Category Archives: pacifism

>Dark Clouds: Looking Back at Security Preparations for the G20

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States are not moral agents, people are, and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions.

~ Noam Chomsky
Wars, foreign policies, economic meltdowns, immigration laws, state of the union addresses, military budgets, pomp, closed door meetings, state secrets, police forces, fear, all point to what Jesus referred to as the Kingdom of the World. It is a world of “power over” others, as Greg Boyd describes in his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation. Power clings to power, wealth builds protection around itself, and for good reason. Those without power, without wealth, sometimes what to tear down, or at minimum call into question, power and wealth. And for good reason as well. Power over others inevitably leads to cruelty and death, to loss of fundamental rights and freedoms, and to official lies and false promises.
“Power over” also produces tactics of self-protection, including violence and overwhelming force.
A lot of people claim to like or even love Jesus. I would guess that many, maybe most, of those people also cling to and justify kingdom of the world ideologies. We have a tendency to seek security and comfort. We we often give up many freedoms as long as we are promised personal peace and prosperity. We like the example of Jesus, but all too often fall into the trap of believing in the safety of “power over” social structures. Sometimes, however, people rise up to challenge “power over” assumptions.
The first three videos below, from Press for Truth, were made in the weeks prior to the recent G20 Summit that took place in Toronto. The fourth video documents some actions at the summit, including members of the Black Bloc causing property damage, and large numbers of police harassing protesters in the official protest zone. The fourth video also asks the question of whether disguised police infiltrated the Black Bloc and helped to lead some of the riots in order to justify other police actions and an enormous security budget. The news reported that the protest riots got out of hand at the summit. Hundreds of people were arrested.
I find these reports fascinating.
Clearly, the use of violence is exactly not in the tradition of Jesus. In fact, the Black Bloc is committed to a “power over” position as much as the bankers of the WTO or the IMF, or the police forces they so love to hate. Their use of violence, regardless of anything else they might say, gives them away. But the others, those that seek a new paradigm through peaceful protest (that is designed to publicly call into question the prevailing ideologies), are living, at least in part, within the tradition of Jesus – even if they would never call themselves Christian or darken the door of a church.
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>John Zerzan: On Modernity & the Technosphere*

>John Zerzan lives in Eugene, Oregon. He is an author, speaker, and the host of AnarchyRadio. I have only recent discovered Zerzan, but I like a lot of where he is coming from.

Here is a lecture from Binghamton University on April 2, 2008.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/gbs5zcYhAg%5D

* Grabbed from Essential Dissent. Discovered by way of Jesus Radicals.

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>The audacity of what?!

>Consider this post to be like one of those emails with a subject line something like “Fwd: Fdw: Fdw: YOU MUST SEE THIS.” You know the one you think you are going to delete but then end up reading and then are glad you did.

I offer a slight warning: If you are an American – meaning a citizen of the U.S.A. (as I am) and not the many millions of others living in the Americas – don’t be put off by the fact that the video comes from the Socialism 2009 conference. I say this not merely because you shouldn’t be afraid (a tendency in this country) of political/economic ideologies that are both more democratically minded as well as more committed to social justice & equality than our own current system, but because John Pilger is one of the finest journalists in the world today and has been for many years. His take on Obama, American exceptionalism, propaganda, and current trends is wonderful and, I think, hits the nail of the head.

It is difficult for me to listen to Pilger because he describes exactly what I knew I was going to get when I voted for Obama. I voted with my pragmatist’s hat on, voting against McCain and excited to see change. But I knew in my heart I would not see real change. I knew all that was fundamentally wrong with our current military industrial system, our socioeconomic structures, and our hierarchies of power within and without the borders of this country would remain the same and probably reinforced. That is what we have in Obama, a better politician and president than we have had the previous eight years, but also the same. On the other hand I love hearing Pilger say what needs to be said and to do so in a way U.S. journalists rarely can.

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>Noam Chomsky: The Stony Brook Interviews Part Two

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>Noam Chomsky: The Stony Brook Interviews Part One

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The casualties of Operation Overloard

One of the truest clichés is that war is hell.


New Zealand Commandos ready to hit the beach

Today is 65 years since Operation Overlord began – also known as D-Day. This day stands as one of the great moments of triumph in the wars of good versus evil that are seared into our consciousness. I have always viewed the actions of the soldiers who landed on the beaches to be nothing short of heroic, and I still do, but I am burdened by the casualties from the event. I wrote a post recently on my attitude towards war and I must confess I have difficulties bringing together my hatred of war and my thanks for the heroes of D-Day.


British commandos in a ruined French town, Normandy.

Consider the casualties from Operation Overlord. This is taken directly from Wikipedia and it bears reading and pondering:

The cost of the Normandy campaign had been high for both sides. From D-Day to 21 August the Allies had landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The Allies lost around 209,672 casualties from June 6 to the end of August, around 10 % of the forces landed in France. The casualties breaks down to 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. Split between the Army-Groups; the Anglo-Canadian Army-Group suffered 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded and 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825 casualties. The American Army-Group suffered 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded and 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847 casualties. To these casualties it should be added that no less then 4,101 aircrafts were lost and 16,714 airmen were killed in direct connection to Operation Overlord. Thus total Allied casualties rises to 226,386 men. 78 Free French SAS (Special Air Service) killed, 195 wounded in Brittany from 5 June to the beginning of August. For Allied tank losses there are no direct number. A fair estimate is that around 4,000 tanks were destroyed, of which 2,000 were fighting in American units.

