Category Archives: Iraq

Occupation and Independance Cannot Coexist

This 4th, I’m thinking about “Operation Enduring Freedom” and wondering in particular when the real Independence Day will arrive for Iraq. Here are some trenchant thoughts on the subject by Kelly Dougherty, former Army National Guard Sergeant (and current Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War):

Occupation and Independence cannot co-exist. Until our troops leave Iraq, until our brothers and sisters come home and we end this grim chapter in our history, Iraq will remain as it is today, four years after its supposed independence: a country wracked with violence where Iraqi civilians and US troops continue to die every day. By continuing to occupy Iraq, we make a mockery of our own history, our own struggle for independence.

The IVAW website has the entire piece.

All the best for a liberating 4th…

How to Observe Memorial Day

Rabban Shim’on ben Gamli’el said, “On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace.” Rav Muna said, “These three are one thing: Where justice is done, truth is done and peace is made. Every place there is justice, there is peace.” — Talmud, Derekh Eretz Zuta, Chapter 2

What does it mean to observe Memorial Day if you (along with the majority of Americans) oppose the continuing war in Iraq? How might we honor the memory of the fallen in a war that most of us believe never should have began in the first place?

Here are a few suggestions:

– Visit the powerful traveling exhibit “Eyes Wide Open” which continues to make its way back and forth across the US. If it’s not landing near you any time soon, look through the extensive resources on their website and/or click the trailer above.

– Visit the website of Veterans Against the Iraq War. Read the soldiers’ blogs and learn more about how to support this important organization that supports the troops but opposes the war.

– Check out Veterans for Peace – a veteran’s network that is sponsoring memorials and events across the country. (The VFP recently made the news when it was shamefully denied permission to participate in the upcoming Memorial Day March in Washington DC.)

– Visit the website of Winter Soldier and watch their collection of eyewitness accounts from soldiers, veterans, scholars, and journalists about the reality on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hope your Memorial Day is more than BBQs and discount sales this year…

Where is the Outrage?

One who is able to protest against a wrong that is being done in his family, his city, his nation or the world and doesn’t do so is held accountable for that wrong. (Talmud, Tractate Shabbat)

As we are currently marking an Iraq War “double-milestone” of five years and 4,000 American military dead, I decided to click on Jews Against the War – the coalition that was launched exactly one year ago. Much to my dismay, I found that the website no longer existed.

What is sadder is that I’m not that surprised. Why should the Jewish anti-war movement (such as it is) be any different than the rest of the anti-war movement, which is essentially in a shambles? I know that there are many reasons for this. I prefer not to analyze them now. I am just so very sad that this horrible anniversary has passed by with nary an ounce of public protest. While most of us who oppose the war are channeling our energies toward a Democratic victory this November, the truth remains that this war will be with us for some time – unless a mass movement of outrage decides differently.

If you’d like to do something, anything, to mark this anniversary, click here to sign an open letter to Congress, calling upon it to:

– Stop funding the war and give the Pentagon only enough money for the safe and orderly redeployment of US troops out of Iraq

– Support a diplomatic offensive – as recommended by the Iraq Study Group – to build a comprehensive solution involving many countries

– Stop funding the construction of permanent military bases in Iraq and military contractors

– Refuse to fund any permanent “security agreement” between President Bush and Iraqi President Maliki unless first approved by Congress and the Iraqi parliament.

And meanwhile, if you are looking for a little outrage to spark your activist conscience, click above for a recent, spot-on Keith Olbermann commentary.

Memorial Day 2007

070324_in02_widehlarge.jpg“A single man was created to teach you that one who destroys a single soul, it is as if he has destroyed an entire world…” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)

As we appropriately remember America’s war dead this Memorial Day (see my earlier post), here’s a plea that we honor the memory of all who have fallen as a result of our nation’s tragic, misbegotten war in Iraq:

For Suhad Shakir, 36, her new job was a dream come true. She had always wanted to work with Americans, and she loved helping people. Last September she quit her post as a journalist at state-owned TV and jumped at an opening with the Iraqi Assistance Center, a Coalition-run office in the Green Zone that works with U.S. and Iraqi agencies to provide social services. It seemed safer than reporting, and it paid better.

On Feb. 4 she was on her way to work, waiting in the queue at a checkpoint near an entrance to the Green Zone which is often targeted by suicide bombers. Shakir was in the slow lane, for Iraqi cars that are subject to careful searches. A convoy of armored vehicles came roaring up and got stuck at the checkpoint. One of the bodyguards in the first vehicle threw a bottle of water at the driver in front of Shakir to signal him to move. The driver panicked and backed into Shakir’s car. She tried to get out of the way but backed into the car behind her. Someone aboard the fourth vehicle in the convoy, seeing Shakir’s sudden move, opened fire, hitting her once. The vehicle slowed and a goateed Westerner in khaki leaned out his window and shot her again in the face at close range. Then the convoy raced off into the Green Zone.

Iraqi cops think Shakir’s killer mistook her for a suicide bomber, but they say they’re continuing to investigate. “It is very important I know why she is killed and who killed her,” said Shakir’s mother, Salima Kadhim, dressed in black a month after her daughter’s death. Like many Iraqis, she still waits.

(Newsweek, April 2, 2007)

No Sacrifice At All…

you_talk_of_sacrifice.jpgThe book of Vayikra/Leviticus, which we begin reading this week, is almost exclusively devoted to details of the sacrificial rituals of ancient Israel. Many commentators have pointed out that there is, in fact, no one Hebrew word for “sacrifice” per se. The Torah presents many different words (e.g. olah, zevach, minchah) for various types of sacrificial offerings that function in different ways depending upon their specific purpose.

The most generic word for sacrifice is “korban,” which comes from the Hebrew root meaning “close.” The clear implication is that sacrifice was the spiritual means by which the ancient Israelites were able to feel close to God’s presence.

This, then, is the central focus of Vayikra: the ways in which sacrifice can help us effect a sense of closeness with the Divine. In this way, Vayikra makes it abundantly clear that spirituality and sacrifice are irrevocably intertwined. Only by giving up something precious and valuable could the Israelites find communion with God. To be sure, animal offerings represented a significant personal sacrifice for a community whose wealth was fundamentally tied up with their flocks and herds. Vayikra emphasizes repeatedly that only the best animals – “without blemish” – were worthy of sacrifice upon the altar. These offerings were, without question, truly sacrificial gifts.

Ever since the destruction of the Temple and the end of the formal sacrificial system, the concept of sacrifice has presented a challenge for Jewish tradition. Though the Jewish sages famously taught that prayer effectively became the functional equivalent of animal sacrifice for Jews, it is worth asking if the sacramental aspect of true sacrifice has somehow become lost to us. Indeed, what significance does korban hold for a contemporary Jewish nation that lives far, far away from the milieu we read about in Leviticus?

As contemporary Americans, we might ask ourselves a similar question: is sacrifice even an operative concept in our civic culture any more? This is a particularly critical question for a country engaged in a war that currently entering its fifth year. Witness this exchange during a recent interview between PBS’s Jim Lehrer and President Bush:

Lehrer: “Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you’ve just said – and you’ve said it many times – as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it’s that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military – the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They’re the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.”

President Bush: “Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.”

Beyond the war in Iraq, we Americans would do well to ask ourselves further: are we ready to sacrifice to pay higher taxes to ensure the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society? Are we ready to make the financial sacrifices necessary to ensure universal health care in our country? Are we ready to sacrifice our increasing energy consumption to help ensure the survival of our planet?

Are we really, truly ready to open an authentic national conversation about the true meaning of collective sacrifice?