A Day That Lives In Infamy

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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

On this date, May 2, 2011, my thoughts are with those who lost a loved one in war.  Brutal battles cause such harm. Yet, curiously the seem never-ending.  It would appear that humans forget their history.  When attacked, people frequently attack back.  With a loved one lost in war, or other destructive engagement, rather than relate to the pain of another who has experienced as they do or did, a pained person often seeks revenge.  Combat starts a cycle; however, once commenced, it does not cease.  Perchance, we might ponder the past and the people the circumstances of those who are no longer with us. Instead, today, as the headlines herald Obama Calls World ‘Safer’ After Pakistan Raid and Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces countless celebrate in glee.

This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation,

and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.


~ Robert F. Kennedy

copyright © January 7, 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is the seventh day of the month, a date that now lives in infamy.  On this occasion, she passed.  She was killed by an attack that was all too sudden.  Her physical presence on Earth did not end in the month of December 7, 1941.  This year is not that one.  The events at Pearl Harbor did cause my Mom’s heart to stop.  Indeed, she only ceased to exist in a form that I can see with my eyes or touch with my hand, less than a decade ago.  Truly, it feels as if Mommy just took her leave.  Today, I think of what it must feel like to all those in the United States and Middle East who are now characterized as the dearly departed.  To have lost their lives in the throws of war must  be awful.  

There is no time to prepare or to feel as though you had an opportunity to “properly” say your good-byes. In the instant that a loved one is brutally taken away, rarely is family there.  To know that someone so special was slaughtered in battle, or was a victim of “collateral damage,” must make a family member cringe.  The declaration of death must feel as a new unwanted beginning, not an end,

I know for me, in every second, Mommy is still with me.  All these years later, I mourn my loss.  Oh, if only I could bring her back.  She enters into my dreams almost daily.  Since childhood, I knew, if she were gone, I might not be able to go on.  Today, on the anniversary of her bodily discorporation, I mourn, as I trust she would, the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, and anywhere that war delays, defers, or denies family time, space, and a proper setting in which to grieve.

Unreported by United States Armed Forces, the Bush Administration, or the American free press, it was estimated that since the US-led invasion began, as of September 2007, over a million Iraqis were killed.  Opinion Research Business, a prominent British survey agency, approximated 1.2 million Iraqi residents violently realized a horrific conclusion to life.  At times, entire families were among the fatalities, survived by only friends, and relatives who lived.  That does not negate the notion, that someone, somewhere, suffered a loss when each one of those individual lives was snuffed out.

Unlike in my situation, those who loved the dearly departed Iraqis, had no warning.  The persons who live to lament were not able to visit their beloved before their final breath.  Opportunities to say good-bye were few, if they existed at all.  The bombs blasted.  The bullets pierced the delicate flesh of the persons now fallen.  Survivors were left only with their sorrow.  Sadly, some probably regret they could not save a cherished soul.  While I might relate to that feeling, at least I know my Mom passed quietly, safely at home, in the company of those nearest and dearest.  She went to her rest in peace.

In Afghanistan, the challenges are equal to those in Iraq.  Homes sit snugly in a war zone.  Soldiers, who are suspicious of Afghani natives, surround local communities.  Troops are also found within indigenous societal circles.  Weaponry is wielded.  No innocent man, woman, or child is out of harm’s way.  When a friend or family folk is maimed or murdered, neighbors may wish to send condolences, as those close to my Mom did.  Colleagues may yearn to congregate around a casket and cry.  People may seek closure.  Cremations, with a chance to offer ceremonial respects, might be as is customary.  Yet, again, since American and allies attacks commenced, citizens of Afghanistan cannot do as my relatives, and I had done when Mommy departed.

No one is certain how many have passed in the roughed terrain of Afghanistan.  The Pentagon does not release statistics of the insurgents killed.  Nor do they dare calculate the numbers of blameless civilian losses.  The United States Armed Services applaud the accuracy of air strikes.  American military speaks of the smart strategy.

(F)or all their precision, American bombs sometimes take out the wrong targets.  As U.S. air strikes doubled from 2006 to 2007, the number of accidental civilian deaths soared, from 116 to 321, according to Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon targeting chief who tabulates civilian casualties for Human Rights Watch (HRW), an independent research group.  By his count, the death toll among civilians so far this year [September 2008] is approaching 200.

The military dismisses such tallies as exaggerated, and their provenance is often murky.  . . .

Whatever the tally, officials both inside and outside the U.S. military say attacks that kill civilians occur with distressing regularity; they generate headlines only when dozens die.  Afghans vividly recall the July 2002 bombing of a wedding party–celebratory gunfire led to retaliation by an AC-130–that killed up to 48 civilians and wounded 117 in Oruzgan province; many were women and children.

This past July, 47 people were killed and nine wounded on their way to a wedding in eastern Afghanistan.  Among the dead were 39 women and children, including the bride-to-be, Afghan authorities said.

What of the families, and friends, of those who survived?  How must they reconcile the loss?  Joyous, the beloved went to a celebration.  Yet, they never returned.  They cease to exist, taken down by a missile.  How must the living feel?

For the people who were close to these sweet spirits and lived, July must be as January is for me, a reminder of what was, would have been, and will never be.  The difference is, for all the persons, perhaps hundreds or thousands in Afghanistan who were touched by those who perished while at a wedding in 2002 and on their way to nuptials in 2007, they know a life was cut short by unnecessary combat.  Beautiful beings were blow into oblivion.

Yet, all the while, people in the States, those who purchased and produced the deadly artillery, pay little attention to what does not affect them personally.  Indeed, on this January 7, 2009, the death toll on foreign shores mounts, and many in America think that fine.  As long as it is not their Mom, Dad, son, or daughter, citizens in this “civilized” country will continue to plan inaugural parties, propose to escalate combat in the Middle East, and sanction the strikes that ensue in Gaza.  

Oh, some may protest.  A few will state they cannot endorse the murders.  Others; however, will justify the cause for they will speak of Hamas as the enemy, evil, just as they do of those in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Justice is served, the American Administration will assuage, as they offer a convenient truth; terrorist must be eliminated.

In truth, as long, those who inhabit the world’s superpower do not suffer, do not experience the loss, the United States will do little to interfere, to impede, what through their dollars, and decades of support, they have endorsed.

Perchance, my Mom, today, yesterday, and forever gave me a gift that gives even when she is far away, one I wish every American might receive.  Mommy taught me to empathize, to truly place my heart in the being of another.  She modeled what most dare not muse.  

Mommy, who never wished to hurt any one or another entity, understood how bereavement affected me.  She knew; when the soul of someone is lost to this world, I ache.  Hence, she stayed on Earth so that I might see her one more time, hold her hand, and say all that we might.  When she knew I could, and would not regret, my Mom wished me well.  “Have a good trip,” the lovely Berenice Barbara said as I left her physical presence.  “You too,” I replied.

It was January 7th, a day that lives in infamy for me, and one that I trust will be tarnished for those in foreign lands who lost a loved one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, or anywhere on this globe.

May we all rest in peace.

References and Resources for Reflection . . .

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Profundity of Peace on Earth



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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

This year, Christmas and New Years Days were days of intense reflection.  Perchance, that is true every year and for every individual.  I cannot know what is true for others.  I am only certain that on each of these dates I was immersed in a rigorous course of study.   My gifts or the curriculum came wrapped in a routine event.

The lessons covered were Empathy and Education, although perhaps these were presented in reverse order.  Possibly, the truer program was entropy  and encouragement.  Each edifies.  I wonder; on each of the two days these topics were intertwined.  In my attempt to analyze and understand what I needed to learn or did, I invite your assessments.  Please indulge me as I share the story.

Each was a sunny Saturday.  On neither of the dates, December 25, 2010 or January 1, 2011, was I locked in a classroom.  Nor did I enter a library, a lecture hall, or school.  Indeed, no walls surrounded me.  I was as I am every Saturday of the year, with one exception, at the “Peace Corner.”  The name was given to the intersection of two major highways in my local community years ago.  Then, people came out weekly to stand vigil for global harmony.  That time was long ago, and far, far, far away.  

In the last thirteen months or so, more often than not, I appear at the crossroads alone.  My constant companions are my thoughts and signs.  One sign is but the index and middle fingers held high in a gesture of peace.  The other is  a single poster that reads “Love! Not War. Love!”

On occasion, one or two other persons also grace the Peace Corner.  However, if either of these individuals appears, they and I do not stand together. Hence, regardless of the Saturday, I place me, myself, and I on the Northwest side of the streets.  I have no desire to engage in conversation with another activist.  I only wish to connect with passer-bys.  Eye contact with drivers and walkers is all I need.  

At times, someone approaches me from the street.  Others offer opportunities to share as they travel down the sidewalk.  I am open to learn from these chance encounters.  Admittedly, I cannot be sure what will be said, done, thought, before or after an exchange.  I can only accept that I will be touched, intrigued, quiz, and question for myself, what does it all mean.  

Christmas Day, or the date customarily adopted in America as the holy day, gave gifts I have yet to comprehend.  In 2010, the streets were bare.  Nary an automobile was in site.  Egrets were everywhere.  I pondered.  Might these lovely white birds anxiously await the celebration each December.  The quiet calm truly captured my attention and theirs.  The lovely herons swooped and dove gracefully through the air.  When an occasional automobile appeared on the scene, stopped as required by a red directional signal, uncharacteristically, the two-legged winged animals perched themselves atop the metallic being for the minutes of immobility.

I have never seen the Egrets more enthusiast, energetic, and serene.  The dance these creatures did was well orchestrated, I felt as though I had been given front-row seats to a theatre production meant only for the privileged few.  That is, until the silence was broken.  

On this Christmas Saturday, as pious people prayed in churches, or gathered together with loved ones a man sped through the intersection.  Upon seeing my signs, or the little person I am, he screamed.  “F**k You!”  Yes.  Whilst the religious recognized a devout devotion to the deity donned the Lord, this grateful gent appreciated the chance to vent.  I can only speculate.  In what way did my presence, my message or I, offend his sensibility.  What was stirred within him?  Likely, I will never know.

A pedestrian, a far gentler soul voiced his view of the occurrence.  With a knowing smile, the man who stood within inches of me moments later said of the other, “He’s just stu**d.”  Since I think no one can be characterized in such a manner, this answer did not satisfy my curiosity.  Nor did it suffice.  However, I cannot imagine that I might be granted an opening to ask the aggressor what disturbed him so.  I do not envision a day when we might meet.  I have faith divine intervention is a possibility.  I will not hold my breath.  

The day went on.  Once this person passed the tranquility of the day returned.  Fascinating to me, people were less receptive to my presence than they are normally, on every other Saturday.  In a time thought to define “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill to all men,” there was little shown to my signs or me.  Having been at the Peace Corner for sooooooooo many years, I thought this was truly odd.  Why might it be that more kindness and care is shown on days that do not honor Christ’s birth?  Entropy?  I have my theories, although I rather hear yours.

If you would, please consider what I think might be a lesson presented in tandem.  Today.

New Years Day 2011, was equally, actually more unusual.  In the last decade, never have people been so very responsive to my message or me.  I would have imagined that with increased traffic, a focus on shopping and sales, a fervent desire to dash hither and yon, a far less consecrated day would deliver far fewer acknowledgements of peace.  Yet, the opposite was true.  Everywhere I turned, and I do face the oncoming traffic, be it going North, South, East, and West, people smiled.  Countless placed their fingers in a sign of peace.  Car horns honked constantly and not at other vehicles.  Drivers made certain that I knew these toots were meant for me.  Car loads of persons young, old, and all ages in-between waved to me.  Hands were held high in a sign of accord.  Out of many a window, from each side of a car, fingers flew in a gesture that mirrored my own.

Suddenly, near the end of my hour at the crossroads, a late model, newly washed burgundy Sports Utility Vehicle approached.  A nicely dressed woman drove nearer.  She wore a black print dress and a huge smile.  Her raven colored hair was long, lush, and curly.  In the passenger seat, nearer to me, sat a nice-looking man.  His shirt was well-pressed, long sleeved, and as white as his bright grin.  Each seemed excited to see my.  I thought perhaps they were lost and hoped I was a local who would provide directions.

That turned out not to be the case.  Elatedly, the woman spoke.  She said, “I see you here every week.”  Breathlessly, she continued.  “About a month ago, I decided to buy a book for you.”  More animated with each word she uttered, she said, “I have looked for you every Saturday since. ”  I assured her, I was there every week, even on the most recent Saturday passed, Christmas Day.  I thought possibly she came by before or after I left in earlier weeks.  I did not have time to inquire.  Impatient with glee and happy to finally connect, the sweet stranger presented me with the tome.  Grateful for the expression of kindness, I quickly read the large type, “An Endless Falling in Love.”  

Unfamiliar with the title, I thanked her and thought of how special it is.  My mere presence inspired her to think thoughts of love.  The pair said “God bless.” Each thanked me for doing as I do.  Then, as traffic whizzed by, the vehicle merged into the flow.  In an instant they were out of sight.  

Curious, I tried to scan the cover.  Yet, I did not wish to neglect what for me is my priority while at The Peace Corner, the people as they pass.  I tucked the paperback behind my poster and continued to receive the endless warm welcome acknowledgements.  For many minutes more, the air was filled with  friendly exchanges.  When it was time for me to be with me and  continue the day, I read on.  I discovered the manuscript was more religious than spiritual.  The woman had handwritten a somewhat personal or practical note.  She shared her name and the name of the church she is affiliated with.

While I am not a follower of a religious faith, for doctrines do not fill me with delight, I am nonetheless extremely touched.  As one who believes that we each have a profound effect on all others, I am grateful for the recognition.  The couple’s choice to come close to me, to grace me with goodwill, and bestow benevolence in the form of a book and bequest . . . this is special to me.  Encouragement.  I think it is Part Two of an intensive study I trust has not ended.

The lessons I learned thus far from the woman I will call Donna and the aggressive distressed man whom I met on Christmas Day taught me. Empathy and Education come at us from every direction.  Entropy and encouragement are also encountered.  These qualities greet us on each avenue. Compassion, connections, and  a chance to comprehend find us on street corners.  Often we do not understand the messages or do not relate to the thoughts in a manner consistent with their intent.  Still, unexpectedly, we are edified.

Mostly, we never know what another hopes to teach us.  Nonetheless, I have no doubt, we learn from and with each other.  Be it a holiday, a holy day, a hump day, or just a day, we gain knowledge.  Please tell me, what did you learn from my story, or your own.  Whatever it is, I feel certain that your experience, interpretation, and mine, will be wondrous, for each of us is a glorious Teacher.



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Thoughts on Crops

copyright 2010. Jerry Northington. Jerry Northington.com

Growing up in farm country in mid-America the relationship between seed and crop was more than easy to see in our back fields.  The land was rented to local farmers who grew corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops year after year all my time at home.  Those farmers saw the proof of the old adage, “You reap what you sow.”

A few days ago I was reminded about another similar adage.  Those who sow violence (read that any who institute a violent act of any sort) may solve one problem but very likely another issue will arise.  The reaction to violence in most human cultures is more and escalating violence.

Today we live in a world of escalating military expenditures, increasing amounts of arms and ammunition, and a continual race to be the biggest of them all.  To what purpose?  What benefit does humankind see from more and more arms and armament?  Is national security made more sure by a nuclear arsenal that could turn our planet to a cinder in minutes?

My heart tells me if we sow violence we are likely to reap more of the same.  What about if we as a nation were to take on the course of sowing peace?  There are

many examples around the world of peaceable intervention leading to improved lives.  What is to stop us as a people from doing even more.

The sowing of peace can begin with each of us in every aspect of our lives.  Instead of responding in kind to that unkind word or gesture perhaps we would be better to respond with a measure of kindness and friendly words. We need not allow ourselves to become doormats accepting all the misfortune people can hand out, but maybe if we reduce the level of the adversity in the situation we can in the end spread a message of peace and reduced militarism around the world.  At least in my mind the idea is one worth a moment or two of real thought and honest consideration.

Peace.

Quote of the Day:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

~ Mother Teresa

For Further Information on Northington Notes

I am keeping my hand in Delaware politics.  Regular commentaries will appear on the blog at

www.JerryNorthington.blogspot.com.

Anyone may subscribe to Northington Notes, a twice a month commentary.

Please forward this newsletter to friends and neighbors who may be interested. The list is a private one which will not be sold or shared.

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to keeping in touch and joining with you in activism to address the great issues of our time.

Peace,

Jerry Northington

If you wish to communicate with Jerry Northington

Jerry Northington, DVM

Jerry@JerryNorthington.com

Post Office Box 7987?Wilmington, DE 19803

The War’s Waste



Iraq: Thousands Dead, $747.3 Billion Spent And Not Any Safer

The damage done, affects us all economically.  Years of war have done nothing to further education, enrich, or protect the environment.  Indeed, endless battles have destroyed any sense of balance or betterment.  Ethically, hostilities in the Middle East have helped to erode societal standards.  Might we ask; what have we taught our children? How to waste money . . . that human lives are but waste . . . that their elders think funds and a focus on education are a waste, or that ethical standards are a waste of time and energy.  Surely, attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed nothing to the Seventh Generation.

Documentary Filmmaker Robert Greenwald grieves for the unborn little ones and those who passed, as do the families, friends and familiars of military men, women, and civilians who have been touched by the perpetual battles.  Even those who may not have seen combat have experienced the repercussions.  Throughout the world, the waste is sky high.  Those who do not correlate the debris with the destruction in the Persian Gulf; nonetheless feel the effects.  As Robert Greenwald observes . . .

More than 4,300 American Lives.  At least 95,600 Iraqi civilians dead, with some estimates more than six times that number.  More than $747 billion spent so far, which, combined with the effect on oil prices and with indirect costs, helped lead to the economic crisis. Reduced, not enhanced, American security.

The Iraq war, like the Afghanistan war is a massive case of waste, fraud and abuse.

While it’s a good thing that President Obama committed to ending the Iraq war, he’s ratcheting up a more expensive Afghanistan war while we’re still reeling from the economic impact of the former. With Al Qaida having been driven from the country and with our increased troop presence having been met with increasing violence nation-wide, it’s clear that Obama’s War, like Bush’s War, also fails to make us safer. We don’t have a spare trillion dollars for useless war.

Our new video marks this tragic anniversary. But, we need your help in letting the administration know that we understand the damage done to Iraq and to our country. We also know that there will be no economic recovery as long as we’re spending $100 billion a year on another war that doesn’t make us safer–the war in Afghanistan.

That’s why we’re asking everyone to report the Afghanistan war as an example of waste, fraud and abuse on the White House’s official economic recovery website, Recovery.gov Simply scroll down to the field marked “What” and paste this message into the text box:

“I’d like to report the waste of billions of dollars of our national wealth in Afghanistan on a war that doesn’t make us safer. It’s fraud to portray this as a war that increases our security, and it’s abusive of U.S. troops and local civilians to drag out this war any longer. End the war so we can have real economic recovery.”

You don’t have to fill out the whole form. Just let them know that you think spending more for useless wars is a clear example of waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayer that will undermine economic recovery.

Thanks to Bush, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a massive waste of human life and treasure. Let’s not let the Obama administration make the same mistake again in Afghanistan.

While erroneous assumptions have already been made, and acted upon, it is vital that the American people ensure that these costly wars end.  Please, let us remind the President, that dollars devoted to deliberate demolition far exceeds what we spend on our infrastructure, education, the environment, and authentic health care coverage.  Americans have experienced a drastic reduction in police forces, fire departments, and all civil servants.  What we spend abroad affects those at home and on foreign shores.  

In the United States, we must ask ourselves, can we afford the waste that is war.  Was it worth the cost of lives lost?  Can we economically or ethically justify the lessened quality of life for soldiers and, or civilians.  Will we be able to live with the thought that tens, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have perished all for naught?   More will die, and not necessarily in battles.  Some will be in hospital beds.  Others in homes without the funds for health care coverage.  A few will expire on the streets, be they victims of increased crime, unemployment, caused by a lack of education, or other circumstances that a warfare budget creates. All this occurred because we, as a country, have dissipated billions of dollars in unwarranted conflicts.  

In an effort to maim and murder, many innocent Iraqi, Afghani, American, and allies suffer.  Most of these are as you and I, seemingly peaceful persons who do not have the power policy-makers do.  Thus, Filmmaker Greenwald asks for your assistance, as do other concerned citizens.  Please help our nation, the national budget, and people here and on foreign lands heal.

References . . .

March Forward; March 20



War veterans and resisters say “All Out for March 20th-National March on Washington!”

Dearest Special Beings . . .

If you have yet to see, hear, read, or feel the commitment of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans against the Middle Eastern wars, here is your chance.  If you have not experienced the pain the family and friends of troops feel, now you can.  If you think you can only show your support for soldiers by endorsing the wars, then, please ponder the words of Winter Soldier Michael Prysner.  He and the experienced troops who walk with him wish to ask for your help.  Peruse the passage Prysner presents in this mail.

Please ponder how the wars affect you personally, politically, and even fiscally.  Consider the many communities in this country and abroad deprived of funds, all in an effort to participate in and pay for warfare.  Try to imagine the many lives and limbs lost, not to mention the emotional traumatic stress.  Perhaps, you have already actively considered how our culture has changed, all because we engage in costly battles.  

If you had wanted to speak out, and have not, or if you want to communicate in a manner that might touch the President and Congress, please join our servicemen, woman, kin, and acquaintances in a March Forward.

For details, please read on.  I thank you.


In March of 2003, I was sent to invade Iraq amidst the largest anti-war demonstrations in history, with an equally senseless war already being waged in Afghanistan. Myself, and countless other veterans, went believing the lies spewed by Washington, but saw first hand the criminal and imperial nature of that war, and every war waged by the U.S. Our experiences compelled us to stand up and fight back.

Many of us joined together to form March Forward!, and have been building resistance to these wars, both in and out of the military. This video was made by our members, all of whom are veterans and active duty soldiers, to help us publicize the next step in our struggle to end the wars-the national mass anti-war protests in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco on March 20th, seven years after the brutal invasion of Iraq.

Help us make our voices heard. We need you all behind us on March 20th to stand united against the crimes of this government-but we also need your help in spreading the word. Please circulate the above video to everyone you can, and be a part of the growing movement against the U.S. war machine.

Visit March20.org to learn more about how to get involved.

To learn more about March Forward! please visit MarchForward.org.

In solidarity,

Mike Prysner

Cat and Deer; You and Me



Cat and Deer

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

He was a Nigerian man, a foreign-born nationalist, a terrorist, or one who at least attempted to threatened the tranquility of a plane.  Most people see this individual as someone unlike “me.” The word is we must do all we can to protect ourselves.  Surely, this incident reminds us that we must require stronger security measures.  Today, with the news of another “menace” in our midst people, once again, presume society as we know it is not a safe place.  

Americans, Afghanis, Anglos, African Americans, Armenians, Asians, [name the archetype of your choice] proclaim the other is an opponent.  Millions muse; is us against them.  Enemies are everywhere.   Forever humans find reason to call our brethren brutal, a bully, and, or a bad person.  In a world where we typically think of the alien, those different than us, as a potential antagonist, it is important to realize that aggression is not instinctual.  Hatred and hostility are born out of fear.

Mankind kills in order not to be killed.  He, or she, massacres the masses in hope that one person, a foe will be found.  Rarely do humans reflect on the kitten and the deer.  Nor do we dare take the time to learn of the authentic you and me.  We race ’round.  Few stop to smell the essence of friendship. Less let themselves feel what their fellowman feels.  Empathy is barely evident in our culture.  Compassion is not as common as cruelty.  

Perchance, people might ponder; a bit of curiosity did not kill the kitty who sniffed the deer.  A fawn becomes a friend, a cat a compassionate companion.  Oh, what a wonderful world it would be if you, and me, were as those beings, that humans are quick to define as beasts.

Please ponder possibilities.  If you wish to, you might see the world beyond conventional wisdoms or the apprehensions we share.

The Two Faces of Obama

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

~ Barack Obama (President of the United States.  Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. December 10, 2009)

For years, Americans saw live, and in person, or on television screens, Presidential aspirant Barack Obama.   Several mused; the man is calm in a crisis.  “No drama Obama” was the phrase most often associated with the candidate.  Those closely and personally connected to the potential President corroborated what was for most only an observation.  The election did not change Barack Obama.  His calm demeanor remained intact.  Yet, many perceived a difference, not in his response to a predicament, but in the President’s rhetoric.  Empathy evolved into escalation.  This was perhaps most evident on two occasions, when Mister Obama delivered his Address on the War in Afghanistan, and then again when the Commander-In Chief offered his Remarks in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.  After these events, the pensive pondered; what was there all along, Cerebral Discord, the Two Faces of Barack Obama.

During the Presidential campaign, millions were aware of the dichotomy.  For Barack Obama the need for empathy and the escalation of armed forces seemed to safely coexist.   Others, hopeful, for a change may have chosen to forgive what was a concern.  Perchance Mister Obama’s persuasive language assuaged the American people, or they too may have suffered from the same condition, intellectual disharmony.  

Possibly, the public was either so eager or expectant, that they did not wish to wonder what might occur if Barack Obama acted on the more aggressive stance he often took.  Troop escalation in Afghanistan is a must.  The words the President of the United States postured in his recent remarks at West Point and in Oslo, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, while countless thought anathemas, were as he presented in his published plan on July 14, 2008.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.

Yet, most Americans and the Nobel Prize Committee were stunned when as President, Barack Obama fulfilled his promise.  More struggled with what they heard days later.  In his acknowledgement of the award he was about to receive, the Peace Prize, Barack Obama explained, and exclaimed, as has been his well-established habit; empathy is essential and compassion can not cure the world’s ills.  

While the rhetoric was exquisite, and the rationalizations seemed sound, the inconsistency awakened awareness.  At once, observers were alarmed by what was apparent for quite awhile.  There are Two Faces of Barack Obama.

The few who had feared his empathetic side welcomed the warlike stance of the current Commander.  Others felt the sacramental observance, the Nobel Peace Prize Presentation, was not the place to promote war.  Nor is it thought apt for the beneficiary of such a significant award to advocate for armed conflict.  Even those who trusted he would do as he had done, and say as he did, found it difficult to grapple with what Barack Obama has for all of his life: cognitive dissonance.

Some may ask; how can one man, woman, or one mind so adamantly adhere to the idea of empathy, and also embrace the notion that our fellow man is our enemy.  What is it that drives a desire to reason love and peace are  harmonious with hatred and war?  Why would a brilliant being think violence builds benevolence?

