Iraq

On Syria: The Cost of War

Soilder's face, Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

Soilder's face, Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

One year after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s April 2011 crack down on civilian protests against his regime’s torture of students who had put up anti-government graffiti, the U.S. and the world are still figuring out what to do about it.

On March 21 the United Nations Security Council announced that it backed a six-point peace plan put forward by former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. By March 27, Annan reported that al-Assad had accepted the cease-fire plan that will take effect April 10. But even as al-Assad met with Annan, reports of escalated crackdowns surfaced. Then on April 3 reports of military escalation in four major urban centers dashed hopes that al-Assad’s April 10 military withdrawal will actually take place.

And so the world waits for Tuesday. Then we will know what legitimate courses of action may come next. If al-Assad abides by the peace plan, then the world can exhale and allow peace to have its process. If not, then multiple questions step to the fore.

IRAQ REFLECTION: A Small Miracle in Suleimaniya

Funeral for slain teacher and student, photo via Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Funeral for slain teacher and student, photo via Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The news spread through the city of Suleimaniya so quickly. Within an hour, Kurdish news outlets let the locals know that something bad had happened. From there, it moved even more quickly across the ocean.

By the evening of March 1, I was shocked to read it in my Manitoba prairie city’s newspaper: “Iraqi student kills American teacher in Christian school murder-suicide.“

Along with the bare facts, the questions and rumours arose. Why had the 18-year-old Kurdish boy carried a handgun to class in a Christian school in Suleimaniya and shot his teacher to death?

Was it the result of religious disagreement?

Was there some other kind of conflict between the two of them?

How could a handgun have entered the classroom?

Some our Kurdish partners called a meeting to see if some sort of action should take place. None of us had known either the teacher or the boy. Reports said that this type of shooting was not so unusual, that it happens in the United States all the time. But violence like this had never happened in a school in Kurdish Northern Iraq. Kurds were reeling and asking themselves what is it about their country that allows people to settle differences with a gun in a classroom?

Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Anthony Shadid files a report by moonlinght in Iraq, 2003. Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Late last Thursday evening, getting one final fix of news before going to bed, I saw it. Anthony Shadid, the New York Times correspondent and Beirut bureau chief, had died from an asthma attack while ending a clandestine reporting trip into Syria. He apparently suffered the attack in a reaction to horses being used by smugglers helping him and a photographer leave the country.

When you read the news as much as I do, you learn which bylines to look for if you want the most comprehensive and well-written coverage of a story. Mr. Shadid was one of those correspondents.

In a career that included stints with the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and The Times; Mr. Shadid covered one of the most dangerous parts of the world — the Middle East. He was shot in the West Bank in 2002, kidnapped and beaten in Libya in 2011. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, in 2004 and 2010, for his reporting on the Iraq war; and has been nominated by The Times for a 2012 prize.

Is Iran Really a Threat?

It seems like every day we hear from another politician saying that “we are ready to attack Iran if necessary," or from another pundit full of hot air telling us why we should invade Iran right now.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has said that he would support “something of a surgical-strike nature, to something of a ‘decapitate the regime’ nature to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether.” President Obama has said:   “Every option is on the table.” All of these conversations typically go along the lines of emphasizing how Iran poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States.

As was the case in the conversations leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, there is much heat, and not a whole lot of light.

Collateral Murder and Preemptive Love

Artwork by the artist Banksy. Photo by Shane Claiborne.

Artwork by the artist Banksy. Photo by Shane Claiborne.

Today I was catching up on emails and came across two messages that deeply affected me, maybe because I read them back-to-back. 

The first one is from a friend who helped release the “Collateral Murder” video via Wikileaks, showing US troops shooting some unarmed folks in Baghdad, including two children sitting in a van as their family stopped to pick up the wounded and dead.  It is one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking videos I’ve ever seen. Feel free not to watch it.

NOTE:  If you do watch the video inside the blog, please know that it is contains vivid images of war. It was released here: 

The other email message I read was just the opposite. It was about life.

The Red Phone

Butler with a red telepfone on a silver tray. Photo via Getty Images.

Butler with a red telepfone on a silver tray. Photo via Getty Images.

How many people wanted to be President of the United States when they were younger? I’d imagine quite a few. I certainly did, although I now realize that such an attempt would have resulted in something of a "birther" controversy.

As a kid, what made me want to be in such a position of authority wasn’t necessarily the power and prestige of the president. It wasn’t the White House, or Air Force One. It wasn’t even having the authority to pardon a turkey once a year.

It was the red phone.

You know the one. Commissioner Gordon has one for Batman. President Merkin Muffley has one in Dr. Strangelove (I’m pretty sure it’s red, even though it is shot in black and white). It was the phone you used to fix things. To call the superhero, or patch things up with an inebriated Soviet leader (what, you didn’t play Cold War when you were growing up?) That red phone was your hot line to solving whatever problem you were confronted with.

Today, I still want that red phone.

2012 State of the Union Address: The Complete Text

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty Images

From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...

Iran: Ask Questions First

In the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, a steady drumbeat of rhetoric and accusations from the Bush administration were leading the United States into war against Iraq.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was planning to use against us. Hussein had worked with al Qaeda to carry out the 9/11 attacks. We could replace a brutal dictatorship with a democracy that would become a model for the Middle East. And so on. 

After the invasion and 8½ years of war, all were proven false. Iraq did not have any WMDs, there was no connection with al Qaeda, and Iraq continues to be wracked with sectarian violence.

U.S. Veterans Show Solidarity With Iraqi Restaurant

After vandals threw a 20-pound rock through the window of an Iraqi restaurant in Lowell, Mass., its owners, overwhelmed with fear at this unwarranted hate crime, came close to shutting its doors permanently.

That is, until a group of U.S. veterans flooded into the restaurant to support the owners.

Last week, Veterans for Peace organized war veterans and citizens to gather in solidarity with the Iraqi store owners. Their efforts filled the seats of the restaurant twice, and also brought the neighborhood a clear sign that city hate crimes won't be tolerated by people of good will.

GOP Primaries and Old Country Buffet

Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

If the GOP primaries were like Old Country Buffet, I’d be happy.

Think about it. There wouldn’t be so much money involved and we could pick only the stuff we liked and ignore  the rest.

And of course, everyone knows the basic rules of smorgasbord grazing, such as you can’t get decent sushi in the Midwest or proper social conservatives from Massachusetts.

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