The Common Good

What's Next? Win the Peace

Sojomail - April 9, 2003

Quote of the Week Martin Luther King Jr.: What war's not good for
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: What's next? Win the peace
Funny Business History like you've never heard it before
By the Numbers Wealth in the USA: Like parent, like child
P.O.V. Margaret Atwood: A letter to America
Soul Works Cesar Vallejo: Masses
Human Rights Cuba: Heavy sentences are "totally unjustified"
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch Easter TV viewing that doesn't star Charlton Heston
Web Scene Making a home for resistance | Pick up your M-16 and follow Jesus | Earth as art

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"Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."

- Martin Luther King Jr.

What's next? Win the peace
by Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

The first phase of the war in Iraq is nearing an end, mostly due to the overwhelming military superiority of the American forces. With every report of more civilian casualties (even if unintended), the death of each young American soldier, and the high number of dead Iraqi soldiers, I grieve that our political leaders didn't find a better way to deal with the dangerous dictator and continue to believe they could have. But that is behind us now and, beyond the grieving and protesting of the war that still goes on, many are asking "What's next?"

We suggest three things.

First, we have to continue trying to protect civilian lives, especially in the final days of the military conflict. There is no doubt in my mind that the importance the churches and the peace movement placed on protecting the innocents during the pre-war debate was very influential in keeping them from being directly targeted by military planners. Still, many have died because of the nature of war, despite technological boasting of precision bombing, and large numbers of people could be at risk in the last stages of the active war. Holding the U.S. and U.K. military accountable to their promises to avoid civilian casualties is a vital peacemaking task.

Second, we must ensure that humanitarian aid begins to flow immediately after the initial military conflict, and be adequately funded by those who, by initiating this war, are now morally responsible for the aftermath. Most critically, we must insist that such aid be coordinated by the United Nations and administered by the non-governmental organizations who have always done so, NOT BY THE MILITARY.

Third, we must also ensure that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq be the first step to peace, instead of creating the conditions for more conflict and further wars. That means an international collaboration in rebuilding Iraq (again led by the United Nations) and helping to create new governing institutions, instead of trying to run Iraq with American generals, former CIA directors, and oil companies from Texas.

Let me be blunt about this challenge. It is the Pentagon, and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, who, having run the war effort, now want to control post-war reconstruction and even the distribution of humanitarian aid. U.S. and international aid agencies, including faith-based organizations, are being told they must follow Pentagon leadership and, courageously, most are refusing. Military control of humanitarian aid violates the time-tested protocols of good practice and policy of aid distribution, not to mention international law. Most importantly, total Pentagon control of post-war Iraq, even in aid distribution, puts the Iraqi people completely at the mercy of the military agenda, and reduces humanitarian aid to what Rumsfeld has incredibly referred to as "force enhancement."

Further, to put a military viceroy in charge of Iraq, only to subsequently install a puppet government largely under U.S. control (they have already flown in their favorite Iraqi exile with his troops this week), would be the worst outcome following this war. The dangers are many, including retarding genuine Iraqi democracy, creating long-term guerrilla resistance, further inflaming Arab resentment throughout the region, and setting the stage for future wars. The regimes in Syria and Iran have already been named as potential adversaries by President Bush, and, this week, by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

The Pentagon has won an easy war, but it will never win the peace. U.S. ally Tony Blair and the British government are pushing for a strong U.N. lead in humanitarian aid and post-war reconstruction in Iraq. Even the State Department and moderate Republicans in Congress are opposing the Defense Department's control of post-Saddam Iraq. The churches will support humanitarian aid organizations over the Pentagon to lead relief efforts, and they will support a U.N. lead for post-war reconstruction. The Pentagon is the wrong choice to lead the post-war effort, and Donald Rumsfeld's agenda must be defeated.

Tomorrow, we will send you a crucial action alert around these three points of protecting civilians, ensuring properly funded and administered humanitarian aid, and advocating U.N. coordination in post-war Iraq. We will help you send your message to key members of Congress, the White House, State Department, and to Donald Rumsfeld himself. We hope you will send this critical action alert to your friends and colleagues around the country and the world. It is the next step for peace.

History like you've never heard it before

Ed. Note: The following were purported to be answers provided by sixth-graders during history tests. Probably more urban myths, but funny all the same.

1. Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics.

2. Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients.

3. Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

4. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. He died from an overdose of wedlock.

5. Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was canonized by Bernard Shaw.

6. Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

7. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music.



Since 1876 Calvin's comprehensive liberal arts approach to education has been preparing minds and hearts for lives of renewal. We take seriously our Christian calling to be God's agents of redemption, doing his work in his world. God says: "See I am making all things new." At Calvin that's a promise - and a call. Calvin: Minds in the Making

Wealth in the USA: Like parent, like child

For children whose families earn income in the top quintile (20%) of income, the chance that they will attain an income...

in the top quintile: 42.3%
in the middle quintile: 16.5%
in the bottom quintile: 6.3%

For children whose families earn income in the middle quintile, the chance they will attain an income...

in the top quintile: 15.3%
in the middle quintile: 25.0%
in the bottom quintile: 17.3%

For children whose families earn income in the bottom quintile, the chance they will attain an income...

in the top quintile: 7.3%
in the middle quintile: 18.4%
in the bottom quintile: 37.3%

*Source: The New York Times, November 14, 2002; Thomas Hertz, American University


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 more than 40 workshops on topics of spirituality and justice, healing and contemplative practices. Accredited for Continuing Educational Units: this course qualifies for 1.8 CEUs. For more information:

P.O.V. ^top
A letter to America
by Margaret Atwood

Children as PeacemakersDear America: This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you are.

Some of you may be having the same trouble. I thought I knew you: We'd become well acquainted over the past 55 years. You were the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comic books I read in the late 1940s. You were the radio shows - Jack Benny, Our Miss Brooks. You were the music I sang and danced to: the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, the Platters, Elvis. You were a ton of fun.

You wrote some of my favourite books. You created Huckleberry Finn, and Hawkeye, and Beth and Jo in "Little Women," courageous in their different ways. Later, you were my beloved Thoreau, father of environmentalism, witness to individual conscience; and Walt Whitman, singer of the great Republic; and Emily Dickinson, keeper of the private soul. You were Hammett and Chandler, heroic walkers of mean streets; even later, you were the amazing trio, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, who traced the dark labyrinths of your hidden heart. You were Sinclair Lewis and Arthur Miller, who, with their own American idealism, went after the sham in you, because they thought you could do better.

You were Marlon Brando in "On The Waterfront," you were Humphrey Bogart in "Key Largo," you were Lillian Gish in "Night of the Hunter." You stood up for freedom, honesty and justice; you protected the innocent. I believed most of that. I think you did, too. It seemed true at the time.

You put God on the money, though, even then. You had a way of thinking that the things of Caesar were the same as the things of God: That gave you self-confidence. You have always wanted to be a city upon a hill, a light to all nations, and for a while you were. Give me your tired, your poor, you sang, and for a while you meant it.

We've always been close, you and us. History, that old entangler, has twisted us together since the early 17th century. Some of us used to be you; some of us want to be you; some of you used to be us. You are not only our neighbours: In many cases - mine, for instance - you are also our blood relations, our colleagues, and our personal friends. But although we've had a ringside seat, we've never understood you completely, up here north of the 49th parallel.

We're like Romanized Gauls - look like Romans, dress like Romans, but aren't Romans - peering over the wall at the real Romans. What are they doing? Why? What are they doing now? Why is the haruspex eyeballing the sheep's liver? Why is the soothsayer wholesaling the Bewares?

Perhaps that's been my difficulty in writing you this letter: I'm not sure I know what's really going on. Anyway, you have a huge posse of experienced entrail-sifters who do nothing but analyze your every vein and lobe. What can I tell you about yourself that you don't already know?

This might be the reason for my hesitation: embarrassment, brought on by a becoming modesty. But it is more likely to be embarrassment of another sort. When my grandmother - from a New England background - was confronted with an unsavoury topic, she would change the subject and gaze out the window. And that is my own inclination: Mind your own business.

But I'll take the plunge, because your business is no longer merely your business. To paraphrase Marley's Ghost, who figured it out too late, mankind is your business. And vice versa: When the Jolly Green Giant goes on the rampage, many lesser plants and animals get trampled underfoot. As for us, you're our biggest trading partner: We know perfectly well that if you go down the plug-hole, we're going with you. We have every reason to wish you well.

I won't go into the reasons why I think your recent Iraqi adventures have been - taking the long view - an ill-advised tactical error. By the time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined. Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn't dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril, he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.

*Margaret Atwood studied American literature - among other things - at Radcliffe and Harvard in the 1960s. She is the author of 10 novels. Her 11th, "Oryx and Crake," will be published in May. This essay appeared originally in The Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 28, 2003.

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by Cesar Vallejo

When the battle was over,
and the fighter was dead, a man came toward him
and said to him: "Do not die; I love you so!"
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

And two came near, and told him again and again:
"Do not leave us! Courage! Return to life!"
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

Twenty arrived, a hundred, a thousand, five hundred thousand,
shouting: "So much love, and it can do nothing against death!"
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

Millions of persons stood around him,
all speaking the same thing: "Stay here, brother!"
But the corpse, it was sad! went on dying.