The cause, or perchance the effect, of the President’s condition was delineated and defined in 1956.  five years before Barack Obama was even a thought in the mind of his mother Ann Dunham.   Prior to his conception, few imagined that today a baby, born to an average Americans schoolgirl, would be addressed as Mister President.  All those decades ago, an individual whose background was as varied as Barack Obama’s is, could not be expected to achieve the grandeur he has.  At the time, to even ponder the possibility might evoke Cognitive Dissonance,  had the notion been a known construct.

Today, Social Psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory is an accepted truth.  Humans have honed the art of rationalization.  Some offer seemingly reasonable interpretations better than most others.   Mister Obama spoke of his skill to allegorize, to offer an analysis that is coherent, and cogent.  Indeed, as he wrote in his most recent tome, The Audacity of Hope,  President Obama offered that through conversation, he could conquer an adversary.

Readers of his book may recall the beloved tale that endeared the President to those who hoped Barack Obama might be a man of peace. The story led many, perhaps even the Nobel Peace Prize Committee 2009, to believe this Head of State is worthy of the honor he was awarded.

Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expresses itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me she would look me square in the eyes and ask, “How do you think that would make you feel?”

But it was in the relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy. Because my mother’s work took her overseas, I often lived with my grandparents during my high school years, and without a father present in the house, my grandfather bore the brunt of most of my adolescent rebellion. He himself was not always easy to get along with; he was at once warmhearted and quick to anger, and in part his career had not been particularly successful, his feelings could also be easily bruised. By the time I was sixteen we were arguing all of the time, usually about me failing to abide by what I considered to be an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules–filling up the gas tank whenever I borrowed his car, say, or making sure that I rinsed out the milk carton before I put it in the garbage.

With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments, in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable. But at the same point, perhaps in my senior year, such victories started to feel less satisfying. I started thinking about the struggles and disappointments he had seen in his life. I started to appreciate his need to feel respected in his own home. I realized that abiding by his rules would cost me little, but to him it would mean a lot. I recognized that sometimes he really did have a point, and that in insisting on getting my own way all the time, without regard to his feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.

There’s nothing extraordinary about such an awakening, of course. In one form or another it is what we all must go through if we are to grow up. And yet I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle–“How would that make you feel?”–as a guidepost for my politics.

It’s not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.

~ Barack Obama excerpt from The Audacity of Hope

At the time he wrote those words, as Senator, and an author who aspired to inspire, Barack Obama reminded readers, No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.”  That is, unless, as he clarified with the Nobel Peace Prize in his grasp, “(A)s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.  Today, the man who occupies the White House would seem to no longer believe as his followers thought, or hoped he did,  

Perchance, a culture mired in its own cerebral discord did not acknowledge that Barack Obama has always been a mirror image of society.  He speaks of his love of peace.  He yearns for global harmony, yet President Obama believes war is a worthy endeavor. For the once candidate and also for the Commander-In-Chief who currently occupies the Oval Office, empathy is thought as  necessary as escalation. The Two disparate Faces of Obama are as they were, united.

Barack Obama has not changed.  Only people’s perception of him has been transformed, transitioned just as predicted, or has revealed itself to be as the President pledged.  The public saw the side of Mister Obama that he presented, and or, the one as individuals, each American might prefer.  He has always been one who embraces empathy as he asserts evil exists.

Little more than a year ago, when but a Presidential hopeful Obama offered his carefully crafted message while in Church, Christians rejoiced, as did those of many faiths.   On August 16, 2008, the world watched the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.  Barack Obama presented his peaceful posture, not the face of the person who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil. . . .

In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”

What a difference a day makes.  As a potential representative of the people, on the night of the Presidential Forum, Obama expressed as he had in his tome,  “Mutual understanding is not enough.  People must practice as they profess to believe.”  However, as he himself once chimed “Talk is cheap.” The philosophy Presidential candidate Obama bequeathed upon the American people, the thought that gave constituents hope has been shelved.  The sentiment is available only in archives far from the White House Situation Room.

When I was a community organizer back in the eighties, I would often challenge neighborhood leaders by asking them where they put their time, energy, and money. Those are the true tests of what we value, I’d tell them, regardless of what we like to tell ourselves.  If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.

The Nobel Committee might have read the passage, and as was stated, they wanted to support Mister Obama’s approach.  Accolades for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples” was thought to be sufficient to explain what those who were troubled by the March 2009 escalation could not understand.

Perchance, his mere election alone meant that “Obama has, as President, created a new climate in international politics.” After all, near a year before the Nobel announcement, Barack Obama had completed his original mission as articulated in 2004, “My job is to inspire people to take ownership of this country.”

Possibly, at the time of the official announcement, the Norwegian group was as mesmerized as the world was.  They too reveled in what Barack Obama acknowledged in his book; he has a “gift for rhetoric.”

That may explain why in an October Press Release the Nobel Institute stated that they thought Barack Obama embodied the essence of their belief “Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”  At the time, the Norwegian Stortingof might have recalled the eloquent and empathetic language of the world leader.  The Committee may have been so moved by the peaceful prose of the President they did not realize they had only caught sight of one of the Two Face of Obama.

While the Peace Prize is intended to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” on this occasion it did not.

A warrior, or one who sends tens of thousands of American sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and sibling off to slaughter and to be slaughtered received the honor. The combatant face of Obama who surrenders his more peacefully stated principles claimed the accolade.

In his Oslo lecture, the President did not acknowledge his cerebral discord.  Instead, he reasoned as researchers realized those who wrestle with cognitive dissonance do.  From the windows of the White House, President Obama, tells us, decisions look very different, (or did they, since Barack Obama actually did as he penned he would in his July 2008 plan)  Protected in the cocoon of a title, Commander-In-Chief, it is possible to order the massacre of a population comprised mostly of children, under the age of fourteen (14) and to do it “faster.”

Rationalization realized when cognitive dissonance dominates allows for avoidance and less authentic analysis.  Simply stated, President Obama professed to the Nobel audience, “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  This is the Obama escalation truth, regardless of a reality shared by his National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones, on Cable News Network’s “State of the Union” only days before the Peace Prize Committee announced that President Obama would win the award.

“Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.

Now the problem is the next step in this is the sanctuaries across the border. But I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger — imminent danger of falling.

The intelligence General Jim Jones imparted was ignored just as the guidance from U.S. Afghan envoy, retired General, Karl Eikenberry was.    General Eikenberry advised against escalation.  However, the empathetic President, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient exclaimed to his Cabinet and Commanders, “What I’m looking for is a surge.”

Barack Obama favors, the fight.  An Afghanistan Apocalypse. seems reasonable when rationalized through the eyes of one comfortable with cerebral discord.  From the Executive Office, empathy equates to a troops escalation.

Perhaps, one day, anathemas such as war will advance authentic prospects for global harmony. Intellectual cacophonies, two faces shared by a man, (a nation, or the world) will merge into one.  Then, and only then, will change emerge, and peace be truly prized.

Surge reduced violence; but distracts us from long-term goal.

~ Barack Obama. CBS News interview with Katie Couric, July 28, 2008

End the war, and end the mindset that got us into war.

~ Barack Obama. 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles, California, January 31, 2008

Never fudge numbers or shade the truth about war.

~ Barack Obama. Keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention July 29, 2004

References for a dual realty . . .

War Is Not Peace



WrNtPc

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

War Is Not Peace.  Nor is there reason to think a warrior can be cleansed of the blood on his hands because he receives the Nobel Peace Prize.  Words can work to express justifications, or espouse the possibility that war is just, good, or even necessary.  However, when man wields weapons and bodies are intentionally broken there can be no defense.  To deliberately take the life of another, or to purposely cause people harm is to wage war.  Such transgressions will not produce peace.  Nor will aggressive attacks articulate a desire for diplomacy.  Democracy will not thrive in a world where all men are not treated as though they are created equal.  Only death and destruction will survive if a President who professes a need for bigger and bolder battles is proclaimed to be benevolent or the one who will bequeath global harmony.

One Thousand words or four will not convert combat to calm.  Nor will the Nobel Prize change the message of a military Commander-In-Chief.  A Head of State who chooses to engage with guns and tanks cannot be the bearer of peace, regardless of the eloquent rationalizations.  

Please peruse what some think profound or scan what others trust to be a shallow excuse for the escalation of Armed Forces. . .  The words of President Obama as he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, after he declared the need to send more troops to Afghanistan

Obama’s Nobel Remarks Text.  The New York Times. December 11, 2009

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations – total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaidas leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the worlds sole military superpower.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldiers courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don’t.

The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait – a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.

This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries – and other friends and allies – demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali – we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant – the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

I have spoken to the questions that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me turn now to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: All will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo or repression in Burma – there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point – the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests – nor the worlds – are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

In light of the Cultural Revolution’s horrors, Nixon’s meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable – and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul’s engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan’s efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.

Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights – it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more – and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination, an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.

As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are, to understand that we all basically want the same things, that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe and, perhaps most powerfully, their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naive, if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: “I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.”

So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Infamous Anniversary of Attack



Global Greens 2008 – Bruce Gagnon (Maine, USA)

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

March 19, 2009, is a day that lives in infamy.  There were others in the past.  However, on this date six years ago, the United States launched what has come to be accepted as unwarranted attacks on Iraq.  Although, from the first, there were protests even in high places such as the Senate floor, unilaterally, Americans bombed an innocent people.  This time, for near two years prior, pretense was presented as truth.

The American people were told by their President how dangerous the Iraqi Al Qaida terrorists were.  George W. Bush assured anxious Americans, he would protect us.  Congress was warned of what would occur if the United States did not react to the Middle Eastern threat.  Commander Bush sent a letter on March 18, 2003.  Even as his eight-year term ended, he worked to establish in the minds of historians and the electorate who had experienced all that occurred, Mister Bush kept us safe.  

As recently as December 2008, the now former President proclaimed, a newly acquired nuance to the saga he has long recounted on the war in Iraq.  “It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks.  But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11.”  Yet, he retained and repeated his ever-strident commitment to the combat.  “It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take.”

Americans, many of whom are content the Bush era has passed, refer to the 9/11 Commission Report to invalidate the claims of a President who no longer resides in the White House.  Currently, countless citizens take comfort; Barack Obama presides over the Oval Office.  The just elected Commander-In-Chief has already begun to take steps to remove beleaguered troops from the embattled frontlines.  

Since Mister Obama took office, citizens are less concerned with the war in Iraq.  Many have faith the President will do what is best for military men and women.  Some are encouraged by reports that the Commander-In-Chief will send combat soldiers stationed in Iraq home safely, or perhaps, individuals are focused on more personal realities.  Anxiety over a potential, probable, or actual job loss consumes countless Americans, more so than combat abroad does.  A pension-plan gone bust, a lack of health care coverage, and a possible home foreclosure take precedence for millions more than war.  Few of the common folk feel as troubled by occurrences in the Middle East.  Most merely hope Mister Obama will do what is best.  

Occasional outspoken exception can be heard.  On March 12, 2009, former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher stated, “[A]fter September 11th, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam Hussein might not strike again?  We got a report saying al Qaeda is determined to attack the United States.”  Nonetheless, even Conservatives such as John McCain endorse President Obama’s plan for withdrawal.

Overall, opinions on Iraq, the war and the withdrawal are mixed, even among foreign policy experts.

Then there are the few who fear further folly in the Persian Gulf.  Progressives, be they political figures or peace activists amongst the public, think the Obama agenda to end the conflict in Iraq is too little and too late.  Official dissent is often stated diplomatically.  Personal pleas may be more moving.  

A week before the sixth anniversary of America’s Second Gulf War, regardless of the President’s intended withdrawal everyday people stood out in the streets, just as they had done throughout the war.  ‘Iraq is a symptom of a foreign policy and priorities” that the peaceful felt and feel they cannot sanction.

At local vigils nationwide attendees talked of their observation, verified in the news.  Americans support the President’s proposed Afghan buildup.   ”Enough!  Bring the Troops Home Now!” was the oft-heard cry from those who crave global harmony.  Most asked as they had during the fateful Bush years.  “What Do We Do Now?”

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons offers his perspective.  In an article published on June 14, 2007, the recipient of the Doctor Benjamin Spock’s Peacemaker Award presents his ten-point plan.


I often hear from people asking me, “What should we do about all this?  How can we stop Bush?”

I would first say that we must move beyond blaming Bush.  The fact of U.S. empire is bigger than Bush.  Hopefully by now, all of us are more clear how the Democrats have been, and are now, involved in enabling the whole U.S. military empire-building plan.  It is about corporate domination.  Bush is just the front man for the big money.

So to me that is step #1 .

Step #2  is to openly acknowledge that as a nation, and we as citizens, benefit from this U.S. military and economic empire.  By keeping our collective military boot on the necks of the people of the world we get control of a higher percentage of the world’s resources.  We, 5% of the global population in the U.S., use 25% of the global resource base.  This reality creates serious moral questions that cannot be ignored.

Step #3  is to recognize that we are addicted to war and to violence.  The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery.  A veteran of George Washington’s Army, in 1779, said, “I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere..  Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire.”  The soldier wrote this as Washington’s Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River.  The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war.  Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps, told the story in his book War is a Racket.  Butler recalls in his book, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service….And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….Thus I helped make Mexico and especially

Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903.  In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

Step # 4  We have to begin to change how we think about our country.  We have to learn to understand what oligarchy means.  I’ll save you the trouble of having to look up the definition – A government in which power is in the hands of a few.  When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do?  They must fight (non-violently) to take it back.  This of course means direct action and sometimes civil disobedience.  Virtually everything good in our nation (abolition of slavery movement, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, anti-war movements, etc) have come from people stepping up when they were needed.  Calling for impeachment by the Congress becomes imperative today.  Are you in or out?

Step #5  Forget the “every man for himself” mythology.  We are all brainwashed in this country to believe in the rugged individualism story.  But movement for change can only happen in community – working with others.  So forget the egocentric notion that “one great man” is going to come save us.  It’s going to take a village – in fact all the villages.  Just like an addict goes to a group to seek help for addiction, knowing they can’t do it themselves, so we must form community to work for the needed change if we are to protect our children’s future.

Step # 6  What about my job?  Another smothering myth in America is success.  Keep your nose clean and don’t rock the boat.  Don’t get involved in politics, especially calling for a revolution of values (like Martin Luther King Jr. did) or you will get labeled and then you can forget about owning that castle on the hill you’ve always dreamed of.  In a way we become controlled by our own subservience to the success mythology.  We keep ourselves in line because success and upward mobility become more important than protecting free speech, clean water, clean air, and ending an out of control government bent on world domination.  Free our minds, free our bodies and we free the nation.

Step #7  Learn to work well with others.  Sure we all want to be stars.  But in the end we have to learn to set aside our egos if we want to be able to work with others to bring about the needed changes.  Cindy Sheehan should not be hammered just for telling the truth about the Democrats playing footsie with Bush on the war.

Step # 8  It’s the money.  How can I do this peace work when I have to work full-time just to pay the mortgage?  I’d like to help but I’ve got bills to pay!  Maybe we can begin to look at the consumerist life we lead and see that our addiction to the rat race keeps us from being fully engaged in the most important issue of our time – which is protecting the future generations.  How can we begin to explore cooperative living arrangements, by building community, that free us up economically to be able to get more involved?

Step # 9  Learn to read again.  Many of us don’t read enough.  We spend our time in front of the TV, which is a primary tool that the power structure uses to brainwash us.  We’ve got to become independent thinkers again and teach our kids to think for themselves.  Reading and talking to others is a key.  Read more history.  All the answers and lessons can be found there.

Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun.  Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work.  Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.

Mister Gagnon professes wars will be forever perpetual if we the people continue to consider our brethren an enemy.  If dominion is our preference, diplomacy will never be more than a mere word.  The public cannot blame George W. Bush or Barack Obama for its addiction to might and material goods.  Nor can we, the people expect an oligarchy to have the best interests of common folks at heart.  If consumption and competition are the principles that guide our population, battles will endure.  If peace is to ever come, as citizens, as a country, on every continent, the people must act in accordance with the principles most claim they hold dear.  Consistency, in thought and deed, can eliminate combat.

“Love thy neighbor” cannot be said only on Sundays, on the Sabbath, or in houses of worship.  Indeed, Bruce Gagnon might avow, as other peaceful persons do, March 19, 2009 is not the sixth anniversary of a war.  It is another date that lives in infamy, as has been every day in centuries of battles fought.

References for the reality of war . . .  

Wars; Endless Wars. The Want for More

Wars

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is March, again.  Just as I have been for years, in this month I am haunted by the hate we, humans, propagate.  March 19th is the sixth anniversary of “unnecessary wars”.  The phrase is not mine alone.  Public servants,  Ambassadors, and former Presidents have proclaimed as I have.  Foreign Secretaries and domestic Diplomats deem the war was a mistake.  Then there are the people.  

Those embroiled abroad cannot be happy with a hapless combat that destroys homes, the lives of families, and fractures communities.  The American public also grapples with great pain, albeit for those safely ensconced in the States, the pain is less physical or psychological than a soldier’s stationed abroad might be.  

When polled five long years ago, people in this country stated the war was a mistake.  At the time, fifty-six percent of the United States population rejected further battle.  Americans decisively declared, the “war is not worth fighting.”  Seventy (70) percent of Americans thought any slight gains in security had come at an “unacceptable” cost in military casualties.  That was then.

Today, as the economic crisis looms larger in the minds of many United States citizens, less pay attention to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Americans hope only for change, spare dollars, and cents.  Indeed, the American people want jobs.  The public craves the cash they need to put food on the table.  People are more focused how they personally might pay for the roof over their heads.  The only wars that cause them worry are “trade” battles.  All is not well on the Western Front.

On the home front, Americans are anxious.  To worry about the conflict abroad seems a waste.  Many families face foreclosure.  Businesses fail.  Jobs are lost.  Ours is a generation who will not prosper as their parents’ had.  A few, although not few enough in the minds of those affected, fear the future for sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who are called to combat.  Perhaps a lesser number are apprehensive when they ponder the fate of a loved one who will volunteer for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My sister, brother-in-law, and I are amongst these.

This weekend, on his father’s birth date, I learned my nephew has considered his options, his career, and the choices he has.  Jason is a Marine.  He enlisted near a year ago.  He enjoyed boot-camp.  The not yet twenty one-year-young man did as he has always done; he endeavored to do his best.  Months ago Jason was promoted to Lance Corporal.  It was quite an honor He is proud and happy to serve his country.  Perhaps, he will overseas.  Jason has not decided conclusively.  Yet, it seems a stay in Afghanistan is his plan.

His family, mine, understands at any moment the decision will not be made by him.  The Marines might move him to the Middle East.  While change came in American policy, it appears an end to armed conflicts is no longer the priority.

Nonetheless, as one who has stood vigil for peace since before the first American bombs blasted over Afghanistan, as the sixth anniversary of the more often observed Iraq War draws near, I invited many of my fellow activists to commemorate the day.  I sent an electronic mail to the many who have joined the local Peace Corner congregation each week.

My message was delivered on the same day the stock market slipped to a record low.  An acquaintance, one who organized our local community in support of then Senator, Barack Obama, answered.  She stated she could not participate in an hour-long peace vigil on March 19th, regardless of what time it was held.  

Jesse wrote of her commitment to Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.  Her advocacy, she said, would prevent her attendance.  However, she revealed, in truth, she felt she could not sanction the remembrance.

Jesse penned, “I may not love all aspects of the President’s plan regarding Iraq but trust that he knows much better then I how to get out without bloodbath.  With regard to “Afghanistan,” she wrote; “until there is a strong diplomatic effort going in that region, which wasn’t done under the Bush regime, we owe it to soldiers there to give them the support they need to protect themselves while they are trying to destroy our enemy.”

I wondered what I might say.  Frequently I spoke of my belief; I wish to support our servicemen and woman actively.  That is the reason I want them safe and sane.  I thought of my conversation with my sister.  Linda feels certain Jason will offer to serve abroad.  She wishes not only for his safe return, she prays for his sanity.  Too many, Linda bemoaned, come home, and mentally, emotionally, the troops who travel afar, and saw a world of woe, are never the same.

As I reflected on my siblings reality, I read more of what Jesse avowed. “Our enemy is there – and despite what you and I have discussed in the past Betsy, this is NOT a people you can negotiate with and you can’t change their mind set.  They are out to destroy us so we have to try to destroy them first.”  As I considered her words, I reflected on an article presented three days after the Twin Towers fell, long before America wrecked greater havoc on a country bombed back to the Stone Age before the US sent more artillery.  Tamim Ansary penned, An Afghan-American Speaks.  In the reflection, published in Salon the author offers a thoughtful analogy, one I observed to be true, even as an outsider.

(T)he Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan.  They’re not even the government of Afghanistan.  The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997.  Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan.  When you think Taliban, think Nazis.  When you think bin Laden, think Hitler.  And when you think “the people of Afghanistan” think “the Jews in the concentration camps.”

I thought to share the source; yet, I feared Jesse might not be open to the comparison.  Although she has often heard of my belief in the principle, transformation is invisible.  We must talk endlessly if we are to build trust and a novel truth, the woman who advocates for diplomacy expressed what for me feels forever dismissive.  “We will just have to agree to disagree on this one,” Jesse typed.

“I wish all of you well in your efforts since I know you only want what you think is right and moral.  I wish the conflict had never started in Iraq and that we had completed what we started in Afghanistan . . . which was to find and capture Bin Laden and his followers, and bring them to justice.”  

In accordance to what Jesse thinks humanitarian relief, she stated her hope is America will “rebuild what we destroyed in the region, build schools and proper roads, lay down broadband to connect these backwoods people to the rest of the world so they can see what there is out there.”  

Jesse theorized; “Only by doing that can we offer them an alternative to what they have now.”  I wondered.  How might we accomplish any of what would be good in the Middle East as long as we came, and continue to come to Afghanistan with guns ablaze.  Had our failed policy in Iraq not been a lesson, or are we do believe as Jesse, and even George W. Bush might.  The only reason for regret in the past was a lack of intelligence.

Just before he left the Oval Office, the previous President, who Jesse blames for the battles that brew, ruminated.  “The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” a remorseful George W. Bush told ABC television in December 2008.  “I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.”

Intelligence.  That is often the problem.  Intellectually adept as any of us might be, emotionally, each of us is handicapped by what we believe.  We forget, as I shared with my sister days earlier.  “No one can be inside of our heart, soul, being, or brain.”  I asked Linda to think of the two of us, our experience of our home life, our parents, and our shared history.  We do not perceive any given moment as our sibling does.  Nor do either of us relate to what others in our brood believe to be true.  Perchance, this lack of perspective, an empathetic point of view is the cause for endless wars.

As I pondered, Jesse apparently perused another article and sent the source on to me.  I trusted she knew as I frequently express, I never agree to disagree.  I believe, personal philosophies, peace, and profound inquiry, are each part of a never-ending process.  Agreements are not achieved in an instant.  Combat will not cease in a second, and conversations, if they are to be effective, must be ongoing.

With a link to the essay, Jesse included a statement, “Knew you would want to see this.  I’m so conflicted – wish I knew the right thing to do.”  I clicked on the link and smiled when I saw the New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert treatise appear.  A man I personally admire, one I think phenomenal, in his March 3, 2009 editorial addressed the issue of Wars, Endless Wars .

The article begins . . .

The singer Edwin Starr, who died in 2003, had a big hit in 1970 called “War” in which he asked again and again: “War, what is it good for?”

The U.S. economy is in free fall, the banking system is in a state of complete collapse, and Americans all across the country are downsizing their standards of living.  The nation as we’ve known it is fading before our very eyes, but we’re still pouring billions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with missions we are still unable to define.

I read the article in its entirety and responded.  “Dearest Jesse,” I enthusiastically noted.  “I am past partial.  I love Bob Herbert!”  Herbert’s reference to a favorite tune and musician of mine, prompted an impulsive applause.  When I saw he had connected the wars to the economy, I became more enthralled with his every word.  

I thanked Jess for her being open to further thought, and her willingness to share.  I expressed my own truth.  I observe “The war is tied to economics.”  Conflicts overseas have an effect on the environment, education at home, business, and whether we rebuild the infrastructure.  Questionable ethics, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and homicide, increase when a country is consumed with a waged conflict.  Homelessness, amongst veterans, or the displacement of those on foreign soil, is disregarded when we are embroiled in warfare.  I stated, “The list of effects is endless.”  

I also believe emotional intelligence is altered when we think war is a necessary evil.  We begin to engage in one battle, it seems enemies are everywhere.

Then, I told Jesse a tale, a true story that occurred seconds after I spoke with my sister.  

I entered the Recreation Center ready to swim.  I trusted thoughts of my nephew and the war would fill my mind while I was under water.  I entered the locker room to prepare for my exercise, and there I saw an acquaintance.  Sue, a Korean woman I often chat with, was gathering her gear.  She has lived in the States for near a decade.  Sue is young, beautiful, and does not speak in depth on most subjects.  When we see each other at the cement pond, the swim is often our priority.  

Brimming with beliefs, I blurted out, “I loathe war.”  Sue verbalized her venom for violence immediately.  She told me of how awful the North Koreans are and why combat is necessary.  I responded; the North Koreans are people.”  Sue spoke with knowledge.  She told me of the dictatorial government, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, and the people who will do whatever their government demands.  

In all the years we have known each other, we have chatted frequently.  Yet, I have never seen or heard Sue speak with such vigor.  Sue assured me the North Korean people will follow their leader.  I reminded her of Hitler, and the economic Depression, that helped catapult the Fuehrer to power.  Even long before my review of the aforementioned article, An Afghan-American speaks these comparison was so real for me.

As we discussed the dynamics of conflict, I introduced many more instances, on various continents.  “Much of what occurs worldwide illustrates why people are motivated to do as an autocrat deems they must,” I said.  I referred to the reality in Afghanistan, although not as eloquently as Author Tamim Ansary had.

Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban?  The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering.  A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan — a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets.  These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We spoke further of other circumstances in countless countries.  “Each,” I exclaimed,  “exemplifies the same truth.  War is an economic endeavor, always has been . . . even the Civil War is but an example.”

Sue listened; and then rationalized her beliefs.  I too paid attention; and then shared why I thought, why I think, as I do.  Finally, my sincerest belief rose to the surface.  Empathy is the best educator.  I invited Sue to imagine.  “If you had a relative who resided in North Korea, would that individual be evil?”  Would you wish to kill them . . . before they killed you?  Sue stood quietly.  She stopped speaking.  Reflected for a time.  Then she said, “I understand.”

Perhaps, if Jesse, the President of the United States, and the people, in each an every country contemplated our deeper connections, the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war, March 19th, would not need to be commemorated.  Nor would we prepare to pay tributes to those who have or will fall in Afghanistan.  If humans were to honor, no man, or matter is an island, perhaps, people would not need to fight for jobs, fiscal stability, food, shelter, power, or for principles that are contrary to a stated belief in peace.

References for a wartime, all-time reality . . .