatican pronouncements         

I am not in the habit of “denigrating the Church’s teaching” as you accuse me in your letter.  Only this week I have a letter in Catholic New York praising a teaching of the Church.  But I am not naïve or gullible either and, like my hero, Erasmus if Rotterdam, I call things the way I see them. There comes a time when one must speak up on some issues that I feel fly in the face of Gospel values and the spirit of Our Lord. It seems to me the Second Vatican Council had something to say about the laity’s right to speak up and be heard.

As I have suggested, “change” is the church’s dirty little secret. That is I why I don’t buy your “irreformable…from the beginning constantly preserved and infallibly taught” nonsense.

As Pius IX once said: "St. Peter’s vessel is guaranteed, but not so the crew."

        Throughout history most of the crew have remained faithful. Some have rocked the boat. Even the captain of the ship may have taken a wrong turn. In these days of controversy over the weight of various statements from church leaders, it is good for you to step back and learn from history.

        Official statements from Rome over the centuries have provoked a variety of responses. During the Reformation Luther’s battle cry was:

        "Papal decretals are the Devil’s excretals."

 I certainly wouldn’t go that far.  But………….

Although  many of the great encyclicals of this century have evoked world-wide admiration,  there are not a few formal papal pronouncements that remain a source of embarrassment to say the least. Any Catholic, for instance, who reads Benedict XIV’s encyclical on the Jews (A Quo Primum, 1751) would want to run and hide for shame. It encapsulates much of the rabid anti-Semitism in the church at that time. No wonder, then, that we do not find such a document ever quoted or referred to in official church statements today. But, I ask you, was it not a definitive pronouncement?  There’s that dirty little secret again.

        When, for instance, have you last hear the Vatican quote from the two encyclicals of Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari vos (1832) and Singulari nos (1834) against the teachings of  the Abbé Lamennais? In considering the papal condemnations of Monsieur Lamennais one must remember that these documents (get this, Raymond) make up part of the "ordinary and authoritative teaching of the church," albeit not infallible, which, as the new Catechism states, "the faithful are to adhere to with religious assent." Today, these encyclicals are troubling to read and I ask you, Raymond , do you as one of the faithful, adhere to the teachingsof Gregory’s encyclicals that I will list below.  Do you adhere “with religious assent”?  Please tell me. We are about to enter that “dirty little secret” arena.

        The life and fate of the Abbé Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782-1854) should speak to you and me today.  What did this "saintly" but flawed Abbé, whose "great services to the Church of France" even The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 had to acknowledge, do to incur the condemnation of Rome?  Why did he have to suffer the loss of faith and friends, and an eventual unhappy death without the sacraments and outside the church he had served? Is that where you want to place the Voice of the Faithful folks?

      I have done some research on this fellow, Raymond, and will give you a few examples from my research.  Contrast, if you will, some of Lamennais’ main ideas with those in the official response of Pope Gregory XVI in his two encyclicals and ask yourself which of the two positions is more in line with the church’s thinking today. Consider the following examples.
 
Consider what each of these men had to say of the following topics:   (I can give you’re the sources if you wish)

 On freedom of conscience:

Lamennais: Freedom of conscience is primordial. Error should have the right to exist. The church should not try to win over people by force, but by a free competition of ideas. "Those who persecute in the name of Jesus, who probe people’s consciences with the sword, who torture the body in order to convert the soul, who make tears flow rather than wipe them do not have the spirit of Jesus." "Liberty should be equal for all, or it is assured for no one."

Gregory XVI: It is an "absurd and erroneous proposition ... that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone." "Freedom of conscience ... should be thoroughly condemned." 

On freedom of the press:

Lamennais: Freedom of the press and freedom from censorship are essential rights even if it means the freedom to attack the church.

Gregory XVI (once censor librorum for the Holy Office in Venice): Freedom of the press is a "fatal liberty which cannot be sufficiently feared." To reject censorship of books is "false, brash, insulting to the Holy See and harmful for the Christian people."

On church and state:

Lamennais: Separation of church and state is healthy for both the church and the state. It is central to the idea of religious freedom. Government is a bad support for religion, which should have its strength elsewhere, namely, in itself. Union of church and state in the past, together with special favors to the church, did more harm than good.

Gregory XVI: "The union of church and state leads to a mutual harmony....which has always been so favorable and so salutary to the interests of both religion and of civil authority."

On the rights of the governed:

Lamennais: People have the right and even duty to rebel against injustice. For instance, he championed the cause of Belgian, Polish, and Irish independence. Lamennais had strong words for those who abuse authority. "You have but one father who is God, but one master who is Christ. When people speak to you of those who have great power and say: ‘Behold you master!’ Don’t believe it. If those in authority are just, then they are your servants; if they are not, they are tyrants. Everyone is born equal: no one coming into this world carries with him the right to command."

Gregory XVI: "Divine and human laws oppose those who try to shake the loyalty to princes and cast them from their thrones." Those who proclaim "doctrines which shake the loyalty and submission owed to princes and which spark the spirit of revolt….are inflamed with an immoderate zeal for rash liberty." (Note that Gregory did not even support the struggle of Catholic Poland for independence from Orthodox Russia.)

On relations with non-Catholics:

Lamennais: Through his publication, L’Avenir, the priest urged mutual cooperation with Protestants, Romantic agnostics, and non-believers in order to attain the liberal goal of freedom for all peoples.

Gregory XVI: There is a great danger that lies "in associations and meetings in which common cause is made with people of every religion, even false ones."

On the death penalty:

Lamennais: "The last remnants of barbarism are gradually disappearing from legislation. No more torture and soon, one may hope, no more death penalty." (Doesn’t that sound like Cardinal Martini today?)

 
Gregory XVI: As temporal ruler and head of the Papal States before the unification of Italy, Pope Gregory permitted the death penalty to be carried out in his realm. Charles Dickens has left us graphic description in that period of the public beheading in Rome of a man who had killed his wife. 

And so it goes.

        The late Cardinal Suenens in our own day once warned that the church must "not have another Galileo case." Yet even today there are some who have not learned the lessons of the past. Would you like a list of the great Catholic theologians who have bee sacked by Rome in our own day?

Raymond, sadly your theology is zeit gebunden -  right out of a text book. It bespeaks of another era.  I know you can find all the support you want for such thinking from documents or the halls of Dunwoodie. But it leads nowhere.

The Church is bigger than that, bigger than your beloved all-male hierarchy; it is a living organism, evolving, changing, and reforming.

The Spirit breathes where (s)he wills and we must be open to it.  Of course, you are correct: the Church is definitely NOT centered in Tarrytown.

I would only add:  NOR is it centered in Rome.

 Sincerely in XP,

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73. My Statement of Appreciation to the America Muslim Women’s Association (AMWA - 11/5/06)

Text on the plaque presented to this writer::

"For his committment to buikding bridges among our diverse communities."


I am honored to be here among such beautiful people and thank you profoundly for your cordial invitation and the honor shown me.

You are looking at a fellow who grew up in the Mid-West without ever having met a Muslim - let alone having a Muslim friend.

In my 20’s I studied in Europe for six years and it was during my studies in philosophy that I first discovered the Middle East’s contribution to culture and learning. I learned how the legacy of Greek and Latin antiquity was preserved and translated by the likes of the Persian scholar Ibn Sina (Avicenna 980-1037) and Arab philosopher from Andalusia Ibn Rushd (Averroes  1126-1198 ).  Their work made it possible for medieval and Renaissance scholars in the West like Thomas Aquinas to develop their own philosophies.

And yet I still did not know nor had I befriended any Muslims.

Toward the end of my studies in 1957 I visited the Middle East with a group of scholars from the University of Paris.  It was in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel that I first encountered the Arab and Muslim world.  It was my good fortune, if you will, that I became ill while in the Holy Land and had to be hospitalized.  So the very first Palestinians I was fortunate to befriend were the nurses who took care of me. Christian or Muslim I really didn’t know the difference. All I knew was how kind they were toward me. Some even corresponded with me when I returned to the university.

I listened to their stories and related to the plight of their people. To this day I have championed the cause of justice and peace for the Palestinians with their Israeli neighbors. My studies of these complex problems have led me to publish over sixty letters in the press promoting these causes.

Here in Westchester over the years I have developed friendships with Muslims  in our community.  These have been edifying and enriching relationships. More recently I had the privilege to meet and befriend Mr. and Mrs. Mikdadi and their family.  In her enthusiasm Zena Mikdadi made me aware of her work on behalf of Muslim women, their health and well-being. I have come to consider her an ambassador par excellence for the cause of Muslim women and an exemplar of the core values of Islam.  Because of her witness, her reaching out and openness to the Westchester community at large I have come to support the work of AMWA with all my heart. This is what friendship can do. She has put dialogue and Islam on the radar screen here in Westchester.

As a Christian “I believe that what Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Muhammad considered most important was first and foremost that we do justice.” (1) My study of the Qur’an has also affirmed what historians rightfully point out: that the period of the Prophet’s own lifetime was characterized by an absolute moral and spiritual equality of the sexes; giving women rights centuries before their sisters in the West would achieve them. (2)

Jesus, whom Islam honors as a prophet, once said: “Do not hide your lamp under a bushel basket.  Rather let your light shine before men.” My message to the Muslim women of Westchester would be: Let your light shine; make friends in the community; bear witness to your values in your interaction with your neighbors; make friends with non-Muslims, invite them in and witness your faith in ways that will create understanding and good will.  Most people don’t know any Muslims and have no Muslims in their circle of friends.  You have much to share.

Does not the Prophet say in the Qur’an: “Wherefore take example from them, you who have eyes.(3); and in the sura on women:  “O you who believe, be bearers of witness for the sake of Allah (4) ?

Let those around you see you for what you are – beautiful people.

As for me, I thank you again, and have to say that I am personally devastated at the departure of Zena and Salem from Westchester.  But I know the rest of you will carry on and continue this great work that has already taken root in our community.

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Notes:
     (1)  Ray McGovern. As quoted in the National Catholic Reporter 10/27/2006
      (2)    R,  Marston Speight.  God Is One: The Way of Islam.  Islam gave women equality of legal rights, as in
-    the right to independent ownership and disposal of her property and this - centuries before her sisters in the West had similar rights.
            -  the right to inheritance, to practice a profession and to divorce her husband
-    I also note how the Qur’an addresses women explicitly – something that rarely in found in either the  Hebrew or Christian scriptures.  Since the days of the
 the Prophet, of course, times have changed. Moral and cultural shortcomings have sometimes been incorporated into legal interpretations that discriminate against women.  One religious historian (Karen Armstrong) has remarked that in time, as in the case of Christianity, “most religions are hijacked by men.” (5) In spite of the religious teachings of equality in the Qur’an men in various cultures have continued to take advantage of women. But it is important for those of us in the West to understand that Islam as a way of life does not have a bias against women.

(3) Qur'an 59.2
(4) Qur’an  4.135
(5) Karen Armstrong.  A History of God

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74.
"Vatican Backed "  letter published in Catholic New York. November 23, 2006.
 
Kudos to the Novermber 9 issue of CNY for calling  your readers' attention to  the Vatican-approved admonition that is would be morally wrong to execute Saddam Hussein.  "The Gospel of Life" reminds us that punishing one crime with another is barbaric. As Cardinal Martino rightfully said,  we must get beyond the "eye for an eye" stage.
 
Your also editorial points out what the ersatz liberation of Iraq has wrought for its Christian polulation, now fleeing in droves to Syria and other countries.  Under Saddams' secular rule, evil though he was, Christians worshipped freely and no one would have dared bomb a Christian church.  Readers must wonder about a foreign policy that has driven people,  who once lived in peace with their 2000 year-old Christian neighbors,  over the edge into extremism and fratricide.

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75. Sharing the Christmas Story - letter to the Journal News published December 24, 2006

During the Christmas season it might be helpful to consider how the Christmas story is told in the Koran (Qur’an). Might this lead to a better understanding of the values that Christianity shares with Islam?

According to the Qur’an Christians and Jews who believe in God and “act honorably will receive their earnings from the Lord.”  Entire chapters (suras) of the Qur’an  are devoted to Mary and the birth of Jesus. When Mary was born, we are told,  “Her Lord accepted her in a handsome manner and caused her to grow like a lovely plant.” Later we read:  “Mary, God has purified you; selected you over all the women in the Universe.”   Allah “breathed some of Our spirit into her womb and she thereby confirmed her Lord’s words ….  She was so prayerful.”

Other chapters speak reverently about John the Baptist and children of Israel: John will “confirm the word from God, masterful yet circumspect.” He is “a prophet chosen from among honorable people.” “Peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he will die. And the day he is raised to life again” Throughout the Qur’an Jesus is constantly honored as “God’s messenger” and a “prophet.”

History, alas, is replete with examples of horrors committed in the name of religion. It must be painful for devout Muslims when Islam is distorted by the perverse actions some misguided followers.  Rather than stereotyping Muslims, Jews or other non-Christians let us build bridges of understanding based on the religious values and traditions we have in common.


Source:  The Qu’ran, translated by T.B. Irving  (Al-Jajj Ta’lim’Ali)
Goodword Books, New Delhi, 1999.

Comments on my letter  from a reader and my reponses::

Richard,

I am not religious because religions set false distinctions between human beings; which leads, therefore, to false choices.  What about the person who does not believe in God, and what about the believers who do not "act honorably?”  Not only will they not receive their “earnings from the Lord" (whatever the heck that means) but they will be turned away by the Muslim who defines “honorable” differently than the Christian or the Jew.  

 There are additional reasons for being irreligious.  For example, there’s the bitter irony in slitting a man’s throat because he did not act honorably in the eyes of some other religious person. 

 I firmly believe what you religious people do not get is, these are not “distortions” of religion.  These are the false choices and bitter ironies that are the consequences of religion, of defining the world in ways that separate us one from the other.  Religion separates us: my religion versus his religion.  Religion does not unite us.  “Her Lord accepted her . . . selected (her) over all the women in the Universe.”  That means to me, the Lord did not select all the other women, and did not “accept” them (whatever the heck that means) in ways he “accepted” Mary. So he did not unite women, he divided them.  The prophets are special and are divided from the rest of us human beings—even though the prophets are fellow human beings.

 Read the New Yorker magazine from a few weeks ago about Charles Darwin and his writing of “Origin of Species.”  He agonized over publishing it because he understood (almost two centuries ago) how his scientific theories turn religion on its head. He understood how theories less radical than his had gotten scientists killed—by Christians, Muslims, and others (not so much by Jews or Hindus or Buddhists).

 Darwin was a scientist, but he did not put scientists up against the rest of us.  The New Yorker article focuses on how he wrote his book; how he explained his theories about where we (all) came from more as a novelist than a scientist.  He described pigeon breeders who bred pigeons down the road from his estate, and how they understood evolution and how they explained it from their experience. He developed his theories this way, rather than quote fellow scientists.  He did not hold up scientists the way religion holds up prophets.  He observed what is in the world and explained how we are all one, from a common source, and how we live and die from a common struggle—animals, plants.  He also wrote eloquently about love and loss and time and compassion; how he loved his children and mourned his daughter’s death1.  But he did not value one pigeon breeder over another based on how “honorable” the breeder was compared to another, or whether the Lord “accepted” one and not all the others.  

 I do not believe people distort religion; rather, religion distorts people’s perceptions of reality.  Our “perverse actions” may be explained in many ways, but not by religion; and they are not made worse by some “misguided” person.  Thanks for listening.  Scott

Richard 's reply:

Dear Scott,

Of all the letters I have written the paper (70+ published so far) the one you responded to was the tamest.  I really thought no one would object. But life is full of surprises.

 I certainly have no intention of arguing with you about "religion." It's no way to make friends. The word “religion” means many things to different people. You and I differ about it. To me, an old Latinist, I like the root of the verb "religo" to fasten, bind or connect. Religion is what leads me to connect with God and have a kind of binding relationship.  I don't need religion to connect with those on earth whom I love. It comes “natural.”  (But it certainly helps me to connect with those I don't feel like loving.)

  I think you somewhat misunderstood the purpose of my letter. (more about that below)  I am somewhat taken aback by your referring to me as "you religious people." Just as you in your letter wondered  what "earnings from the Lord" meant I'm not sure what the hell "you religious people" means either.  I do not consider myself a "religious" people as you seem to define the term. But it is a quaint use of the word and  I guess and I can live with it.

 I am the first to admit all the atrocities done of the name of religion over the centuries. I have written extensively about that and referred to it in my letter as you may have noted.  As the ancient Romans rightly said, however, "abusus non tollat usum." The abuse of something does not necessarily take away from its good use. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

 I would never claim, nor have I ever, that "religious" people have a corner on goodness or virtue. Consider, if you will, that some of your "religious" people, bad as they may be, would probably be a hell of a lot worse if they had no religion.  Even Marx considered the inhibitive value of religion in keeping people in line (as an "opiate") I would be the first to admit that I know people, non-church people, who are moral, kind, good as gold and all too often put many church goers to shame. God bless 'em.  The world needs all the goodness it can get - from any corner.

 At the same time, when you write that "religion distorts people's perception of reality" it remains your task to prove to me that religion played no part in the lives of people like Francis of Assisi, Bach, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa or a Dorothy Day. Of course there are other “saints” and you probably know a few.

 Now the purpose of my letter was simply to ask my fellow Christians to consider those values that they share with folks of other religions, be they Muslim, Jewish or whatever.  If you have problems with the quotations from the Qur'an that I gave you have to take it up with the Prophet.  I was simply trying to show Christians that there are commonalities in the Qur'an with the Christian scriptures  (in this instance, parallels in the Qur'an with the infancy narratives in the Gospel.)  Most Christians are unaware of these similarities we share and I felt it would be helpful for them to see this. That's all.

  My goal in this letter was to build bridges of understanding  and in no way to demean others for whom neither scriptures have any value.  As Renard, the Fox, said to the Little Prince "créer des liens" I like to create bonds between people.  I had no intention of excluding others.  My God, we have to start somewhere.  Where in heck does name-calling like "axis of evil" or "Islamofascists" get us?  Or labels like "you religious people" for that matter. You have a better solution, Scott?  Let's hear it.

 Obviously the Muslim scriptures mean little more to you than the Christian scripture.  That's OK by me. I was addressing the Christian reader without any intention of excluding others "who act honorably." And many churchgoers, as I have already said, act most honorably -  and that's a given. You have obviously not studied the Qur'an, however, and are probably not interested in it. It’s not great fun.  For my part I am no authority either. But I am trying to find things that we have in common.  Isn’t that better than making war?  The point I was trying to make was that Christians, rather than demonizing Muslims as seems to be the tendency today, might do well to seek out what values we share in common with people of the Muslim faith.  Is that so terrible? Don't make more out of it than what it was.  Does it merit a tirade against religion?   It seems to me  you are trying to make me say more in my letter than I had  in mind.  I had no intention of criticizing those who do not share these common values.

 Look, you can find justification for ethnic cleansing in the Old Testament (e.g. the Book of Joshua) and plenty of "divinely-inspired" gore as well.  That is the human element at play and an informed reader should take that into account.  The scriptures are not just the word of God; they are also the word of man and reflect the human condition that is us. I am not so simplistic to read scripture any other way.

   I attended the Darwin exhibit at the Museum of Natural History and had no problem with it or science.  Science is human (fallible as well and not divine). It's not a religion either even thought many try to make it so.  I am happy with Darwin's discoveries and his conclusions. I am not a redneck creationist either.  At the same time, I don't think science addresses the same issues as theology. There is “otherness” too.  I am quite comfortable as a theologian with my faith as I am with science. You may not understand that and I can't make you.

 I like The New Yorker too.  But I like the New Testament better, Scott. .As a musician/theologian who believes that, besides my ties with other people,  music is also my link to God, I am quite happy with the kind of "religion" that moved men like Bach, Liszt, Bruckner, Duruflé, Taverner or Arvo Part to do what they do. I am sure without religion they would still have written great work .....but would it be the same?

I can also be in touch with the divine in the music of non-religious fellows like Wagner, Faure and Ravel.

 To deny that people distort religion, as you do, and blame everything on "religion" itself is simplistic.  To me authentic Christian religion is what leads people to imitate Christ in their lives and to follow his message of love and forgiveness. Regardless of what you say, I do believe that it is people who distort religion. Authentic religion does not distort people. If "religion" distorts people it is not the genuine thing - just a parody. 

 If you think the world would be better off without the Decalogue or the Sermon on the Mount I would have to disagree with you, Scott.  Some of us need these guidelines for living.  God bless those who don't need them to live a meaningful life. I would like to think that it is imprinted in the heart of man that it is wrong to kill for instance. But if  it is not, then it's good we have be  reminded of it.  I don't think, however,  it is the place of those for whom religion means nothing to dismiss its value for others.

 I also think I'm rambling and need to stop.  Much of what you say is well taken and I thank you as well for listening to me.

To which Scott replied:

Richard—thanks for the response.  I guess it is a simple take I have on things, which is to leave religion out of our interpersonal lives, whether on the individual level (one-on-one) or certainly the political levels.  So for example, no one in public office should invoke God or scripture or pray; and no one should try to convince another of a religious view.  It should be strictly private.

 Rather than invoke one’s religion when trying to ”build bridges of understanding . . . to create bonds between people . . .” I believe you should leave your religion out of it.  “I had no intention of excluding others.  My God, we have to start somewhere.”  Yes, you include people, not exclude them; and you “start” by not invoking your God.  Your God is private, between you and her.

 I realize this is radical and not in the community-based religion of western Christian belief.  So if you want to help solve social problems, What do I bring to the table?  Well, I say you bring yourself to the table, and not your religious beliefs.  Mozart and Beethoven gave us irreligious music that was born of talent and hard work.  It was a gift to us all, believers and non-believers.—Scott.

To which Richard replied:

I certainly want to live in a secular society,  Scott, and not a theocracy. History demonstrates that it's no fun to live in a theocracy. Sadly Saddam's secular Iraq is no more:  where women once could wear a skirt with uncovered head, a fellow could buy a drink and get a shave and the Christian minority didn't have their churches blown up Well,   it's all over. We won't miss him.  But Iraq is fast becoming a theocracy.  Thank you, Mr. Bush.
 
Actually I was recently honored by the American Muslim Women's Association (AMWA) for "his commitment to building bridges of understanding between our diverse communities.'  I must tell you, Scott, this could not have happened had I not brought  religion to the table.  You may not like it.  But that's the way it is,. You cannot dialog with Muslims without bringing religion to the table. Maybe you would prefer it otherwise. But in the real world that's not how building understanding with Muslims happens.  I do not proselytize.  I respect their faith and their values.  I try to find what we have in common, what we can build on. I try to take people where they are.  When you are dealing with Muslims whose life is permeated by their religion you have to deal with it. Sorry.
 
The great composers you cite did not give us "irreligious" music as you say. " Born of talent and hard work," yes, indeed.  A gift to non-believers, of course.  But these works were born of faith;  not always perhaps. Sometimes cranked out for some archbishop to put bread the table, yes.  But not always withour religious faith as you seem to suggest.  Often the works are an expression  of true devotion, like it or not,  from truly devout men:  Bach, Franck, Liszt, Bruckner to name but a few.
 
Their works belong to the world of believers and nonbelievers, of course.   But you can't dismiss the religious inspiration involved. It is foolish to try to deny the faith of others just because you don't have it yourself.  It is here that your statement that "religion distorts" the composer's "perception of reality" really limps.
 
When I come to the table "to help social problems" as you describe them, I come to the table a total person and do not leave part of me left behind.  There is no  dichotomy here.  You have to take me with my history, my values, and all that enlivens me.  Just as I have to take you in your totality. I would never try to convince anyone of "a religious view" but I am damn well delighted to discuss it with them if they are interested. You would like God to be "private."  Sorry, Scott, but  God is not private to me. I  look for God wherever I go and find God in the strangest places, in my friends, in the poor and in the world around me.  I include everyone and exclude no one.  I hope the same can be said of you. Yours, Richard
 
76.
Carter – a Voice of Reason in Foreign Affairs (letter to the Journal News February published 3, 2007)

Recent letters in these pages attacking former President Carter come as no surprise. American supporters of the Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinians have had a free ride for decades presenting a one-sided viewpoint of this issue.  Today the reasoned voice of a renowned peacemaker and humanitarian with another side of the story has obviously touched a raw nerve.

Mr. Carter’s credentials in fostering justice and bringing former enemies together (Egypt and Israel) are firmly established. No armchair pundit, Carter has traveled the world and witnessed firsthand what he describes.

His use of the word “apartheid” reminds us that the former apartheid regime in South Africa had no greater friend than Israel.  Anyone who knows what the separation wall has done to the Palestinian community will not shrink from using this word.  Nor do critics inside Israel.  Readers of Israel’s free press know that criticism of government policies there are far stronger than anything Mr. Carter has to say.
Criticism of governmental policy has nothing to do with the noble Jewish people or their right to live in peace. Although rarely mentioned in our press Americans need to know that there are many courageous Israelis of conscience:  soldiers like Asaf Oron, a Sergeant Major in the Giv’ati Brigade who signed the “Fighters’ Letter” declaring that henceforth they will refuse to serve in the Occupied territories. There are courageous groups like Gush Shalom, Brit Tzedek v' Shalom, and Women in Black who regularly protest the very same government policies Carter describes – only more forcefully.

Sources:

Israel and South Africa, excerpted from the book “Israeli Foreign Policy” by Jane Hunter, South End Press, 1987
Jewish Peace News (JPN) is a service provided by ”A Jewish Voice for Peace.”  JPN’s editors are Adam Gutride, Sarah Anne Minkin, Mitchell Plitnick, Lincoln Shlensky, and Alistair Welchman.

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77. (In response to a Community View attackeing The Journal News and its relgious writer Gary Stern for being anti-Catholic, I worte the following letter. ( Note as well that the very week that the paper was attacked there were two very positive larticles that appeared inb the paper: one about a local Catholci high school and another about a new Catholic readio station.)

Don't Blame the Media f for the Church's problems. (letter to the Journal News May 2,, 2007

Mark McCabe’s diatribe against The Journal News and reporter Gary Stern (Community View 4/26) was totally unwarranted, unfair and exhibits a simplistic overreaction unworthy of a rational Catholic.  Of course anti-Catholicism exists – but it is not found in the pages of this newspaper.

Time and again The Journal News has highlighted Catholic parishes, their celebrations, their good works and activities.  If there are institutional flaws and wounds they are mostly self-inflicted.  Reporting them is also the job of the press.

Proclaiming victimhood is disingenuous.  The same church that has produced great saints has also left not a few victims throughout history.

Any unrest among the clergy and laity has been fairly reported. Yet McCabe asks,
”Which priests are complaining and to whom?” From past experience might not vocal priests fear the heavy hand of institutional retribution when their ministry is at stake?

When asked what was the most pressing problem of the archdiocese the associate editor of the Catholic journal Commonweal wrote: “The archbishop’s relationship with his priests and parishioners.” Having parishioners arrested at a vigil protesting the closure of their parish, changing the locks on church doors and bathrooms, sending in security agents to break up a vigil are not faith-inspiring actions.  (Commonweal, March 23, 2007).   

I find no anti-Catholicism in The Journal News. As long as our church reflects the humility, gentleness and compassion of Jesus and His Gospel, the “respect” Mr. McCabe demands will be there.  But, as to its institutional malaise, the adage of antiquity will always apply:  “Physician, heal thyself.”

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Source: “How not to Close a Parish” by Grant Gallicho, Associate Editor of Commonweal, March 23.2007. page 6.

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78. Learn the facts on Liberty attack (letter to The Journal News, June 17, 2007)

Steve Lieberman's June 9 article on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War omitted a significant but dark chapter involving the United States. At the outset of the war, on June 8, 1967, Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, an unarmed intelligence ship, in international Mediterranean waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors and wounding 172.

The whole story of this unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty and the subsequent U.S. coverup is a matter of well-documented record.

Despite the fact that the USS Liberty was easily identifiable with its three American flags, the attack lasted for 75 minutes while the beleaguered ship and its crew were left alone to endure the continuous Israeli assault. Radio signals requesting help were repeatedly sent. Help that was eventually sent out was then ordered to turn back by President Lyndon Johnson and the Pentagon. When Israel attacks, the Pentagon retreats. To this day, Israel has never apologized and continues to call it an unfortunate "accident."

It was no accident, but a deliberate attack by a supposedly friendly government. The story of this unwarranted attack by an "ally" is attested to by virtually every knowledgeable American official on public record. Yet to this day, the survivors and their families have been denied justice, and the American public kept in the dark about this tragedy.

Readers should explore the facts of this disgraceful incident and read the documentation and testimony by visiting the Web site of the USS Liberty and its survivors at     www.ussliberty.com

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79. Holy War (Community View, published in the The Journal News, November 14, 2007)

Our country is torn apart by controversy when it comes to the subject of war. Americans are at odds over the meaning of “patriotism” and ”supporting our troops.”  In our own local paper there has been an on-going and heated exchange on the subject.

Amid these arguments, however, we can observe a dangerous and distorted concept of "patriotism" that has become a new kind of “religion” for some.  The state has become an object of worship and the age-old mantra of "holy war" has once again been involved to mislead and deceive the citizens of our homeland. .

 Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second in command, said it cynically but acutely:

 "The people can always be brought to do the bidding of their leaders. That is easy. All you have to is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the fatherland to danger."

The present Bush administration uses this same tactic. Sadly, many Americans have succumbed to this strategy of deception.  This vision of patriotism is really a kind of idolatry. It is a perversion of religion, one that substitutes the state  (“my country right or wrong”) as an object of worship. It is a false messianic mentality that preaches "They’re the bad guys; we're the good guys and we have a divine mission:  to bring the blessings of ‘democracy’  and  ‘liberation’  to all the peoples of the world.”

The religious right makes a similar claim, "We are God's chosen people with a mandate from on high." This is part of their agenda to turn America into a theocracy.   Christopher Hedges rightly describes these neo-crusaders as “fascists” in his book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. As Sinclair Lewis warned, “When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”   We have a president who also seems to take his marching orders directly from God.

This is also what historian Arthur Schlesinger once called "America's unconscious religion." Like the perversions of religion in other times, this unconscious American religion, as Robert Blair Kaiser describes it, has enjoyed "an entire support system for that idolatry, one that made itself felt in our world as strongly as any primitive religion did on the society that surrounded it.  This religion had its own doctrines and scriptures and apologetics, its rites and sacred idols, its high-priests and hierarchs… It has even had its own inquisition and heresy trials." 

President Bush gave himself away when he referred to the war in Iraq as a "crusade." His advisors jumped on it right away to hush him up and we have not heard the word since.  Too late: the cat was out of the bag.  This would be Mr. Bush’s "holy war" and the appeal to religion would rule the day.  Just as the Crusaders in the past cried "Deus vult"  ("God wills it") while they slaughtered their fellow Christians in the siege of Constantinople as well as hordes of Muslims and Jews, so too today the same ethos is in play.

In its best sense, jihad is the inner spiritual struggle against personal vice and ignorance in the defense of Islam.  Just as radical Islamists have distorted the concept of jihad, so too there are those in the West who distort the values of patriotism and love of country with their own kind of perverted jihad.  Kaiser notes how the present Holy War has set America back a century fiscally, squandered our moral credibility in the eyes of the world, and driven several million Iraqis flee to Jordan and Syria to escape from their so- called "liberated" homeland.

The “liberation” of Iraq, of course, will allow some Americans and their corporations to get fat off this holy war. But in order to render this fat, far more Americans will have to die. The Pentagon does not do body counts of Iraqi civilians. But their children and grandchildren can count, and will remember.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a Holy War. But there are fanatic “holy warriors” and misguided “patriots” in every camp. I often wonder if those leaders we label “enemy” are all that different from our own leaders in Washington in their contempt for human life and their pursuit of a holy "cause." The methods and technologies of human destruction may differ from camp to camp. But the end result of holy war is always the same: death.

 
Sources:

Hermann Goering as quoted in “Nuremberg Diary” by Gustave Gilbert (1947).

Robert Blair Kaiser, “Holy Words Holy War” submitted to The New Yorker magazine, March 9, 2003.  Unpublished.

Christopher Hedges, “American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War in America.” 2007.

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 80. The Bush Legacy  (The Journal News, April 9,  2008)

In the waning days of  this administration people may wonder what will be the Bush legacy.  Some things obviously come to mind:  the Iraq war of
"liberation," its terrible toll of over 4000 American lives, the unleashing of a bloody civil way, the phantom weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib,
Guantanamo, the national debt and other accomplishments.

One footnote that seems to have aroused little interest is the plight of the 2000 year-old Christian community.  Despite the brutality of Saddam Hussein,
our former "friend" amd "ally," the Christians in Iraq were basically trouble-free during his  secular regime.  Even his Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was a Christian.

No one would dare bomb a Christian church during Saddam's secular regime.  As far back as 2003 Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical
Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, had atated that a unilateral war against Iraq would be a "crime against peace."  Last August the cardinal in an interview
described his earlier criticisms as prophetic.  "Power is in the hands of the strongest and the country is sinking into a sectarian civil war in which not even
Christians are spared," he said.

Since "liberation,"  churches have been bombed and set afire, Archbishop George Yasilous was kidnapped, Archbishop Rahho of Mosul kidnapped and
murdered, an Orthodox priest, Boulos Iskandar, was beheaded, and Syriac Orthodox priest Youssef Adel murdered just this week.

Finally, since "liberation" the number of Christians in Iraq has dropped dramatically.  Their preferred destination is Syria, a country the administration
reviles, yet where Christains are able to worship freely.

Sources:

The Journal News, April 6, 2008
Catholic News Service
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Interview with  Cardinal Tauran in the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, August 10, 2007.

 

 

81. A Lack of Constructive Engagement with Iran (The Journal News, July 22, 2008)

 

The administration’s “bellicose language” toward Iran (Journal News, July 10) illustrates a bankrupt policy that refuses to follow a path of dialogue and engagement.  So far we’ve seen nothing but name-calling, isolation and saber rattling.

 

Many of our problems with Iran are of our own making and it would honest to admit it.  They didn’t begin with the 1979 hostage crisis. They began with a CIA engendered coup in 1953 that overthrew the democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and our subsequent installing the brutal Shah’s regime together with his hated Savak secret police.  Fast forward to US support of Saddam Hussein in his unprovoked 10-year war with Iran.  He was our friend then as long as he was killing Iranians with poison gas -- something we ignored.  Let’s not forget the Iranian passenger plane the US shot down in 1988 killing everyone on board.

 

In 2003 Iranian reformist President Khatami offered to work out a suspension of uranium enrichment, normalize relations with the US and formally recognize Israel.  The Bush administration turned down the offer.  We have reaped the fruit of our foreign policy and now face hardliners with whom we still refuse to talk.

Owning up to the truth makes for genuine dialogue. When Obama suggests constructive engagement with one’s supposed enemy it is not appeasement.  It is better national policy than rushing to military solutions under the mantle of false patriotism.  Every nation should accept the painful truths of its own history, take responsibility for its past actions and embrace nonviolence.

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82. The “pro-life” Candidate and Voter Examined  (The Journal News,  October  4,2008)

 

Voters need to be discriminating and scrutinize candidates who define themselves as “pro- life.” Single issue voters as well need to ask themselves if they realize and embrace the ramifications of being truly pro-life.

