Monday, October 29, 2007

Peace between Muslims and Christians

“Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they may up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace.”

This quotation comes from A Common Word between Us and You, an open letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world representing all branches of Islam. