Iraq

John Pilger and ‘The War You Don’t See’

John Pilger‘s film The War You Don’t See is, above all else, a call to responsible journalism, especially by those ‘journalists’ who have en masse lost their nerve, or who have temporarily (one hopes) mislaid the purpose of their craft. (Of course, Pilger himself has attracted no shortage of detractors over the years who would accuse him of irresponsible journalism. The onus on proof is clearly on the side of the detractors. And then there are those who find themselves in broad agreement with Pilger’s interpretation of things but struggle with a style that is perceived to be arrogant or hyped. I have some sympathy with these critics, although I’ve tried to never let his style get in the way of the content. This interview with the queen of ego herself, Kim Hill, is a case in point.)

There’s challenge here too, it seems to me, for those of us charged with the responsibility of rightly dividing the word of truth, especially for those who have lost our nerve to boldly address the powers or to do the demanding work it takes to simply tell the truth rather than spout the party line.

Anyway, for those who are yet to see the film, I thought I’d commend and post it for viewing here:

Pilger’s latest film (currently in production) is called Utopia and is due out at the end of the year. I look forward to seeing it.

The (two) Stories of (two) Gulfs: on logs and splinters

Copious media outlets this morning report that the U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against the oil giant BP and eight other companies over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said the government is seeking compensation for restoring the Gulf Coast region. She says,

This is about getting a fair deal for the region that suffered enormous consequences from this disaster. And it’s also about securing the future of the Gulf Coast. Ensuring accountability strengthens our ongoing efforts to help Gulf Coast communities get their lives and livelihoods back on track. The government’s complaint seeks civil penalties against those responsible for the spill and will lay the foundation for securing what is needed to restore the Gulf’.

Anyone else see the irony here? If one was to write a book, perhaps an appropriate working title might be The (two) Stories of (two) Gulfs: on logs and splinters.

[Images from here, here, here and here]

 

Stanley Hauerwas on patriotism, pacifism and just warriors

hauerwas-1On 2 March 2003, David Rutledge conducted the following interview with Stanley Hauerwas on ABC’s Encounter program:

David Rutledge: One of the most prominent Christian pacifist voices in the US at the moment is Stanley Hauerwas, from Duke University in North Carolina. His prominence – or notoriety, perhaps – was established by Time magazine in its “America’s Best” issue of 2001, which proclaimed Stanley Hauerwas as “America’s Best Theologian” and ran a profile on him, entitled Christian Contrarian. In that article, he called on Christians not to be defined by their political community, and he condemned “any and all forms of patriotism, nationalism and state worship”. Well that issue of Time magazine hit the newsstands on September 10th, just 24 hours before the terrorist attacks that dramatically altered the American psyche – and that suddenly put Stanley Hauerwas out on the radical fringe of American public life. I asked Stanley Hauerwas if there was anything in that article that he would have changed, had he known that history was about to take the turn that it did.

Stanley Hauerwas: No, not a thing. I suppose that the claim that radical pacifism and Christian non-violence means that you’re critical of all forms of patriotism – I don’t know that I’m critical of “all forms of patriotism”, because I don’t know what “all forms of patriotism” would look like. I’m certainly critical of the kind of patriotism that we find in America. That is the worst kind possible, because it’s not just a loyalty to the particularities of history and geography, but because of America’s basis within the fundamental norms of the Enlightenment – freedom, equality, abstractions like that – then that means American patriotism cannot help but be a form of imperialism. And that’s always the way it has been. And I think it’s one of the most dangerous forms – indeed it’s virulent on the world stage. 

Americans can’t understand – I mean, we just – Americans assume that if you just had enough education and enough money, you would want to be just like us – because we’re what free people look like. And therefore American patriotism, I think, is one of the worst forms that could possibly be present in the world.

I think that in America now, we’re really being ruled by the Right. And I think that they have a view of the world that is just not going to be open to any evidence. And so they’re determined to do this. I really believe that this war was on the drawing tables of many of the people that came into the Bush administration. And I think that September 11th was their licence to do it. September 11th determinatively changed American politics, there is absolutely no question about that. The mid-term elections that we just had, in which the Republicans gained seats both in the Senate and the Congress, is really – I mean, that has never happened in America. That’s new. And I think it has everything to do with Americans’ desire for security. September 11th brought the world home to America – and they don’t like it, they just don’t like it. And they’re willing to go with anyone that’s going to promise safety. And that’s what Bush is offering them. 

