"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?

Understanding Pro-war Christians' Indifference to Civilian Deaths

It's been going on for years now. Almost daily we read that another child, another parent, another sister or brother, another grandpa or aunt, is killed in Afghanistan or Iraq by U.S. weaponry in Mr. Bush's "war on terror." Sometimes it's a wedding party, or a bunch of kids, or a family of six. Sometimes it's a journalist, or a whole group of journalists, who may even be killed on camera in real time for all the world to see and hear.

But no matter how bad it gets, nothing seems to change Americans' support for war, which for some reason is stiffest among Christian supporters of the Bush administration. "Stuff happens in a war zone." "Don't worry because God is in control." With these and other slogans, I've been reassured by countless pro-war Christians that, as long as civilians aren't intentionally targeted, taking their lives is okay, maybe even predestined, God's will.

Recently a Christian from Australia wrote to ask, "Why are American Christians so bloodthirsty? Why do they support the war in Iraq, no matter how many innocent people are made to suffer? We just don't understand why they're willing to kill other people so that they can feel more safe – it's so selfish!"

She's right, and she's wrong. She's right about the fact that many Christians in America will blindly support whichever war their president promotes, with the assumption that his much-advertised praying guarantees us that God approves of all those bombs and missiles, and even the inevitable collateral damage.

This "don't worry, be happy" stance of pro-war Christians can make those of us who suffer at the news of civilian deaths almost green with envy: How do they go blithely to church, pray and give an offering, then go eat some nice mashed potatoes and gravy at Cracker Barrel with nary a worry about the families being bombed or shot or crushed by their own military at that very moment?

But she's wrong in her assumption that all Christians in the U.S. find civilian deaths an acceptable price to (let someone else) pay for Mr. Bush's ultimate goals. Many, including those in the evangelical community, were raised to obey Jesus' teachings above any other, and suffer mightily whenever they learn that more innocent people have lost their lives to this terrorizing "war on terror."

She's also wrong about the seemingly bloodthirsty attitude of pro-war Christians; most of them are nice people on a personal basis. They love their kids and their fellow Americans, and would never have supported the bombing of, say, Oklahoma City's malls and suburbs in an effort to target a Timothy McVeigh. And they certainly don't go around saying they hope a lot more civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and guns. They've been trained to deny it's happening or downplay its importance, thinking instead about Iraq's future democracy, the next life, or the "big picture."

Failure to Care: How it Happens

The reasons for blindness or indifference toward civilian casualties are several. Many if not most pro-war Christians, particularly those in the southern and midwestern states:

rarely see news accounts of civilian casualties because our major TV news programs and newspapers either omit those stories altogether or mention them in passing (without photos, the crucial element in terms of public opinion) and, wanting to believe that Bush's war is working, do not seek out evidence of the maiming and killing of our troops or of Iraqi civilians,
have been immunized against thinking for themselves or doubting the Bush administration with certain Bible verses (particularly those verses in Romans telling us to obey and submit to governmental authority figures) – a passive stance that's strikingly different from the questioning that Jesus both urged and modeled toward greedy, power-seeking, and hypocritical authority figures (e.g., "false prophets" and "wolves in sheep's clothing"),
are told not to worry, when they do hear of civilian casualties, that life in the flesh is less important than life eternal (one European writer told me that a friend confided, "Yes it's sad, but if some Iraqi civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and it saves even one soul, it will have been worth it" – a sentiment that, sadly, is not unusual),
feel they dare not oppose this or any war because talking about peace, objecting to war's human cost, or even referring to the United Nations has become associated in their minds with the Antichrist and eternal damnation, thanks to fictional works based on Thessalonians such as the Left Behind books and video (this video makes clear the fearful reasoning behind the knee-jerk reactions of many pro-war Christians against peace itself, peacemakers of any kind [poignant indeed in light of Jesus' teaching, "Blessed are the peacemakers"], the Middle East "road map," international dialogue and cooperation, and any form of human rights accountability), and
have been convinced by right-wing preachers, authors and radio hosts (people like Rush Limbaugh are the most influential, because their voices are heard for hours daily rather than written in a book or heard once a week in church) to shift their allegiance away from Jesus' teachings about merciful behavior toward and compassion for family and stranger alike ("the least of these") to the more pro-violence, pro-war values espoused by various non-Gospel biblical writers.

