Military

“It could be that civilians were nearby… it would not be the first time,”

Photo by New York Times

Many of you remember my post from a few months ago on what is currently happening in the Gaza strip in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The above image comes from last Thursday, when Israeli military killed over 20 people in one day during fighting in the Gaza strip. 14 of those deaths happened in Central Gaza, and five of those killed were under 16 years old. The image depicts an unnamed Palestinian boy, in what is probably the last moment in his life. He was hit by Israeli tank fire while standing amongst a Reuters TV crew – with vehicles clearly marked as a media crew – that lost a cameraman whose name was Fadel Shana.

This is a link to a video from Fadel Shana’s camera. It is of an Israeli tank in the distance firing a shell at the TV crew – again, a clearly marked vehicle. You will see, just before the video goes black, a secondary explosion in the upper part of the screen. This is the shell cartridge as it explodes, shooting thousands of lethal antipersonnel darts (“flechettes”) into the bodies of Fadel Shana and three Palestinian bystanders, two of them boys.

Here is a link to the NY Times coverage of the fighting that day. Note the comments of Israeli Army spokeswoman Leibovich:

Asked about the many civilian casualties, Maj. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli Army spokeswoman, said the military had struck an armed group. “It could be that civilians were nearby; it would not be the first time,” she said.

(more…)

Colombia, Ecuador and Chavez

Chavez escalates border tensionsFor the last few days, I’ve been wanting to write something about the news from the region Charletta and I recently left. Today my teammates in Colombia released Border Tensions: A Prayer Request. This statement puts things a lot better then I could have. It also notes some details that I hadn’t heard, such as the claim by the Ecuadorian government that FARC commander Reyes was in “advanced stages of negotiations” with the Ecuadorian government for further hostage releases when he was killed.

I have to admit that I didn’t really shed any tears when I heard about the death of Reyes. Under his leadership the FARC has massacred indigenous people, farmers and North American activists and committed many terrorist acts. They’ve built a drug trafficking empire and lost any credibility as a positive force for change in the region. They’ve become a criminal enterprise acting with a thin veneer of ideology and in the process caused untold damage to Colombia’s authentic movements for social change. But the CPT release is a good reminder that this bombing represents a continued shift on the part of the Colombian government “to deal with the national conflict in a military framework rather than building on civil and diplomatic attempts.”

The team’s statement also mentions the “saber-rattling by neighbors in the region”. I’d like to look at that saber rattling a little more closely. Specifically, the war-mongering coming from the party that was not directly involved in the incident, Chavez. In the fall of 2006 I went to Venezuela on my honeymoon and wrote four posts here (1, 2, 3, 4) documenting some of the reactions we heard to Chavez from people we met along the way. At the time we saw that there were a lot of good things going on in Venezuela, but it was also clear that Chavez’s leadership was problematic. While we were there he made his famous Bush-is-the-devil speech that boosted Chomsky to #1 on Amazon. It was a stunt that brought up conflicted response for me. While it was great to have Chomsky get some exposure, Chavez was clearly setting a polarizing and divisive course for himself and his country. (more…)

“Wait for the Exodus”: Today in Gaza

Palestinian infant injured by missle fire
Maybe we’ve stopped praying for Palestine. Maybe we never cared to start. Maybe it was too hard to ask God for a fix to this complex situation; and, hey, we don’t know the history well enough.

I hear lots of Christians decrying violence in Kenya – cuz, ya know, there are missionaries there. It’s a “save-able” country.
I haven’t heard much Christian response to the remarks made by Israeli deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that if Hamas does not stop its rocket fire, then it will be in for a big shoah and Israel will defend itself at all costs.

What does shoah mean? Well, it can be translated as “big disaster”. But, for most folks who speak Hebrew, shoah generally means holocaust. It is almost exclusively used to describe the mass extermination of the Jews during World War II, and certainly it would not be used by a high ranking official in public for any other reason. (more…)

Bush appointees plan Nuremburg of our time (but rigged)

So you may have read in the news a few weeks ago that US seeks the death penalty as six detained in Guantánamo are charged over 9/11. Though the process has been abominable, at least the decision to hold a trial (as opposed to indefinite detention) seems like a step in the right direction: away from the war on terror and toward a criminal justice response to terrorism. I wrote last year about Britain taking a step in the same direction.

Unfortunately, The Nation has an article today that suggests guilty verdicts in these trials may be a foregone conclusion. Here’s an excerpt from their article describing an interview with Col. Morris Davis , former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. “[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,” recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.'”

(more…)

Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

(more…)

Bad News for Arms Dealers

Campaigning against the arms trade has always been a David and Goliath battle with a few small underfunded non-profit organizations against a massive, wealthy industry in which multi-billion dollar deals are routine. Good news usually comes after years of quiet, mostly thankless work.

All that is to say that I was extremely happy to read about the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation this week. DESO is (or was) a uniquely British government department whose sole purpose is to promote the sale of British weapons abroad using whatever “legal” means available to them.

During my time in the UK I spent a good deal of my time working with SPEAK, a Christian student campaigning network who was working to close DESO. In 2004 we spent a few hours on the coldest day of the year praying in a trench outside DESO headquarters and bringing them baskets filled with daffodils. As with many public witnesses, it was a whole lot of work and shivering that felt like a drop in a vast, empty bucket. (more…)

Responding to Bush’s Irresponsibility.

Hi, I’m new.

I was going to leave this as a comment to the post left a few days ago, asking the question how we support our troops without supporting their mission. I decided to leave it as a post instead. Here it is.

I struggle with this question as well.

I think one possible message to send is that Bush, in his latest plan of escalation, in which he committed 20,000 extra troops to Iraq (including giving orders that 4,000 troops deploy to the Anbar province), was irresponsible. (more…)

a day late

I was just reminded of the significance of the fact that yesterday was April 4. If you go back in history a few decades – you’ll remember that April 4, 1968 was the day MLK Jr. was assassinated. But right now, I’m more interested in what happened one year before that on April 4, 1967 (40th anniversary was yesterday). King gave one of his more famous speeches at Riverside Church, titled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.

I’ll spare you a reflection or commentary of that here but I just want to make note of this anniversary and suggest that you all take a little time to read it (pdf)* or listen to it (quicktime).* It’s pretty long so you might have to take more than a “little” time. I must have been out of the loop yesterday because I didn’t hear or read anything about it in the media. I usually catch things like this.

I must say though, that it’s not a very big mental jump to replace a few words and King could be speaking to us today. Forty years later, the message is as relevant as when he made it.

*if you don’t want to download the pdf, it’s also here and audio can also be heard here (realmedia) and here (mp3).

Christian Peace Witness raises more questions than I had before

Yes, I call myself a pacifist. And yes, I went with a group from my area as a reporter on the Christian Peace Witness. If alarm bells are ringing in your head about my capacity to be objective, you’re not the only one.

Here’s why I thought I could do it: While overall I oppose war and violence, I have a lot of questions and issues with the war in Iraq. The CPW was a response to that war specifically, not a call to disband the U.S. military or whatever. The more I learn about Iraq, the more I realize it’s an intensely complex situation that has no easy answers. I don’t pretend to know what should be done there. Not to mention I didn’t seek out the CPW—it came to me when the local trip coordinator contacted my editor to see if we’d do a story. I looked at the info and realized it would be a much better story if I went with them. My editors know our readers eat it up when local people do interesting things, so I ended up doing a front-page package deal of three stories and lots of photos for Sunday’s paper. (more…)