The Common Good

The Buck $tops Here

Sojomail - April 2, 2003

Quote of the Week Mark Twain: God of love, wreak havoc on our enemies
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: The buck $tops here
Funny Business AOL.DeliverUs
Soul Works Peter Gomes: For those who oppose war, what now?
Religion and Politics Missionaries to follow in wake of Iraq invasion
Colombia Journal Ryan Beiler: Your tax dollars on strike
Politically Connect Building a peace army, one person at a time
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch Garrison Keillor interview
Web Scene Military families: Bring my children home | Peace activists move offshore | It's young, it's hip, it's Christian

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"Oh Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land.... We ask it, in the sprit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love."

- Mark Twain, after viewing a pre-emptive war in the Philippines a century ago. Cited in the March 30, 2003, New York Times magazine.

The buck $tops here
by David Batstone

Voices around the globe clamor that the Iraq invasion is a war for oil, a charge the Bush team ardently denies. Yet the blatant financial self-interest that marks key members of the Bush team in this war is astonishing. This streak of greed undercuts the credibility of the higher ideals they claim drive them into battle.

The Bush team is often characterized as a collection of strong ideologues who operate out of deep convictions for a New America. But a closer look suggests that personal wealth management is never far from mind.

Consider Richard Perle, an intellectual force among the Bush national security team, who resigned late last week as the chairman of the Defense Policy Board. What was Perle's undoing? He agreed to represent Global Crossing, a telecommunications company tainted by financial scandals over the last 18 months. His job was to get Pentagon support for the proposed sale of Global Crossing to a foreign firm controlled by investors from China and Singapore. Under his arrangement with Global Crossing, Perle was to be paid a $125,000 retainer and would earn an additional $600,000 if the deal is approved by a government review panel, upon which sits the Secretary of Defense and close Perle associate Donald Rumsfield.

Both the FBI and the CIA reportedly resist the proposed sale of Global Crossing because a Chinese company would control Global Crossing's state-of-the-art fiber-optic network, which is used by the U.S. government. So much for Perle's absolute dedication to homeland security. Oh, did I mention that Perle also sits on the board of Autonomy Corporation, a British-based software firm that enjoys commercial contracts with the U.S. Homeland Security and Defense Departments?

Despite his resignation, Perle intends to stay on as a member of the influential board at the Pentagon. He will fit right in with the other patriotic members who leave no commercial opportunity behind to build a strong America. At least 10 of the panel's 30 members are executives or lobbyists with private companies that have billions of dollars' worth of contracts with the Defense Department and other government agencies.

Looking ahead, the Bush team has requested $2.4 billion from Congress for humanitarian aid and reconstruction projects in Iraq; requests for billions more will follow once the war ends. Big business is lining up to sign lucrative contracts. The bidders represent some of the country's largest construction companies, all of them major donors to political campaigns. Halliburton shows up on the list of corporations who will benefit from the seizure of Iraq's oil wells. Vice President Dick Cheney, of course, was the chief executive of Halliburton before moving to public office.

These manifestations of crony capitalism should worry all people, be they conservative or liberal. Money-grabbing makes for bad politics. I've often heard it said that freedom only comes at great sacrifice. What comes from sacrificing others for one's own profit? The answer I fear to ponder.

To read more commentary by Sojourners Executive Editor David Batstone, go to:


Ed. note: The following anonymous letter came into SojoMail...maybe it's simply an urban legend, but it sure strikes a chord:

I had been teaching my 3-year-old daughter, Caitlin, the Lord's prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some e-mail."

Can we get an Amen on that one?


Join keynoter Jim Wallis at the Spiritual Formation Conference, May 12-16, at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. This five-day conference also features keynotes from Phyllis Tickle, Sue Monk Kidd, Bernie Siegel, Sam Keen, and Alan Jones along with over 40 workshops on topics of spirituality and justice, healing and contemplative practices. Accredited for Continuing Educational Units: this course qualifies for 1.8 CEU's. For more information:

Peter Gomes: For those who oppose war, what now?

We who opposed this war could not, alas, prevent it. We can, however, in the great tradition of protest and witness, continue to make our opposition known as have many millions before us, and as will many millions to follow.

We can do even more. Our consciences are not on hold during the war, and when peace comes and the rhetoric of bellicosity yields, as it must, to a thoughtful and provocative encounter with new world responsibilities, then we who have been ignored must insist upon being heard. More than ever, the country will need our moral energy.

To read Peter Gomes' entire column, go to:

Missionaries to follow in wake of Iraq invasion
by Deborah Caldwell

Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and one of the nation's most outspoken critics of Islam, said Wednesday he has relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population's post-war physical and spiritual needs.

Graham, who has publicly called Islam a "wicked" religion, said the relief agency he runs, Samaritan's Purse, is in daily contact with U.S. government agencies in Amman, Jordan, about its plans.

To read the entire feature as it appeared in BeliefNet, link to:

Your tax dollars on strike
by Ryan Beiler

Colombian soldier from a brigade led by U.S.-trained officersMy delegation to Colombia was privileged to participate in that country's first public forum on war-tax resistance. Representatives from various sectors of civil society and the peace movement are seeking creative ways of pushing for a negotiated resolution to their decades-old conflict in the face of a government that has focused almost exclusively on a military response. Because of widespread poverty, however, 70% of Colombians live below the taxable level, so church leaders there reminded us that in reality their war is being fueled more by U.S. tax dollars than by theirs. Behind Israel and Egypt, Colombia is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid.

Ostensibly to fight "narco-terrorism," the bulk of the aid is used to combat leftist guerillas while right-wing paramilitary death squads with ties to government forces commit the majority of massacres and human rights abuses with relative impunity. Both groups are involved in the drug trade and are considered terrorists by the U.S. State Department.

"With your tax money, they are spending $1 million per day on the military in Colombia," says Ricardo Esquivia, director of Justapaz: the Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action, and director of the Justice and Peace Commission of CEDECOL (the Council of Evangelical Colombian Churches).

While U.S. embassy officials claim such aid is necessary to provide security for the Colombian people, Esquivia asserts that focusing on military solutions merely fuels a conflict in which 80% of the victims are innocent civilians. However, declares Esquivia, "if you cut the pipeline that provides this money, they are not going to be able to make their wars."

Ryan Beiler is web editor for Sojourners.

To read the entire column, go to:

For more information on tax resistance, visit:

War Resisters League

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund

"Dollar Dissent: Tax Resisters Chip Away at Bush's War Chest"
by Chisun Lee

Building a peace army, one person at a time
by Bernice Yeung

With pragmatism in mind, the Peaceforce's unarmed troops will not see action in the Middle East, though the idealist in [David] Hartsough wishes he could travel to Iraq and take a political stand. Instead, Hartsough is sticking to domestic anti-war protests, while the Peaceforce quietly readies to deploy its first set of workers to Sri Lanka for a three-year pilot project in a few weeks.

"Iraq would have been the ideal scenario [to start with], but part of it is timing," Hartsough says, a tenor of disappointment in his voice. "But we want to be sure that whatever we do, we do well."

To read the entire feature, go to:


Joan Oliver writes from Vancouver, Washington:

The messages in SojoMail all seem to make the assumptions that: 1) President Bush is either evil or muddleheaded, 2) Saddam is not evil but merely afraid for his people and his country, 3) the majority of Americans support YOUR position (when in reality 70% of the American public support the war, the troops, and the administration), 4) anyone who does NOT support your position is not necessarily evil but is surely unable intellectually to comprehend the enormousness of what is happening, and finally 5) those who do not support your position desire war and killing and are inherently devious.

Let me tell you where I come from: I am an educated, intelligent health care professional. I have served in the Army as a nurse; I am proud of the Army Nurse Corps, the Army Medical Division, and ALL of the military services. I am a committed Christian, one who believes in and lives by the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I take the admonition of Jesus to love my enemies seriously: I pray for Saddam and the Iraqis and other Arabs and the North Korean regime regularly, even daily. But I also take the admonition to care for the little ones - those who cannot protect themselves - and seek to protect them and deliver them from harm. I believe the war is right in its efforts to relieve the Iraqi people from an evil despot, one who would withhold medical care from children to build fantastic castles for himself. You would have had us talk peace to Saddam; he has NEVER demonstrated that he wants to live in peace with his own people, his neighbors, his "allies" or the rest of the world. Talking peace only works when each side is willing to consider the other his equal under God.


John Hess writes from Boston, Massachusetts:

I want to thank Jim Wallis for his thoughtful remarks on the "Lessons of War" in last week's SojoMail. These are hard times for all of us to live through. Even the many people I know who support the war have no love for war and are not enthusiastic about it. But they see no practical alternative. I think it is important to publicly demonstrate opposition to the war. But I also think that opposition should be principled and strongly rooted intellectually, even as it is raucous and creative (and, as much as can be, fun). I think so because most of us will outlive this war and will continue the struggle for peace and justice long after the war is over. Wallis' remarks are a valuable example of principled, intellectual opposition to the war and help to provide the spiritual strength and direction we will need to carry on the struggle.


Catherine Johnson writes from Houston, Texas:

As the U.S. "shock and awe" bombing of Iraqi cities continues, I am aghast at the sheer brutality of the death and destruction being inflicted by our country. It does not discriminate between the guilty and the innocent. Everyone within range is liable to be killed or maimed; everyone within range will certainly be traumatized and terrorized. Children under 15 make up nearly half of Iraq's population. They should be in school or playing, not being bombarded with cruise missiles, Tomahawks, 2000-pound bombs, bunker-buster bombs, cluster bombs, and all the other inhumane weaponry that we are unleashing on these innocent souls!


Lawrence DeMong writes from Saskatchewan, Canada:

Is it possible to begin a grassroots movement to try as war criminals those government officials who are responsible for perpetrating the present massacre in Iraq? I deliberately use the word massacre because "war" implies some sort of equality. That notion in this case is totally absurd as we see nations with endless military might bearing down on this tiny country that's been forcibly disarmed! Even if tried in absentia, the prospect of any of these officials being in the same position as Augusto Pinochet might make them think twice as they pursue this terrible genocidal "war."


SojoMail reader Gene Fifer writes:

Columnist Ted Rall suggested that Americans should surround the White House starting on the 4th of July and stay there until George Bush vacates, since he did not win the election legally. An encampment of Americans, for however long it takes to get justice, would be historically in lines with both Tiananmen Square and the encampment of World War I veterans around the Capital building during the Depression to force the government to pay their pensions. Of course both resulted in massive violence by the respective governments but both led to a change in public opinion and to changes in government policy. Do you think that today's American peace and justice movement has the courage or stamina to camp out on the Mall until Bush is forced from office? Would the police, national guard, and army be willing to imprison thousands of Americans, especially since their salaries are not going up, so we can afford a tax cut for millionaires? Let's find out.


John Ford writes from Austin, Texas: Kudos to Steve Fouch of Medway, England, regarding his response to Mary Weidner's comments! I quite agree with his statement that one can selectively quote the Bible to justify literally *any* position.... One has to ask: "Why is all that other stuff in there about killing, and demands, and requirements, and women being second-class citizens?" Gee, I wonder if the agendas of men who desired to control people through fear might have slipped in there?


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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The literary life of Lake Wobegon: An interview with Garrison Keillor

A Christian Century editorial

Garrison Keillor's latest book is a collection of poems selected from the ones he has read on his daily five-minute show "The Writer's Almanac," which airs on public radio. These are poems, he says, that can make people "stop chewing their toasted muffins and turn up the radio."

Question: Do high schoolers in Lake Wobegon really respond to Shakespeare?

Keillor: My gosh, yes. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments" is a teenage anthem.

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" is a poem that any 16-year-old can understand in a heartbeat. Disgrace is part of the daily life of a high-school kid.

Dignity is everything, and pitfalls lie everywhere: you could have a bad hair day; your skin could break out in vicious red blemishes, like a leper; your outfit that was so cool yesterday could feel totally wrong today; you could be called on in class to solve a math problem or discuss the Gadsden Purchase or tell the name of Hester's boyfriend and draw a blank; you could be caught in a lie; you could flirt with someone and be brutally put down.

And in this moment of horror and shame, your thought of a loved one could pull you back from the brink, exactly as Shakespeare says. And he says it with such spiky grandeur and gorgeous language and such a fine poetic arc, the lines rising and arching forward. Yes, they respond passionately to this. Being who they are, solemn and extremely cool people, they won't say so, but they do, they really do.

To read the entire interview with Garrison Keillor, go to:

Military families: Bring my children home

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people who are opposed to war in Iraq and who have relatives or loved ones in the military.

Peace activists move offshore

Kayakers get themselves organized:

It's young, it's hip, it's Christian

For twentysomethings looking for a way to plug into God, life, and progressive culture, Relevant Magazine and its online cousin,, aim to provide answers:

Donate now to support our work.

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