The Common Good


Sojomail - September 25, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

          Promoting faith, reason, compassion, and justice
                   in days of violence and fear

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          SojoMail will continue to be delivered to
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          events of September 11, the suffering
          left in its wake, the threat of a global
          war, and the historic shaping of our
          moral character, now and for the future.


++++++++++++++++++++ 25-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++"America's Kitchen Table"+++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Angels in the outfield

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Building the stage for a movement

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *All are victims, all are criminals...

 D e b a t e 
     *How do we root out terrorism?
        Viewpoint 1: Terrorists represent fascism with an Islamic face
        Viewpoint 2: Let's end our pretensions of innocence

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  Day

"[On September 11] 6,000 angels were
added to the spiritual roster."

        - Oprah Winfrey,
	    speaking at Yankee Stadium on Sunday


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Building the stage for a movement

by David Batstone

It's passed off as common wisdom: if you want peace
at the family gathering, don't discuss politics and
religion. That's near impossible to pull off right
now. September 11 and subsequent events has brought
both subjects to every kitchen table in America.

Both politics and religion lend themselves to
absolutes - all too often even minor points of
divergence are treated like uncrossable chasms.
For starters, it's not easy to sort out the trivial
from the substantial, for every judgment is
accompanied by a nagging sense that you may be
compromising your deepest convictions for the sake
of a false unity. Lest one may think I'm only
talking about the supposed religious fanatics here,
I point out that politics has produced some of the
most self-righteous prigs I've had the misfortune
to rub shoulders with.
Be that as it may, I will propose 10 planks of a
platform around which we can build a movement,
transcending our more trivial political and
religious differences. I intend no false unions
here; I want to be clear enough so that adversaries
to the positions I treat as substantial realize they
don't belong on this stage. I want them to know
they are moving history in a direction that I
consider dangerous.

1) The intentional murder of innocents must never
be justified, neither legally, morally, nor
strategically (i.e., for the greater end). That's
how we define a terrorist act, whether it be
carried out by a political cell group or a nation-

2) Agents of terrorist acts must be held accountable
for their crimes. The safety of innocents demands
their apprehension; justice demands their punishment.

3) America is not at war and must not become at war.
The U.S. government and its security forces are pursuing
outlaws who have committed crimes against humanity.

4) Osama bin Laden and his "base" network are not
freedom fighters struggling against globalization,
economic oppression, or Western imperialism. While
these are indeed pieces of their ideology - and I'm
quite happy to recognize how each of these forces
has contributed to our troubled times - bin Laden
and his base are fundamentally motivated by a "holy
war" that seeks to eradicate all secular and non-
Islamic sources of social power. Their vision is
apocalyptic, not pragmatic. Their targets include
"apostates" within the Muslim community as well as
enemies from without.

5) The people of Afghanistan and Iraq have
suffered under violent conflict and fascist regimes
for decades. They are no more responsible for
terrorist cells than the accountant sitting at her
desk on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center.
Indiscriminate retaliation would be rightly
considered a terrorist act.

6) By and large, world opinion supports the U.S.
government's pursuit of justice. The Bush
administration wisely has sought to build as
broad a global coalition as possible to stand
behind those efforts. But that moral high ground
and political support will quickly fade away if
the U.S. engages in vengeful retribution that imitates
the acts of the terrorists. Vengeful acts also
would catalyze strong Arab antipathy toward the U.S.
Our actions today will determine our friends, and
enemies, tomorrow. 

7) The Bush administration has foolishly painted
potential allies into a corner by publicly
polarizing their response: Either you
collaborate with us or you are our enemies.
Countries like Saudia Arabia and Pakistan, and
even Egypt, have strong minorities of Islamic
fundamentalists who use that rhetoric to build
up opposition to more democratic forces. Our
goal in the globe should focus on building up
democratic forces, not choosing up sides for
tug-of-war. Quiet diplomacy effects far more
social stability than sword rattling.

8) The spiritual practices of reconciliation and
forgiveness are essential to reducing war and
conflict. The United States must do everything
possible to bring reconciliation between itself and
Arab states, as well as reach a resolution to the
conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. In
both cases, a great deal of forgiveness must be
asked for, and granted. Over the past half century
the U.S. has taken a one-sided allegiance to Israel
and has been deaf to the justifiable demands for
Arab justice. Both Israelis and Palestinians
have valid historical, cultural, and religious
reasons for their existence. Reconciliation
requires each side - and the U.S. - to recognize
that those rights are co-existent.

9) Citizens of the U.S. understandably feel vulnerable
after the attacks of September 11th, and have a
heightened sensitivity for better security.
But we must be careful not to forfeit essential
constitutional rights out of fear. So much blood
has been shed to win freedom of assembly, freedom
of expression, freedom from persecution on the
basis of ethnicity or religion, freedom of privacy,
etc. We must be willing to gamble on freedom than
to be rendered a captive to our fears.

10) All authentic adherents of the Abrahamic
religions - Jewish, Christian, Muslim - must dig
down deep to their own wells and stretch out far
to their distant cousins to lock arms in peace
and civic unity. Fundamentalist perversions of
their respective traditions threaten the destiny
of the planet.

I hope there are others who can join me on this
platform. There's not much time left before
the curtain goes up, so now's the time to
influence the script that will impact all of
our lives, both big actors and small.


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S o u l   W o r k s
September 11, 2001 - Pacific Coast

by David Fetcho

All are innocent
All are guilty
All are ambivalent and all
Are certain of their loss
And lostness

Everyone has a plan
And no plan takes
Everything into

The clear light upon
The green leaf against
The blue sky
In a feathery breeze

My dogs sleep just as soundly
As before
The soft pink ribbons
Of their tongues
Still wave as they pant
Joyful on the shore

All are deaf and blind
And all now see
For the very first time
The moment suspended
Like a great struck bell
That sends out an everlasting tone

Everyone believes
Everyone doubts
Everyone clings to whatever
Angels they can imagine

All are victims
All are criminals

The ermine fog
Is thrown in from the sea
Like a flensed pelt

The soaring tern with her
Ice-pick head
Folds her wings and lets
Herself drop
With a singular feeling
Through the blanket of unknowing
As if to skewer the dark




D e b a t e
Remedies for terrorism

Viewpoint 1: Terrorists represent fascism with an Islamic face

Christopher Hitchens
"The Nation" magazine

In one form or another, the people who leveled the
World Trade Center are the same people who threw acid
in the faces of unveiled women in Kabul and Karachi,
who maimed and eviscerated two of the translators of
"The Satanic Verses," and who machine-gunned architectural
tourists at Luxor. Even as we worry what they may intend
for our society, we can see very plainly what they have
in mind for their own: a bleak and sterile theocracy
enforced by advanced techniques. Just a few months ago
Bosnia surrendered to the international court at The
Hague the only accused war criminals detained on Muslim-Croat
federation territory. The butchers had almost all been
unwanted "volunteers" from the Chechen, Afghan, and
Kashmiri fronts; it is as an unapologetic defender of
the Muslims of Bosnia (whose cause was generally
unstained by the sort of atrocity committed by
Catholic and Orthodox Christians) that one can and
must say that bin Ladenism poisons everything that it

I was apprehensive from the first moment about the sort
of masochistic e-mail traffic that might start
circulating from the Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein quarter, and
I was not to be disappointed. With all due thanks to
these worthy comrades, I know already that the people of
Palestine and Iraq are victims of a depraved and callous
Western statecraft. And I think I can claim to have been
among the first to point out that Clinton's rocketing
of Khartoum - supported by most liberals - was a gross
war crime, which would certainly have entitled the Sudanese
government to mount reprisals under international law.
(Indeed, the sight of Clintonoids on TV, applauding
the "bounce in the polls" achieved by their man that
day, was even more repulsive than the sight of destitute
refugee children making a wretched holiday over the
nightmare on Chambers Street.) But there is no sense
in which the events of September 11 can be held to
constitute such a reprisal, either legally or morally.

It is worse than idle to propose the very trade-offs
that may have been lodged somewhere in the closed-off
minds of the mass murderers. The people of Gaza live
under curfew and humiliation and expropriation. This is
notorious. Very well: Does anyone suppose that an Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter
in Manhattan? It would take a moral cretin to suggest
anything of the sort; the cadres of the new jihad
make it very apparent that their quarrel is with
Judaism and secularism on principle, not with (or not
just with) Zionism. They regard the Saudi regime not
as the extreme authoritarian theocracy that it is,
but as something too soft and lenient. The Taliban
forces viciously persecute the Shiite minority in
Afghanistan. The Muslim fanatics in Indonesia try to
extirpate the infidel minorities there; civil society
in Algeria is barely breathing after the fundamentalist

Now is as good a time as ever to revisit the history of
the Crusades, or the sorry history of partition in
Kashmir, or the woes of the Chechens and Kosovars. But
the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic
face, and there's no point in any euphemism about it.
What they abominate about "the West," to put it in a
phrase, is not what Western liberals don't like and
can't defend about their own system, but what they do like
about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its
scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from
the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to
roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage
emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about
the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is
not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their
way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned [person]
could have been on one of those planes, or in one of
those buildings - yes, even in the Pentagon.

*Christopher Hitchens is an author and regular
contributor to The Nation.


Viewpoint 2: Let's end our pretensions of innocence

by Ched Myers 

Among those who have been trying to be introspective
rather than vengeful over the last 10 days, one
question has recurred, and it is an important one:
What has the U.S. done that some people would hate
us so much to do this to our people? It takes courage
to ask this, and even more courage to consider possible

Predictably, The New York Times on Sept. 16 asserted
that the terrorists acted out of "hatred for the values
cherished in the West as freedom, tolerance, prosperity,
religious pluralism, and universal suffrage." This self-
congratulatory line of the dominant media pretends no
knowledge of U.S. policy and practices over the last
two decades that might be at issue.

Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what
was, and still is, being done in their names, all are
likely to pay a steep price individually and collectively
for their nation's continued efforts to dominate the
global scene.

In the present case one can point to the legacy of what
Fred Halliday called "the largest covert operation in
the history of the CIA," which throughout the 1980s,
and with the cooperation of Pakistan, funded, trained,
armed, and provided political cover for the mujahideen
in their struggle against the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan. More than 35,000 Muslim radicals from
40 countries made up this force, among whom (as is 
now widely acknowledged) was Osama bin Laden, as 
well as others who were subsequently suspected of
attacks on the U.S.

Bin Laden and many others trained in terrorist and
guerrilla tactics turned against the U.S. in 1990 at
the point that the Pentagon established permanent
military bases in Saudi Arabia in preparation for
the Gulf War. This was seen as an analogous occupation
to that of the Soviets in Afghanistan, and particularly
odious in the land of Mecca. This antipathy, widely
shared by Saudi dissidents and other Muslim nationalists,
was intensified by other U.S. actions: the slaughter
of Iraqi civilians during and after the Gulf War; ongoing
support for Israel in the construction of Palestinian
apartheid; the bombing of the Sudan, and even U.S.
involvement in the Balkans. At issue also is the
(correct) perception that U.S.-sponsored economic
globalization means cultural destruction for all
traditional societies. Meanwhile, veterans of the
mujahideen also continued to struggle against other
hostile forces, such as Russian imperialism after the
collapse of the Soviet Union (the war in Chechnya, for
example). In 1995 they succeeded in setting up the
fascist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, whose brutal
rule has until last week been tolerated by the U.S.
State Department.

Of course most Americans don't want to be confused by
such geopolitical and ideological complexity, particularly
when trying to generate war fever between the forces of
good and evil. Nevertheless, even a Pentagon study (a
1997 Defense Science Board report) admitted "historical
data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement
in international situations and an increase in terrorist
attacks against the United States."

Innocent lives were lost in the attacks of last week,
and for this we rightly mourn and are justified in
seeking to bring the perpetrators to justice. But the
national response of outraged victimhood presumes that
the U.S. itself is innocent. If we do not have the
courage to face our own imperial policies and practices,
and how these "sins of the invulnerable" are perceived
among many of the wretched of the earth, we will never
be able to "root out" terrorist attacks because we have
not addressed their true genesis.