The German casualties remains unclear. The estimates of the German casualties stretches from 288,000 men to 450,000 men. Just in the Falaise Gap the Germans lost around 60,000 men in killed, wounded and captured. The majority of the German casualties contained of POWs as nearly 200,000 were captured during the closure of the battle. The Germans committed around 2,300 tanks and assault guns to the battle in Normandy, and only around 100 to 120 were brought back across the Seine. The overwhelming majority of the German tanks destroyed were put out of action by the Allied airforce, while very few of the Allied tank losses were inflicted by the Luftwaffe.

19,860 French civilians were killed during the liberation of Normandy, and an even greater number were wounded. The number excludes the 15,000 civilians killed and the 19,000 wounded in the bombings of Normandy in preparation of the invasion. Many cities and towns in Normandy and northern France were totally devastated by the fighting and the bombings. As many as 70,000 French civilians may have been killed during the liberation of France in 1944.

These numbers are staggering. Keep in ming that is for less than two months of fighting and such losses are entirely unbelievable by today’s expectations.


Dead U.S. soldier, Omaha beach

D-Day is considered a great triumph. It was the first major stake through the heart of European fascism and Nazi ambitions. We use the words “saved the world from fascism” and “liberated Europe” when we talk about D-Day and its heroes. I have always had strong emotions about WWII and D-Day. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan truly chokes me up. I spent hundreds of hours as a kid pouring over my WWII book collection, closely examining photographs, reading the stories, and wishing I had been there. However, D-Day can also be seen a part of a huge failure. A failure not merely because there where many political options not exercised by the Europeans and Americans all through the 1930s that could have dealt with the rise of Hitler and fascism and avoided war altogether, and not merely because one source of WWII was the WWI (the war to end all wars) which also could have been avoided but was entered into with relish by all sides, but D-Day is a failure because all war is failure. War is a powerful and profound testament of human evil. To seek war, whether from selfish ambition, glory, or even from a felt obligation is, to use an old but still valid term, sinful.


Dead German soldier, Normandy.

More than ever on days like this one, where we appropriately remember the sacrifices of so many human lives for causes that we believe in, I am in conflict. Should those soldiers have stormed the beaches in Normandy 65 years ago to save the world? Maybe not, for war is wrong. And yet they did and I am grateful they did. So today I will remember what those soldiers did and what they gave (in fact I am in awe of their service), but I will also remember and grieve the casualties on all sides, including the civilian casualties, and I will remember that the human tendency to war and glorify war is my tendency too because I am a sinner.

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War, what is it good for? Considering the reasons for Memorial Day

42 million people died as a result of war in the 20th century. 42 million. And that’s only military deaths.*


Graveyards turn death into solemn beauty.

This is not beautiful.

 

War is evidence of something else. That something else has everything to do with what was in the heart of Cain as he slew his brother. That thing that war is, that indivisible characteristic, is the deeply felt need to use violence, even murder, as a means to achieve ends – certain or uncertain. War is the violent extension of the human heart’s corruption – a corruption that produces pride, envy, condemnation, selfishness, self loathing, and a host of other sins. Intrinsic to that characteristic is the justification of war. Possibly to oversimplify, violence and its justification is war.

As a Christ follower I cannot support war. Nor can I fully support any government that uses violence to achieve its ends, even if those ends may somehow benefit me. And I cannot celebrate with that government and participate in it nationalistic liturgies in glorifying the deaths of those who died carrying out such violence. But I can remind myself of how much people have suffered under the brutal hand of war. And I can still be amazed at the personal sacrifices so many individual soldiers have made.** I wrote about this last year.

A survey of history shows the human tendency to make war. Not only that, but to glory in war. Not only that, but to love war – and then be shocked at its brutality. When God points to Jesus on the cross and says that’s my attitude toward sin (just to throw in a little Christian theology here) it’s as if humankind said alright we’ll do that – and then set about to recreate that bloody crucifixion and kill and torture as many people as possible. When Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these you do to me, humanity seems to have largely shrugged its shoulders and gone on to other things – like justifying war and creating war heroes.

There is nothing good about war. Even victory is a tragedy. In deeply profound and unavoidable ways all wars throughout all of history have been grave failures. War is truly good for nothing.


If there is one thing I dislike about this video, it’s setting
the horror of war to a catchy tune. Still, it makes me weep.

 

Of course we are always looking for ways to find nobility in war making. We have our war heroes and give them medals, even if we often refuse to look directly at what they did to get those honors, and then go on to ignore many of their long lasting war-related troubles (physical, mental, spiritual). But there is no nobility in war. When we celebrate such “holidays” as memorial day (formerly known as decoration day) we must keep in mind the tragic nature of those days. Memorial day is not a day of celebration but of grieving. If you take the time to remember the fallen this memorial day, if you put out a flag as we do, do so not to praise but to weep.

We know blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted, But also, blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Let us stop praising war and the war makers and start being people of peace.

* The number is much higher, closer to 200 million, if we consider any deaths by mass unpleasantness including genocide, tyranny, civilian deaths in war, and man made famines – all of which can be considered war.

** I have always been someone drawn to war and its stories. I love good war movies and novels. As a child I was fascinated with the machines of war. If a fighter jet flies overhead I cannot help but stare in awe. I also have relatives who fought in wars and relatives who are currently in the military. To not praise war and to not celebrate those who wage war is an unnatural act for me, but it is and act I am obligated to make.

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