In short, everything that happens in the execution of war, even that which is flagrantly in violation of the moral values that Jesus taught regarding violence and revenge, prayer for enemies and peacemaking, becomes acceptable when Jesus' teachings are compartmentalized as relevant only in our personal lives. When Jesus is sidelined, those parts of the Bible that support authority, no matter what it does to innocent people, will take precedence. This is what has happened (often with the prodding, political influence and financial support of right-wing political organizations) in many of our churches today. Unless Christians begin to speak up publicly for the teachings of Christ – the cornerstone of our faith – we will continue to slide into the kind of moral relativism that causes others to wonder why we are so bloodthirsty.

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst

Washington Votes for War in Colombia

The Western Hemisphere's longest, bloodiest war has become an invisible one, pushed from the headlines by the ongoing crisis in Iraq. But Washington's involvement in Colombia--which the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian disaster in the Americas, and one of the worst in the world after Congo and Darfur--is rapidly escalating.

The United States has plowed $3.3 billion in mostly military aid into Colombia since "Plan Colombia" was passed in 2000--making it the third-greatest recipient of Washington's largesse after Israel and Egypt. Since 9/11 the focus of Plan Colombia has quietly shifted from a counternarcotics campaign to a crusade against "terrorism." And now the number of US forces on the ground is set to double.

On October 10 Congress voted to raise the cap on US military advisers in Colombia to 800, and raise that on the number of US civilian contract agents--pilots, intelligence analysts, security personnel--from 400 to 600. The measure, a little-noted part of the 2005 Defense Department authorization act, was a defeat for human rights groups, which had been pushing for a lower cap. The new 800/600 cap is exactly what the White House asked for. An earlier House version would have established a 500 cap for military personnel and kept the cap for civilians at 400, but this was rejected in joint committee. A Senate proposal establishing these lower caps--known as the Byrd amendment, for Senator Robert Byrd--was defeated in June by a vote of 58 to 40. Among the two senators who abstained was John Kerry.

The bill says the measure is aimed at helping the Colombian government fight "against narcotics trafficking and against activities by organizations designated as terrorists," such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). But rights groups point to a long record of collaboration between Colombia's armed forces and the AUC, a rightist paramilitary group.

"This amounts to authorization of increased involvement by US troops in an internal armed conflict in Colombia," says Kimberly Stanton, deputy director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). "And it was passed without significant public debate. We are sliding into a protracted civil war in Colombia."

The vote comes just as Colombia's hard-line President Álvaro Uribe is pursuing a new offensive against the FARC guerrillas in the south of the country. While US soldiers are ostensibly barred from combat missions, there have already been reports in the Colombian press that US troops are leading "scorched earth" campaigns in the southern Amazon region.

The New York Times story on the raising of the troop cap (at the bottom of page nine) claimed that "Under Mr. Uribe's administration, violence has ebbed in Colombia." But human rights groups in Colombia say that state-sponsored terror has only increased since Uribe took office in 2002. Yenly Angelica Mendez of the group Humanidad Vigente, which works closely with peasant groups in militarized rural areas, claims that assassinations and arbitrary imprisonment have doubled under Uribe, especially in the conflicted eastern department of Arauca, which she calls "a laboratory for the so-called Democratic Security policy of the current Colombian administration."

In an interview with the independent Colombian press agency ANNCOL, Mendez said: "Since the start of the present administration human rights violations in Arauca have risen about 100 percent. The primary victims have been the social movements, who at the moment have more than ten leaders jailed, primarily those with a record of uncompromising and dedicated protest against human rights violations, and of promoting a model of alternative development."

Just four days before the Congressional vote, the body of Pedro Jaime Mosquera Cosme, an Afro-Colombian leader of the Campesino Association of Arauca, was found near the Venezuelan border, with what the group called "clear signs of torture."

The Congressional vote also coincided with the release of a new Amnesty International report on sexual violence in Colombia's war. The report, "Colombia: Scarred Bodies, Hidden Crimes," finds that rape and other sexual crimes--including genital mutilation--are frequently used by both the paramilitaries and the official security forces against communities accused of collaborating with the guerrillas.

"Women and girls are raped, sexually abused and even killed because they behave in ways deemed as unacceptable to the combatants, or because women may have challenged the authority of armed groups, or simply because women are viewed as a useful target on which to inflict humiliation on the enemy," said Susan Lee, director of Amnesty's Americas program.

The vote also came in spite of the recent release of a US government document linking Uribe to the drug trade. The 1991 Defense Intelligence Agency report was released under the Freedom of Information Act to a DC-based research group, the National Security Archive. It asserts that Uribe, then a senator from the department of Antioquia, was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels." It named him as a "close personal friend" of cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, and claimed he helped Escobar secure his seat as an auxiliary congressman.

Most ironic of all, the vote comes just as a vocal civil movement is emerging in Colombia to demand an end to the military option. Some 1.4 million public-sector workers walked off their jobs and took to the streets for a one-day strike October 12. Organized by major trade unions as well as civil organizations, the strike demanded an end both to the rights abuses and atrocities associated with the government's counterguerrilla war and to President Uribe's push to join Bush's Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Bogotá's central square, Bolívar Plaza, was filled with some 300,000--Colombia's largest protest in recent memory. Business was also paralyzed in Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Cartagena, and traffic was blocked on the Panamerican Highway. In addition to protesting the war and FTAA plans, the strikers also opposed Uribe's scheme to alter the Constitution to allow himself to seek another term in office. Uribe, Bush's closest ally in South America, has refused to talk with the FARC, and a negotiated settlement to the conflict was among the strikers' demands.

Also part of this general movement for peace are indigenous communities now standing up to demand that all armed groups in the war respect their constitutionally recognized right to autonomy. After marching four days from their communities in Colombia's heavily indigenous southern department of Cauca, some 60,000 Nasa Indians and their supporters arrived in the city of Cali on September 17 for a massive rally at the city's stadium. The unprecedented march was held in defiance of threats and intimidation by paramilitaries, guerrillas and official armed forces alike--including the abduction of indigenous leaders.

Rights advocates fear that in next year's Defense Department authorization act, the White House will again push to get the cap on US troop levels raised--or done away with altogether, as is proposed by California Representative Duncan Hunter. "The American people are not aware that we are increasingly involved, with all attention focused on Iraq," says WOLA's Stanton. And to the extent that Colombia now garners any media attention at all in the United States, it certainly doesn't include the new civil movement, which is demanding an end to precisely the policy that Washington is directing and abetting.

Bill Weinberg
The Nation

Voices of US Poor and Homeless Unlikely to be Heard in Polls

LOS ANGELES - America's growing army of homeless and poor faces a desperate plight, but most are unlikely to make their voices heard in the US presidential election campaign as they struggle just to survive, advocates said.
As US President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival John Kerry ) promise voters economic prosperity and comfort if they are elected, battered homeless people feel disenfranchised and overwhelmed by their woes.

"We haven't been following the elections," said homeless former waiter George Holling Jr. as he lay in a dingy alley behind an office building in fashionable Hollywood.

"Why should we? They (the candidates) are not going to provide shelter for the homeless. The elections are only going to benefit the rich and the Republicans," the 31-year-old said.

Holling's mentally-disabled wife, Tamiko, 30, was equally skeptical that politicians, whatever their party, care about their fate.

"Whoever wins, it doesn't matter to us. It's is not going to change how the police treat us, how we have to fight for our benefits, how we have to fight off rapists and attackers in the streets. No election has ever helped me," she said, her tone angry but defeated.

The Hollings are far from alone in their resignation and despair as largely-abandoned citizens of the world's richest nation.

The US Conference of Mayors estimates that more than 3.5 million people, or 1.25 percent of the US population, are living in city streets or homeless shelters, a number equal to the populations of Albania, Uruguay or Lithuania.

In addition, the number of Americans living below the poverty line jumped by 1.3 million to 35.9 million or 12.5 percent of the population last year, according to the US Census Bureau.

Advocates for the homeless say their plight has worsened as Bush administration budget cuts have chipped away at social services and as the number of homeless grew by around 19 percent in 2003 and 13 percent in 2002.

"It gets harder every day to survive in this ultra-capitalist nation where money is everything. If you don't have it for any reason, you're out of society," said Courtney Frogge, a volunteer for homeless groups in San Francisco.

But ironically, the worse things get, the less energy street dwellers have to fight for their rights.

"People who live in streets and alleys don't feel that anyone will do anything for them," said Bill Hart, director of the General Assistance Advocacy Project (GAAP) in San Francisco, where 12,000 to 16,000 people sleep in the streets each night.

While helping the homeless to get the meagre federal and local benefits to which they are entitled, GAAP also hands out voter registration forms in an effort to give some of America's homeless a voice on November 2.

"But the fact is that most of them won't vote," Hart said. "They don't feel their voices will be heard and many of them -- especially those who have endured homelessness for long period of time -- just resort to self-survival."

In addition, many homeless people suffer from mental illness and alcohol and drug addictions and need government time and money to help them rejoin society, but that aid is increasingly thin on the ground, he said.

As poverty and addiction lead to crime, especially theft and prostitution, many homeless people find themselves barred from voting because they have felony criminal convictions.

"Its almost impossible to be homeless and not have a criminal record," Frogge said.

Still, the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless said it had managed to register 25,000 homeless voters ahead of the November election, twice as many as for the 2000 poll.

"This year the level of interest is higher than we have ever seen it," said Donald Whitehead, the group's executive director.

"Homeless people feel that things have got worse for them and that their issues have not been addressed by the current administration or by either candidate's campaign, so more of them want to make their voices heard to try and affect change," he said.

Many of those who live on collapsed cardboard boxes or old blankets in America's streets blame Bush for their woes and resent his decision to spend billions on going to war in Iraq (news - web sites) instead of helping desperate Americans.

But they still feel powerless to change their destiny.

"I am a registered voter, but why bother?" Tamiko Holling asked angrily. "Nobody cares. After the election we will still be sleeping on this same concrete."

© 2004 AFP

Teresa Heinz Kerry Takes a Swing at Stay-At-Home Moms

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Concerned Women for
America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) says Teresa Heinz Kerry's
comments undervaluing first lady Laura Bush's investment in her
children as a stay-at-home mom should enlighten American women to the stark
contrast between the wives of the presidential candidates.

"Mrs. Heinz Kerry's comments are disturbing," says Dr. Janice Crouse,
spokesperson for CWALAC. "Her comments indicate disapproval of those
American women who sacrifice a career and all of its benefits in order to
care for and train their children at home. A potential first lady of
the United States should not demean the heroic women who are investing in
America's future generations in order to win the White House."

"Mrs. Heinz Kerry's apology only reinforced the ideology implicit in
her original comments," said Crouse. "Her apology was based on Mrs.
Bush's employment as a teacher and librarian, rather than her lifetime
investment in raising her two daughters. Mrs. Kerry's words imply that a
woman who stays home to raise children in place of a career is less
credible or intelligent than a woman who pursues a career at the expense of a
family. She appeals to feminist myths, while insulting the majority of
American women."

U.S. Catholic Bishops Launch Stem Cell Ads Nationwide

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this week launches a nationwide
two-week ad campaign highlighting the issue of stem cell research. The ads
draw a clear distinction between embryonic stem cell research, which
requires the destruction of human life at the embryonic stage, and adult
stem cell research.

"Stem cell research is one of the most important moral issues of our
day, but it is also one of the most distorted," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse,
Esq., Director of Planning and Information for the USCCB's Secretariat
for Pro-Life Activities. "In the public debate, embryo-destructive
research has been greatly hyped, while the proven results of ethical adult
stem cell research are very nearly ignored."

"Our ads explain that adult stem cell research is already helping
people with heart disease, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's and many other
diseases. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, have not helped one
single human patient, and they come with a hefty price tag: the
deliberate destruction of human life," Ruse said. "As our ads state: science
does not have to kill in order to cure."

The ads will appear in USA Today, The Washington Times and the National
Catholic Reporter. The ads have also gone to dioceses nationwide for
use in local publications.

To view the ads visit: