The Common Good

An Eleventh-Hour Plan to Prevent War

Sojomail - March 6, 2003 03.06.2003
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: An Eleventh-Hour Plan to Prevent War
Quote of the Week Anton Chekhov: gun play
Funny Business Bush before the United Nations
Biz Ethics David Batstone: Shaking up the drug industry
Soul Works Mother Teresa: Tyranny of the urgent
By the Numbers Can you trust this e-letter?
Colombia Journal Ryan Beiler on site in Colombia
SojoCircles SojoCircles go to college!
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Web Scene Spiritually literate film awards | Designing housing with and for the poor in Alabama | British think tank on theology and public life

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"If in the first act you introduce a gun, by the third act you have to use it."

- Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright

An Eleventh-Hour Plan to Prevent War
by Jim Wallis

Once again darkness surrounds us, and the world is poised on the edge of war. This war effort - prompted and promoted by the United States - is receiving staunch opposition from key U.S. allies and from many member countries of the U.N. Security Council. Presently Germany, France, China, and Russia openly oppose war on Iraq, and even Great Britain could change course.

Church leaders, in particular, have warned of the unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences of war against Iraq: massive civilian casualties, a precedent for preemptive war, further destabilization of the Middle East, and the fueling of more terrorism.

Yet the possibility exists that the failure to effectively disarm Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime could have catastrophic consequences. The leading security issue of the world today is the potential nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

We face a moral dilemma: World leaders must make a decision between the terrible reality of weapons of mass destruction and the terrible reality of war as a solution.

Millions of people have joined the antiwar movement, and the world is desperate for a "third way" between war and ineffectual responses - an alternative instead of war to defeat Saddam Hussein. If we are to find a way instead of a full-scale military assault against Iraq, that "instead" must be strong enough to be a serious alternative to war.

As I wrote in my last column, a group of U.S. church leaders, accompanied by colleagues from the United Kingdom and the worldwide Anglican Communion, met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, on Feb. 18 to discuss alternatives to war.

Following that meeting, we developed a realistic alternative, a "third way," that is illustrated in a six-point plan. I urge you to read this plan ( Then, through our Web site, send a copy to President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Then you'll have the opportunity to forward it to everyone you know to help the plan reach critical mass before it's too late.

It is now five minutes before midnight, as Martin Luther King Jr. might have put it. Unless an alternative to war is found, a military conflagration soon will be unleashed. A morally rooted and pragmatically minded initiative, broadly supported by people of faith and people of good will, might help to achieve a historic breakthrough and set a precedent for decisive and effective international action in the many crises we face in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Please join me in lifting up this plan and voicing a viable method of removing Saddam Hussein from power without harming innocent Iraqis and fueling terrorism for the next generation.

The U.N. asks President Bush:

"What proof do you have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction?"

Bush replies: "We kept the receipts."

To find the truth behind the humor, see "American companies reported to have supplied Iraq with weapons materials," a commentary by Jim Trautman, broadcast on the CBC (Canada):


Sojourners National Roundtable on Faith, Art, and Social Activism Friday, March 7, 2003, 1-5 p.m. Josephine Butler Parks Center 2437 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Listen to artists, activists, and theologians explore the church's role in disturbing and unsettling the status quo. How can both the church and the arts community foster civic dialogue in sacred spaces?

Roundtable panelists include: musician Michelle Shocked, painter Betty LaDuke, poet E. Ethelbert Miller, performance artist Lisa Alvarado, Spirit House founder Ruby Sales, Afrilachian poet Frank X Walker, the members of Sol & Soul, and many others.

This event is free of charge, but space is limited. Please RSVP to Rachel Medema ( or 202-328-8842 x227) or call Sojourners for more information. Sojourners National Roundtable is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Shaking up the drug industry
by David Batstone

Zachary Bentley says he's no Ralph Nader. The business manager and corporate officer of a drug infusion service, Ven-A-Care, based in Key West, Florida, is shaking up the pharmaceutical industry all the same.

It's true; Zachary never planned to lead a crusade for corporate reform. In 1990 he simply was sitting at his desk wading through paperwork when he noticed something amiss with a Medicare payment. He received a $56 reimbursement for a pharmaceutical that had cost his company only $10. In theory, 80 percent of the drug was to be paid for by Medicare and 20 percent by the beneficiary. Zachary did some quick math and figured that the beneficiary's co-payment alone surpassed the actual cost of the drug. Convinced that the Florida Medicare carrier had erred, he tore up the check and asked the agency to re-process the reimbursement.

Days later, the carrier got back to him and informed him that there was no mistake. Puzzled, Zachary searched for answers. What he found shocked him. More than a few doctors and clinics are billing Medicare based on "wholesale" prices that pharmaceutical companies give the government program. The pharmaceutical companies then sell the drugs to the health care providers at a much lower cost. The providers reap exorbitant profits and, because the windfall operates like a government- funded kickback, pharmaceutical companies also come out big winners.

To read the entire column as it appears in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue of Sojourners magazine, link to:


Saving the Corporate Soul
Can you make a buck without selling out?

Reading the World
Where does it say that God will speak only through the Word?

Tyranny of the urgent

Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.

- Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Not by bread alone...

Lent is truly a remarkable time for all Christians, and "Living the Word: Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary" is an excellent resource for pastoral reference or personal devotion during this holy season. Order this wonderful resource today by clicking below:

Can you trust this e-letter?

How much of the information on the Internet do you think is reliable and accurate?

Response of Internet users:

Small portion is reliable - 7.2%
About half is reliable - 39.9%
Most info is reliable - 50.6%

Response of Internet non-users:

Small portion is reliable - 17.7%
About half is reliable - 46.2%
Most info is reliable - 28.9%

*Source: UCLA Center for Communication Policy


Buttons, stickers, and magnets from Sojourners!

"War is Not the Answer" - take action by ordering a packet that includes:
1 button (1-inch round)
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Order now and receive a FREE Sojourners poster (while supplies last). Order additional quantities of any item and receive a bulk discount!

Go to or call 1-800-714-7474.

Awakening to tragedy
by Ryan Beiler

"I slept, not knowing the tragedy that had fallen upon my family and my village," recalls Mauricio (not his real name). The next morning, this pastor's son awoke to discover that two of his brothers and a close friend had been tortured, killed, and dismembered. Two had been tied up and pushed off of a cliff. The other had been shot. As the family attempted to bury the remains, a helicopter hovered above and began to shoot. The family ran for their lives. Mauricio and a family member ran to the village where his grandparents lived to warn them, and passed through another village where most of the men had been killed. "It was then," he recounts, "that we realized that death had taken over our region."

All of these killings were perpetrated by right-wing paramilitary death squads, which originated as self-defense forces for wealthy landowners, but now, like the leftist guerilla groups, have been officially condemned as terrorists and drug traffickers by the U.S. government.

As the human rights record of the Colombian state security forces has improved - as a requirement to receive U.S. military aid - paramilitary atrocities have increased. According to U.S. State Department reports, paramilitaries are responsible for 70% of the human rights violations in Colombia. But the Colombian on the street will tell you that paramilitaries regularly work hand-in-hand with the Colombian army. Even a municipal official from Mauricio's region (who asked not to be identified) stated bluntly, "The guerillas did as they pleased and the army and police couldn't do anything about it, so they called on the paramilitaries to control the situation."

This "control" has come with a heavy price for families such as Mauricio's. As another Colombian farmer told me, "It is always the campesino that suffers in the dirty war." read the full story at:

SojoCircles go to college!

SojoCircle leaders are adapting the materials designed for teach-ins on college campuses for their own study groups, and making connections with student groups in their local areas. To get more information about the teach-ins and to download the materials, go to

A new group has formed in Waynesboro, Virginia! If you live in the area and wish to join the group, please contact:

Bob and Barbra Humphrey:

If you are interested in participating in a SojoCircle, either as a leader or a member, contact us at To find out more about SojoCircles or to see a complete list of those already formed, visit or call 1-800-714-7474.


Speak out! Mobilize peaceful and prayerful rallies in your community. Order protest signs and declare, "War is Not the Answer."

Signs are 9" x 12" and laminated (7 mil) for all- weather use. Includes wooden "paint" stick for assembly. Only $4.95, not including shipping and handling. Order additional quantities and receive a bulk discount!

Go to or call (800) 714-7474.


Argye Hillis writes from Waco, Texas:

Wow! Rose Marie Berger's insightful piece - "The Inevitability Defense" - on what to do with the 200,000 troups we've sent to the Middle East is just great! Is there any way to really bring it to President Bush's attention? I can send him a copy, but I know it won't really filter through to him.


Sarah Williams writes from London, England:

Rose Berger asks us to imagine U.S. troops working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, "serving as teachers, doctors, engineers, and veterinarians." This attitude, though well-meaning, demonstrates a patronizing "America knows best" approach that motivates the very policies of the Bush administration that Ms. Berger so rightly condemns. As humanitarian NGOs such as CARE recently reported, they have piles of CVs from qualified Iraqi personnel in their offices: There is no shortage of educated, skilled Iraqis able to run their own affairs, without the assistance of the U.S. Army. While military forces may be well equipped to assist in a disaster relief situation such as that in Bangladesh in 1991, the situation in Iraq is completely different - one that is a manmade and not a natural disaster.

Iraq is not a third world country, and its current humanitarian problems stem from war, international sanctions, and the way these have been manipulated by Saddam's regime. We would do well to concentrate on the reform of these sanctions and seek peaceful means to remove Saddam, rather than arrogantly assuming that the U.S. army can provide all the answers to a sophisticated, ancient nation such as Iraq.


Conor O'Reilly writes from Portsmouth, New Hampshire:

An effective way of tackling the "inevitability" defense would be to acknowledge that the military buildup has forced Iraq to allow the inspectors back into the country. The disarmament of Iraq is an essential step towards peace in the region. Acknowledge that this is a victory. Then let the U.N. pick up the tab for an extended presence of U.S. military force on the borders of Iraq, while the inspectors do their work inside the country.


Phillida Purvis writes from Japan:

I work in Japan and am now deeply concerned about the next step in this scenario, destabilization in North East Asia. The ramifications of removing North Korea's energy supplies are already more disastrous than could have been predicted, with Japan threatening first-strike action on North Korea, copying the U.S. lead. Old Japanese veterans cannot understand how President Bush is justifying first-strike action, which, to them, is no different from what they did at Pearl Harbor, and they have been vilified for it by the whole world these 60 years.

Younger Japanese believe that the British army must have put pressure on Blair to send troops to Iraq, so deeply do they believe, from their experience, that all armies have a political and aggressive agenda. They are astonished to hear that our army is totally professional and apolitical and acts only on instruction of the government, despite the deep misgivings [soldiers] feel, from the top to the bottom, about the engagement they face. The repercussions of invasion of Iraq will, outside of what happens within Iraq, negatively affect the whole world and all our futures. No person or group of people has the right to deal that hand. Who do they think they are?


Scott Rosner writes from Orange, California:

I am a conservative, evangelical Christian that is 100% opposed to this potential war with Iraq. Despite the obvious threat Hussein poses to us and his own people and despite today's news that Iraq will not comply with United Nations demands, there still must be a better use of our money. However, I'm convinced that way does not include the incredible hatred that is now expressed by the activist population for our own country. Why is it wrong to stand up for America? Why is it "anti- European rant" to support and believe in your own country (as expressed in last week's "boomerang")? Have we forgotten Sept. 11? I lost my company of 10 years and a colleague on that day. I have not forgotten. Despite the horrible pain and suffering on that day for myself and the 5,000 former team members of House2Home, Inc., I don't want vengeance. Revenge is meaningless. I want a better place to raise my kids.... I encourage and call on Sojourners to make a difference in this fight, a fight that matters far more than Iraq.


Linda Martindale writes from Cape Town, South Africa:

Did I miss something? Last I heard there was a War on Terror centered around bin Laden and his cronies, and then that faded...and the headlines were slowly altered to War on Iraq. I genuinely want to know if I missed something - what triggered this all again? Why the focus on Iraq suddenly? I know that Hussein is no "angel," ... but he is certainly not the only man flouting terror in the world today.