*Ched Myers is an author (of Binding the Strong Man, 
among others) and a member of the Bartimeus 
Cooperative Ministries

B o o m e r a n g

Cory Trenda of San Jose, California, wrote:

Jim Wallis' essay from September 24 edition
of SojoMail was wonderful. I can't wait for the
next installment. I do think he needs to factor in
what appropriate timing might look like in calling
Bush to be Lincolnesque.  Lincoln had a 5-year war;
we've had 13 days. There's a time and a place.
Having said that though, he's right on; and I love
that he criticized the Left as doing the exact same
thing as the Right - blaming this tragedy on their
preconceived sense of our national sins. That is
Sojourners at its best!


Cody Clark of Houston, Texas, wrote:

I have no question about whether the U.S. "deserved,"
in part, the horrendous attacks. Of course the answer
is "No!" Nothing justifies such evil.

But what is the root cause of the intense hatred of
our country that inspired the attacks? The blame for
the *actions* lies squarely with the perpetrators,
no doubt, but the intense *hatred* of the United
States around the world is a more complicated
phenomenon to address.

This is an important distinction, morally and
strategically. No doubt we must bring justice to those
who committed the crimes, but we will never stamp
out global terrorism unless we address its systemic root
causes. Asking ourselves what role we have in the
global problem - asking why so much of the world hates
us so - is a legitimate and important question.

And I don't think, as the president would have us
believe, that it's just pure jealousy. The simple answer
is always the wrong answer.


Violet Jean Gephardt of Camden, West Virginia, wrote:

I want to thank you for your most informative articles
on the Middle East in the latest issue of Sojourners.
It became obvious to me sometime ago that there was a
taboo against discussing the issue of Israel with any
openness, and that the subject, when discussed at all,
was relegated to second rate commentators, or losers
like Pat Buchanan and David Duke. Not even during the
presidential election campaign was the subject
allowed to be brought up, and if it were broached,
the news people immediately jumped to talk about
In spite of this taboo, however, it is nonetheless
obvious to most people who have taken the time to
study the news even briefly that our policy towards
the Palestinians is not honorable and that one day
it would get us into trouble. That trouble showed up
last Tuesday in a direct attack upon our country by
people who have long contended that our blind support
of Israel is the one main factor in [many] Arabs' distrust
and hatred for us. 

Now we are engaged in a long struggle that will
further drain the resources of this country. One can
feel only the deepest pessimism at this time for what
lies ahead for America as we become bogged down in a
miserable conflict.


Judy Douglas of Melbourne, Australia, wrote:

I want to thank you for providing us here in Australia
with an alternative American view. You, as well
as Arabs and Afghans, are also being stereotyped by
the media here.

Here in Australia about 100 people have died or are
missing from last week's attacks. This is heartbreaking
for so many. The situation has also made it very
difficult for refugees mostly from the Middle East
arriving by boat to be allowed to stay in Australia.
They keep talking about them as a security risk.
Maybe they are just people who need a new home and
the possibility of a more stable life!


Wayne Northey of Langley, British Columbia, Canada, wrote:

President Bush has rightly decried Muslim terrorists
who call upon "Allah" for endorsement as "blasphemers."
Yet he regularly enlists "God" to bless America, with
full approval of majority American Christian leadership.

If blasphemy means "The act of claiming for oneself
the attributes and rights of God," it would seem Mr.
Bush and his Christian backers likewise commit
"blasphemy" against the very God they claim to
worship, Jesus, in direct contradiction of Jesus'
own teaching, reprised throughout the New Testament:

"You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your
enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that
you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He
causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and
sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."


Richard Sewell of London, England, wrote:

I have been receiving SojoMail for some weeks now
and have found it a vital resource. This has been
especially so in the past week or so since you made
it a daily bulletin. I congratulate you all on your
amazing commitment to put out so much that is relevant,
insightful, and courageous. Thanks to your whole team.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily 
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice 
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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