Thursday, June 28, 2007

is nationalism a sin?

I posted this on my other blog, but I thought it would be relevant here too and I want to know what you guys think...

When I was a christian, I thought about this a lot...

Does the War on Terror or more generally, the principle of first-strike, mesh with Christianity?

I think no.

I was always amazed that some Christians could think it Godly to support a war that was built on killing our enemies before they kill us (or take away our BMWs and ice cream). I see the act of Jesus dying on the cross as this...

We harmed him through sin, and yet he chose to sacrifice himself, in order that we should live.

I see the War on Terror as this...we must sacrifice those who harm us (and innocents too), to protect ourselves.

To me, that seems like the opposite. I am pretty convinced that hardcore nationalism is sin and ungodly (if Christianity is true, that is). Sure, I can love my enemy when he takes my parking space, but not when he is threatening my safety...what a cop out.

And some might say that our enemies now want pan-Islam and want to convert us all and we are just defending Christianity...but I don't think the Bible says, "love your enemies--unless they're muslim." If some christians are going to pick and choose what they like from the Bible (ignoring God's sponsored cruelty in the OT), then they have to live with the "loving, self-sacrificial Jesus" who I personally think, would reject what this country is doing to save its fat ass.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Introduction

Thanks to Marie for inviting me to participate on this blog. So, a bit about me.

I'm Slapdash (sorry to stay anonymous, but for professional reasons I need to be...). I'm 33 and live in New England. I am a negotiation / conflict management consultant and for the last dozen years or so, I've spent a lot of time thinking about, writing about, coaching, and training people how to, well, play together. To deal with differences more constructively. To learn to treat others with respect, and to empathize with them.

I've worked in lots of different contexts, but the one that probably affected my views on war and violence more than any other was when I worked on US-Iran relations. For two years during the Clinton administration, I worked for a non-profit in DC that was trying to foster better relations between the two countries. I traveled to Iran twice during that period, during which time my views about Iran and Iranians shifted dramatically. I could no longer see them as merely stereotyped 'bad guys' as many Americans did, thanks to the 1979 hostage crisis. I saw a beautifully sophisticated and intelligent culture of people who were, more often than not, enthusiastic about meeting an American on the streets of Tehran. I was invited to dinner more times than I could count. I was warmly welcomed nearly everywhere I went.

This is not to say that the 'bad elements' don't exist. Of course they do. But Iran is more complex than America's stereotype about it would suggest.

Suffice it to say that I became increasingly convinced of the need for official political dialogue between Iran and the United States. As someone once said, "you make peace with your enemies, not your friends." And to make peace, you need to talk to your enemies. At that time, the US had refused to meet with Iran unless they met 3 pre-conditions, having to do with their nuclear ambitions, stopping support of Hezbollah, and, um, I forget the third. But there were some back-channel things happening in publicly deniable ways, including the implicit sanction both governments were giving to my organization's exchange activities. It was beginning to look like a real thaw between the two countries was going to occur.

Then Bush was elected. And 9/11 occurred. And Iran was named part of the Axis of Evil.

And, in my opinion, the Bush administration has since pursued a dangerously escalatory strategy in dealing with Iran. Look at North Korea - diplomacy is winning out at the end of the day, after all. I fail to see why Bush can't pursue a similar diplomatic course with Iran. Instead, it almost seems as though he wants to start a war with Iran. And that is absolutely unconscionable.

I'm getting a bit blustery here. Big picture, what I am seeing with the Bush administration is a wholesale abandonment of diplomacy and use of coalitions and international organizations as the first recourse in managing our differences with other countries. I wholly disagree with the bullying "might is right" approach of this administration, and find myself ashamed to call myself an American under the leadership of our current president.

Meet lowendaction...

Well, this is my first contribution, so I guess I'll tell y'all a bit about myself. First of all, thanx to marie for putting this together, and inviting me to participate. I think this is a great idea, and I look forward to some really productive dialogue to emerge from all of this.

My name is Ian, and I'm 31 years old (crap that stung a little...). Here's what I think is relevant about me concerning this blog. I grew up in Germany in a non-denominational christian missionary home from '83 to '93. Then I moved to the States to pursue...well, I'm still trying to figure that one out. So after spinning my wheels after High School from one dead-end job to the next, I finally decided I needed a drastic change in my life. So naturally I joined the Marine Corps...what? Yep, December of 2000 I enlisted at the age of 24 as an infantryman. At the time, my thinking (which is a term I use quite loosely) was that four years of intense discipline would somehow rub off on me, and I could then rejoin the world as a productive member of society. Now mind you, this is before we knew just how nuts ol' "W" really was. I can not state this clearly enough: there is NO WAY IN HELL that I would have joined post 9/11. However, having said that, I would do it all over again in a heart beat. "All" being the following:

During the "normal" four year enlistment of an infantryman, one usually completes two "pumps", which basically entails floating around in a boat with a bunch of smelly Marines and even more smelly Sailors for about 6 months looking for trouble in the Mediterranean. Since there wasn't anything significant going on during the summer of '02 (my first deployment), we mostly just went to some cool ports and did some training in the deserts of Kuwait. While on an island called Faylaka (or something like that...) off of Kuwait, we were attacked by a group of AlQueda gentlemen. We were right in the middle of an impromptu softball game on the beach in between training exercises. We were unarmed. I lost a buddy that day, and another good friend lost his left elbow. This was my introduction to...the war.

We returned home for Christmas, only to have our vacation cut short as we were called right back to Kuwait in January of '03, where we sat and waited on the border of Iraq for Dubbulya to make up his mind to invade. As part of the 1st Marine Division we were pretty much one of the first ones in to Baghdad. I will spare you the details of our march up, needless to say, that my company sustained no casualties, which I consider a blessing, though to say that we were unharmed would be way off mark.

We finally returned back home (Camp Pendleton) in May of '03. I was lucky enough to marry my amazing wife shortly there after. June of '04 had us right back into the sandbox. This time we were stationed at Abu Gyrab prison, though we had no direct contact or involvement with the prisoners, we had plenty else to deal with. The last few months of that tour we spent "taking" the city of Fallujah, a ten day battle that took the life of 8 Marines from my company of 200 along with many many more.

I was honorably discharged in May of '05 and I'm still in inactive reserve status until Oct '08. I will not go back.

So what do I think about all of this war business? I'll never forget when I first heard the news that stupid started bombing Afghanistan. I was still in the states, and I remember thinking, "What the hell are you doing? What makes you think we can fix what the Russians were unable to for decades? You are stirring up a Hornets nest." I remember being so angry and confused while we waited at the border of Iraq. There was so much disinformation and confusion, I was literally preparing myself for the end. But as we started pushing through, it was almost completely the opposite. Though I know and recognize that every unit faced different scenarios, this was mine. I personally never saw one living uniformed Iraqi soldier. They were all either dead or gone. And though we did meet some gorilla-type resistance, the thing that struck me the most, was how the people greeted us. For the most part, they were ecstatic to see us. I literally had several Iraqi fathers come up to me who tried to GIVE their daughter to me, as a token of gratitude! On our way out of Iraq, we drove all the way south from Baghdad to Kuwait in a normal touring bus with no extra protection. At this time, there we no IED's and such.

The second time however, was a little different. The People were like, "Thanks for coming and all, but why are you still here?" Both times, I had several occasions to speak and spend time with various Iraqi locals, and I treasure those times. I know for a fact that I could go back there right now (maybe not in uniform) and there would be a number of families that would not only welcome me into their homes, but also protect me. "W", in his rush to make daddy proud, never even bothered to really understand these people. If we had established clear and open dialogue with the Iraqi's ahead of time, I believe so much of this mess could have been avoided. There is no one...NO ONE, who can convince me that any of the 3,000 plus Americans we've lost since then have died for a just cause. And those are just the dead. The physical and emotional scars left on our volunteers are a shameful stain on this nation. There's no way for me to describe to you what I feel inside when people tell me: "Thank you for defending my country." or "Thank you for keeping us safe." What?!!??

You're not going to see me walking around the White House sticking daisies in peoples hair hoping for peace, but I absolutely do not support this war either. I believe that there are certain conflicts that are necessary due to the nature of man and the state of affairs we live in. Some of those things are never going to change, so wishing for unrealistic alternatives bears little fruit in my opinion. However, I do believe that better dialogue and less monetarily motivated politics would go along way in avoiding conflicts resulting in bloodshed.

peace enforcement?

A place where I have a lot of trouble figuring out what I believe is right is in self-defense of innocents, or what is more commonly known as "peacekeeping" (peacemaking also). I was reminded of this when I read the following passage in My War Gone By, I Miss it So...

"Unarmed people were getting murdered before the eyes of a British force which had the firepower and equipment to take the whole valley in a matter of hours if it wished, yet could only watch, like bovine commuters in a Longon tube who shuffle past a gang of skinheads kicking a hapless individual on the platform."

So often peacekeeping forces are handed out a mandate to only shoot upon being shot directly at, or to not shoot at all. I think it is called Chapter 6 if you are not allowed to use force to protect civilians--or really use force at all...and theoretically, under a Chapter 7 mandate you are allowed to use limited force, but it never happens. I am pretty sure that the UN troops in Rwanda were restricted to a Chapter 6. Anyhow, it becomes a gray area for me when peacekeepers are unable to protect people who are dying right in front of them and I think I might support the use of force there if it is used either non-lethally or only in the direst situations. This is such a hard thing though.

Using an example of Rwanda is tricky though because there are so many "what if"s and a lot of the options never tried were non-violent. One possible solution to slow or end the genocide was to jam all the radio stations in the country. If you are not very familiar with the Rwandan genocide, radio was a huge perpetrator as it was used as a de-humanizing and propaganda tool to get random Hutus to take up arms and kill tutsis. Radio personalities would broadcast all over the country telling Hutus that if they did not kill the Tutsis first, the Tutsis were going to kill them...so that is one example of other options that may be able to help stop or slow a widescale killing of innocents...

But what about the British soldiers in the passage above who were seeing people die and could do nothing? When is it (or is it ever) appropriate to use violence on someone who will undoubtedly use it repeatedly on the innocent?

I have to say that I do think it should be allowed for official peacekeepers to use force in protecting innocents. I don't think it should be the only option or tactic used, but I cannot justify allowing innocent people to be maimed and slaughtered while we sit idly by. God may be able to do it, but not me.

I do have to admit that I would probably kill Joseph Kony and Charles Taylor if I had the chance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Up Da Punx

I take a lot of influence from the punk/hardcore scene because its what I'm most submerged in as far as a sub-culture goes and I was listening to this CD this morning and was reminded on how interesting this view on war is, I've showed this to marie before, its a new angle that I had never thought about so I thought I'd post it here. The band is called "Dangers" from LA, song entitled "War? What War?"

"Oh damsels, don't distress! You'll see your brave boys soon! They're winning wars on Gulf War tours and staving off the doom! Hooah! Semper Fi! Oh pretty, pretty girls. Dry your sad, sad eyes. There's terror still, we have to kill! The towelheads must die! Our guns. Just toys. For brainless soldier boys. Who bomb. Who maim. Who kill in my name. Kill in our name. Oh young strapping lads, with blue blood in your veins. You've shock and awed their savage gods. Only our glory shall remain! Oh glory! Hallelujah! God shed his grace on we: the proud, the few, the me's and you's, who pretend not to see. Our guns. Just toys. For brainless solider boys. Who bomb. Who maim. Who kill now in our name. There's no honor in fighting voluntary wars. I've never felt so ashamed to be American. And really I'm no better than those camo-wearing pricks. I've never felt so ashamed to be American. I think less about this war than who'll be next to suck my dick. I've never felt so ashamed to be American. When really I should break every trigger-pulling finger. I've never felt so ashamed to be American. Of every heartless, grim-faced, trigger-pulling fuck that thinks he's doing me some kind of favor. I've never felt so ashamed to be American. You fucking assholes. Fuck wars. Fuck soldiers. Fuck yellow ribbons, too. Fuck authors and musicians. Fuck me. Fuck you. Presidents don't pull triggers, so don't blaming Capitol Hill. It's hearty boys just like me that are signing up to kill. So fuck the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and Marines. The boys and girls that spill the blood that are just like me. Except the kill. And then they die. And I don't care. We don't care. I won't. I won't. We won't take lives."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Just War

Is there such a thing as a just war? No matter our reasoning behind going to war or not going to war there will tend to be people who will be harmed by our decisions. I always thought the idea of having a set of standards for a Just War were a fairly modern idea. As I was told by Ken, who teaches my sunday school class, the idea goes back even farther than we realize. One of the fathers was St. Augistine and much later it was taken up again by Thomas Aquinas. I wonder if there is any reflection on the idea as to whether war is ethical or just. I can understand why in certain situations war can be seen as necessary. Isn't World War II an easy choice? What about how during the Clinton era when he bombed the hell out of Bosnia? Or when Bush the elder attacked Sadam the first time for invading Kuwait. And from what I hear the Kuwaiti's are still kissing our butt over that one. How about the 100 years war? The battles between Catholic and Protestant during the reformation? To be honest, I do not know enough about history to be able to give an adequate answer.

big money politico

Did you know that Michael Bloomberg is worth over $5 billion? I heard it on the radio today. He gives away a lot of money, but still, it is great to know that our politicians and potentially future Presidents are cut from the same cl0th as the average US citizen.

Introduction 3

Greetings, my name is Dave, I'm 33 living in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. Being a Christian I am finding that my stanse on war is less sure than it was in the past. My father worked for the Navy for twenty years so there were many times I got to visit him at work and wander around the impressive aircraft carriers getting a close up look of the various weapons and airplanes. It's inspiring and incredible. I could almost imagine the planes taking off from the deck to bomb some unkown country. In my adult life there have been two wars and countless bombings on other countries and involvement in peace keeping activities to countries people would never have heard of. This blog is a good opportunity for me to work out how I really feel about war and it's impact on society as a whole. Admittedly I am sitting on the fence right now unable to commit to one ideal over the other. Both make valid points. Do I want tyranny to prevail to harm the weaker members of society? Is it better to preach peace and never get involved? Hopefully time will help me to figure it out.

I have held a variety of jobs in my shortish life from pizza chef, to character at a childrens restaraunt, waiter, govt. bureaucrat, and now I work in a warehouse. I have two associates degrees and am working on my BA in english. I am a published writer and poet and even took a stab at stand-up comedy. Besides my own blog I contribute irregularly to The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns. I also volunteer with teenagers at my church. I look forward to this opportunity and hearing what everyone has to say.

Sleante,
Dave

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My War Gone By, I Miss it So


I am currently reading My War Gone By, I Miss it So by Anthony Loyd. He went to Bosnia during the war there and he explains the horrors of what he saw in very raw detail. I am only in Chapter 2, but thus far he has used really great metaphor and description to explain his experience. I think it will be a very good read. Bosnia is one of the worst situations I have read about in terms of atrocities. I am hoping that this book will expose a lot of what happened in a blatant way so that I and others can get a clearer picture of what is possible in war if we dont try to prevent it. He writes a first-person account of war and his real reactions to all he is exposed to. It may seem sick or morbid to read about such depressing themes or such harsh suffering, but in my opinion, it is a luxury of ours in the West to ignore the plight of war victims, and a luxury that comes at the expense of so many people's lives. I feel personally that the more I know about what happens in war, the more I will be motivated to work and live for peace. So this should be a good book for that as well. I will maybe post an organized review when I finish it.

Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green




I just finished reading the book, Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green by Johnny Rico. He served in Afghanistan a few years ago and he gives an interesting perspective on the US army experience. It is also a really entertaining read. It follows him from enlistment, through basic training, to Afghanistan, and back to the US. He talks about the people he met in the army, military bureacracy, getting shot at, army training, etc. He has a good wit and candor throughout as well. Rico definitely encourages people against joining the military, but he really pushes this through the demonstration of his own experience, rather than trying to just write a convincing argument. It is a cool book and I definitely recommend it. You will have to be willing to read frequent swear words and mild sexual references and situations, so that is just a warning. I would write more but I am tired and I would like people to read the book if interested.




Friday, June 22, 2007

intro2

Hello all, my name is Brandon and I am a 20 year old upper class, suburban raised kid who doesn't quite fit the mold of what I was supposed to be. I was raised in a family of conservatives (non-christian) and completely unaware of much of anything the majority of my life. In my house politics and world issues were never dinner table subjects so most of my knowledge on anything involving that is via my own research within the past few years. I'm young and still learning so the majority of my posts will most likely be scatter brained but I promise you that the ideas somewhere in it.
After literally barely passing high school I went on to Junior College where I quickly discovered I still hated everybody I went to high school with so I moved to LA for 6 months and got my Music Business Certificate. I am now back home with my parents and am contemplating the next step in my life.
As far as political views and such go...
Being raised in a Conservative home quickly made way for my complacency with war and then going to church further entered me into this Conservative mindset. Withing the last 2 years or so I have been walking away from the "Christian" I once was and have been doing some searching on my own. As of now I wouldn't put myself in any political group, I've been looking into Socialism and Anarchism as well as into just my own mind and feeling where I stand on everything.
What I can say about myself is that I am against war 100% and I am excited to see what this blog brings from both the authors but as well as the comments.
This was a ramble but I hope that you learned one or two things about where my thoughts will be coming from.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

intro1

I am hoping this blog gets multiple authors, and in that, I think it would be cool for us all to introduce oursevles, so I will start.

(I am supposed to be working now haha) Well, my name is Marie and I am 23, I recently graduated from the American University with a B.A. in International Studies with foci on International Peace and Conflict Resolution and Africa. I have been interested in international war and other social justice issues since I had to do a report on the UN in High School. I have been extremely fortunate in my experiences thus far as I have protested and participated in civil disobedience in dozens of anti-war, anti-poverty, etc. demonstrations in DC, I have been priveleged to attend some UN conferences and meet some cool people in the international aid world. Probably the best moment was when I got to meet Paul Rusesabagina who was the inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda. I feel stupid dropping his name but i am just surprised and excited that I got to do that.

After studying the roots of war, trauma resulting from war, and a huge variety of atrocities, and even meeting torture survivors, I cannot help but oppose all war. But I admit that I am young and I dont know much, so I have a lot to learn.

Currently I am working as a film producer on a documentary on childhood depression. I am also co-founding a production company in San Jose, CA and hopefully will write and direct my own film on war in 5 years or so.

My aim for this blog is to be a place for people to talk about war and injustice and living so we can all pool our ideas of how to live constructively responsible lives. Also, I am interested in critical debate of war and everyone's varied opinions. i guess I have to also hold onto the idea that recognizing the impact of war is some kind of tribute in a way to all those who have been and will be needless victims.

penny(less)

When I was reading Good Magazine yesterday (see below), I came cross an article on a new organization called "Buy Less Crap." It was created in response to the (Red) campaign which is the one that makes products people can buy and then a portion of the proceeds goes to charity. The weird thing is, is that the Red Campaign does not make public the amount that they donate--that seems shadyish to me, or at least undesirable. Here is an interesting article from Newsweek http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17613550/site/newsweek/page/0/

But yeah, the (Less) campaign was in response to the red campaign and it promotes less consumption and more money given directly to charity rather than wheeled from consumer spending. Check out the website here: www.buylesscrap.com

Good Mag

I was in Borders yesterday and I came across this magazine called "Good Magazine" and it had a lot of cool articles about anti-consumerism, conserving energy, being socially responsible--just doing "good" things I guess. I had never seen it before but it looks cool. And a cool thing is that if you sign up for a year subscription, 100% of your money goes to the organization of your choice. And the organizations you choose from are like UNICEF, Millenium project, Witness, Teach for America, etc.

from the site: "Let the secret be known—most magazines do not make money on subscriptions or newsstand sales. Traditionally, the best way to get a bunch of new subscribers is to send millions of pieces of unsolicited mail—junk mail—to people who might have some interest. We don't like junk mail, and we don't like the thought of spending millions of dollars on it. So we came up with the idea of giving away all subscription fees and allowing subscribers to choose which organization they would like to support.
This whole thing is an experiment. If it works, we'll actually spend less than half of what it traditionally costs to acquire subscribers. The success of this campaign will allow us to:
a) meet a self-selecting group of quality subscribers who find us through word of mouth, internet links, media coverage, our partner organizations, or the other crazy schemes we like to come up with;

b) raise significant money for organizations that will do something important with it; and
c) save resources and prove that you can do well by doing good.
Our goal for our launch year is to create 6 amazing issues of GOOD, sign up 50,000 subscribers and donate $1 million to their favorite organizations."


This is such a cool thing, because it is like you get this kickass magazine and you know that your money all went to a noble cause. so yeah, check out the website at www.goodmagazine.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

one

I dont know, I am not much of a good person, but war makes me really angry and I think that myself and probably others are really disconnected from the realities of war. This is a topic I just have interest in, and if no one ever reads this that is ok i just want to keep records of what I read and learn about war and try somehow to effectively let that change my daily life to help war's victims in some way. If people read this, then there can be discussions for and against war, and discussions about specific wars, or any issues related to war. It just has really been hurting me to know that my and our prosperity in the West is built upon the suffering of others and the wounds and silent screams we never have to see or hear. Also if anyone reads this, please recommend books and movies on a relevant subject as well.