Category Archives: War & Peace

Colin Powell: So Much Was Lost

Colin Powell:

His most memorable statement:

In early 2003, during the rush to invade Iraq, Powell was told that then-president George W. Bush slept like a baby.

 

Powell’s response was:

 

In February, Powell read a speech at the U. N. Defending the invasion, a speech which was full of lies.

What is missing: any clear acknowledgement, apology, or any atonement from him.

What was lost (not a complete list):

1. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, killed.

2. Millions more wounded and/or made homeless refugees.

3. Thousands of U. S. troops killed; tens of thousands wounded.

4. Powell’s reputation, credibility & integrity.

5. His future, and that of so many others.

6. Trillions of American citizens’ tax dollars, lost, wasted, stolen and diverted from the humane purposes and constructive needs of two generations, and counting.

May he and all the others rest in peace.
Especially the others.

 

A Tortured evasion of the ultimate issue in U. S. Torture

Usually it’s gratifying to see the New York Times devote a rare column to the ongoing outrage of the U.S. resort to torture during the failed “war on terror.”

But not today.

Today’s article, The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture, mostly ticked me off:

“Twenty years after the attacks, the United States is still grappling with the consequences of brutal interrogations carried out in the name of national security.”

Not really. Not in this piece at least. Continue reading A Tortured evasion of the ultimate issue in U. S. Torture

Reflecting on 9/11: My Other Lost Cause

From a letter to a friend:
They’re talking and talking about the 20th observances for the 11th,
with Biden going nonstop,
and there’s an article in the Times or somewhere
about a bunch of the books which supposedly show
all the ways we totally screwed up the impact & aftermath of all that.
Which is all true enough,
But I can’t bear to read it, though I have read a stack of such titles.
And I don’t want to hear all that retriggering retraumatizing stuff on Saturday, or today either,
Tho I know they have to do it.
I think I’m going to hide out that day.
Oh wait — I’m already hiding out. So where do I go from here?

Continue reading Reflecting on 9/11: My Other Lost Cause

Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010

Eleven years ago, I was nearing the end of my time as Director of Quaker House, the Friends peace project in Fayetteville NC, near Fort Bragg. Our newsletter for that summer devoted most of its front page to  Afghanistan, and the seemingly “invisible/forever” war there.

That war is no longer invisible, and at least the U.S. part in it is now ending, in a calamitous shambles, portending worse.

As we watch and listen in these days of disaster for those who depended on American promises of safety, perhaps this brief glimpse from a decade-plus past can be fodder for contemplation and calls for more action to help save those still crowded in the Kabul airport.

Quaker House Newsletter, 2010 – Summer

Mission Impossible:
Keeping Up With the Invisible War(s)

It’s not easy doing peace work in the United States today.

Recent polls indicate that Americans dislike the Afghanistan war – as many as 53-56 per cent oppose it in the latest surveys. Yet the same polls show that citizen attention to the wars is low, lagging far behind domestic concerns such as jobs, health care, government debt and fear of terror attacks inside the US.

From our vantage point, this public indifference has helped usher in the age of the invisible wars. That is to say, the wars have become largely invisible to the general public here.

This invisibility is fed in part by sheer weariness – the Afghan conflict is almost nine years old.

But it has also been carefully cultivated: Continue reading Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010

Back to my Future: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Wherever, Forever . . .

It was the headline that caught me: “Shocking and Ominous Talk,” it blared.

Really? Such language was rare in the Selma Times Journal (STJ), but I found it there, on the editorial page of the New Year’s Day edition, for January 1, 1965.

The Alabama headline shone up at me from a cloudy gray background, on a microfilm reader in a library basement at Harvard. The paper’s full year’s run for 1965 took up only one medium-thick roll, but was likely over 3000 pages. Continue reading Back to my Future: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Wherever, Forever . . .

Saturday Night at the Ballpark. With Kids. Oh — and Guns.

“Transformation” Is Dead. Donald Rumsfeld Killed It.

Donald Rumsfeld

The passing of Donald Rumsfeld this week brings many atrocities to mind, especially the long list associated with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There isn’t time to recount those here; but if there is an afterlife with any justice, they likely followed his shade into one of the lowest of the nether regions, like a screeching cloud of endlessly circling buzzards, talons extended.

But here I pass with bowed head the vast expanse of mass graves and torture black sites which are his more visible monuments, to linger briefly instead over one of his more abstract, but not meaningless crimes. This offense was not against flesh & blood, but did violence to language.

Because it was Donald Rumsfeld, and his claque, who while utterly failing to banish terror and bloodshed from the world they claim, did manage to definitively demolish all credibility and drain the value from the word & notion of “transformation.” Continue reading “Transformation” Is Dead. Donald Rumsfeld Killed It.

Coming Soon: Maybe the Most Important Book I Never Wrote

As I begin this post, Portland and Seattle are roasting, a Florida beachfront condo has collapsed, the lake keeping Las Vegas afloat is  disappearing, and many more out West are dreading the start of fire season. Here in the East we’re keeping a wary eye on Xs and Os on the Atlantic hurricane map; and everybody should be concerned about those virulent variants.
Amid all these budding disasters, pieces of a paragraph from the early 1990s keep popping into my head:
I have a confession to make. I want my grandchildren to learn how to goatwalk . . . . I’m a survivalist where they’re concerned. Industrial civilization has destabilized the earth’s climate beyond the point of no-return. The fair-weather agriculture on which our civilization depends is doomed. In the course of the next century, much of North America will probably become desert. Even if it doesn’t, annual rainfalls and temperatures will fluctuate too wildly to sustain the agricultural systems on which we now depend. If humankind doesn’t self-destruct, my grandchildren will have to get along without industrial agriculture as it now exists. Maybe a more sustainable industrial adaptation will emerge, but I want them to know enough to survive the old-fashioned, nomad way, in case that’s a viable choice.
Learn how to Goatwalk? I have great grandchildren now, and why should they be learning to walk with goats?
To explain why, let me say something first about a bucket. Or more precisely, a Bucket List. We can start with mine.

Continue reading Coming Soon: Maybe the Most Important Book I Never Wrote

Shaggy Locks & Birkenstocks: wandering through recent Quaker history

This small 2003 collection of essays, now alas out of print,  had its origins in two incidents, somewhat related, and which also turned out to be the start of something bigger, at least for me.

In the first, I proposed to the Publications Committee of   Friends General Conference (FGC), the “liberal” association of U. S. & Canadian Friends, in 1993 that it sponsor a centennial history of the body and the religious movement  it  represented, looking toward the centennial of FGC’s founding,  set for 2000. The proposal envisioned a team effort, like the one underway in New York Yearly Meeting, which was to produce their fine history, Quaker Cross-Currents (Syracuse University Press), two years later.

The proposal was not simply turned down flat; it was met with  general incomprehension: Why, I was asked, would we want to do that? Continue reading Shaggy Locks & Birkenstocks: wandering through recent Quaker history

Memorial Day for Those Who Said No

In the May 30, 2021 New York Times, there’s an Op-Ed on military conscientious objectors, or COs.  I’m gratified to see it on the brink of Memorial Day. It shows no disrespect for those who agreed to fight in war and died to recognize that a persistent minority has declined to take the sword.

The piece mentions two military COs, but mostly concentrates on the recent case of Michael  Rasmussen. He was training to be a Marine combat pilot, but found his conscience turned against taking part in war. The Times:

One morning as he prepared for a supply flight to Hawaii, Mr. Rasmussen kept returning to the story he’d read in bed the night before in “Path of Compassion,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which the Buddha was out begging when he was nearly mugged by a notorious criminal. Instead of robbing the Buddha, the mugger confessed to a life of murder and mayhem and asked him for advice: “What good act could I possibly do?”

“Stop traveling the road of hatred and violence,” the Buddha said. “That would be the greatest act of all.”

Mr. Rasmussen got in his car to drive to the hangar, overwhelmed with what he called an “immense feeling of dread.” The story haunted him: “Am I on the road of hatred and violence?” he wondered. He decided then and there to leave the Marines.

Continue reading Memorial Day for Those Who Said No