From the Vault: More Victims Won’t Stop the Terror (10/2001)

Today is the ninth anniver­sary of the war in Afghanistan. In recog­ni­tion, here’s my Non​vi​o​lence​.org essay from 10/7/2010. It’s all sad­ly still top­i­cal. Nine years in and we’re still mak­ing ter­ror and still cre­at­ing enemies.

The Unit­ed States has today begun its war against ter­ror­ism in a very famil­iar way: by use of ter­ror. Igno­rant of thou­sands of years of vio­lence in the Mid­dle East, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush thinks that the hor­ror of Sep­tem­ber 11th can be exor­cised and pre­vent­ed by bombs and mis­siles. Today we can add more names to the long list of vic­tims of the ter­ror­ist air­plane attacks. Because today Afgha­nis have died in terror.

The deaths in New York City, Wash­ing­ton and Penn­syl­va­nia have shocked Amer­i­cans and right­ly so. We are all scared of our sud­den vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. We are all shocked at the lev­el of anger that led nine­teen sui­cide bombers to give up pre­cious life to start such a lit­er­al and sym­bol­ic con­fla­gra­tion. What they did was hor­ri­ble and with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. But that is not to say that they didn’t have reasons.

The ter­ror­ists com­mit­ted their atroc­i­ties because of a long list of griev­ances. They were shed­ding blood for blood, and we must under­stand that. Because to under­stand that is to under­stand that Pres­i­dent Bush is unleash­ing his own ter­ror cam­paign: that he is shed­ding more blood for more blood.

The Unit­ed States has been spon­sor­ing vio­lence in Afghanistan for over a gen­er­a­tion. Even before the Sovi­et inva­sion of that coun­try, the U.S. was sup­port­ing rad­i­cal Muja­hadeen forces. We thought then that spon­sor­ship of vio­lence would lead to some sort of peace. As we all know now, it did not. We’ve been exper­i­ment­ing with vio­lence in the region for many years. Our for­eign pol­i­cy has been a mish-mash of sup­port­ing one despot­ic régime after anoth­er against a shift­ing array of per­ceived enemies.

The Afghani forces the Unit­ed States now bomb were once our allies, as was Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein. We have rarely if ever act­ed on behalf of lib­er­ty and democ­ra­cy in the region. We have time and again sold out our val­ues and thrown our sup­port behind the most heinous of despots. We have time and again thought that mil­i­tary adven­tur­ism in the region could keep ter­ror­ism and anti-Americanism in check. And each time we’ve only bred a new gen­er­a­tion of rad­i­cals, bent on revenge.

There are those who have angri­ly denounced paci­fists in the weeks since Sep­tem­ber 11th, angri­ly ask­ing how peace can deal with ter­ror­ists. What these crit­ics don’t under­stand is that wars don’t start when the bombs begin to explode. They begin years before, when the seeds of hatred are sewn. The times to stop this new war was ten and twen­ty years ago, when the U.S. broke it’s promis­es for democ­ra­cy, and act­ed in its own self-interest (and often on behalf of the inter­ests of our oil com­pa­nies) to keep the cycles of vio­lence going. The Unit­ed States made choic­es that helped keep the peo­ples of the Mid­dle East enslaved in despo­tism and poverty.

And so we come to 2001. And it’s time to stop a war. But it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly this war that we can stop. It’s the next one. And the ones after that. It’s time to stop com­bat ter­ror­ism with ter­ror. In the last few weeks the Unit­ed States has been mak­ing new alliances with coun­tries whose lead­ers sub­vert democ­ra­cy. We are giv­ing them free rein to con­tin­ue to sub­ject their peo­ple. Every weapon we sell these tyrants only kills and desta­bi­lizes more, just as every bomb we drop on Kab­ul feeds ter­ror more.

And most of all: we are mak­ing new vic­tims. Anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren are see­ing their par­ents die, are see­ing the rain of bombs fall on their cities from an uncar­ing Amer­i­ca. They cry out to us in the name of peace and democ­ra­cy and hear noth­ing but hatred and blood. And some of them will respond by turn­ing against us in hatred. And will fight us in anger. They will learn our les­son of ter­ror and use it against us. They cycle will repeat. His­to­ry will con­tin­ue to turn, with blood as it’s Mid­dle East­ern lubri­cant. Unless we act. Unless we can stop the next war.

Forsaking Diplomacy

In the New York Times, a “glimpse behind the scenes of the Bush Administration’s sup­port for war in Lebanon”
bq.. Washington’s resis­tance to an imme­di­ate cease-fire and its staunch sup­port of Israel have made it more dif­fi­cult for [US “Sec­re­tary of State”] Rice to work with oth­er nations, includ­ing some Amer­i­can allies, as they search for a for­mu­la that will end the vio­lence and pro­duce a durable cease-fire.…
Sev­er­al State Depart­ment offi­cials have pri­vate­ly object­ed to the administration’s empha­sis on Israel and have said that Wash­ing­ton is not talk­ing to Syr­ia to try to resolve the cri­sis. Dam­as­cus has long been a sup­port­er of “Hezbollah”, and pre­vi­ous con­flicts between the group and Israel have been resolved through shut­tle diplo­ma­cy with Syria.
p. The wars in “Lebanon” and “Iraq” are caus­ing irrepara­ble harm to the U.S. image in the Mid­dle East. High-sounding words about democ­ra­cy ring hol­low when we for­sake diplomacy.

