Thursday, December 20, 2007

Other Items

There is much to be learned from Sophie Scholl and Franz Jagerstatter. Since their death and in part due to their witness, the Second Vatican Council recognized the validity of selective conscientious objection to war.
Catholics are now advised to refuse to participate in an unjust war. This teaching, however, has yet to be understood and lived.
The general indifference by Canadian Catholics to the plight of American war deserters who have fled to Canada in recent years rather than fight in Iraq is evidence that selective conscientious objection to war is still viewed as somehow not a valid Catholic moral position.
This, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Catholic moral theologians agree with these deserters: the Iraq war is unjust; desertion, in a situation where there are no other alternatives, is preferable to participation in an unjust war.
The war in Iraq is conservatively estimated to have taken the lives of over 100,000 civilians and violates every traditional criterion used to justify war: the invasion of Iraq is not defensive, is not declared by a lawful authority, is not a last resort, does not sufficiently distinguish between civilian and military participants, and is not likely to create more good than the harm it is inflicting.
Yet, the plight of American deserters who have fled to Canada for refuge has not drawn a word of attention from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB.)

The above is from Joe McMorrow's "American deserters deserve the support of the Canadian Catholic Church" (Western Catholic Reporter). War resisters in Canada need to be granted legal status that offers them residency. In the past, that wasn't a problem. In the past, Canada stood up and led. It can lead today but it needs people to stand up outside of Parliament for members of the Parliament to stand up.

Garett Reppenhagen, Jeff Englehart, Joe Hatcher and Ben Schrader are the topic of the next highlight. Rob notes J. Adrian Stanley's "Mightier than the Sword: Inspired by overwhelming emotion, local veterans turn to the healing power of poetry" (Colorado Springs Independent):

They dispersed across the country, but the blog kept going. Reppenhagen was quickly drawn into activism. He took a job in Washington, D.C., with Veterans for America. In his spare time, he volunteered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and for Iraq Veterans Against the War, a national support, advocacy and education organization.
In 2006, Reppenhagen was at the Vans Warped Tour with the Bouncing Souls, introducing the song "Letters from Iraq" -- one of Reppenhagen's poems, set to music.
Coincidentally, a young soldier named Jared Hood was in the audience that day. Hood later told Reppenhagen that the Warped speech helped him decide to go AWOL.
In 2007, Reppenhagen moved to Green Mountain Falls and started attending Pikes Peak Community College, studying to be a history teacher. Slowly, he began gathering his old friends. Schrader lives in the Fort Collins area. Hatcher lives in Cascade with his girlfriend and her 5-year-old son; they are expecting twins. Englehart moved to Denver at Reppenhagen's urging, bringing his wife.
The friends are all active in IVAW. And they've found others like them. Hood is now the Denver chapter president. Another friend, Mark Wilkerson, runs the Colorado Springs chapter. Wilkerson started writing in earnest while he was locked up for deserting.
"In prison, I really started to find myself," he says, "and this stuff just started to spew out of me."
Across the country, veterans are writing and blogging. IVAW has locked into the growing interest that veterans have in poetry, by launching the Warrior Writers Project. It has since hosted five workshops, where vets share ideas and write poetry, across the country. (There has yet to be a workshop in Colorado.)
Green Door Studio, in collaboration with People's Republic of Paper, has printed one compilation book, Warrior Writers: Move, Shoot and Communicate. L. Brown & Sons Printing, Inc., is putting out a new book, Re-making Sense, in January. Colorado Springs vets are featured in both.
The local veterans' writing community continues to grow, through open mics and advocacy groups. Here are some of the poems coming out of it, along with authors' introductions.

You can also find out more information at IVAW.

The Iraqi refugee population is over 4 million people -- internally and externally displaced.
From Miret El Naggar's "Palestinian refugees from Iraq stranded in desert camp" (McClatchy Newspapers) :

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees who've been forced out of their homes in Iraq are stranded in a remote stretch of the Syrian desert, where they're living in tents that offer little shelter against blinding sandstorms and the biting cold of winter nights, according to humanitarian aid workers and refugees.
Syrian authorities have barred the Palestinians from leaving the Tanaf refugee camp near the border with Iraq. Journalists aren't allowed to visit.
But United Nations officials and camp residents reached by phone described deteriorating health conditions, with an increase in illnesses related to contaminated water and skin afflictions caused by unhygienic conditions. Many children have lice, the Palestinians said, and the elderly suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. They survive solely through handouts from the U.N. and Arab humanitarian groups.
"We die a thousand times a day," said Wafaa Mazhar, 37, a mother of five who said that her 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia six months ago at Tanaf. "We Palestinians are leading miserable lives. We're helpless, and no one feels our pain."
The fate of the 500 or so Palestinians at the Tanaf camp has been largely overlooked as governments and humanitarian groups focus on the 2.5 million Iraqi refugees who've flocked to urban hubs in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Across from Tanaf, on the Iraqi side of the border, 1,900 Palestinians from Baghdad live in the squalid Walid camp, aid workers said.

Refugees is also a topic in this morning's New York Times. Cara Buckley's "Refugees Risk Coming Home to an Unready Iraq" begins on the front page. Maha Hashim and Afraah Kadhom and their families are two of the refugees Buckley examines. Both women tell similar details -- monies ran out in Syria, return to Baghdad . . . to nothing. There is no work, there is no place to live. A truck bombing destroyed Hashim's home and she (and her children) live in an uncle's apartment, Kadhom's is gone. Bombed. Rubble. Hashim's husband was a police officer. He was shot dead in 2006. Kadhom's "father and four brothers were killed two years ago" in a home invasion.

Buckley doesn't source this statement: "The government's widely publicized plan to run free buses from Damascus, Syria to Baghdad was suspended after just two runs." If it's true, it's worth noting that they sure got a lot of mileage (propaganda) out of those two runs. (Buckley isn't saying there were "two buses," she's referring to two runs.)

Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports on an event that left 18-year-old Waleed Khalid Khudhaier, an Iraqi police officer, dead. Farrell reports that Waleed is thought to be the man who died in an event under investigation where an Iraqi police officer and a US marine are thought to have been involved in a knife battle on a base and the police officer was killed.

The incident is an embarrassment for the United States military, which has paised Anbar as a model for Sunni tribes and American soldiers cooperating to fight fundamentalist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown militant group that United States intelligence officials say is led by foreigners. The death has provoked local anger and demands for legal action.

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