The Perversion of Obama’s ‘Kill List’

President Obama’s drone policy and his assassination “kill list” not only infringe on the sovereignty of other countries but the assassinations violate laws put in place in the 1970s after scandals enveloped an earlier era of CIA criminality. What’s more, by allowing the executive branch to circumvent judicial review, the kill list makes a mockery of due process for terror suspects, even U.S. citizens—in clear violation of the Constitution.

Send a protest to President Obama telling him you want him to ground lethal drones and end the “kill list” policy.

Here’s an excerpt from the column I wrote for the May issue of Sojourners related to this topic:

AS THE HUMAN soul matures, we are confronted with moments that force us to let go of yet another thin veil of self-delusion. The “right road,” the moral high ground, sinks into a thicket of gray.

Two examples from this Lent: An American Army staff sergeant, with four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and probable concussive brain trauma, allegedly pulls 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, including nine children, out of their beds in the middle of the night and shoots them. The thin cloth of protection that allows us to believe “if we weren’t there things would be worse” slips to the ground.

The U.S. attorney general explains in a logical manner why it is legal and lawful in some circumstances for a U.S. president to order the “targeted killing” of an American citizen. These deaths shouldn’t be called “assassinations,” the attorney general says, because assassinations are “unlawful killing” and, if the president approves it, then it’s not “unlawful.” More veils fall—“a person is innocent until proven guilty”; “intelligent people will make morally right decisions.” Our soul runs terror-stricken into the dark woods; our complicity with evil simply too much to bear.

THOMAS MERTON describes these moments as encounters with the Unspeakable. “It is the emptiness of ‘the end,’” Merton writes. “Not necessarily the end of the world, but a theological point of no return, a climax of absolute finality in refusal, in equivocation, in disorder, in absurdity …” In the face of the Unspeakable, our nakedness is complete. All meaning is stripped away. Our carefully collected coverings lie in a heap. We are running into a silent, disorienting night. …–Rose Marie Berger, read more here

Read Secret ‘Kill List’ Tests Obama’s Principles and Will
Read Obama’s Kill List: Silence is not an option.

Send a protest to President Obama telling him you want him to ground lethal drones and end the “kill list” policy.

Franciscans on 9/11: ‘Actions based solely on fear are rarely fruitful, and frequently destructive.’

At Mass today at St. Camillus, newly minted Franciscan friar Erick Lopez preached a powerful sermon. Drawing on the prescient lectionary readings from Sirach, Romans, and Matthew, he reminded us of the great compassion that we have all felt toward the victims of the al-Qaeda attacks.

He also read a letter from an Afghan third-grader to her American counterparts, in which she also expressed her compassion for those who had suffered in the attacks. This kind of unjustified violence is something her country has experienced for more than 30 years.

He laid out the path that one must walk to follow the Prince of Peace. A path that is paved with our human brokenness and that leads toward healing when we make a decision – every morning when we wake up – to choose to forgive. He concluded with a thundering voice from the pulpit: “We must NOT look for our security in flags, but in the cross of Jesus Christ.” The congregation responded with thunderous applause.

Below is a letter signed by representatives from eight Franciscan provinces in the U.S. and U.K. addressing the Sept. 11 memorial.

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, the friars of Holy Name Province and seven other Franciscan provinces — six American along with one in England — have released a statement urging Catholics in the United States and around the world to stay informed, to stand firmly against all forms of prejudice and discrimination and to find responses that “can unlock the full potential of the human imagination for good.”

In this message, distributed last week to Holy Name friars, the collaborating provinces recommend five ways that friars and partners-in-ministry can “live the Gospel in the way of St. Francis.” The statement is also available in Spanish.

As we remember and honor, may we move away from fear and toward “the other”

Throughout the liturgical year, as Catholics and Franciscans we are called to remember events in the life of Christ, the Church and the holy men and women who served the Church. Likewise as Americans, we annually remember those individuals and events that have significantly shaped our nation. These days of remembrance — both religious and civil — invite us to examine where we’ve been as a Church and as a nation, where we are now, and where we need to go.

For the past 10 years, since Sept. 11, 2001, we have remembered the men, women and children — our family members, our friends and co-workers — who lost their lives on that tragic day. For many, the process of healing from that trauma continues to this day. In addition to summoning us to solemnly honor the dead and gratefully remember the many compassionate “first responders,” these annual commemorations also have underscored the urgent need to understand the complexity of our world in terms of politics, economics, culture and religion, particularly that of Islam.

To this end, many of our ministries have developed close relationships with local Muslim communities in order to learn from one another, to address common concerns, and to stand in solidarity with one another. The desire to know “the other” as friend is an essential challenge and a necessary aim for those who endeavor to follow Christ in the manner of St. Francis. We need only recall Francis’ encounter with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil in which he chose to engage Muslims peacefully and respectfully in a time of violence and hatred.

Seek Patience and Discipline. Such an effort on the part of friars and their partners-in-ministry is needed now more than ever, for while 9/11 has generated an interest in Islam for some, it has engendered excessive fear and hatred for Muslims in others. Left unanswered and unchecked, these fears can lead to prejudice, racism, hate-speech and even violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters. In the past decade, this has sometimes taken the form of attacks on Muslims in the U.S., their houses of worship and their Scriptures.

Many of these fears are based on perceived differences of values and faith. Yet, if the recent revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East are any indication, the vast majority of Muslims in the world fervently desire many of the rights and privileges that we enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.

These “spring uprisings” in the Middle East highlight for us a second challenge since Sept. 11, 2001: the urgent need to develop effective policies and strategies to deal with global violence and international terrorism through non-violent means. Ten years ago, the dominant belief was that the only way to respond to the attacks of Sept. 11 was by means of military force. We lacked the non-violent tools of robust diplomacy and crisis resolution which, coupled with an internationally shared strategy for police action, might have brought the perpetrators of the attack to justice without massive military intervention and additional loss of lives.

Regrettably, seeking the non-violent tools of robust diplomacy and crisis resolution is not an easy road to follow, but we must always seek the patience and discipline to pursue this path as a first option. We remain challenged to find responses that can unlock the full potential of the human imagination for good.

Be Not Afraid. As we move into the second decade after the tragedy of Sept. 11, we must, as people of faith, remember the words of Jesus who tells us: “be not afraid.” Actions based solely on fear are rarely fruitful, and frequently destructive. We are at a crossroads as a nation and world. We can choose to remain primarily on a path of excessive fear and the use of force, or we can choose to find new ways of building communities of respect and cooperation across faith traditions and national boundaries.

As brothers and sisters committed to living the Gospel in the way of St. Francis, we encourage you, your partners-in-ministry, and your families and friends to:

• Increase and deepen your efforts to understand and build relationships with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and indeed with all those from faith traditions different from our own.
• Stand firmly against all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including Islamophobia.
• Stay informed about world events through reliable sources of information in order to better access American foreign policies and their impact on others.
• Call for deeper investments in diplomacy and development so that options beyond military violence are employed.
• Take time for prayer, both private and communal, asking God for peace in your hearts and minds, for wisdom and understanding, for healing and forgiveness.

Followers of the Gospel — in particular followers of St. Francis — must never be timid or satisfied with lesser “solutions” born of fear and prejudice. Rather, let us be inspired by the bold example of our brother Francis who, obeying Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another,” reached out to the Sultan and thereby created new paths of peace.

Jim Douglass: How a President Can Practice Satyagraha (Part 9)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 9: How a President Can Practice Satyagraha

On the first day of school, September 8, 2009, at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, a ninth-grader named Lilly asked President Obama, “If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”

The president said his first choice for a dinner companion would be Gandhi, “a real hero of mine,” adding:

If it hadn’t been for the nonviolent movement in India, you might not have seen the same nonviolent movement for civil rights here in the United States…. He ended up doing so much and changing the world just by the power of his ethics, by his ability to change how people saw each other and saw themselves. [Gandhi was able to] help people who thought they had no power realize that they had power, and then help people who had a lot of power realize that if all they’re doing is oppressing people, then that’s not a really good exercise of power.

Maybe we all need to sit down for a meal with Gandhi, one that would be, as President Obama told Lilly, “a really small meal because he [like the impoverished people he represented] didn’t eat a lot.” What Gandhi would say to us over that small meal he did say at the end of his life to a U.S. writer, Vincent Sheean, who traveled half-way around the world to question him on vital matters, anticipating that Gandhi was about to be assassinated — as he would be, in Sheean’s presence, three days later.

As the two men paced a room together, Gandhi told his American visitor, with reference to World War II culminating in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Your ends may have been good but your means were bad. That is not the way of truth.”

If Gandhi’s earnest conversation partner were Obama, not Sheean, and the time today, perhaps the next question would be: “What is the way of truth in Afghanistan?”

