The Common Good

What else can we do?

Sojomail - October 25, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

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                   in days of violence and fear

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++++++++++++++++++++ 25-October-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++ "What else can we do?"  +++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Rigoberta Menchu: on world leadership

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *What else can we do? Plenty...

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Gallup Poll: World opts for criminal justice over war

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *God-talk from the prophet Jeremiah

 R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
     *I am Iranian, Muslim, and American

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

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Kids for Peace march to songs of freedom

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *U2's Bono: How do we truly change the world?

 P. O. V.
     *John le Carré: We have already lost

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Endangered species updates
     *Nobel Prize archive
     *Trace the history of peace buttons
     *Find a rubber duck lately?

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

"Before you cry "fire," I would like to invite you
to consider a different kind of world leadership,
one in which it is necessary to convince rather
than to defeat."

            -  Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize
               winner, in an open letter to
               George W. Bush.


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
What else can we do? Plenty...

by David Batstone

"What else can we do? We can't just sit by idly
and let these terrorists run over our country."

The above statement captures the prevailing public
response to the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.
We do not have a serious debate in America over
political and military alternatives. A combination of
patriotic duty, public paralysis, and personal
vulnerability (are you ready for anthrax?) effectively
has stifled any reasoned discussion of whether the
the present war effort is on the right path.

I believe we must look at alternative responses not
only on moral grounds - the rising toll of civilians
in Afghanistan demands that - but also for pragmatic
reasons that takes into account the long-term prospects
for peace in the Middle East and around the world.

My San Francisco daily published an article today
titled "Jihad recruiters find willing volunteers
in Indonesia." Over the last 10 days, according to
the news report, nearly 800 volunteers have signed up
to join units of the Mujahideen, or "holy warriors,"
in Afghanistan. "Engaging in a holy war is an
obligation of Islam," said one 23-year-old recruit.

The rising tide of Islamic solidarity and anti-
Americanism is not limited to Indonesia, unfortunately.
An angry sentiment is spreading among Muslims
internationally. Each day that the aerial bombardment
of Afghanistan continues, and masses of Afghans turn
into refugees, sympathy for the U.S. fight against 
terrorism ebbs. It's hard for most Americans
to see or understand this shift, but world opinion
no longer cedes to America a moral high ground in this

The wisest course of action would have been - and it's
not too late to change directions - to pursue before
the International Criminal Court a declaration of
Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda members, and related
terrorists as global fugitives from justice. Once
captured they should be tried for crimes against
humanity and conspiracy to commit genocide, a process
similar to the Nazi officers who were tried and
executed during the Nuremburg Trials. That process
would help create an international system of norms
against terrorism and would give the United States a
credible motivation for taking actions against states
that harbor and aid terrorists. States who oppose
terrorism would get on board because they believe our
cause is just, not because they are scared of us. As
it stands now, we are engaging in a system of vigilante
justice, which is exactly what bin Laden expected us
to do. We are playing into his hands.

Of course there's a major hurdle here: The United States
is the only democratic government that has refused to sign
the charter creating the International Criminal Court
because of our reservations over "sovereignty" and
"jurisdiction." We ourselves want to be above the law.
The U.S. did make amends to the United Nations after
Sept. 11 in recognition of the need for international
diplomacy and political process. It's past time we join
the rest of the democratic world in the International
Criminal Court as well.

Does building public consensus and legal recourse
obviate the use of force? I think not. I find 
justifiable cause for police actions to apprehend 
and, if necessary, take the lives of those who
would seriously threaten the lives of other human beings.
With the support of an international court, military
operations against the al Qaeda network would qualify as
such a case. But it's essential that those actions be
carried out with clear objectives, from the generals
who devise the strategy to the soldiers who enforce
the plan. The world watches to see if reality matches
the articulated objectives.

The primary objective of U.S. military operations at
this moment obviously is not to apprehend or destroy
the al Qaeda network, but to overthrow the reigning
government of Afghanistan. There doesn't even seem to
be any urgency to capture Osama bin Laden - to do so
too early likely would bring international pressure to
bear on the U.S. to stop its war against other "fonts of
terrorism" before it can complete its work. In fact, the 
Associated Press cited an unnamed Pentagon official voicing
that very strategy. And where does that war end? Once
Iraq, already marked as a terrorist state, is vanquished?
Once Saudia Arabia, which is the largest source of
finances and recruits for the al Qaeda network, is made
to pay? In Indonesia where radical Islamic fundamentalism
is finding fertile ground? Perhaps in the Sudan?

Truth is, we can never eradicate every budding terrorist
cell. But we can confront the culture of poverty and
corruption that breeds terrorism. At this moment the
United States and its allies should embark on a major
campaign to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim
world. That campaign would begin by standing firmly for justice
in the conflict that is tearing Israel and Palestine apart.
It would continue to implement major campaigns for economic
development (moving beyond aerial food drops) in impoverished
Arab countries. Sending Peace Corps and other voluntary
organizations to aid in literacy, health care, and
nutrition. If we truly want to isolate undemocratic
and terrorist regimes, then let us offer a stark
alternative to their world.

A major media effort must also be made to turn the Muslim
world against bin Laden, al Qaeda, and fundamentalist
terrorism in general. Al Qaeda is trying to play up the
"Islam versus the West" angle in order to mobilize as
much Muslim anger as possible, and are showing themselves
to be pretty adept at propaganda. If we were smart, we'd
get someone (a Muslim journalist, preferably) to do
several in-depth personal-interest stories on the many
Muslims who died in the 9-11 attacks and then broadcast
them all over CNN International and Al Jazeera. We also
should give a microphone to every Muslim who promulgates 
the wisdom of Islam as a way of peaceful living, exposing
the path of al Qaeda as a perversion of their religion,
a path of heresy. Finally, we should isolate the Taliban
and other radical fundamentalists in the Muslim world
by featuring their horrific treatment of women, their
totalitarian laws, and disregard for human life. Muslims
around the world should be constantly reminded of the
cruel world these fundamentalists would like to fashion.

In my column last week I argued that being successful
in politics in the 21st century - whether in times of open
conflict or not - requires building public consensus,
artful diplomacy, legal recourse, and the strategic use
of force. Our government is failing in almost every one
of these categories, and is dangerously fueling the
flames of a fire that quite easily could blaze out of

B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Gallup Poll: World opts for criminal justice 
over war

An international Gallup poll shows:

*A majority of citizens in 32 out of 35 countries
favored a criminal justice response, rather than
military action response, to the Sept. 11 attacks.
(Citizens of the U.S., Israel, and India were the

*Majorities ranging from 67%-88% in NATO/Western
countries and 83%-94% in Latin America favor a
non-military approach.

*Of the European countries, France had the highest
support for the military option with 30%. Britain
had 18% support, and Greece 8%.

*All of the European countries were well above 60% in
support of extradition of Osama bin Laden to stand

*When asked whether their country should join with
other NATO states to assist the U.S. in military
strikes against the terrorists, European opinion varied
widely - for example, only 29% in Greece agree, while
84% in France do so.

To see more complete Gallup Poll International results, go to:




S o u l   W o r k s
God talk...

Lots of it going around these days, lots
being done "in God's name." Time for a
reminder from the Hebrew scripture:

"Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
his upper rooms with injustice,
making his countrymen work for nothing,
not paying them for their labor.
He says, "I will build myself a great palace with
spacious upper rooms."
So he makes large windows in it,
panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.
Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well for him.
Is not that what it means to know me?"

--Jeremiah 22:13-16


R e l i g i o n   &   P o l i t i c s
I am Muslim, Iranian, and American

by Mohiaddin Mesbahi

I am one of those profiled: Muslim, Iranian, and a
citizen of this country. And I live among you. I say
this because I recently lived under a death threat for
two weeks - not because of any comments I've expressed,
but because of my name and my religion. And on a recent
Friday afternoon, I met with the person who threatened
my life. The police took the matter [a death threat made
by telephone] seriously, followed through and found the
person. They asked me "What do you want to do about it?
Are you going to press charges?" I said "No. If he does
not mind, I'd like to meet him."

He happens to be a young university student. We sat
together in my office and talked. It was an emotional
meeting. He said that as the towers were coming down, so
did his world. And the enemy, he heard, were the Muslims -
those living and breathing among us.

I told him this: "I carry two burdens. One I share with
you - shock, outrage, anger, and a desire for justice.
The second I don't share with you, and that is guilt by
association. You can't put 1.2 billion people, seven
million of whom live in the United States, in the
same category with terrorists and political extremists.
What the terrorists did is not Islamic in any book.
It is ideology. When religion or any idea becomes
ideology, people begin to argue that the ends justify
the means...."

*The foregoing is excerpted remarks made by Dr. Mohiaddin
Mesbahi at a recent forum on terrorism co-hosted by
Florida International University and The Miami Herald.
Dr. Mesbahi is an associate professor of International
Relations at FIU and an expert in foreign policy and
terrorism issues.



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B o o m e r a n g

Tamara Kozlowska of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, wrote:

Please continue with SojoMail. I find a bit of hope
in your articles. I have cried all I could a long
time ago - so I thought. I would like to tell you
that as a child I wept silently in the slave camps
in Nazi Germany where my mother labored. Then I
wailed in the displaced persons camp when we were
rejected for immigration while the camp guards who
had stoked the ovens, the camp guards, the
collaborators (mind you - these were all our own kiss
and kin from various parts of our homelands) got on
the first boat to America. Ah, they were healthy
and had the right loyalties, I suppose. Now I get
a despairing feeling as children again live under
bombardment, are being killed, and are dying of


SojoMail reader Richard Sasso wrote:

For the better part of my life, I was a pacifist. I was
opposed to war generally, and each time America acted
abroad I steadfastly opposed it, ranging from American
involvement in Central America to the Gulf War.

By trade, I am an English as a Second Language teacher,
and over the last few years I have had several Bosnian
refugees in my classes. As I discussed the impact of
the war on their lives, I saw that those who had
inflicted such brutality on them simply must not have
operated on anywhere near the same value system that
I had. I worked with several people who had been
severely wounded, including one man who was blinded for 
life. Indeed, the haunting image of the blank, empty
expressions on my students' faces were seared into my
memory for the rest of my life. 

After this experience, I greeted with secret joy the 
NATO air-strikes that ended the war in Bosnia. Does anyone 
honestly think things would have eventually worked out 
with "dialogue?" I supported the efforts in Kosovo and found 
in them a new paradigm for warfare: not aggressive war to 
gain territory or cheap oil, but a war to defend those
unable to defend themselves. I guess I have learned
that there are probably some people who, in the words
of Stanley Crouch, speak only the language of "fire
and steal."

And indeed, Osama bin Laden seems to be one such
person. He - and his organization and all of its
sponsors - aren't simply criminals. What they did
wasn't a crime; it was an act of war. And it must be
met as such, with all the implements of war. And
sadly, war means innocent people will die. And this
will indeed almost certainly produce a terrorist
counter-attack as well. But make no mistake: a
blundering "multi-national police effort" with
trials at the Hague would have almost the same effect.
Does anyone think that even an objective, legitimate
trial of bin Laden would be viewed as anything but
a "show trial" by many people in the Middle East?
Any sentence would create a martyr, and cause even
more terrorism designed to "free captives." (And this
assumes that we could even arrest bin Laden and
his associates; he doesn't seem to be the type to
go willingly).

To be safe, America must ultimately become the first
nation in history to place its values above its
interests. We must pull troops out of Saudi Arabia,
we must end the pointless brutal sanctions against
Iraq, and we must resolve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. But never forget we cannot simply "solve"
the issue of hate; it is as old as the human heart.
Put differently, there is a time for peace and a time
for war. Sadly, now is time for war.


Leonard Campbell of Center Harbor, New Hampshire, wrote:

I'm a long-time subscriber to Sojourners, and I
read Jim Wallis' description on bombing with
interest. The reflection is on the action that is
taking place. I, too, lament the loss of innocent
lives and the collateral damage that takes place.

But 20 years ago there would have been in Sojourners
a pitch for nonviolence, the senselessness of
violence, and the need for a pacifist response. I may
be a voice in the wilderness, but where is the cry
for an end to violence, period?


Sister Mary Jude Jun, OSU, wrote:

I want to thank you for the wonderful articles you are
printing in SojoMail since Sept. 11. Your commentaries
should be sent to every congressperson, and especially
President Bush. May the holy spirit continue to shed light
on the atrocities of our revenge and retaliation and
lead us to forgiveness and peacemaking.


Cory Trenda of San Jose, California, wrote:

David Batstone ends his intriguing article by simply
saying: "Being successful in politics in the 21st
century - whether in times of open conflict or not -
requires building public consensus, artful diplomacy,
legal recourse, and the strategic use of force. I fear
our government, as much as our populace, is still
stuck in old formulas that don't fit."

But how could we know? What would a new model look
like? Perhaps our leaders would resist knee-jerk
strikes, take a month to build a coalition of
nations, get Arab countries to condemn the Arab
perpetrators, send key cabinet personnel around the
world to keep the coalition strong, use pinpoint air
strikes, get United Nations condemnation and their 
commitment to take charge of nation-building. Being 
90% on track may not be good enough; this is a tough 
time in a jittery world. And I agree that President 
Bush isn't at his strongest in being a worldview leader -
which makes me jittery...and prayerful.


T. Hans Olson of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, writes:

Imagine living in a Third World country...or in
any country outside the U.S. What would it be like
to watch citizens in a faraway place absorbing the
world's natural resources at a frenetic pace? Think
about living without adequate food, while gigantic
foreign corporations come in to extract the best your
country has to offer. Your dictatorial rulers are
rich and supported by that faraway country with its
powerful corporations and their millionaire executives.

Citizens of your country have almost no political
power or rights. With the most minimal education,
the world would call you weak and ignorant. You want to
live by your religion, but extremists keep twisting it.
You've heard of Christianity, but for all you know, that's
a religion of wealth, power, and military might. With
your children dying young amidst war, pestilence, and
famine, and having almost nothing to your name, what
do you have to live for? Is life fair? Would you have
any hope? Picture a starved, caged, frightened animal
forced into a corner. Would it be in your interests to
try to fight back? It's doubtful you'd be concerned
about the long-term survival of the world.

Sadly, for 90% of the world's population, there's
terror at the doorstep daily.


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:



B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Kids for Peace march to songs of freedom

by Joe Hine

Kids for Peace started as a choir in England five
years ago, sparked by kids' enthusiasm to make a
difference in their world. We've done concerts in
Britain, the United States, Ireland, and across Europe,
bringing hope-filled songs and dances to youth clubs,
religious communities, hospitals, public squares -
anywhere a celebration of joy and life is welcomed!
Our choir has recorded four albums, and continues to
create original music.

But Kids for Peace is far more than a choir. Our
other projects include a walkathon for Kosovo,
fundraising for the flood victims, a skipathon, and
a benefit concert for India earthquake survivors.
Recently we sang at memorial services for the victims
of the Sept. 11 tragedy.

One of the victims was a personal friend. Father Mychal
Judge traveled with Kids for Peace in Northern Ireland.
Father Mike was killed while administering last rites
to firefighters injured at the World Trade Center.
Father Mike did 40 pushups first thing each morning.
He told us this was so he would never become old and
feeble. He never did. We sent a banner to the New York
City Fire Department along with that story of Father
Mike, saying: "The Lord will watch over your coming
and going both now and forever more."

Listen to our songs and browse the photo gallery at:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
U2's Bono: How do we truly change the world?

by Martin Wroe

Bono made a spontaneous speech while introducing
U2's hit single "One" at a concert in Notre Dame,
Indiana, last week. The audience was mainly made up of
college students, and it was very powerfully received.
At the end of his introduction he brought on stage a
bunch of firefighters and police officers from New
York City.

"Thank you all for coming out and spending your hard-
earned on a rock show.... I also want to thank those
of you that supported us on our Drop the Debt campaign.
I noticed that the president of the World Bank, Jim
Wolfensohn, came out on Sept. 12 - maybe Sept. 13, I
can't remember - and said the roots of this problem
are in abject poverty. Fanatics live off this fuel
for their fanaticism.

So I put a challenge to us, that perhaps the only way
to win the war, really win it, is to try to take away
that poverty. That's my prayer.

There's a program here at Notre Dame. I think it's
called the Ace Program, where people give up two years
of their lives and they go into an area where people
can't get to this kind of teaching [available at Notre
Dame]. I would call that changing the world. And
getting the pharmaceutical companies to drop their
intellectual copyrights on AIDS vaccines and drugs,
I would call that changing the world. And letting the
poorest of the poorest countries at least trade with
Europe and the United States.... I would call that
changing the world.

Tonight with us we have people who've turned the
whole concept of celebrity on its head. Celebrities
are supposed to be somebody special, film stars,
rock stars - we're celebrities, we're supposed to be
heroes. We're very selfish people who enjoy what we
do, thank you very much. Here tonight we have with us
the fire department and police department in New
York City, men and women who came down to catch the
U2 show tonight. Theirs is the kind of bravery that
can truly change the world."
P. O. V.
We have already lost

by John le Carré

"The Bombing Begins!" screams today's headline of the
normally restrained Guardian. "Battle Joined," echoes the
equally cautious International Herald Tribune, quoting
George W. Bush. But with whom is it joined? And how
will it end? How about with Osama bin Laden in chains,
looking more serene and Christ-like than ever, arranged
before a tribune of his vanquishers with Johnny Cochran
to defend him? The fees won't be a problem, that's for

Or how about with Osama bin Laden blown to smithereens by
one of those clever bombs we keep reading about that kill
terrorists in caves but don't break the crockery? Or is
there a solution I haven't thought of that will prevent us
from turning our archenemy into an arch martyr in the eyes
of those for whom he is already semi-divine?

