The Common Good

Cheney's Chicanery; Reaction to the Passion

Sojomail - February 26, 2004

Quote of the Week Kerry on Vietnam: The leaders were responsible
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Stay at home and make billions
Culture Watch The Passion of the Christ: Cover your eyes - but wonder
Celebrating Black History The original Affrilachian poet
Global Vision Haiti and U.S. history: What you need to know
Eco News Religious leaders take on the World Bank
Under the Wire News you may have missed
Web Sitings Propaganda week
Boomerang Readers write

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"I was accusing American leaders of abandoning the troops. And if you read what I said, it is very clearly an indictment of leadership. I said to the Senate, where is the leadership of our country? And it's the leaders who are responsible, not the soldiers.... And the fact is if we want to re-debate the war on Vietnam in 2004, I'm ready for that. It was a mistake, and I'm proud of having stood up and shared with America my perceptions of what was happening."

- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry, responding in a CNN interview to questions about whether his anti-war activism after returning from Vietnam was insulting to veterans. Source: Washington Post

Stay at home and make billions
by David Batstone

I don't usually forward on e-mails, but the below message offers such a unique opportunity I simply had to get the word out. Best of luck, Dave

Dear Friend,

I am Mr. Dick Cheney, the vice president of a nation-state located in the Americas. Prior to assuming public office three years ago under controversial circumstances, I headed a major corporation in the oil industry that serviced a high number of lucrative government contracts.

Until recently, my elected post positioned me well to expand earnings for my colleagues in the oil corporation. On the heels of a successful war that my administration waged in Iraq, the company gained more than $8 billion in deals covering everything from doing laundry, building bases, and rebuilding the oil industry that was partially destroyed in the fighting. We used every trick in the book to generate additional revenue. We even made $60 million by over-billing our government for fuel that was brought into Iraq by a Kuwaiti subcontractor.

Unfortunately, recent external audits of the company's activities in Iraq are raising suspicions. My movements now are closely observed, and I cannot risk exposure. I therefore decided to contact you in confidence that you may be able to help me move $20 billion in service contracts in Iraq over the next 12 months.

I already have transferred the designated service funds into a Swiss bank, and there they will remain until I can find a suitable partner. I can offer you 30% of the total sum immediately, while 70% is to be held in trust by you until we decide on a suitable business investment in Iraq.

I personally appeal to you seriously and religiously for your urgent assistance to move this money into your personal bank account where I believe it will be safe until I can once again move without impunity. As soon as you indicate your interest, forward to me your telephone number, postal address, and your bank account data. I will send it to an intermediary in Amsterdam who will contact you directly. He will be empowered to wire the funds from Switzerland to your private account. Do not use my name or indicate that we ever have made contact. I wish that I could liaise with you face-to-face to complete this transaction, but you must now realize that would be impossible.

Please reply urgently and treat this offer with absolute confidentiality and sincerity.


Mr. Dick Cheney

P.S. To prove the authenticity of my story (if you have doubts), contact the Inspector General's office of my country and inquire about its probe into corporate fraud in Iraq.

Send this SojoMail to a friend at: %tellafriend%

Read more commentary by David Batstone at:

Don't just sit there! Do something! Get involved and make a difference by becoming a part of the Sojourners team. Sojourners is looking for a few women and men who want to help make a difference in the coming year. The Sojourners intern program is accepting applications now through March 1 for its yearlong, Washington, D.C.-based program beginning in September 2004. For more information, go to:

The Passion of the Christ: Cover your eyes - but wonder
by Judy Coode

No Sweat
I was sure that viewing The Passion of the Christ would, at best, leave me cold, and, at worst, offend me. Subconsciously, I feared this movie could wring something out of me I didn't know was there. Why the anxiety? I am a Catholic, born and raised. I know the story. I know how it ends. I have seen crucifixes of all types, with golden Jesuses and flesh-colored Jesuses, blood painted on them with red enamel. Why the fear?

I feared that the brutal depiction of Jesus' suffering would be extraordinarily difficult to watch, and that I would feel deep guilt and shame - guilt and shame that feel counterintuitive to embracing a God of love and forgiveness. How do we handle such contradictions in our faith? And how could Jesus' death have happened? What does it say about free will? About choice? About submission?

The Passion lasts a little over two hours, and everything you've read about its brutality is true. After the first half hour, it is an unending display of torture, from slaps and whippings to flogging - horrific flogging - to the crowning with thorns, hammering of nails into flesh, and the spearing of Jesus' side. However - and I write this with some reluctance because it can be misconstrued - neither my viewing partner nor I, both cradle Catholics, were as shocked or devastated by what happened to Jesus (played by Jim Caviezel) as others seem to have been. I ascribe this to the fact that both of us have had a lifetime of Stations of the Cross and primary (and secondary) educations in a theology that preaches that the flesh must endure great suffering. The Passion is basically a two-hour Stations of the Cross, with all the traditional stops: the weeping women of Jerusalem, Veronica with her facecloth, Simon of Cyrene, the first, second and third falls, the meeting with Mary, Jesus' mother.

But let me repeat: The torture is gruesome. It seems that Jesus' final miracle - at least the last one before the resurrection - is surviving the scourging and trek to Golgotha.

Read more at:

More perspectives on The Passion of the Christ:

Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine asserts that it's necessary for Christians to understand the history of how the Passion stories functioned to incite hatred of Jews - and how renewal movements have rightly identified that legacy as a distortion of the gospel of love. Read more at:

Robert M. Franklin of Emory University's Candler School of Theology suggests that Gibson's unrelenting depiction of Christ's sufferings may subvert the sanitized images of Jesus held by many American churches, and resonate with a theology that emphasizes the humanity, marginalization, and unjust victimization of Jesus. Read more at:

James Carroll of the Boston Globe denounces Gibson's film as near-pornographic in its violence, and anti-Semitic in its prejudiced selection of details - of which he analyzes several. Read more at:

Roger Ebert of the The Chicago Sun-Times says, "This is the most violent film I have ever seen" - and he watches movies for a living. But the former altar boy credits the film with providing him for the first time in his life with a "visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of," and asserts that it indicts both Roman and Jewish authorities while balancing its depiction of Jews with sympathetic characters as well. Read more at:


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The original Affrilachian poet
by Yael Flushberg

It's not hard to see why York - the first African American to explore the territory that is now the United States - chose Frank X Walker to tell his version of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Walker has a history of setting the record straight. His first book of poetry, Affrilachia, got its name from the word Walker invented to describe people of African descent living in Appalachia. He subsequently founded the Affrilachian Poets, an ensemble of writers from Appalachia and the South who support each other creatively while challenging the notion of an all-white Appalachian region and culture.

In the preface to this poetry collection told from the perspective of York - William Clark's personal slave who accompanied the expedition - Walker declares York to be the original Affrilachian poet.

Read more at:

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Haiti and U.S. history: What you need to know
by Ryan Beiler

In a recent New York Times article on the deteriorating situation in Haiti, Christopher Marquis writes, "the Bush administration has placed itself in the unusual position of saying it may accept the ouster of a democratic government." But just how "unusual" is it for a U.S. administration to favor the toppling of elected leaders? Marquis adds the caveat that "The stance recalls the administration's initial response to the April 2002 coup attempt against another elected, populist leader in the hemisphere, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. American officials touched off an outcry by appearing to blame Mr. Chavez for the uprising and consulting with his would-be successors."

But Venezuela is only the most recent example of the U.S.'s selective support for democracy. There is a long and sordid history of active U.S. intervention against governments that, while democratically elected, were deemed "unfriendly" to U.S. economic or ideological interests:

Iran, 1953: Iranian President Mohammad Mossadegh is ousted by a coup organized and directed by the CIA with help from British Intelligence.

Guatemala, 1954: Guatemala's first-ever democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, is toppled by a CIA-organized coup and replaced by a dictatorial regime.

Congo, 1960: Patrice Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, is assassinated following a U.S./Belgian-organized coup and replaced by the brutal and corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko.

Chile, 1973: A CIA-funded coup against President Salvador Allende brings the brutal and repressive Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.

It's also important to recognize the history of U.S. intervention in Haiti itself. The U.S. supported the Duvalier family dictatorship for 30 years, then opposed now-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in his first candidacy as a liberation theology-inspired reformist priest. Elliott Abrams - then Ronald Reagan's assistant secretary of state for interamerican affairs and now a member of George W. Bush's National Security Council - saw fit to attack Aristide in a letter to Time magazine during the Haitian elections of 1987. And though the Clinton administration returned Aristide to power after he was toppled by a coup in 1991, it was only after he was forced to pledge his allegiance to free-market economics, betraying his earlier initiatives on behalf of the poor, such as a living wage, improved working conditions, a social security pension system, education, housing, health care, etc.



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Religious leaders take on the World Bank

World Bank-financed coal mining and oil drilling projects often spell disaster for indigenous peoples, sensitive ecosystems, and entire countries; the profits often prop up oppressive governments and fuel civil wars (Sudan is only the best-known example). A recent World Bank report admitted this and recommended specific, meaningful reforms, but the Bank's management has now suggested that it may refuse to listen.

More than 100 religious leaders, including Jim Wallis on behalf of Sojourners, have sent a letter to urge World Bank President James Wolfensohn to do the right thing:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Laureates wrote Wolfensohn to urge him to help stop the "war, poverty, climate change, greed, corruption, and ongoing violations of human rights...all too often linked to the oil and mining industries":

Concerned people can send their own message to Wolfensohn:

To read more about how badly designed oil industries lead to corruption, oppressive governments, and - ironically - increased poverty, see Christian Aid's report:


Songs that Matter Music Showcase
A Mini Acoustic Music Fest at Mad City Cafe in Columbia, MD

Fortunate Accident, Patrick Sharpe, Rick LaRocca, Moonstruck Jazz, and Joseph Isaacs

Half-hour sets of their best songs - songs that make you think, feel, and take a stand. There is no cover though tips are appreciated.

Saturday, February 28 7-10 p.m.

Mad City Cafe, 10801 Hickory Ridge Rd., Columbia, MD (410) 964-8671
Learn more at:

News you may have missed

U.K. clergy lead peacebuilding efforts in Iraq

Noam Chomsky on Israel's separation wall

Report says military distorts war deaths

Bitter irony: Climate change a real and imminent threat, according to Pentagon report,6903,1153513,00.html

As Sudan's refugees wait and hope, questions about a lasting peace remain

Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), bordering the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, seeks Associate Pastor. Our 700+ member congregation is intellectually vibrant, progressive, and concerned with social justice. This position includes leading our longstanding university ministry, as well as guiding our mission and outreach efforts. We seek an individual who can help strengthen our understanding of Christian faith in light of contemporary ideas, foster spiritual development, and inspire us to put our faith into action. Charlottesville is located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and offers good schools and extensive cultural activities. Competitive salary and benefits. See or CIF# 22646.AC0. Contact: Chris Milner at

Propaganda week

They're anything but subtle, anything but balanced, but these animated shorts provide important perspective and information that's hard to find elsewhere:

On the history of the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein:

Original audio of the Bush Administration's pre-war claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:

On the perils of computerized voting:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

Readers write

Adagio Teas
Nick Jackson writes from Denver, Colorado:

I'm afraid I don't fully share Jim Wallis' optimism about the Democrats ["The Democrats' success," SojoMail 2/18/2004]. He was much too soft on Edwards and Kerry who, remember, were part of the group that gave a blank check to the Bush administration to go to war in the first place. The November race is looking too much like the 2002 congressional campaign, where the Democrats decided to play it safe and stray only a small amount from the Republicans. They lost big then, and they could lose for the same reasons this time.


Alexi Bonifield writes from Nevada City, California:

Edwards the "one true populist?" You're joking. A corporate attorney with a mainstream Clintonesque conservative voting record on almost everything except NAFTA? He signed on to the Patriot Act! The ONLY candidate to truly represent the people from a populist stance has been Dennis Kucinich, the only candidate to embody truly Christ-like principles in his legislative and personal conduct. The reason his campaign has faltered is due to lack of support from the corporate-controlled Democratic Party and media and the lack of courage widely demonstrated by organizations such as Sojourners to support the only candidate embodying Christ's and Gandhi's message of peace and justice. When you hold your comfortable, smug, elitist presidential prayer breakfasts with "politics as usual" Kerry or Edwards, please remember most of America and the world prays that there might be a breakfast and suffers because you did not support the spiritual warrior who would have invited us all to the table.


Sister Margaret Anne Talbott writes from Aberdeen, South Dakota:

I am a life-long, registered Democrat. I am totally opposed to this immoral war, which heartlessly kills thousands, gouges the pockets of most people and fills those of the richest people in the country. While defending a person's right to be born, the Republican Party fails miserably to see that all the living must share in country's resources, especially the disadvantaged. Your writers and readers have addressed these concerns admirably.

I am also pro-life to the core. Unfortunately, there is no room in the Democratic national agenda to support the lives of the unborn. How often do we hear, "I am personally opposed to abortion, but I respect the Supreme Court's decision." Do I sound cynical if I say that the lives of the unborn are a ghastly price to pay for a winning number of votes? Abortion kills far more people than the war does. The "Right to Choice" should govern a person's actions and attitudes be exercised before conception occurs. There is no right to kill a living person.

Where do we find a candidate that has his/her moral values straight? I have not seen this problem addressed in SojoMail. Conscientious votes have a "right to choice" of a candidate with all his/her moral values straight.


Marsha Melkonian writes from Warrenton Viriginia:

I am a member of an evangelical church and I feel like the only one there who is not a war supporter and a Bush cheerleader. When the other ladies in our Bible study started talking again yesterday about those terrible people who criticize our president, I was truly confused about what to do. We were there to study the Bible, not to talk "politics" and I did not feel it was an appropriate place or time to state my views. But, when is the appropriate time? I thought I would call or meet with each of the ladies who were stating their views yesterday and tell them what is in my heart. That way, I will feel that I have expressed my thoughts, not in a confrontational or argumentative manner. We also have an online email list for the church members, and I thought I would write a note to that list. But email "discussions" can grow out of hand, especially with important and emotion-filled subjects. I think the upcoming election months are going to be very difficult.

I praise God for the Sojourners community so that I don't feel alone in my beliefs all the time!


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