Then all the men on the earth
stood around him; the corpse looked at them sadly, deeply moved;
he sat up slowly,
put his arms around the first man; started to walk...

From "Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems," edited by Robert Bly (Beacon Press). Translation by Robert Bly.

Some people are feeling trapped these days between their conviction that the war on Iraq is wrong and the mass of friends and loved ones surrounding them who remain fixed to an uncritical patriotism. If you find yourself in this position and feel the need to be a part of a movement of people speaking out against war, check out SojoCircles. Sojourners' SojoCircles are designed to bring people together to discuss issues of faith, politics, and culture in small, intimate groups.

For more information about starting a group in your church, college campus, or local community please contact us at or visit
for a complete list of groups already formed.

Cuba: Heavy sentences are "totally unjustified"

The heavy sentences imposed against nonviolent Cuban dissidents are unjustified and draconian, Human Rights Watch said today. Defendants received sentences ranging from 12 to 25 years of imprisonment. "These harsh prison sentences are totally unjustified," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "Cuba is flouting fundamental human rights norms."

For more on Cuba's crackdown on dissidents, visit


Tom Whiting writes from El Granada, California:

Thank you, SojoMail, for your consistent, thoughtful resistance to the invasion of Iraq and war. You have been a comfort to me.


Dean-Daniel Truog writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts:

David Batstone's outrage in last week's SojoMail is outrageous. Instead of judging the president and his team's motives, he should be praying for them. He has every right to disagree with their policy, but there is much reason to believe that the president himself and many of his closest advisors are as ardent followers of Christ as he may be. Who gives him special insight into their motives, and what makes him think his own are so pure? Jesus admonished us, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Batstone should be ashamed of his judgmental spirit. I am here not judging his motives, but am responding to what he sent out as propaganda.


Allyson Sawtell writes from Denver, Colorado:

You probably already know this, but I wanted to give you the full citation of the quote by Mark Twain in last week's SojoMail ("Lord, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds..."). It's from his "War Prayer," which he asked not be published until after his death, because, "I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world" (from his biography by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1912).


The Rev. Dr. Barbara Battin writes:

If you are going to use the Mark Twain quote, please cite the original source - "The War Prayer" - and use the whole thing. It is an anti-war document of the highest order and should be used in its entirely or it can be taken as a serious support of war rather than the satire as it was intended.


Molly Doctor Henry writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan:

It strikes me as hypocritical for Sojourners to proclaim deep concern for the innocent lives in Iraq when a regime uninterrupted by force has proven responsible for the death of thousands (hundreds of thousands) of its own people. Where are the articles expressing concern for justice in that matter? At what point do we stop embracing negotiations and inspections when such actions have not yet engendered the abatement of Iraqi suffering at the hands of Saddam?

Sojourners' anti-war stance distresses me not because I have a different view of the issue, but because that stance is presented in such a black-and-white fashion, unaccompanied by the mention of even one associated drawback or concern. Sojourners' position offers no indication that, because Christians are burdened with a responsibility to promote justice and the sanctity of life, such a responsibility is muddied by the choice between not wanting innocent people to suffer under a murderous regime and not wanting to create suffering via war. If those who share a common faith disagree regarding how Christ would respond if faced with such a dilemma (and many Christians do), doesn't such disagreement merit discussion?


John Austin writes from Atlanta, Georgia:

Joan Oliver writes [Boomerang, 4/2/02] that she is in the majority of American Christians who love their enemies by supporting the President Bush-led massacre of Iraqis and at the same time praying for her enemies (Saddam, etc.). But to take Christ's message of "Love your enemies" seriously is to see your enemy as yourself. The reasoning Christ gives for loving one's enemy is because God does not love you more than he loves your enemy (Matthew 5); he sends his rain on both.

If you are going to make judgments about who is "evil" in this world (something Christ commands his followers not to do), why just pick on Saddam? If you are supporting this war to "relieve the Iraqi people from an evil despot, one who would withhold medical care from children to build fantastic castles for himself," I suggest you consider our own self-absorbed, gated-community political administration, who is doing the same thing by turning our tax dollars into bombs that blow up toddlers, rather than giving us the same kind of health care they give themselves.


Kathleen Flanagan writes from San Pablo, California:

In response to Joan Oliver, I do not presume to assume that President Bush is evil or muddleheaded; that Saddam Hussein is not evil; that a majority of Americans support my opposition to war, or that anyone who does not support my position is unable intellectually to comprehend the enormousness of what is happening; or that those who do support the war, the troops and the administration desire war and killing and are inherently devious. I DO agree that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to remain in power, and that the world is a dangerous place when a thug has the power to control a country, even a country as small and ultimately powerless as Iraq. ...

I am proud of the values that America was built on, and I feel lucky to have been born in a country where I can write this letter without fear of retaliation from the government. But I am ashamed of what my country has been lead to do, and I am saddened that this great nation, with all its ideals and values, could find no better way to deal with this threat than to kill innocents. I fear that our standing in the global community will be irreparably compromised by the unwillingness of our leaders to listen to alternatives to killing. And I particularly fear that very unwillingness to listen. How can we ever hope to live in peace if our leaders are so ready to choose war that they ignore other potential options?


Van Jones writes from Raleigh, North Carolina:

In response to Gene Fifer [Boomerang, 4/2/03] there is only one way to build a peace army: Go and serve humankind. To encircle the White House is just as militant as firing a weapon. I served in the army during the freeing of Kuwait. We did the right thing then. How does a peace army get rid of a despot like Saddam? He shot members of peace armies before they could do any good. The problem of evil will never go away. Militants, either peace militants or military militants, haven't changed a thing. So doing continuous acts of kindness and thoughtful acts of beauty makes more sense than being militant. St. Francis once said "Preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary." It is time to be quiet now and go to work-serving.


Carol Iverson writes from Takoma Park, Maryland:

I am amazed that no one is talking about finding or demanding an alternative to gas-guzzling cars as part of our peace efforts. Looking into the future, and judging from our present lifestyles and governmental policies, we will be using even more cars. Unless we demand more energy efficient cars and alternative transportation systems like other, wiser, countries have already implemented, then we are bound for more wars.

Furthermore, if we were really interested in the welfare of the Iraqi people, we would start drilling in our own country in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. I am not a proponent of this, but if the alternative is killing other people to feed our cars, then I think as a matter of conscience it is only fair that we start using our own resources. If, as a nation and as a long-term commitment, we withdraw our participation and money from oil use, we will have far greater power now and in the future, than in anti-war demonstrations or tax resistance.


Jeanne Davis writes from Augusta, Maine:

In answer to Lawrence DeMong [Boomerang, 4/2/03], Fellowship of Reconciliation is starting a petition to the International Criminal Court, asking for an indictment against George W. Bush as a war criminal. Its address is Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960 or go to:


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:

Easter TV viewing that doesn't star Charlton Heston
by Gloria Goodale
Arts and culture correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

With Easter around the corner, it's the time of year when TV airs a flurry of shows with religious themes, which range from the traditional "Ten Commandments" to more innovative topics, such as the endangered animals of the Holy Land.

Many of the new shows are taking a livelier approach to ancient history, complete with reenactments and eager historians trying to breathe new life into some of Christianity's most familiar figures.

First, there's the latest in the ongoing PBS Empires series, "Peter and Paul and the Christian Revolution," (airing April 9 at 9 p.m.). Just as politics and religion are deeply and often tragically intertwined in the Middle East, politics also had a huge impact on the early days of Christianity. The two-hour series is less about the theology of the early disciples and more about the political struggles around which Christianity was formed. ...

The animals of the Holy Land are the subject of another PBS show, "Lost World of the Holy Land," part of the WNET "Nature" series (airing April 13 at 8 p.m.). How can you resist a program that shows a religious military veteran, who also happens to be a staunch conservationist, soaring in an airplane near a flock of migrating birds to show the Israeli army how to stop killing them on flight routes? ...

Another show, "Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi" (airing on the Hallmark Channel April 13 at 7 p.m.) is a fairly straightforward look at the familiar Catholic figure. But the re-enactments and the emphasis on the human life of the man who was sainted within two years of his death are compelling and fast-moving.

To read the entire overview of Easter TV specials, link to:

*Making a home for resistance

John Wolf, a Quaker peace activist from the Dallas area, has purchased a small home across the railroad tracks from downtown Crawford, Texas (pop. 705 when the Secret Service is away). Over the next few weeks a group of volunteer peace activists intends to transform this nondescript site into the Crawford Peace House, a haven of rest and hospitality for visiting media (who have already entertained Swiss and Dutch media folk), as well as an interfaith place for meditation and discussion of ways to transform America into a peaceful society. Go to:

*Pick up your M-16 and follow Jesus

A series of images attempting to provoke thought and restore the message of Christianity through irony:

*Earth as art

Check out this collection of satellite images of sections of Earth that turn the globe into works of art on the grandest of all canvases.

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