Vision for an online magazine

In ear­ly 2005, I was nom­i­nat­ed to apply for the Clarence and Lil­ly Pick­ett Endow­ment for Quak­er Lead­er­ship. I decid­ed to dream up the best project I could under the restraints of the lim­it­ed Pick­ett grant sizes. While the endowe­ment was approved their bud­get was lim­it­ed that year (lots of Quak­er youth trav­el to a World Gath­er­ing) and I got a small frac­tion of what I had hoped for. I made an online appeal and con­tri­bu­tions from dozens of Friends dou­bled the Pick­ett Fund grant size!

Here then is an edit­ed ver­sion of the pro­pos­al I pre­sent­ed to the Pick­ett Fund in Third Month 2005; it has sub­se­quent­ly been approved by the Over­seers of my meet­ing, Atlantic City Area Month­ly Meeting.

What involvement have you had in Quaker-related activities/service projects for the betterment of your community/world?

Ten years ago I found­ed Non​vi​o​lence​.org, a cut­ting edge “New Media” web­site that now reach­es over a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year. I have been involved with a num­ber of Philadel­phia peace groups (e.g.,Food Not Bombs, the Philadel­phia Inde­pen­dent Media Cen­ter, Act for Peace in the Mid­dle East). I have served my month­ly meet­ing as co-clerk and as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to year­ly meet­ing bod­ies. I recent­ly led a well-received “Quak­erism 101” course at Med­ford (NJ) Month­ly Meet­ing and will co-lead a work­shop called “Strangers to the Covenant” at this year’s FGC Gath­er­ing. I have orga­nized Young Adult Friends at the year­ly and nation­al lev­els, serv­ing for­mal­ly and infor­mal­ly in var­i­ous capac­i­ties. I am quite involved with Quak­ers Unit­ing in Pub­li­ca­tions, an inter­na­tion­al asso­ci­a­tion of Quak­er pub­lish­ers, authors and book­sellers. Eigh­teen months ago I start­ed a small Quak­er min­istry web­site that has inspired a num­ber of younger Friends inter­est­ed in explor­ing min­istry and wit­ness. For the past six years I have worked for Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence; for two of those years I was con­cur­rent­ly also work­ing for Friends Jour­nal.

What is the nature of the internship, creative activity or service project for which you seek funding?

I’ve served with var­i­ous Young Adult Friends group­ings and com­mit­tees for ten years. In that time I’ve been blessed to meet many of my peers with a clear call to inspired min­istry. Most of these Friends have since left the Soci­ety, frus­trat­ed both by month­ly meet­ings and Quak­er bod­ies that didn’t know what to do with a bold min­istry and by a lack of men­tor­ing elder­ship that could help sea­son and steady these young min­is­ters and deep­en their under­stand­ing of gospel order.

I would like to put togeth­er an inde­pen­dent online pub­li­ca­tion. This would address the iso­la­tion that most seri­ous young Friends feel and would give a focus to our work togeth­er. The pub­li­ca­tion would also have a quar­ter­ly print edition.

It’s impor­tant to build face-to-face rela­tion­ships too, to build an advi­so­ry board but also a base of con­trib­u­tors and to give extra encour­age­ment to fledg­ling min­istries. I would like to trav­el to dif­fer­ent young adult com­mu­ni­ties to share sto­ries and inspi­ra­tion. This would explic­it reach out across the dif­fer­ent braches of Friends and even to var­i­ous seek­er move­ments like the so-called “Emer­gent Church Movement.”

What amount are you requesting and how will it be used in the project? What other financial resources for your project are you considering?

$7800. Web host­ing: $900 for 18 months. Soft­ware: $300. Print pub­li­ca­tion: $3000 for 6 quar­ter­ly issues at $500 per issue. Trav­el: $1600 for four trips aver­ag­ing $400 each. $2000 for mini-sabbatical time set­ting up site.

The Pick­ett Fund would be a val­i­da­tion of sorts for this vision. I would also turn to oth­er youth fel­low­ship and year­ly meet­ing trav­el funds that sup­port the work.

What is the time frame for your project? 18 months, to be reviewed/revisioned then.

When did/will it begin? This sum­mer. When will it end? Decem­ber 2006.

In what specific ways will the project further your leadership potential in Quaker service?

It’s time that I for­mal­ize some of the work I’ve been doing and make it more of a col­lec­tive effort. It will be good to see for­mal month­ly meet­ing recog­ni­tion of this min­istry and to have insti­tu­tion­al Quak­er sup­port. I hope to learn much by being involved with so many won­der­ful Friends and hope to help pull togeth­er more of a sense of mis­sion among a num­ber of younger Friends.