For Gandhi, truth was God. “Truth-force” was his term for nonviolence, satyagraha. Gandhi acted on the belief that there is nothing we as human beings can do that is more powerful, more transforming, than to live out the truth as we know it at the deepest point in our conscience.

In dialogue today with a powerful man who knows that “oppressing people is not a really good exercise of power,” Gandhi would say that hearing the truth and acting on it, regardless of the consequences to one’s power and one’s self, would be the way of truth in Afghanistan and in Washington. As politically confining as the White House is, it is for that very reason an ideal place to live out the truth, as President Kennedy did.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

Jim Douglass: Can a Peacemaking President Take On the Pentagon? (Part 7)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 7: Can a Peacemaking President Take On the Pentagon?

Barack Obama is a very smart and sometimes courageous man. Why did he submit to his generals by widening a disastrous war? Did he think he could at least use his waning power to improve the domestic state of the union, while hoping he could eventually find a way out of our downward spiral of war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq?

If so, he will finally have to say no, for the sake of us all, to his generals and the powers behind them. They will always want the troops to fight more battles “for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives” toward the end of “trillions of dollars worth of minerals” on a new Silk Road.

Can any president of the United States turn toward peace without being threatened, set up, and “if necessary” (from the standpoint of our national security state), assassinated?

Because of our unwillingness to connect the dots of Dallas with those of Washington, U.S. citizens have been unable to raise that post-JFK question to consciousness. In the Washington of Barack Obama, where some speak of a president’s assassination casually and others deliberately, it is time that we dealt with the question in a serious way. John Kennedy did. From his frequent remarks anticipating his own death, friends said he was obsessed by it. He seems rather to have seen his death in a remarkably detached way in a time of darkness, accepting his own demise “if necessary” (from the standpoint of his conscience) as the simple consequence of doing his duty.

Once we face the why of Kennedy’s assassination, never really mysterious and now a story documented by the mass of files made public by the Assassination Records Review Board, we can deal with an obvious question that has likely passed through the mind of Barack Obama: can a peacemaking president survive a warmaking state? A conscientious president’s survival, and the carrying out of peace initiatives against the grain of his government and corporate power, is entwined with the survival of every human being on earth. The president’s vulnerability, while he tries to turn a massive Washington warship toward peace and disarmament, is an unspeakable fact of our politics.

But the other side of the unspeakable is ourselves. Our sense of despair, when we see a president’s reluctance to choose what may kill him, raises questions about ourselves.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

Jim Douglass: In His Own Bay of Pigs Moment, Obama Backed Down (Part 6)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 6: In His Own Bay of Pigs Moment, Obama Backed Down

Just as John Kennedy did, Barack Obama had a Bay of Pigs early in his presidency. He became the target of a covert operation that trapped and compromised him as president. In Obama’s case, the challenge to his authority as commander-in-chief came not from the CIA but from the Army, and not in Cuba but in Afghanistan. As in Kennedy’s case, Obama’s response to the entrapment established the pattern of his presidency, but in a direction opposite to Kennedy’s. Obama has become an obedient servant to his national security state, and as a result, a source of despair to many of his supporters.

The critical background to President Obama’s June 2010 firing of General Stanley McChrystal for his outlandish Rolling Stone interview was McChrystal’s close relationship to the man Obama named to replace him. The president’s newly appointed Afghan commander, David H. Petraeus, was McChrystal’s boss and mentor. In September 2009, in a more significant subversion of Obama’s authority than the later interview, McChrystal had been Petraeus’s point man in a Pentagon threat of revolt unless the president escalated the Afghan War.

Heavily supported by Republican leaders, McChrystal pressured Obama publicly by a series of statements questioning the president’s initial resistance to the general’s recommendation of 40,000 more troops. Petraeus also went public, telling a columnist the United States would fail in the war unless the president gave them the troops they needed. Obama’s generals were conducting a media war to force him into a decision they had chosen for him. As Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former top aide, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, observed, “Petraeus and McChrystal have put Obama in a trick bag.”

As Bob Woodward reported in Obama’s Wars, the president was blocked at every turn by his war cabinet, as he sought alternative troop options and an exit plan from the war. However, the generals wanted their troop surge and an open-ended strategy. They provided no exit plan.

“You’re not really giving me any options,” Obama told them. “You agreed to go back and work those up.” Instead they kept pressuring him for the same troop increase, under different guises, in a war without end. “It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Obama told civilian advisers that the military heads were “really cooking the thing in the direction they wanted. They are not going to give me a choice.”

The president finally gave them 30,000 more troops, while setting a shaky, condition-based date of next July for a beginning withdrawal. The generals claimed victory. Petraeus was pleased. His counterinsurgency strategy was alive and well. As he let Woodward know, “If the president had told him at the beginning that it would come out with this strategy and 30,000 troops, Petraeus would have taken it in a second.”

Moreover, Petraeus said privately, he continued to see no end in sight in Afghanistan: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

When Obama replaced McChrystal half a year later by the more subtle, more controlling Petraeus, it was a further submission to the military authorities that the president was elected to command.

After JFK was set up by the CIA (with the Pentagon’s support) at the Bay of Pigs, that new, young president bucked his national security state by firing his main adversary, Cold-Warrior-in-Chief Allen Dulles. When Obama was set up by General Petraeus, General McChrystal, and their colleagues to escalate the war in Afghanistan, our new, young president, after (to his credit) months of deliberation, reluctantly went along. His later insertion of Petraeus as his new Afghan commander put the most likely GOP candidate for president in 2012, General David Petraeus, in an ideal running position. Because Bush’s “surge” of occupying troops in Iraq (under Petraeus) has somehow been judged a “win,” Obama will be scapegoated with the “loss” if a proxy government in Iraq fails after his troop withdrawal.

In August General Petraeus warned, “If the U.S. loses [in Afghanistan], there would likely be a bloody civil war followed by a takeover by extremists.” He added, “If the U.S. succeeds and Afghanistan stabilizes, the country could become the region’s new Silk Road with the potential to extract trillions of dollars worth of minerals.”

If Petraeus fails in his counterinsurgency war to pacify that new road to corporate profits, he can keep on saying he needed more troops and more time to “win” there — preparing the political ground for another Obama “loss.” Petraeus can then return home for a GOP draft to run for president. Obama, by surrendering to his generals, has been trapped in the same kind of plotting Kennedy had the insight and courage to resist.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

Jim Douglass: How Kennedy Took On the Steel Industry (Part 2)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 2: How Kennedy Took On the Steel Industry

The steel crisis was JFK’s second step toward freedom.

On April 10, 1962, U.S. Steel chairman Roger Blough informed President Kennedy that Blough’s company was raising steel prices by 3.5 percent — breaking an agreement to control inflation that the president had just brokered between U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers. U.S. Steel was joined publicly in the price hike by five other companies already in collusion with it. JFK was furious at being double-crossed. He said to his staff, in a sentence Wall Street would not forget: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it until now.”

President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy launched an all-out domestic war to force the heads of the six colluding companies to cancel their price increase. The Justice Department raided Big Steel’s corporate offices. Robert Kennedy subpoenaed the steel executives’ personal and company records. The Kennedys were going for broke. Most ominously for Big Steel, the president ordered the Defense Department to market its steel business overseas, so as to take huge profits out of the hands of U.S. Steel and its cohorts, at the heart of the military-industrial complex. Faced by the fact that the Kennedys meant business — their business — the steel heads surrendered quickly, rescinding their price raise.

However, they accomplished a more sinister purpose. A Fortune magazine editorial stated with an insider’s knowledge that U.S. Steel’s decision to raise prices, made by a board of directors composed of the financial elite of the country, was designed to present the president with a dilemma: either accept the price hike and lose credibility or push back and unite the business world against him, as he did. Fortune publisher Henry Luce, the most powerful media magnate in the world, was behind the editorial. Drawing on Shakespeare’s prediction by the soothsayer of Julius Caesar’s assassination, “Beware the ides of March,” the Luce editorial’s title warned Kennedy of the fate he was tempting by his stand against imperial power: “Steel: The Ides of April.”

The powers that be had to be more than a little angry to be threatening the president so boldly. An American parable was in the making. As Kennedy turned heretically toward peace after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the parable of the president and the powers would be played out until it climaxed a year later on a sunny street in Dallas. Then it would be up to us to open our ears and hear.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

Bruce Kent to Generals: ‘Don’t wait until you retire to say that wars are illegal or unwinnable.’

Tens of thousands of Brits marched in London’s Trafalgar Square last week demanding that Britain withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The “Time to Go” public demonstration was organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the British Muslim Initiative, and Stop the War Coalition. The keynote speaker was Catholic peace campaigner Bruce Kent, vice-chair of Pax Christi/UK.

Like the Obama administration, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that UK combat troops will be withdrawn, but not until 2015.  Bruce Kent’s speech is below:

“It is of course an honour to be with you today to join my voice to the tens of thousands who are calling for the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan and a negotiated end to that war which seems to be without end.

The war in Afghanistan is expensive, nonsensical and stupid. Our governments past and present do seem to be incredibly stupid when it come to matters of defence. Amazingly, we are in due course to have, at vast expense, two new aircraft carriers. One we will at once sell. Are we now the world’s aircraft carrier suppliers? The other will join the Royal Navy, but for between 5 and 10 years it will have no planes. ‘Yes Minister’ could not think up a more absurd scenario for comic TV.

I am old enough to remember the British empire. Those days are gone. We are not the world’s policeman. If we want a real war to sort out then how about the Congo where millions have died in the last ten years and a UN Peace keeping force seems to be overwhelmed by the problem.

We are meant to be defeating terrorists, but we are manufacturing them by the thousands. We began this enterprise without the authority of the UN on the coat tails of the United States. It is time to end it. If the Afghan Government – as corrupt as any today – wants outside help then it should come from a Muslim state. We in the so called ‘Christian’ West have so wrecked the Middle East for well over 100 years that there is no credit left on our card. It is time to go.

I say this in front of the families and friends of many who have been wounded or killed in this conflict. Those young lives should never have been wasted. Of course they need every help from voluntary and public donations. But the best help we can give to their comrades is to say NO.

A word to generals, admirals and the like. Don’t wait until you retire to say that wars are illegal or unwinnable. Don’t keep silent when politicians act unlawfully. Say NO at the start and do not leave it to those much, much further down the military pecking order to have the courage to refuse. Some of those are with us today. I salute them.

Congratulations on all your efforts. One day we will learn that real peace is only built on justice and the operation of law.”

U.S. War Vets March on Capitol Hill – 9th Anniversary of Afghanistan War

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched on Washington today to demand that traumatized troops not be sent back in to combat. After gathering outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center, veterans and civilian members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Civilian Soldier Alliance, and Ethan McCord of the film Collateral Damage marched 6 miles to Capitol Hill to launch Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops.

During a press conference on Capitol Hill, veterans testified about their experiences being redeployed while traumatized and delivered a letter to government and military officials requesting an end to the deployment of traumatized troops. (See the article on CNN.)

“October 7th marks the 9-year anniversary of the Afghanistan War, the longest ongoing war in U.S. history. Pressure from fighting two wars has put enormous strain on U.S. troops, with multiple deployments leading to an explosion of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,” Iraq Veterans Against the War said in a press release.

“PTSD makes service members six times more likely to commit suicide. Instead of being treated, troops are often redeployed to combat while still suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma. Officials recognize that suicides and violent crimes are on the rise, with four decorated combat vets killing themselves at Ft. Hood in one week.”

Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops. Washington, D.C. 7 Oct 2010 by Rose Marie Berger

“I was denied treatment for the mental and physical wounds I sustained in battle, like so many others,” says Ethan McCord, a veteran whose unit was captured in the “Collateral Murder” video distributed by Wikileaks. “IVAW’s campaign is critical for soldiers because we are asserting our right to heal. Now, the government has a choice – will it recognize our right to heal, or deny it?”

Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops. Washington, D.C. 7 Oct 2010 by Rose Marie Berger

“Right now, 20 percent of our fighting force are being deployed on at least one psychotropic medication. These are common medications that are used for things like PTSD and TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury],” said IVAW member Jason Hurd. “I myself am a 100 percent disabled veteran with PTSD. The same medications that I’m currently on, things like Trazedone and things like Prozac, our soldiers are getting sent to Iraq and Afghanistan on these very same drugs, and I’m disabled. So, what does that say…?” Hurd served as a medic in Iraq.

Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops. Washington, D.C. 7 Oct 2010 by Rose Marie Berger
Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops. Washington, D.C. 7 Oct 2010 by Rose Marie Berger
Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops. Washington, D.C. 7 Oct 2010 by Rose Marie Berger

Read more on Democracy Now!

McChrystal v Obama: Battle of the ‘Hard Hearts’?

General McChrystal's gold engraved nunchuks. Photograph by Mikhail Galustov for Rolling Stone/Redux

Yesterday U.S. top Afghanistan warrior General Stan McChrystal was very publicly called to the carpet in the Oval Office. Sources say his job is on the line. President Obama wants McChrystal to answer for comments he made in a Rolling Stone interview (July 8-22, 2010 issue).

The short form is that McChrystal disses the counterterrorism strategy advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, calling it “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” He outright insults Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, and says he feels betrayed by the US ambassador in Kabul Karl Eikenberry. Overall, McChrystal conveys a deep-seated contempt for civilian leadership.

And, despite the “it’s a tough slog, but we are winning the Afghani  hearts and minds” rhetoric from the White House, the civil societies in the countries of our NATO allies have forced their governments to change direction on the failed war policy in Afghanistan. (Having watched The Princess Bride numerous times, they apparently learned the lesson: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”)

In the Rolling Stone article, author Michael Hastings writes:

Opposition to the war [in Afghanistan] has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. …

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply f*&^%d up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,” a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

While the White House is debating whether or not to fire McChrystal and what the fall-out might be on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, Rabbi Arthur Waskow frames the argument differently: “The ‘strategy’ is already a failure, and the ‘civil-military issue’ is the Constitution at stake, not a failed and stupid war.”

Waskow sets Obama’s current dilemma in historical context:

Harry  Truman knew what to do: When the issue was insubordination by General MacArthur over whether to escalate a stupid war  with China that MacArthur had brought on (beyond defending South Korea), Truman fired MacArthur. (I remember Congress begging MacArthur to address a special joint session. I remember how he ended with a bathetic, bedraggled song: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”)  Right. Despite the resulting furor, the arrogant old soldier did indeed fade away.   …

McChrystal’s strategy was arrogant & stupid;  it has already failed  because it was arrogant & stupid;  and many of us, including Biden & Ikenberry, did indeed tell them so.  …

The trouble is that Obama accepted the arrogant, stupid advice from McChrystal — and now has to face the consequences in a failing and mistaken war.  When John Kennedy came new into the White House, he accepted similarly stupid & arrogant advice from the CIA about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba — and when he realized how stupid it was, he fired the lot of them and refused to get trapped into more arrogance and more escalation.

Now we will see what Obama is made of: whether he has the guts and good sense of Truman & Kennedy.

But beyond the political power struggles that are as old as the military strategies of Uzziah in II Kings 15, there is a deeply spiritual issue. It is the issue of arrogance. It is always arrogance that hardens the heart and impedes the ability to listen.

“Refusing to listen breeds stupidity,” writes Rabbi Waskow. “Stupidity arising from a spiritual failure, not an IQ failure, breeds political disaster. There is a deep relationship between the arrogance of the Generals and the CIA in their contempt for China, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan — and their contempt for civilian leadership. And the contempt of BP for the oceans, the forests, the air. The obsessive belief that Conquest and Control are all that matters.”

The consequence of King Uzziah’s failed military strategy is summarized by a proverb from King Solomon: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

McChrystal – who carries around a gold, custom-made, set of nunchuks engraved with his name and four stars –  has got pride and arrogance in spades. (Read the entire Rolling Stone article to get the full experience of this.)

But Rabbi Waskow reminds that pride and arrogance are not the marks of a great military leader. Instead, he says, the Talmud teaches: “Who is the greatest [military] hero? The person who can master his own impulses … and the person who can turn his enemy into his friend.”

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com. She’s the author of Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood (Apprentice House, April 2010).

Australia: What Does Resurrection Look Like Down Under?

I was glad to see the blog post by Australian Christian Jarrod McKenna with a video of four Christian peace activists who entered Swan Island, one of Australia’s most secret military installations near Queenscliff, Victoria, in March seeking to disrupt the supply chain for the war in Afghanistan. “Both Swan Island and the war on Afghanistan are out of sight, out of mind. It’s time to end further suffering of the Afghan people and our soldiers by bringing our troops home,” the group said.

Said McKenna, “The kairos moment during Holy Week is a moving meditation on a man who taught and lived the nonviolence of the cross in ways that socially witnessed to resurrection. This is made all the more potent for those of us in Australia given the courageous actions of The Bonhoeffer Peace Collective who yesterday with a fierce nonviolent love exposed further connections of the Australian government with the war in Afghanistan.”

Watch the video:

Bonhoeffer 4 Trailer from julian masters on Vimeo.

Rev. Simon Moyle (Baptist Minister), Jacob Bolton (Community Worker), Jessica Morrison (University Lecturer) and Simon Reeves (Social Worker) have called themselves the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s favorite theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also an antiwar activist.