The Common Good

Stopping a war before it starts

Sojomail - January 9, 2003


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++++++++++++++++++++++ 9-January-2003 ++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++ Stopping A War Before It Starts  +++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Thomas Merton: Guard against error

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Stopping a war before it starts

 O n   t h e   W i r e
     *Bush deplores the killing of [certain] innocents

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *2002: The worst of times, the best of times

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Mother-son compromise on the Power Rangers

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Peace needs to be cool

 C a m p u s   L i n e s
     *"America doesn't know anything about me"

 W e b s c e n e
     *SUVs = Terror?
     *Freezerbox E-zine 
     *Animated politics

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

"We can and must believe not so much that the mysterious light of God can 'convert' the ones who are mostly responsible for the world's peace, but at least that they may, in spite of their obstinacy and their prejudices, be guarded against fatal error."

- Thomas Merton


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Stopping a war before it starts

by Jim Wallis

It's curious. Opinion polls show that 40-50% of the American people do not believe the Bush administration has made an adequate case for war with Iraq. When the question of a pre-emptive and virtually unilateral U.S. war (without U.N. sanction or broad support from allies) is raised, the percentage of Americans opposed goes way up.

Except for the Southern Baptists, virtually every church body in the U.S. that has spoken on the war question has concluded this would not be a "just war." Churches all over the world have also spoken out against an Iraq war. What does it mean when the leaders of the international body of Christ are united in opposition to a war? When huge majorities of the populations of European countries oppose war with Iraq? When the Middle Eastern countries most threatened by Saddam Hussein oppose war as the solution to that threat (except for Israel)? When former U.S. defense secretaries, many former military officers, and Republican former office holders are also against war? Doesn't it at least mean we ought to have a serious national debate before we go to war?

But we're not. And the administration seems to equate dissent and even debate with a lack of patriotism. (I hope you will read Rev. Peter Gomes' cover story in the current issue of Sojourners, titled "God, Country, and the Duty of Dissent"). The media make it sound like most everybody is for the war, except for a few Hollywood types like Sean Penn, which gives the conservative commentators lots to have fun with. Let's say only 40% of the American people are against this war. Do we have anything like 40% of the media coverage of the war issue giving voice to those who oppose it? How's that for democracy? Why are the political and media elites so afraid of an honest debate about such a momentous decision?

Now imagine this. Imagine what would happen if we were able to really stop this war before it started. Let the U.N. inspectors (who haven't found any weapons of mass destruction yet) do their jobs and disarm Iraq of whatever weapons it has (like they successfully did four years ago). Then when the inspector's job is done, let President Bush declare victory, claim credit for his tough stance, and bring the troops home. We would avoid war, and he would likely win re-election. AND it would be a major victory for democracy. Imagine the empowerment that all the people who spoke and acted for peace would feel. We would have actually stopped a war before it started. People would look back for years to remind each other of the difference we all made before the potential war with Iraq. Citizens would believe they could actually make a difference. Maybe that's part of what the people who control national politics and media are so afraid of.

I believe it is not too late to do that - to stop this war before it starts. But to do it we must make absolutely every effort to be heard - despite the efforts of the media to ensure that we are not. In particular, the remarkable unity and strength of church opposition must be boldly and courageously expressed at this critical hour. Martin Luther King Jr. once reminded us that there are moments when "it is midnight in the moral order." This is one of those times.

I invite as many of you who can, especially those who live within traveling distance, to Washington, D.C., on January 20, the Martin Luther King Holiday, for a significant service of prayer for peace and justice in the Washington National Cathedral. Thousands of faithful people, praying in such a symbolic place, then taking their prayers to a candlelight vigil at the White House, could be a faith- based initiative that might finally get the attention of President Bush and the nation. Maybe, just maybe, if we lift our prayers with all the strength our faith can muster, we might help stop a war before it starts. The details are below. I hope thousands of you will come.

              You Are Invited to 


       A Martin Luther King Day Service 
             in Washington, D.C.
Focusing on the connection between war and poverty

               PRAYER SERVICE

          Monday, January 20, 2003
                2:30-4 p.m.

   The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul
      (Washington National Cathedral)
     Massachusetts and Wisconsin Ave, NW

           following the service 

"We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of
poverty.... We must find an alternative to war and 
bloodshed.... It is no longer a choice, my friends, 
between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence
or non existence...and the alternative to strengthening 
the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world 
may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of 
  --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking at the 
  Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.

Sponsored by:
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Children's Defense Fund
Call to Renewal
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

For more information, including a flyer you can 
download, visit

*********************EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES*********************

The drums of war are beating, and Sojourners is at the 
forefront of the resistance. To bolster our organizing, 
mobilizing, and publicity efforts, we have several new 
job openings: 

Campaign Organizer
Communications Manager
Assistant Director of Development
Business Manager

Go to 
for more information. Sojourners is an equal opportunity 
employer. Women and persons of color are especially 
encouraged to apply.


O n   t h e   W i r e
Bush deplores the killing of [certain] innocents

The following is the script of an interchange between Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and journalist Helen Thomas.

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 6, 2003

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
12:35 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon and happy New Year to everybody. ...The President will discuss with members of his Cabinet his agenda for the year. The President is going to focus on economic growth, making America a more compassionate country, and providing for the security of our nation abroad and on the homefront.

And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions. Helen.

Q: At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.

Q: My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

Q: They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

Q: Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.

Q: Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.

Q: Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.

Q: And he thinks they are a threat to us?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.

Q: The Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --

Q: So they will be vulnerable?

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has no dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

Q: That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

Q: I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

To view the transcript, see:

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your organization or you! Sweatshirts, book bags, "Women Against 
War" and "NO WAR" T-shirts, and much more all fund nonprofit 
volunteer teach-ins to stop the war. For information, see Email:, or 
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to Coffee House Teach-Ins, Venice United Methodist Church, 
12335 Santa Monica Blvd., #114, LA, CA 90025.


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
2002: The worst of times, the best of times

AlterNet has compiled top 10 lists, starting with the bad news of 2002 and ending with the good:

The Bad News
1) The conservatives' 50-year march to victory
2) The politics of fear
3) Rise of the corporate media
4) The return of the living dead (political appointees)
5) Big Brother on steroids
6) Bush's reign of eco-terror
7) The corporate reform that wasn't
8) The body politic becomes obese and gets food poisoning
9) Racism goes mainstream
10) Foreign policy goes back to the future

The Good News
1) The rapid-response peace movement
2) Michael Moore: The people's filmmaker
3) The power of the web for good
4) Paul Krugman (and others) writing truth to power
5) New progressive leadership
6) Conscious hip hop comes home
7) Elected officials we can respect
8) Jimmy Carter's Nobel coup
9) Noam and Naomi
10) SEIU, leading the union movement

For details, go to:


Do you know what you'll get everyone on your holiday list 
this year? How about a gift that will be remembered for 
years to come? Give a gift animal in honor of friends and 
loved ones from Heifer International, and bring hope and 
opportunity to a family in need.


S o u l   W o r k s
Mother-son compromise on the Power Rangers

by Kathy Briccetti

As I tucked my 5-year-old son into bed, he told me that the only thing he liked about kindergarten was playing with his new friends at recess. "But they always play Power Rangers tag," he said. "I don't know how to play Power Ranger tag. I just like regular tag."

Despite his distress, I felt a rush of pride. I've prohibited gunplay and network television in our house and banned violent computer games. By limiting my sons' exposure to violence, I believe I'm doing what's best for them.

But now my younger son was being excluded from kindergarten playground games. No one told him he couldn't play, but thanks to me he was on the outskirts because he didn't know how to imitate action figures. I pictured my boy standing off to the side, or playing by himself on the playground rings on his first days of school. So what had I really done?

Should I cave in and buy the fighting figures? I knew Power Rangers, Pokémon, and Spider-Man weren't going away. I'd have to find some compromise....

Read about Kathy's solution at:


Hudson Valley organization seeks Eastern New York Coordinator.  
Must be bilingual (English/Spanish) with experience in social 
change. Good benefits. Please reply with cover letter and 
resume to Richard Witt: P.O. Box 4757, Poughkeepsie, NY 
12602. Or contact us by fax at: (845) 485-1963 or email at


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Peace needs to be cool

by Shani Abergel, sixth grade

It is better to prevent violence than to try to stop it.

Dentists tell you to brush your teeth to prevent cavities so they won't have to fill the cavity later. People and lawmakers all over the world realize this....

What we have to do is work together as a community and make violence wrong. Not tolerated. A bad choice. No. Nix....

The message "Violence is wrong" has got to be everywhere you look - on T.V., on street signs, buses, radio - in every kind of language - English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Creole, you name it - so that it can reach all kinds of people.

Peace needs to be cool. Violence needs to be labeled as nerdy and uncool. It can't be machismo and toughness.

We can reach people in all kinds of ways.

Read more at:


C a m p u s   L i n e s
"America doesn't know anything about me"

by Nathan Johnston

There is so much being said about Iraq these days. "The facts" that everyone claims to know, I'm finding, are not always as black and white as they seem.

An acquaintance of mine recently returned from a two- week peace delegation touring the country - witnessing firsthand the often overt but generally subtle destruction of its war-ridden past. His nightly emails recounted stories of children suffering from untreated leukemia -- a result of depleted uranium shells from the Gulf War. He also told of the vibrant city life -- of young people milling about with their stylish clothes and deafening electronic music. Of harmful drinking water and city streets lined with posters of American pop idols like the Backstreet Boys. Of insufficient chemotherapy drugs and extravagant afternoon wedding processions.

In many ways Iraq is a paradoxical sort of country -- not exactly the most visibly dramatic example of why we shouldn't go to war. But the damages are real enough even though they are not always Time magazine photo-ops. There aren't the throngs of naked, bloody, limbless children like there were in Vietnam, but there are millions of people whose concept of security and well- being has been so radically undermined over the past 10 years that even in the face of another war they are going about their daily lives without much concern.

Today in Iraq the effects of war are more than physical -- more than midnight air raids and a demolished civilian infrastructure. These physical travesties have created a new reality where the promise of freedom, human dignity, and the pursuit of happiness is a laughable notion. Journalist Peter Baker captured it best in an interview with Iraqi student Hussein Adnan who asked why the U.S. wants to kill him. Didn't Americans know he has plans for the future? "America," he concluded, "doesn't know anything about me."

To read the complete article by Peter Baker, see:


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

*SUVs = Terror?
Parodying the Bush Administration's anti-drug ads, Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars have produced two TV commercials aimed at the connection between gas guzzling and national security. See them online at:

E-zines, just like their hard-copy cousins, have notoriously short lives. Freezerbox, in operation since 1998, hopes to avoid this fate by building up a strong network of writers who will contribute on a regular basis and on a wide range of topics - from arms control to political economy to film. Activist-oriented essays that include non-mainstream views on current events as well as links to sources of further information are especially encouraged.

*Animated Politics
A mainstay of (and the SojoNews humor section), Mark Fiore's animated political cartoons bring much-needed comic relief to the sober subjects that are the targets of his satire.


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