Cheney Team Trying to Muzzle Al Jazeera

Appar­ent­ly the U.S. is pres­sur­ing “Qatar to sell the Al Jazeera TV network” The best line in the New York Times article:
bq. Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, Defense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld, Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleez­za Rice, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Col­in L. Pow­ell and oth­er Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have com­plained heat­ed­ly to Qatari lead­ers that Al Jazeera’s broad­casts have been inflam­ma­to­ry, mis­lead­ing and occa­sion­al­ly false, espe­cial­ly on iraq.
So I sup­pose Cheney, Rums­feld, Rice and Pow­ell have nev­er giv­en out mis­lead­ing or occa­sion­al­ly false infor­ma­tion about iraq?
Al Jazeera is watched by 30 mil­lion to 50 mil­lion view­ers. It’s cov­er­age has been inflam­ma­to­ry and I’m not going to defend that, but it’s the most impor­tant media source in the Mid­dle East and should not be shut down by Amer­i­can pres­sure. Qatar is only con­sid­er­ing sell­ing it, but poten­tial buy­ers for the financially-strapped net­work are few. And the Cheney team wouldn’t be involved if they weren’t inter­est­ed in mak­ing it’s con­tent more U.S. friendly.

Yasser Arafat Death: Yes, It is That Important

The Pales­tin­ian pres­i­dent “Yass­er Arafat”: died a few days ago, after weeks of dete­ri­o­rat­ing health. As the most rec­og­niz­able face of the Pales­tin­ian strug­gle for the last fifty years, Yas­sir Arafat was undoubt­ed­ly one of the most impor­tant world lead­ers of the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry. While he didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, he was far from the first archi­tect of mur­der to walk off with it (our own Hen­ry Kissinger comes to mind), and he is one of a few men who could legit­i­mate­ly claim to have defined war and peace in our age.
There’s a say­ing in my reli­gious tra­di­tion that some prob­lems can only be resolved after a cer­tain amount of funer­als have passed. It’s been hard to imag­ine how a last­ing peace could be built in the Mid­dle East while he and his coun­ter­parts in the Israeli geron­toc­ra­cy remained in pow­er. The twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry saw plen­ty of auto­crat­ic lead­ers who came to per­son­i­fy their nation and whose decades-long tenure came to rep­re­sent the stale­mate to real change or last­ing peace. When the death of Zaïre’s icon­ic strong­man “Mobu­tu Sese Seko”: in 1997 opened up pos­si­bil­i­ties for peace­ful realign­ments in the region, even though war was the first result. For the death of strong-willed lead­ers doesn’t always bring about peace. When Yugoslavia’s “Josip Broz Tito”: died, the pow­er vac­u­um implod­ed the coun­try and set the stage for decades of civ­il wars. The atroc­i­ties and chaos brought the word “eth­nic cleans­ing” into our vocabulary.
Per­haps the sad­dest com­men­tary on all this was one I heard on the street. Two men were talk­ing loud­ly about hav­ing a TV show inter­rupt­ed the day before, only five min­utes before a sched­uled pro­gram break. “It’s not like it’s that impor­tant that you can’t wait five min­utes” repeat­ed the one, over and over. Yes, my friend, Arafat’s death is that important.

Who Was Yassin?

From the NYU Cen­ter for Reli­gion and Media, a “fas­ci­nat­ing break­down of press cov­er­age of the killing of Pales­tin­ian leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin”:
bq.. We have to turn to the for­eign press to learn any­thing sub­stan­tial about the reli­gious views of the “spir­i­tu­al leader” whose world­ly ter­ror has been a con­stant fac­tor in U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy.… [W]hy has our press ignored the “spir­i­tu­al” dimen­sions of this “spir­i­tu­al leader”? Two pos­si­bil­i­ties. One is that the jour­nal­ists assigned to cov­er the Mid­dle East are polit­i­cal reporters. They approach reli­gion as sim­ply a veneer for polit­i­cal motives, and rarely both­er to learn its intricacies.
The oth­er, deep­er prob­lem, is with the nar­ra­tives avail­able for reli­gion sto­ries even when a reporter tries to pay atten­tion. Most reli­gion writ­ing is divid­ed between innocu­ous spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and dan­ger­ous fanati­cism, with sub­cat­e­gories for “cor­rup­tion,” “tra­di­tion­al­ism,” and wacky.…
So what does our press do? Noth­ing. A major ene­my of peace in the Mid­dle East has just been killed, and yet we learn almost noth­ing about what made him fight or why he is mourned. Oppo­nents and sup­port­ers of the Pales­tini­ans remain in the dark, unin­formed by a press inca­pable of break­ing the nar­ra­tive to inves­ti­gate — and per­haps help erad­i­cate — the roots of ter­ror­ism. It’s eas­i­er to stick to the “he-said/she-said”-with-guns ver­sion of events that reduces it all to retal­i­a­tion, to hope­less spi­rals of vio­lence and ancient eth­nic hatreds, to enmi­ty with­out reason.
p. Found via “All over the map”: