From concern to action in a few short months

rooftop3A grow­ing list of sto­ries is sug­gest­ing that black church­es in the South are being tar­get­ed for arson once again (although one of the more pub­li­cized cas­es seems to be lightning-related). This was a big con­cern in the mid-1990s, a time when a Quak­er pro­gram stepped up to give Friends the chance to trav­el to the South to help rebuild. From a 1996 Friends Jour­nal edi­to­r­i­al:

Some­times a news arti­cle touch­es the heart and moves peo­ple to reach out to one anoth­er in unex­pect­ed ways. So it was this win­ter when the Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a piece on the rash of fires that have destroyed black church­es in the South in recent months… When Friend Harold B. Con­fer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Wash­ing­ton Quak­er Work­camps, saw the arti­cle, he decid­ed to do some­thing about it. After a series of phone calls, he and two col­leagues accept­ed an invi­ta­tion to trav­el to west­ern Alaba­ma and see the fire dam­age for them­selves. They were warm­ly received by the pas­tors and con­gre­ga­tions of the three Greene Coun­ty church­es. Upon their return, they set to work on a plan.

I’m not sure whether Confer’s plan is the right tem­plate to fol­low this time, but it’s a great sto­ry because it shows the impor­tance of hav­ing a strong grass­roots Quak­er ecosys­tem. I don’t believe the Wash­ing­ton Quak­er Work­camps were ever a par­tic­u­lar­ly well-funded project. But by 1996 they had been run­ning for ten years and had built up cred­i­bil­i­ty, a fol­low­ing, and the abil­i­ty to cross cul­tur­al lines in the name of ser­vice. The small­er orga­ni­za­tion­al size meant that a news­pa­per arti­cle could prompt a flur­ry of phone calls and vis­its and a fully-realized pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ty in a remark­ably short amount of time.

A first-hand account of the work­camps by Kim Roberts was pub­lished lat­er than year, Rebuild­ing Church­es in Rur­al Alaba­ma: One Volunteer’s Expe­ri­ence. The D.C.-based work­camp pro­gram con­tin­ues in mod­i­fied form to this day as the William Penn Quak­er Work­camps.

Update: anoth­er pic­ture from 1996 Alaba­ma, this time from one of my wife Julie’s old pho­to books. She’s sec­ond from the left at the bot­tom, part of the longer-stay con­tin­gent that Roberts mentions.


Deep Throat Gargles Up

Deep Throat in an 1958 FBI pub­lic­i­ty pho­to. “From Wikipedia”:

One of the great­est polit­i­cal mys­ter­ies of the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry was revealed this week as “Van­i­ty Fair revealed the iden­ti­ty of Deep Throat”:, the gov­ern­ment informer who led Wash­ing­ton Post reporters onto the full scope of the Water­gate Scan­dal. Here’s the “Post’s own arti­cle on the revealing”:
Although I was far too young to fol­low the events at the time, the _Washington Post_ sto­ries com­bined with the fol­lowup book and movie to cre­ate a pop­u­lar images of the fear­less inves­tiga­tive reporter, the show­dowy gov­ern­ment insid­er with unclear motives and the news­pa­per pub­lish­ers tak­ing a risk for the big story.
So it seems iron­ic that Deep Throat – no excuse me, W. Mark Felt, the num­ber two man at the FBI in the ear­ly 1970s – was a close assis­tant of the noto­ri­ous FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and was him­self con­vict­ed in 1980 for autho­riz­ing gov­ern­ment agents to break into homes of sus­pect­ed anti-Vietnam war pro­test­ers (look­ing for sus­pects from the rad­i­cal Weath­er Under­ground bombings).

U.S. taking on Hussein Strongman Role

It shouldn’t be a sur­prise but it makes me sick any­way. The _Washington Post_ reports that the “U.S. occu­pa­tion is hir­ing Sad­dam Hussein’s ex-spies”
It must be a good job mar­ket for mid-level Sad­dam Hus­sein loy­al­ists. Back in June, we learned that the U.S. had put “ex-Iraqi gen­er­als in charge of many Iraq cities”: (at the same time the U.S. can­celed promised elec­tions). The U.S. trum­pets cap­ture of big-name Iraqi lead­ers like “Chem­i­cal Ali” but then qui­et­ly hires their assis­tants. The major­i­ty of the new U.S. intel­li­gence recruits come from Sad­dam Hussein’s Mukhabarat, an agency whose name is said to inspire dread among Iraqis.
The infra­struc­ture of Sad­dam Hussein’s repres­sion appa­ra­tus is being rebuilt as a U.S. repres­sion appa­ra­tus. The stat­ues of Sad­dam Hus­sein go down, the “play­ing card” Iraqi fig­ure­heads get caught, but not much changes.
The arti­cle says that the new spy hir­ing is “covert” but it’s appar­ent­ly no secret in Iraq. even the Iraqi Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil, a dum­my rep­re­sen­ta­tive body hand­picked by U.S. forces, has expressed “adamant objec­tions” to the recruit­ment campaign:
bq. “We’ve always crit­i­cized the pro­ce­dure of recruit­ing from the old régime’s offi­cers. We think it is a mis­take,” Mah­di said. “We’ve told them you have some bad peo­ple in your secu­ri­ty apparatus.”
No, the “covert” audi­ence is the U.S. pub­lic, who might start feel­ing quesy about the Iraq War if they knew how eas­i­ly the U.S. was slip­ping into Sad­dam Hussein’s shoes.

How Come the U.S. Trains All the Terrorists?

I’ve just been read­ing today’s New York Times arti­cle about the con­vic­tion of the New York City World Trade Cen­ter bombers. With it is a com­pan­ion piece about the plot leader, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who hoped to kill 250,000 peo­ple when the tow­ers col­lapsed onto the city below. Born in Kuwait to a Pak­istani moth­er and Pales­tin­ian father, his life began as an alle­go­ry for the social dis­place­ments of the Mid­dle East, and he grew up with anger towards the Israelis-and by exten­sions the Americans-who had forced his father from his home­land. Even so, Yousef came to school in the West, to Wales, where he stud­ied engi­neer­ing. But in 1989 he left it for anoth­er edu­ca­tion, fueled by his anger and lead­ing to the death of six in the heat and smoke of the mas­sive under­ground explo­sion in down­town Manhattan.

Yousef trav­eled to Afghanistan to join the Muja­hedeen rebels in their fight against Sovi­et occu­piers, and there learned the guer­ril­la tech­niques he would lat­er employ in New York. Who sup­port­ed the Muja­hedeen and paid for Yousef’s train­ing in ter­ror­ism? The Unit­ed States Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, who fun­neled the Afghan rebels mil­lions of U.S. tax­pay­ers dollars.

It would seem a sim­ple case of U.S. mil­i­tarism com­ing home to roost, but it is not so sim­ple and it is not uncom­mon. Fol­low most trails of ter­ror­ism and you’ll find Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment fund­ing some­where in the recent past.

Tim­o­thy McVeigh was anoth­er angry young man, one who had to drop out of col­lege, couldn’t find a steady job, and moved from trail­er park to trail­er park as an adult, won­der­ing if the Amer­i­can Dream includ­ed him. He did what a lot of economically-disadvantaged young kids do, and enlist­ed in the U.S. Army (this has been described by some as “the pover­ty draft”).

In 1988, he met Michael Forti­er and Ter­ry Nichols at the U.S. Army base at Ft. Ben­ning, Geor­gia (coin­ci­den­tal­ly home of the infa­mous School of the Amer­i­c­as). There he was taught how to turn his anger into killing and was quick­ly pro­mot­ed, get­ting good reviews and being award­ed with the Bronze Star and Com­bat Infantry Badge for his ser­vice in the Gulf War.

Lat­er he came back to the U.S. with his Ft. Ben­ning friends and turned his anger against the U.S. gov­ern­ment. He used his mil­i­tary skills to build a bomb (alleged­ly with Nichols, now at tri­al, with the knowl­edge of Forti­er, who turned state’s wit­ness). On a spring day in 1995, he drove the bomb to Okla­homa City’s fed­er­al build­ing and set it off, killing 168 peo­ple. McVeigh’s moth­er said, “It was like he trad­ed one Army for anoth­er one.” (Wash­ing­ton Post, 7/2/95)

Anoth­er ter­ror­ist trained by the Unit­ed States government.

But it doesn’t end there either. This same dynam­ic hap­pens on the nation-state lev­el as well. Today’s head­lines also include sto­ries about the stand­off between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Unit­ed Nations arms inspec­tors, a sit­u­a­tion which threat­ens to renew mil­i­tary fight­ing in the region. Who fund­ed Hus­sein and gave him mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons to fight the Ira­ni­ans dur­ing the 80s? Why, it’s the U.S. gov­ern­ment again.How come the Unit­ed States is direct­ly involved in train­ing some of the biggest ter­ror­ists of the decade? Haven’t we learned that mil­i­tarism only leads to more mil­i­tarism? Would Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Tim­o­thy McVeigh just be polit­i­cal unknowns if the Unit­ed States hadn’t taught them to kill with their anger? Would Sad­dam Hus­sein be just anoth­er ex-dictator if the U.S. hadn’t fund­ed his mil­i­tary dur­ing the 1980s?

We can nev­er know these answers. But we can stop train­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ists. Let’s stop fund­ing war, let’s stop solv­ing prob­lems with guns and explo­sives. Let today’s angry twen­ty year olds cut peo­ple off in traf­fic and do no more. Let’s stop these unde­clared wars.