But I really believe, since I’m a Christian, that you always live in a world at risk. Indeed, what Christianity is about, is always learning how to die early for the right reasons. And Americans just – that’s a thought that is unthinkable right now. I think the American response to September 11th is exactly the other side of the Americans’ unbelievable support for crisis care medicine. They think that if we just get good enough at curing cancer, or good enough at doing something about people suffering heart attacks, or good enough with genetics today, then they’re going to get out of this life alive. It’s just not going to happen.

David Rutledge: Can we go back to just war for a minute? You made an interesting comment, that the just war tradition raises the right kinds of questions; but then the just war tradition is seemingly being invoked at the moment as a justification for war. The assumption seems to be that we can and do wage war, so how can we do it and still remain faithful to our Christian ideals. Now as a pacifist, do you think that that is legitimate? How do you evaluate the just war tradition?

Stanley Hauerwas: I’m certainly willing always to join serious just war thinkers in trying to think through what the implications of being a just warrior should be. But if you take the war on Iraq: why is America able to even imagine going to war in Iraq? It’s because we can. We’ve got all this unbelievable military power, so we can envision it, because we have the capacity for it. Now, the question is: did you get the capacity to wage that kind of war on just war considerations? Is the United States’ foreign policy a just war foreign policy? Is the United States’ military preparedness based on just war considerations? No way! They’re based on presuppositions, that you’d better have as much military might as you can, in a world of anarchy, because the one with the most weapons at the end, wins.

Now, if just war people were more serious about raising questions about the implications of what just war would commit them to – for example, the war on terrorism could not possibly be a just war. I don’t even think it’s a war, I mean that’s a metaphorical use of the word “war” that comes from Americans’ views of – you know, the “war on drugs”, the “war on crime” – I mean, it’s just crap. Because what they need to think about is: just war is always about a political end, that you need to declare, so your enemy will know how they can resign and surrender. And so if you’re about annihilating your enemy, as we were in World War II – that is, we fought it for unconditional surrender – you can’t fight a just war for unconditional surrender, because you’re not trying to destroy your enemy, you’re only trying to stop your enemy from doing the wrong that you declared the war for. I mean, there can’t be a just war against terrorism, because you don’t even know who the enemy is, and you get to keep changing it, and the presumption that a just war should be in response to aggression: well, in what way is Iraq really threatening America? That hasn’t been shown at all. What Iraq threatens is American imperial hegemony in the world. How is that a criterion for just war? 

So I regard most of the people that are trying to give an account of why it is that the war against Iraq could meet just war criteria, as just an ideological cover for American realism. And notice: no one’s talking about the war on terrorism that much in America right now, because we lost it. Or at least, we haven’t won it. So instead, everyone’s talking about the war against Iraq, and so you’ve made the shift from the war on terrorism to the war against Iraq, which you’re going to win, and so Bush is not being held accountable for the mistaken strategy of ever declaring war against terrorism.

David Rutledge: Theologian and pacifist Stanley Hauerwas, talking earlier this year on the eve of the American attack on Iraq. 

hauerwas-4Stanley Hauerwas: What I find absolutely crucial is reflecting on Christ’s death and resurrection. What that means is that God would rather die, God would rather have God’s own Son die, than to redeem the world through violence. And that central story is what Christians are about. 

I go to an Episcopal church, and after we finish the Mass, one of the prayers that I find a deep comfort is – I just have the Book of Common Prayer here – Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son, our saviour Jesus Christ. You have fed us with spiritual food, in the sacrament of His body and blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you, with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Now, how could someone that prays that prayer every week at the Eucharistic sacrifice – and remember, the Eucharistic sacrifice is where we become part of Christ’s sacrifice for the world, so the world will know it’s got an alternative to violence – how can anyone that prays that prayer, week after week, run for the Presidency of the United States? It beats the hell out of me. 

You know, I’m not trying to call Christians out of being politically involved; I just want them to be there as Christians. And instead, what they get is they think they have a personal relationship with Jesus, which makes it OK for them to do anything that they damn well please, in the name of what’s important for national defence. Well, Jesus is a political saviour, and that prayer is a political prayer. And that’s the kind of seizing of the imagination I’m trying to help Christians regain in America. Because in America, Christians just cannot distinguish themselves – what it means to be Christian, they assume it goes hand in hand with what it means to be an American. And that’s just a deep mistake. But how to help Christians recover that difference is very difficult indeed.

David Rutledge: How much help are you getting in that from the American Christian leadership? 

Stanley Hauerwas: Well, for example: the Methodist bishops have given a kind of statement against going to war pre-emptively. And you know, they want you to work through the UN, and that kind of thing. They don’t just come out and say “you do it, George, and your soul is going to Hell. Or your soul is already in Hell”. Which I wish they would do. But George Bush, on the whole, is just ignoring any of that kind of statement, because he knows it doesn’t represent the American Methodists. Most American Methodists assume “well, something needs to be done”, and they therefore wouldn’t follow the lead of their bishops. 

There’s been quite a number of statements by most of the mainstream religious bodies – you know, saying “go through the UN” and that kind of thing, but it’s had no effect. Because I think that Bush is right: most of the laity doesn’t know how to think about war at all. And the reason most Christian laity don’t know how to think about war at all, is because our religious leadership has never helped educate the American people. As a pacifist, when I go and lecture to churches about the ethics of war, and try to introduce them to just war considerations – because I think that just war is certainly a very serious alternative that people, if they do it seriously, it raises the right kinds of questions that ought to be raised – I usually get a hand stuck up, and someone says “no one’s every told me that Christians have a problem with war”. Isn’t that remarkable? I say “I know you’ve been betrayed. Fire your bishops”. The teaching office of the church has just been absent, over the years, about these kinds of matters.

David Rutledge: There was commentator in the journal First Things, who said that when Christian go off to fight a just war, they’re following Christ, but at a distance. And I wonder if, in your pacifism, you’re talking about something much more immediate, you’re talking about pacifism as the road to Calvary, if it has to be that way, as following Christ in such a way as to be led unresisting to a horrible death, if that’s what your Christianity calls you to do? Is that the kind of end that you have in mind?

Stanley Hauerwas: It certainly could be. I mean, what is the deep problem? The deep problem of Christian non-violence is: you must be willing to watch innocent people suffer for your convictions. Of course, that’s true. In the hard cases, it means it’s not just your death, it’s watching other people die, whom you might have been able to defend. Now of course, you want to try to do everything you can that would prevent that alternative. But you may have to envision that. 

But look: the just warriors are in exactly the same position. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on just war grounds, were murder. There’s no other description for that. Just warriors need to argue that it would have been better for more people to die on the beaches of Japan, both Americans and Japanese, than to commit one murder. That’s what the position should be committed to holding. So of course, any account of serious attempt to morally control war, would mean that if you’re a just warrior, you’re going to have to watch the innocent suffer for your convictions – just like the pacifist does. But on the whole, most people who argue on just war grounds don’t want to acknowledge that. But they should.

David Rutledge: Do you think that one of the key problems for a message like yours, in America or in the world right now, is that when you talk about watching innocent people suffer in the course of a war, the most outstanding recent example of that is the deaths of thousands of Americans at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. And the most difficult thing in the world at the moment is for Americans to say “well, in the name of justice, we can’t allow those deaths to be the pretext for more deaths” – even though that’s right at the heart of Christian teaching?

Stanley Hauerwas: Well, I think that Americans simply cannot contemplate Americans getting to die as victims. And they want to turn their deaths into some good. And when they do that, you exactly betray – at least, as Christians – what we should have learned through the Cross: that the attempt to make life meaningful, even life that has died, through further violence, is absolutely futile. But we seem determined to want to do that, and I think we in the world will pay a great price for that. I mean, the price that Americans are going to have to pay for the kind of arrogance that we are operating out of right now, is going to be terrible indeed. And I think that when America isn’t able to rule the world, that people will exact some very strong judgements against America – and I think we will well deserve it.

Around the traps … [updated]

Robert Bly, ‘Call and Answer’

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we’ve listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.

– Robert Bly, ‘Call and Answer’, August 2002.

The Cost of War: Funding International War Crimes

The National Priorities Project of Washington DC has introduced a timely new function to their site, CostOfWar.com. Through the Individual Cost of War Calculator, U.S. taxpayers can see what portion they owe of the $590 billion and counting on the Iraq war.

www.CostOfWar.com has long provided the most accurate tally of the budget expenditures on the Iraq war with their War Cost Calculator. They have also allowed users to break down that total cost to their state or local area.

Now CostOfWar.com shows what portion of that 1/2 a trillion dollars each individual is responsible for. Users simply (and anonymously) input their income or taxes over the course of the Iraq war to see how much they personally paid, and will continue to pay.

For households making $75,000 a year, their cost of Iraq equates to approximately $20,000 to be paid toward the Iraq war right out of that family’s check book. Considering the failing economy, eye-opening information like this is sure to be a major issue in the U.S. Presidential race.

These calculations were originally launched in 2007 as MyWarTax.org. The founders, Jim Cousins and Don Raleigh of Minnesota, recently donated it to the National Priorities Project’s site, CostOfWar.com. The intent was to provide this information to a mass audience, and CostOfWar.com receives more than 100K hits each month.

Democracy fails without an informed citizenry, and CostOfWar.com is now informing people of their financial contributions to the Iraq War on an individual level.

[Source: Scoop]

‘Responsibilities’: Chomsky on Iraq

In a video interview recently aired on Channel 4, Chomsky offered the following verdict on the responsibilities of the aggressors in Iraq:

“I would like to remind myself and others in the United States and Britain that aggressors have no rights, they have only responsibilities.

“The first responsibility is to pay massive reparations for the crimes they have carried out. That extends in the case of Iraq to include support for Saddam through his worst atrocities after the war with Iran.

“After the savage first Gulf War when George Bush authorised the crushing of the rebellions that might have overthrown him, the murderous sanctions and of course the war and its aftermath.

“And their second responsibility is to hold the perpetrators accountable.

“And finally, and crucially, to attend to the voices of the victims, which are not a secret. The Pentagon has just released its latest study of opinions in Iraq. It was optimistic, it said. Iraqis have shared beliefs, so there’s hope for reconciliation.

“The shared beliefs turn out to be that the United States and Britain are responsible for the Sectarian warfare and all of its horrors and they should leave Iraq to Iraqis.”

“And we should finally resolve to ensure that we are never again responsible for such terrible crimes.”

Relatedly, the School of Law and the Boston University Anti-War Coalition at Boston University recently hosted Chomsky for a lecture on ‘Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle-East and Beyond’. It goes for 2 hours and is also avaliable from Boston University’s iTunes site.

Slavoj Žižek and Hans Blix on Iraq, US Foreign Policy and Global Nuclear Bans

Recently Amy Goodman (leading reporter for Democracy Now) interviewed Slavoj Žižek on the Iraq War, the Bush Presidency, the War on Terror & More.

Part One: Transcript; Video; MP3

Part Two: Transcript; Video; MP3

Also, former Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix (who is always great to listen to … if only more did!) talks about the USs Rush to War in Iraq, the Threat of an Attack on Iran, and the Need for a Global Nuclear Ban to Avoid Further Catastrophe.

Transcript; Video; MP3

Standard Operating Procedure

There’s a chilling-sounding new book out: Standard Operating Procedure, by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris. It’s the story of American soldiers who were sent to Iraq as ‘liberators’ only to find themselves working as jailers in Saddam Hussein’s old dungeons, responsible for implementing the sort of policy they were supposed to be fighting against. It is the story of a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves— – the story of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse, as seen through the eyes, and told through the voices, of the soldiers who took them and appeared in them. It is the story of how those soldiers were at once the instruments of a great injustice and the victims of a great injustice.

Drawing on more than two hundred hours of Errol Morris’’s frank and intimate interviews with the soldier-photographers who gave us what have become the iconic images of the Iraq war, Standard Operating Procedure is a book that makes you see, and makes you feel, and above all makes you think about what it means to be human. It is an original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines, and long after the current (and past) cronies in the US administration – and British and Australian Governments – have putted in their last golf ball laughing all the way that they have escaped the war crimes tribunals they so blatantly deserve to face, not to mention their copious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Americans, Brits and Aussies should (and many will) feel and bear the shame that attends such horrific actions.

Noam Chomsky: Why is Iraq Missing from 2008 Presidential Race?

Noam Chomsky recently gave this address: ‘Why is Iraq Missing from 2008 Presidential Race?’ Transcripts are available here and here.

Note that there is a wee break (1.5 mins) in the talk around the 18 mintute mark.

This is also accessible via my vodpod.

‘We Own the World’: a Chomsky lecture

We Own the World is the name of a new DVD out by Noam Chomsky in which he looks (surprise, surprise) at the US government and corporate elite policies over the years. These policies, he argues, ‘violate international and domestic laws, and involve imperialist designs that depend on targeted assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians on a mass scale. Yet, US elites still lay claim to being just, democratic, and humane. How can they do this? As Chomsky refrains over and over … they can do it only if we accept the basic assumption that “We own the world” – and therefore have the right to do whatever we want.’ More information here.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And [he who really owns the world] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24–27)

It seems to me that those who find any encouragement from being associated with the One who really owns the world, any comfort from his love, any participation in his Spirit, any affection and sympathy, ought to be at one with him in mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Surely they are those who do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than themselves. Surely they are those who look not to their own interests, but to the interests of others.

 

Protecting Democracy?

‘More than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected for the first time on Tuesday the continuing occupation of their country. The U.S. media ignored the story.’ Read on

It reminds me of Capt. Frank Ramsey’s (played by Gene Hackman) great line in Crimson Tide (1995) : ‘We’re here to protect democracy, not enforce it’.

The irony never ends …