The Common Good

Give 'Em Hell, Harry

Sojomail - November 2, 2005

Quote of the Week : First they came for the comedians...
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: Give 'em hell, Harry
Spiritual Practices : A prayer for the 2,000th U.S. soldier killed in Iraq
In Memoriam : The real Rosa Parks
By the Numbers : The color of success
Good News : Bye-bye bunker buster nukes!
Culture Watch : From horror to heaven
Media Watch : Sojourners in the news
Boomerang : Readers write
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"I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama (bin Laden)...rather than comedians. I don't think we pose much of a threat."

- Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of The Onion, in response to a White House request that the satirical newspaper stop using the presidential seal.

Source: Reuters

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Give 'em hell, Harry
by Jim Wallis

Following the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, "Scooter" Libby, last Friday, we asked you to e-mail your members of Congress, demanding they form an independent commission to investigate whether the Bush administration deliberately misled our nation into war. We believe that truth-telling is a religious and moral value, and that our government must - above all else - have a commitment to truth. The American people need to know whether intelligence information was knowingly manipulated leading up to the war in Iraq. Was the war an honest mistake, or were we deceived?

Nearly 60 years ago, President Harry Truman earned the slogan "Give 'Em Hell, Harry." During the 1948 presidential campaign, the story goes, he was giving a speech when someone shouted it from the crowd. Truman supposedly responded, "I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell."

Yesterday afternoon, another Harry - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid - told the truth by forcing the U.S. Senate into a closed session to demand answers about the intelligence information that led to the war in Iraq. Invoking a little-used rule allowing for such a session to discuss business that requires secrecy, Reid said, "The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its action." He noted that more than a year and a half ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee had committed to examine questions about the war, but has so far done virtually nothing. "Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security," Reid said. "They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, told The New York Times, "I have to say in all honesty that I am troubled by what I see as a concerted effort by this administration to use its influence to limit, delay, to frustrate, to deny the Intelligence Committee's oversight work into the intelligence reporting and activities leading up to the invasion of Iraq." And although Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was furious at the tactic, after two hours of debate he agreed to appoint a bipartisan group to look into the Intelligence Committee's work.

We now know administration claims that Saddam Hussein had or was about to acquire nuclear weapons were not true. We know claims of Iraqi ties to al Qaeda were not true. We know administration and military officials who challenged the official line were silenced or forced to resign, and perhaps systematically attacked and undermined - as the facts around this new and serious indictment of a top Bush administration official suggests. Cheney and Libby, his chief of staff, were architects of both the arguments for war and the efforts to discredit those who questioned the war. What we do not yet know is whether and how intelligence information was misused or manipulated to produce these claims.

With the 2,000th American soldier's death last week, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and the criminal indictment of a top White House official for perjury and obstructing justice, it's time we are told the truth. It would be the best way to honor the dead and perhaps prevent the death of countless more lives than by simply staying the course. A bipartisan and independent commission, such as the 9/11 Commission, must be created and empowered to conduct a full investigation that can provide answers.

As of this morning, more than 20,000 of our readers have sent messages to Congress. It's time to keep the pressure on, and, indeed, to increase it. Help us reach - and exceed - our goal of 25,000 signers, and keep building momentum for the truth. For the first time, the Democrats are showing some courage on the war in Iraq, and that could be the first step in ending the tragic war. But this is not a partisan issue. We need Americans across the political spectrum to demand the truth about Iraq.

With the prophet Isaiah we cry out, "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter" (Isaiah 59:14).

If you have not yet responded to our action alert, click here to ask Congress for an independent investigation to determine if and how the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify war in Iraq.

If you have already responded, click here to send this to 10 friends, family, fellow churchgoers - anyone who agrees with our call as people of faith to be prophetic voices of truth.

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A prayer for the 2,000th U.S. soldier killed in Iraq
by Will Willimon

"Lord Jesus, King of Kings, Savior of the World, Prince of Peace, hear this prayer for George, son of Alabama, 2,000th American soldier to die in our war in Iraq. Receive him, we pray - a lamb of Your flock, a sinner for whom You have died, a cherished and beloved child of God - and one who is at peace at last, because he is with You.

George had an Alabama boyhood, an Alabama youth, and Alabama dreams. I pray for his mother, for his family and friends, his church, and all those for whom his death means not only the ending of his dreams, but the beginning of their lifetime of grief and loss. Lord, help us to feel some measure of their pain. Save us from offering cheap consolation or patriotic platitudes in the face of their loss. Instill in our hard hearts a determination to work with You for a government in which we shall make peace as quickly and resourcefully as we make war, a country that loves Your righteousness and justice more than our security and power."

+ Read the entire prayer

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Faith Is Always Personal But Never Private - the latest from Jim Wallis

Sojourners is excited to announce the revised and updated version of Jim Wallis' The Call to Conversion: Why Faith Is Always Personal But Never Private. Originally published more than 20 years ago, this classic helps establish the theological framework behind the national best-seller God's Politics - and is relevant for a new generation of readers. Order today! ($13.95)* ($11.16 - save 20%)*
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The real Rosa Parks
by Paul Rogat Loeb

We learn much from how we present our heroes. A few years ago, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was interviewed on CNN. So was Rosa Parks, by phone from Los Angeles. "We're very honored to have her," said the host. "Rosa Parks was the woman who wouldn't go to the back of the bus. She wouldn't get up and give her seat in the white section to a white person. That set in motion the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery. It earned Rosa Parks the title of 'mother of the Civil Rights movement.'"

I was excited to hear Parks's voice and to be part of the same show. Then it occurred to me that the host's description - the story's standard rendition and one repeated even in many of her obituaries - stripped the Montgomery boycott of all of its context. Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had been active for 12 years in the local NAACP chapter, serving as its secretary. The summer before her arrest, she had attended a 10-day training session at Tennessee's labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she'd met an older generation of civil rights activists, like South Carolina teacher Septima Clark, and discussed the recent Supreme Court decision banning "separate-but-equal" schools....

In short, Rosa Parks didn't make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn't single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain.

+ Read the full article

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The color of success

As the nation mourns the passing of civil rights hero Rosa Parks, a new study by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Princeton professor Cornel West provides a sobering assessment of the barriers still facing people of color in the American workplace. As Hewlett tells The Christian Science Monitor, the face of prejudice has changed, but is still very real: "People wore it on their sleeve and enshrined it in law. Today, it's much more subtle, but it's pervasive. Whether it's a tone of voice or hairstyle or accent, the cumulative impact can be brutal and can derail a career."

  • 98 - Percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs who are white.
  • 95 - Percentage of Fortune 500 top earners who are white.
  • 40 - Percentage of minority women who feel excluded and constrained by the need to "act white."
  • More than a third - Portion of minority men who feel similarly limited by "style compliance."
  • One quarter - Portion of businesswomen who worry they're perceived as "affirmative action" employees.
  • Nearly a third - Portion of minority female executives who are concerned that their speaking style labels them as lacking leadership potential.

+ Read the full article

More recommended reading on race:
Why race isn't as 'black' and 'white' as we think The New York Times

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Bye-bye bunker buster nukes!

Under bipartisan criticism that plans for "useable" nuclear weapons would fuel worldwide proliferation, the Bush administration has abandoned research into nuclear weapons designed for use against buried targets. Though the administration will continue to pursue conventional versions of a bunker buster bomb, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program will now dissolve into the shadows of Freudian nightmare where it belongs. It's a rare example of politics acceding to common sense and the laws of physics - helped by a congressionally-mandated report that revealed such weapons would likely kill as many people as a weapon intended for surface targets because of unavoidable radioactive fallout. Watch out missile defense - you're next!

+ Click here for a Mark Fiore cartoon about bunker busters

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Some places are too sacred to sacrifice to oil drilling.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of them. This place remains as wild as when it was first created. It is home to millions of birds, thousands of caribou, grizzlies, wolves, and more. This is the last place on earth for oil development. As you read this, the oil industry's allies in Congress are very close to passing a budget bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Please help The Wilderness Society keep the Arctic Refuge wild by sending a message to Congress today.



From horror to heaven

"I promised that from now on I would write only for the Lord."

- Author Anne Rice, famous for her prolific horror writing, whose forthcoming Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt tells its story from the perspective of a 7-year-old Jesus. Her research included immersion in scripture, first-century histories, New Testament scholarship, and other novels, including the Left Behind series, about which she comments, "I was intrigued. But their vision is not my vision."

Source: Newsweek

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ADVERTISEMENT has been updated with new articles and new products. Per your request we have created two new T-shirt designs and have now starting carrying high-quality silicone wristbands. The new T-shirt designs have been printed on 100% cotton T-shirts with a distressed ink process to give them a vintage look and feel! The wristbands are purple with "Support Peace" etched into them. We also continue to carry our car magnets, window clings, lapel pins, apparel, and bags with the original support peace designs.

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Sojourners in the news

Top story:

Faith-based leaders speak against food stamp cuts for the poor
The Christian Post
"We all need to speak," said Sojourners Executive Director Jim Wallis during a press conference Wednesday, calling the budget cuts on the Food Stamp Program a "biblical alarm on the poor people."

More headlines:

Democrats cast for faithful to join their fold The Oregonian

Speaking our truth from a deeper place Tidings

Howard Divinity School to present 89th Annual Convocation on Religion and the Media The Christian Post

U.N. warns of worsening situation in Darfur Ekklesia

Conference to look at city's economic inequality The Dallas Morning News

God's Politics featured at One America Book Club

War in Iraq fails in two Christian traditions Commercial Appeal (Memphis)

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Readers write

Sheena Worrall writes from Gold Coast, Australia:

Thank you for the article "School of the Americas: Time to end a horrific legacy" [SojoMail 10/26/2005]. I was in a long term relationship with a Salvadorian man who had fled his country after the bloody civil war. He was deeply traumatised by these events and the atrocities he described having witnessed shocked me deeply, particularly when he described the U.S.'s military's covert operations and its role in the training of death squads. The destruction of his country and its economy as a result of this U.S.-backed war, and El Salvador's ongoing domination by the U.S., were further shocks. How many people know that if you want to leave El Salvador now you must apply to the U.S. Embassy, or that the Salvadorian currency has been replaced by the U.S. dollar? I have often wondered also just how many U.S. citizens have any idea of the atrocities and dominating activities that continue to be done by their representatives and those they have trained, not only in Latin American countries, but in countries around the world, and I wonder why more people are not up in arms about these appalling events.


CORRECTION: Last week we included a link to an action alert to close the School of the Americas. The link was broken and the name of the bill was incorrect. The current bill to close the SOA is HR 1217. The link below will allow you to e-mail your member of Congress:

+ Take action to close the SOA


Lt. Col. (Ret.) Carl Hall writes from Fayetteville, Georgia:

While I am sure there have been graduates of the WHISC/SOA who have done the things your article speaks about, the teaching and training at the school does not provide instruction in the art of torture, nor does it condone it. Over the decades the school has been providing instruction, it is inevitable that some small number of its students will turn out to be bad or evil people. That does not mean the school is evil. If you truly looked at the complete list of people the school has trained, you would find a much greater number of people who are great leaders who believe in the same human rights principles as you and I. Blaming the school for those few bad apples would be like blaming the schools Jeffrey Dahmer attended for his later evil acts. God recognizes there will always be evil people. However, he would not condone laying blame for their acts where it is not due.


Keith Trost writes from Ontario, Wisconsin:

I'm surprized at the one-sided attack against tax cuts and the use of the word "regime" to describe the Bush administration. Helping the poor is the reason given. I rent my own organic produce farm, and my income is below the poverty line. I am quite content and have a rather rich life compared to most of the world. I could best be helped by getting the nanny goverment regulations relaxed to favor small family operations rather that large corporate/factory farms. While I do not doubt the motive of helping the poor, a brief review of history would show that the massive tax cuts put in place by President Kennedy and copied by President Reagan greatly stimulated the economy and created jobs and wealth for everyone. Rich folks can always find ways to shelter money. I'd much rather have them invest money to make money without the fear of giving such a large amount of risked money to taxes.


Barbara DeCoursey Roy, a licensed clinical professional counselor:

In the spirit of Jim Wallis' focus on results and alternatives to pacificism vs. just war positions I want to raise awareness among people of faith about protecting our troops with our prayers and with adequate equipment. The trauma of being helpless in the face of random violence can have lasting spiritual and psychological consequences. How can we expect our soldiers to keep body and soul together in the face of unspeakable evil without proper equipment? What "equipment" do our religious traditions provide for people who have been morally and spiritually compromised when they are repeatedly traumatized? I propose a campaign of fundraising to ensure that all our troops are protected from physical trauma and to link this to a national effort to provide spiritual and psychological resources necessary for our troops to recover and heal from the wounds of this war.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Because of the volume of letters we receive, concise responses that include a name, hometown, and state/province/country are the most likely to be published. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. E-mail:

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