The Common Good

Conscience in a Time of War

Sojomail - October 12, 2001


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++++++++++++++++++++ 12-October-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++ "Conscience in a Time of War"  ++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Thomas Merton: Praying for peace

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Conscience in a time of war

 B y  t h e  N u m b e r s
     *Lost Bread, Lost Bombs
 F o r   M e r c y ' s   S a k e
     *Aid for Afghanistan
 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Death Penalty Under the (TV) Lens

 S o u l  W o r k s
     *'Another Look'

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Global Justice after Global Terrorism?

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *12 Ways the Media Misreport Conflict

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Interfaith Resources

Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the 
enemies of my own country may cease to want war, but 
above all that my own country will cease to do the 
things that make war inevitable.

                        -Thomas Merton


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Conscience in a Time of War

By Jim Wallis

As U.S.-led military strikes have begun in Afghanistan, it
is even more crucial that religious communities continue 
to raise a voice of conscience in a time of war. The 
nation has turned to spiritual roots and religious 
congregations for solace, comfort, and support in this 
crisis. As central as those pastoral ministries are, the 
prophetic vocation of religion and spirituality is now 
sorely needed as well.

Since the evil events of Sept. 11, the religious community
has been clear and consistent in saying that a morally 
rooted response to this terror must focus on bringing the 
perpetrators to justice, rather than military reprisals that 
do harm to more innocents. A broad spectrum of 
religious leaders -- Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, 
pacifist and non-pacifist, conservative and liberal -- 
have expressed a strong determination to protect 
innocent lives as a religious vocation, both the innocent
lives threatened by further terrorist attacks and the 
innocent civilians jeopardized by military retaliation.

What do we say and do now that air strikes have begun?

There was wisdom in the restraint shown for almost a 
month by the U.S. government, in the building of an
international coalition against terrorism, and in the fact 
that the developing strategy to root out terrorism included 
not just military but many other fronts -- diplomatic, 
economic, political, intelligence, and security. That 
multifaceted approach must not be lost now in a 
widening war that depends more and more on mostly 
military means.

Many of us have deep concerns about the moral, 
practical, and political consequences of the bombing 
campaign now underway. But despite the concerns 
and objections we feel, the question is what to do now.  
An important principle must be affirmed: Nonviolence 
must answer the questions that violence purports to 
answer, but in a better way. People committed to 
nonviolence cannot wish away the questions to be 
answered and problems to be solved -- such as 
stopping further terrorist violence and punishing those
responsible for the mass murder of innocent people.

Since Sept. 11, several important things have happened.
Credible evidence of the complicity of Osama bin 
Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network in the Sept. 11 
attacks has been presented and broadly accepted 
internationally - including by most Arab and Muslim 
nations, which this week condemned the terrorist 
attacks. The United Nations has spoken unequivocally 
to the need to root out terrorism from every nation 
where it exists. We are seeing a broad international 
consensus against terrorist violence, even in places and
nations where there is strong opposition to U.S. policies,
especially in the Arab world. The United States has 
made a point to distinguish between the terrorist networks 
(and Taliban regime that supports them) and the people 
of Afghanistan.  And the international community, 
including the U.S., has already begun what needs to be 
a massive humanitarian effort to prevent the Afghan 
people from starving.

All this must now be built upon. We are now at a critical 
moral turning point between pursuing justice or waging 
a wider war.

First, the central importance of the defense of innocent 
lives must be made clear and compelling in the midst of the 
air strikes now underway. It appears the number of 
civilian casualties is so-far still small, but reports are 
beginning to emerge from refugees fleeing to Pakistan 
that the numbers are growing. We know from past
experience that any bombing campaign, no matter how 
carefully targeted, cannot avoid harming innocent 

The human crisis in Afghanistan of enormous refugee 
dislocation has been made worse by the bombings, 
which have also cut off the aid shipments on the ground 
that are far more effective than air drops from 30,000 feet. 
Aid agencies are warning of a massive humanitarian disaster
in the making unless ground shipments of aid are restored.

We cannot reverse the bombing that has been done, but now
that the Taliban's "command and communication" centers 
and its military capabilities have been greatly diminished 
by the air strikes, as the U.S. government reports, it is 
time to shift strategies. It's not too late to take a better 
path. The most effective and morally defensible strategy now 
would be one focused clearly on bringing the terrorists to 
justice, fully utilizing the rule of law and international 
forces, and employing multiple tactics. It should be pursued 
as a police operation, backed by the international community, 
instead of the widening war that continued bombing will bring. 
A genuinely multinational effort, perhaps employing special 
forces from several countries, would have the capacity to stop 
and vanquish the terrorist networks. The U.S. should also work 
with the U.N. Security Council to establish a special 
international tribunal to try those responsible for the attacks. 
The arrest, incarceration, and trial of Slobodan Milosevic is 
a precedent to build upon.

Such a focused international campaign would not only 
be morally superior to an escalating U.S.-led war against 
the states that sponsor terrorism (with such a heavy cost 
to their people), it would also be far less dangerous and 
ultimately more effective in actually defeating the terrorist 
threat. It is imperative to prevent the scenario of an 
expanding American war in the Arab world, increasing 
the danger of more terrorist attacks in America and 
Europe, prompting more escalation, and thereby risking a
cycle of violence that becomes more difficult to stop. We 
must seek the active participation of all nations, especially 
Islamic and Arab countries, in such an international
campaign against terrorism, rather than simply their 
acquiescence to a military attack.

This strategy may take more time. But the discipline, 
patience, and perseverance to cripple the networks, 
assets, and capabilities of violent terrorists is more 
likely to produce lasting results than massive military 
actions whose targets and consequences are 
increasingly unclear. President Bush's best action now 
would be to follow his own words of "patient justice."




B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Lost Bread, Lost Bombs

Up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year, 
an estimated 130 pounds of food per person. The annual 
value of this lost food is estimated at around $31 billion. 
Roughly 49 million people could be fed by those lost 
resources, more than twice the number of people in the world 
who die of starvation each year.

    Source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, "A Citizen's Guide to
    Food Recovery," 1999.

From 1945 to 1997, the U.S. "lost" 11 nuclear weapons, still
unaccounted for.  
    Source: U.S. Department of Defense, "Lost Weapons," 1997.  


F o r   M e r c y ' s   S a k e
Aid for Afghanistan

In his press conference last night, President Bush appealed
to the children of America to send dollars to the White 
House for Afghanistan aid. You may prefer giving to these 
trusted organizations which are also accepting donations:

Catholic Relief Services

Christian Aid

Church World Service

Lutheran World Relief

Mennonite Central Committee

World Vision


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
The Death Penalty, Dramatized and Documented

Two important television films this week take on the issue of 
capital punishment in no uncertain terms - though from vastly 
different angles. 

*"Shot in the Heart" (HBO, Oct. 13, 9-10:30 p.m.) is the 
wrenching true story of Gary Gilmore's execution for murder
in Utah, as told from the perspective of his youngest 
brother, Mikal. 

A child is beaten and humiliated again and again for years on 
end, gets into trouble with the law, spends most of his adult 
life in prison, and when he does get out, murders two 
innocent men for no reason he can ever explain. 

Based on the book by Mikal Gilmore (a winner of the National 
Book Critics Circle Award), the film does not sentimentalize 
Gary Gilmore, nor does it whitewash his rash nature. In fact, 
the film is much more about Mikal's attempt to understand why
his brother became what he was than it is about Gary's 

*"Investigative Reports with Bill Kurtis" celebrates its 10th 
anniversary with an outstanding documentary, "Investigative 
Reports Special Edition: Death Penalty on Trial" (A&E, Oct. 
16, 9-11 p.m.). The numbers tell a staggering story, says  
Kurtis: More than 90 men and women have been exonerated of 
capital crimes by DNA testing after their convictions in 
recent years.

Poverty and race still make a difference. Corrupt or 
incompetent defense attorneys -- and even in some cases, 
police torture and collusion -- have been implicated in the 
death-penalty convictions of innocent people.

"Journalists started the whole investigation of the justice 
system," says Kurtis. "I think there will be a moratorium 
on the death penalty in time, but what is more significant is
a reexamination of the legal system. Is it working?"

Read the full review at:


S o u l  W o r k s
"Another Look"

Taller than a three-storey house,
the steep, shaggy old cypress

in front of my window outdarkens
an off-white, rain-battered day.

