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Writings by Voices

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Cathy Breen Writes from Damascus

Damascus, Syria
May 8th, 2010

Dear Friends,

I wish I could transport you to be here with me. It has turned hot, but this morning is still blissfully pleasant. But it is still early morning, 6:30am, and in two hours the sun will be beating down. I have a third floor room in an old rather tumbling down house in the old city on Straight Street. Yes, it is the same street that is mentioned in our scriptures where Paul was healed from his blindness after an encounter with God on the road to Damascus. As I write you, I am thinking about how poor my own vision has become. The glaring unforgiving sun here doesn’t help the cataract in my right eye at all. I am cautious as I descend the steep cement stairs to the one bathroom in the courtyard below.

Kick up the volume and cut off the funding!

A call for an end to more “quiet diplomacy” with Israel

A favorite professor of mine once told me that the more you learn about history, the more you realize how little you really know, and how much you still have to learn. Last night, I was both moved and angered to further learn about the ongoing destruction and blockade of the Gaza strip. The award winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer, showed photographs and told us many moving stories about his life and experiences in Gaza. These stories included the demolition of Mohammed’s home and loss of his brother and neighbors.

Decency and Strength

February 2, 2010

Here in Colorado Springs, student and community organizers recently invited me to try and help promote their campaign against a proposed “No Camping” ordinance, a law to ban the homeless from sleeping on sidewalks or public lands within the city limits. The organizers insist it’s wrongful to criminalize the most desperate and endangered among us, that it instead seems quite criminal to persecute people already in need of far more care and compassion than we’ve been willing to offer, especially during these bitterly cold winter months. But others in the area are intent on eliminating the tent encampments near the Monument Creek and Shooks Run trails, complaining that the encampments mar natural beauty, deter tourists, create fire hazards, and degrade the environment by strewing heaps of trash and debris near the creek and even in it.

Tough Minds, Tender Hearts

January 19, 2010

I spent Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday in Washington, D.C. as part of the Witness Against Torture fast, which campaigns to end all forms of torture and has worked steadily for an end to indefinite detention of people imprisoned in Guantanamo, Bagram, and other secret sites where the U.S. has held and tortured prisoners. We’re on day 9 of a twelve day fast to shut down Guantanmo, end torture, and build justice.

Why Torture?

January 18, 2010

Taking part in Witness Against Torture’s Fast for Justice has caused me to reflect on the nature of torture and why it exists in society. For the past couple years, I have been involved in one way or another in both the movement to shut down the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay and the movement to seek justice for over 20 police torture victims that still remain incarcerated in Chicago based on confessions extracted by torture by former police commander Jon Burge.

While working to end torture and its repercussions, meeting survivors of torture and participating in this fast, I have often found myself looking for rational explanations to explain both the plight of the tortured and the torturer. Many of the individuals I have known or read extensively about who have been tortured do belong to some minority or excluded group. Listening to and looking at their stories, there are some strong socio-political connections to be made. — An African-American man in racist Chicago; a bi-sexual man from an intolerant Cameroon; a Muslim man from Yemen caught in the indiscriminate and ever-expanding spider’s web of the United States War on Terror.

Death to No One: 30 Years after the Iran Hostage Crisis

November 4, 2009
by Bitta Mostofi

Today marks the 30th year since the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis began in 1979. On this day the media traditionally offers us images of Iranians burning American flags and effigies of Uncle Sam. We are reminded of the great chasm of mistrust and misunderstanding that has marked the last three decades of US-Iranian relations. But, in the past year both Americans and Iranians have asked for something new. Americans have elected a president that promises to pursue diplomacy and Iranians have given birth to a popular democratic movement. So, we should not use this 30th anniversary of the hostage crisis to simply re-live tragedy and tension. Rather, today Americans have an opportunity to honestly reflect on our relationship with Iran and think about how to move forward.

Assassinations, Peace and State Violence in South Asia

By Abdul Malik Mujahid

November 3, 2009

It was way past midnight in Chicago when I was awakened by a phone call. “Congratulations,” someone was saying in Hindi, “Indira Gandhi is dead”. It took me a while to properly understand what he was saying. He was an Indian, and I was shocked to hear his celebrative tone on the death of his leader and his assumptions that as a Pakistani I must be happy as well.

The Rotten Fruits of War

by Dan Pearson and Kathy Kelly

October 21, 2009

Now that the military offensive in Swat has wound down, Pakistan’s government officials have labeled the operation a success. They claim to have cleared the area of Taliban fighters and have commenced a new military offensive in South Waziristan.

A closer look reveals a very different story.

Chicago and Pakistan

By Jim Rissman

October 7, 2009

Appropriately, Congress passed the Kerry-Lugar “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009″ and the International Olympic Committee made its much anticipated decision just as the baseball season drew to a close.

What follows are Kerry-Lugar-related excerpts mostly from Dawn, The News International and The Nation. The articles, mostly op-ed, raise Pakistani concerns with the aid package.

Health Care vs. Warfare: The Future Costs of the Afghanistan War

September 8, 2009

On Wednesday, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on health care. Later this year he will decide whether to deploy additional troops to the war in Afghanistan, on top of the 69,000 troops already deployed. The struggle for health care and the struggle to end warfare are inextricably linked. The cost for substantive (though imperfect) health care reform as envisioned in the House of Representatives approach (with the public option) is projected to average $100 billion per year for the next 10 years. The cost to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are projected to cost anywhere from $55 to $100 billion a year. With a few modest reductions to the baseline military budget and the difference is paid.

The choice is clear: health care or warfare; the Common Good or Common Destruction.