 

Being “pro-life” must mean more than being anti-abortion.  It is myopic and far too facile to focus exclusively on abortion while ignoring the host of life issues beyond the womb.

 

Fortunately for our country, the American bishops last June offered a long-awaited clarification (Faithful Citizenship: a Catholic Call to Political Responsibility) – a call “to measure all candidates, policies, parties and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity and rights of the human person.”

 

They remind us that no isolated issue should govern our judgment in voting.  Candidates who claim to be “pro-life” for instance, but consistently vote against social programs that would lessen the number of abortions deserve little credibility. Voters whose agenda begins and ends with abortion while ignoring other life and death issues cannot claim to be pro-life either.

 

A consistent  ethic of life requires a moral stand on issues like the silent genocide of poverty; universal health care;  hunger and homelessness;   a living wage;  capital punishment; unprovoked and unjust warfare together with the killing of innocent civilians; torture of prisoners; economic justice; environmental degradation; humane immigration  reform  and other pro-life issues.

 

Look at the record of the parties and candidates and weigh their performance on this wide spectrum of life issues.  To ignore these is to mock the pro-life commitment.

 

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83- Letter  to the Editor of the Journal News, October, 2008

 Why is it a matter of policy that every candidate, regardless of party, feels the need to pander and pledge allegiance to Israel while kowtowing to its AIPAC lobby in America?  

 

Israel is not "our best friend" as we keep hearing.   Actually Israel and its behavior are a major source of our problems in the Middle East.  We have no business being its surrogate or fighting its battles.  Decades of one-sided and unending support have cost us dearly.

 

Israel takes billions of US tax dollars while it spies on us (Jonathan Pollard), Israel fired on "USS Liberty" killing many of our servicemen.   Its behavior for decades and our uncritical support  have cost us dearly in the Middle East:  its violations of human rights; its land grabbing and apartheid policies; its colonizing of the Occupied Terrorists and refusal to withdraw to the internationally  recognized 1967 borders; its on-going threat to its neighbors with a nuclear arsenal toward which all candidates continue to turn a blind eye; its on-going violation of UN Resolutions;  its use of American-made helicopters and bulldozers to kill Palestinian civilians and destroy their homes.  None of these are any justification for claiming Israel as being "our best friend."

 

Former President Jimmy Carter has written eloquently and factually about this and people should heed his advice. 

 

Candidates should cease pandering for votes and demand that Israel   adhere to international law. A candidate who speaks of his or her “passion” for Israel should redirect these sentiments toward a passion for justice.

 

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84. Letter to the Editor, The Journal News, February 9, 2009

 

President Obama  and Catholics 

 

Once more readers are subjected to pharisaical presumptions as to who are the “good” Catholics and  who are the "bad" ones (those who chose to vote for Obama). (Journal News letter, Feb. 28)

Obama, the writer pontificates, "thumbs his nose at Catholics."  Such nonsense can only come from someone with a myopic fixation on abortion as if it were the only life issue worth consideration..

 Obama's approach, and the approach of those who supported him, is best understood as a consistent ethic of life which reduces the need for abortion by providing pre-natal care, maternity funding, income support and greater access to adoption. This can significantly reduce the incidence of abortion by 30 to 40 percent according to a 20-year study reported by Catholics in Alliance.

Contrast this with the slogans, name-calling,  threats of excommunication and GOP legislators who consistently vote against social policies that would lead to a reduction in the incidence of abortion. Troubled women make an easy target for “those without sin”  who have never walked in their shoes. Let these righteous folks study the social encyclicals of their church and read the Sermon on the Mount. When in their "crusade for life" have they ever held a placard condemning a war called "unjust, immoral, illegal” by their pope – a war that killed thousands of our brave soldiers and maimed them physically and mentally – let alone thousands of Iraqis and created millions of refugees?

Enough of this self-righteous indignation toward Catholics who, following their consciences have, in the words of the Gospel,  "chosen the better part."

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85. . Letter to the Editor, The Journal News, May 2009

 

Obama at Notre Dame

 

The noisy attacks on the Catholic University of Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak and be honored come from a fringe of misguided Catholics.  They are led by the right-wing Cardinal Newman Society and some narrow-minded bishops.  Are they just angry because they lost the election and find this a way to discredit Obama, or are they focusing on abortion as the only life issue worth consideration?

 

Obama is being honored simply because he is the President of the United States.  Where were these same strident voices when George Bush was similarly honored? He launched an Iraq war that was condemned by the pope and most theologians as immoral and he also had a track record for the most executions in Texas while he was governor.  Yet we heard not a peep out of them.

 

As Notre Dame theology Professor Father Richard McBrien recently suggested, these extremist bishops already have a “serious credibility problem.”  They and those who listen to them also “have begun to solidify the impression, deserved or not, that they have become purveyors of single-issue morality, and, in the process, unwitting tools of the Republican Party.”

 

McBrien suggests that their opposition, “when voiced without any corresponding concerns about war, violence against women, capital punishment, torture, global warming, and governmental responsibilities to the poor …, turns off many younger people, the educated, and women generally.”

 

They do great harm to the very Church they claim to love by painting it into a corner.


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