Fronds tangle and wave
like seaweed in the undersea heave

into deeper bluegreen. The stage
for nothing to happen is set,

then something, a bird, flickers
and hops through the wind-ruffled ledges,

a blackbird glossy as split coal
lights for a few seconds, cocks

a pared cadmium-yellow beak
and the afternoon breaks.

From his new collection of poetry "Airborne". Available at


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
From 'Anti-globalization' to True Internationalism

by Naomi Klein

Our civil liberties, our modest victories, our usual 
strategies -- all are now in question. But this crisis also 
opens up new possibilities. As many have pointed out, the 
challenge for social justice movements is to connect economic 
inequality with the security concerns that now grip us all--
insisting that justice and equality are the most sustainable 
strategies against violence and fundamentalism. 

But we cannot be naïve, as if the very real and ongoing 
threat of more slaughtering of innocents will disappear 
through political reform alone. There needs to be social 
justice, but there also needs to be justice for the victims 
of these attacks and immediate, practical prevention of 
future ones. Terrorism is indeed an international threat, 
and it did not begin with the attacks in the United States. 
As Bush invites the world to join America's war, sidelining 
the United Nations and the international courts, we need to 
become passionate defenders of true multilateralism, 
rejecting once and for all the label "antiglobalization." 
Bush's "coalition" does not represent a genuinely global 
response to terrorism but the internationalization of one 
country's foreign policy objectives -- the trademark of US 
international relations, from the WTO negotiating table to 
Kyoto: You are free to play by our rules or get shut out 
completely. We can make these connections not as "anti-
Americans" but as true internationalists. 

Read the full story at:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
12 Ways the Media Misreport Violence

Norwegian peace studies professor Johann Galtung has laid 
out 12 points of concern where journalism often goes wrong 
when dealing with violence. Each implicitly suggests more 
explicit remedies. 

l. Decontextualizing violence: focusing on the irrational
without looking at the reasons for unresolved conflicts 
and polarization. 

2. Dualism: reducing the number of parties in a conflict 
to two, when often more are involved. Stories that just focus
on internal developments often ignore such outside or 
"external" forces as foreign governments and transnational 

3. Manicheanism: portraying one side as good and demonizing 
the other as "evil." 

4. Armageddon: presenting violence as inevitable, omitting 

5. Focusing on individual acts of violence while avoiding 
structural causes, like poverty, government neglect, and 
military or police repression. 

6. Confusion: focusing only on the conflict arena (i.e., the
battlefield or location of violent incidents) but not on the 
forces and factors that influence the violence. 

7. Excluding and omitting the bereaved, thus never explaining 
why there are acts of revenge and spirals of violence. 

8. Failure to explore the causes of escalation and the impact 
of media coverage itself. 

9. Failure to explore the goals of outside interventionists, 
especially big powers. 

l0. Failure to explore peace proposals and offer images of 
peaceful outcomes. 

11. Confusing cease-fires and negotiations with actual peace. 

12. Omitting reconciliation: conflicts tend to reemerge if 
attention is not paid to efforts to heal fractured societies. 
When news about attempts to resolve conflicts are absent, 
fatalism is reinforced. That can help engender even more 
violence, when people have no images or information about 
possible peaceful outcomes and the promise of healing.

Read more:



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W e b   S c e n e
Interfaith Resources

*World Conference on Religion and Peace works internationally 
with religious institutions and through NGOs and the U.N. 
community, addressing a host of peace-related in arenas 
such as conflict-resolution, disarmament and religious 

*North American Interfaith Network offers networking 
among approximately 60 interfaith organizations in Canada, 
Mexico, and the United States. Its Web site offers a 
directory of interfaith organizations, a list of religious 
Web sites, NAIN's online newsletter and Interfaith Digest, 
a chat room, a library, young adult pages, and other related 

*United Religions Initiative is a grass-roots international 
interfaith organization with more than 130 cooperation circles 
and numerous affiliate organizations and individuals. The 
URI Emergency Response Network offers a model in which more 
than 100 religious leaders have formed a network to respond 
instantly to acts of hate violence perpetrated against 
religious, ethnic, and racial minorities. 

*World Interfaith Congress offers free directory listings, 
content, discussion, and network services to more than 800 
faith-based, ecumenical and interfaith organizations, plus 
many individual participants. 


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