Ron Kraybill writes from Harrisonburg, Virginia:

Responding to William Leitch asking why there's been no previous concerns for Iraq in the peace community: 1) Same thing I tell my kids: I hold you accountable for your own behavior, not anyone else's. The U.S. is my country, and I am accountable for its behavior much more so than I am Saddam's; 2) The number of repressive dictators around the world is many. Sadly, we aren't addressing all that we ought to. Does that diminish our credibility? I think it rather demonstrates our frailty; 3) We must ask what do the people of Iraq want? All reports I have seen from visitors to Iraq say that most Iraqis desperately oppose American invasion to liberate them from their oppressor. For moving first-person accounts, check out the Christian Peacemaker Team Web site:


Pastor Daniel M. Long writes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

William Leitch's letter in last week's SojoMail charges that Sojourners and other peace types do not protest the horrific regime of Saddam Hussein; he says "most of the people and organizations I know who appear to be protesting against the fact are really protesting against President Bush." As a Christian, Lutheran pastor, and American citizen I can say with total and complete honesty that "we" in the peace movement have done more than protest Saddam Hussein's horrific human rights record. We opposed U.S. support for Hussein during the war with Iraq. We opposed his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds when the U.S. supported Hussein. We opposed U.S. support for the Mujahadeen, including Osama bin Laden, during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan because it was clear that many were radical fundamentalists and totally disinterested in democracy. We protested the Taliban treatment of women as our government did nothing.

In other areas of the world, we protested U.S. support for the terrorists in the Contra movement in Nicaragua. We protested U.S. support of the Salvadoran government that murdered tens of thousands of its citizens and many Christian leaders. We protested the U.S. complicity in the support of the Rios Montt government in Guatemala, responsible for scorched earth that wiped out more than 400 indigenous villages and massacred thousands. We supported efforts of all kinds to end apartheid in South Africa and to allow for a democratic government there. Today we oppose U.S. intervention in Columbia on behalf of a government and of paramilitary groups that persistently violate human rights, and we have proposed, instead, an international effort to invite and motivate all sides of the conflict to negotiate a peace that could provide greater security, more justice, and more opportunity for expanded democracy for the people of Columbia.

We don't need fewer Sojourners in our world, we need more.


Budd Hetrick writes from Boise, Idaho:

In an "I want, I need, I have a right to" society, it's easy to focus on material reward rather than the less popular, but often more lasting and satisfying rewards of good feelings, like the joy of accomplishment. David Batstone's USA Weekend article (featured in last week's SojoMail) "Money Lessons to Grow By" stopped at the material in the first two problems.

The first issue is not about incentive or "what do I get." It's about doing a job well and succeeding in meeting goals and expectations. There was no prior agreement that Michele would receive a monetary (or other) reward for over-achieving. What if the situation had been reversed? Using Batstone's analysis, if her efforts had only resulted in raising $200, she should have had to make up the additional $100 required out of her own pocket! The $600 belongs to the school, without any strings. Michele's reward is that of experiencing a great accomplishment. For her to ask for part of the money, while possibly "acceptable," would not be right. An additional reward from the school would be nice, but the lack of one does not diminish her success.

Again, in the second problem, the issue is not about "I, me, mine," nor is it about business policy or practice. Computer time at the school is obviously at a premium, and having to deal with limited resources is a "real-life" fact. Keesha proved her resourcefulness and ability to find ways to deal with the limited resources. Does that mean she should deprive others who may not have her drive? Acceptable? Maybe. Right? No. While she may certainly offer help to her peers, the very fact that they are "deadline stressed" makes it imperative that she consider giving up "her" computer time to someone else. She can always go to the public library to play games. The foresight she had in scheduling the computer time, and her achievement in completing the assignment without having to use every resource just because it was there, is a model in productivity and efficiency.

Kids need to know the difference between the acceptable thing, and the right thing.


Marguerite Sexton writes from Hollywood, Pennsylvania:

I love poetry, I really do. But for the life of me, I could not make heads or tales out of "From Where it Came" by Jo Slade, published in last week's SojoMail. My (retired English teacher) husband and I spent about a half hour trying to understand it. I'm not saying we're scholars, but we're probably no less intelligent than most of your subscribers. When you publish something so abstract, would it be possible to tell us what the writer is trying to say?


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:

Spiritually literate film awards

The Spirituality and Health awards for the "Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2002." Take this list to your independent video venue:

Designing housing with and for the poor in Alabama
The Rural Studio, conceived as a method to improve the living conditions in rural Alabama and to include hands-on experience in an architectural pedagogy, began designing and building homes. Learn more about its vision to make housing and community projects in one of the poorest regions of the nation:

*To see Sojourners' coverage of The Rural Studio, click

British think tank on theology and public life

The U.K.-based Ekklesia is a think tank that promotes theological ideas in the public square. Of special interest are its resources for leading British churches in discussion about possible war in Iraq. Go to:

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