Yet we must punish him. We must bring him to justice. Like
any sane person, I see no other way. Send in the food and
medicines, provide the aid, sweep up the starving refugees,
maimed orphans, and body parts - sorry, "collateral damage" -
but Osama bin Laden and his awful men, we have no choice,
must be hunted down.

Unfortunately, what America longs for at this moment, even
above retribution, is more friends and fewer enemies. And
what America is storing up for herself, and so are we Brits,
is yet more enemies. Because after all the bribes, threats,
and promises that have patched together this rickety
coalition, we cannot prevent another suicide bomber being
born each time a misdirected missile wipes out an innocent
village, and nobody can tell us how to dodge this devil's
cycle of despair, hatred, and - yet again - revenge....

By the accepted rules of terrorist engagement, of course,
the war is long lost. By us. What victory can we possibly
achieve that matches the defeats we have already suffered,
let alone the defeats that lie ahead? "Terror is theatre," a
soft-spoken Palestinian firebrand told me in Beirut in 1982.
He was talking about the murder of Israeli athletes at
the Munich Olympics 10 years before, but he might as well
have been talking about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon...

Ten years ago, I was making an idealistic bore of myself
by telling anyone who would listen that with the Cold War
behind us, we were missing a never-to-be repeated chance to
transform the global community.

Where was the Marshall Plan? I pleaded. Why weren't young
men and women from the U.S. Peace Corps, Britain's Voluntary
Service Overseas, and their continental European equivalents
pouring into the former Soviet Union by the thousands?
Where was the world-class statesman and the man of the
hour, with the voice and vision to define for us the real,
if unglamorous, enemies of humankind: poverty, famine,
slavery, tyranny, drugs, bush-fire wars, racial and
religious intolerance, greed?...

It's not a new world order, not yet, and this is not
God's war. It's a horrible, necessary, humiliating police
action to redress the failure of our intelligence services
and our blind political stupidity in arming and exploiting
fanatics to fight the Soviet invader, then abandoning them to
a devastated, leaderless country. As a result, it's our
miserable duty to seek out and punish a bunch of modern
medieval religious zealots who will gain mythic stature
from the very death we propose to dish out to them.

And when it's over, it won't be over. The shadowy bin
Laden armies, in the emotional aftermath of his destruction,
will gather numbers rather than wither away. So will the
hinterland of silent sympathizers who provide them with
logistical support.

Cautiously, between the lines, we are being invited to
believe that the conscience of the West has been
reawakened to the dilemma of the poor and homeless of
the Earth. And possibly out of fear, necessity, and
rhetoric a new sort of political morality has, indeed,
been born. But when the shooting dies and a seeming peace
is achieved, will the United States and its allies stay at
their posts or, as happened at the end of the Cold War,
hang up their boots and go home to their own backyards?
Even if those backyards will never again be the safe
havens they once were.

*Excerpted from John le Carré's column in The Globe
and Mail (Toronto, Canada) on October 13, 2001. le Carré
is the author of 18 novels, among them "The Spy Who Came 
in From the Cold" and "The Russia House." He previously 
served as a member of the British Foreign Service.


W e b   S c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*At last count, 972 animals and plants were listed
as endangered species in the United States. This
site gives you a pile of info on endangered and threatened
species and frequent updates on federal laws and
protection efforts. Go to:


*Last week, the Nobel Foundation announced its latest
group of honorees in the fields of physics, chemistry,
medicine, literature, peace, and economics. This site
offers a wealth of information and related links about
all Nobel Prize winners reaching back to the awards'
inception 100 years ago. Go to:


*Look back over four decades of peace buttons. Part
museum, part clip art, this site traces the history
of buttons.


*If you happen upon a rubber duck while you're out
and about, don't pass it by. Christian Cook tagged
500 duckies with unique ID numbers so that he could
track their travels around the world at this Web site.
People who find the ducks send their reports to this
site, then pass the ducks on to others. Go to:


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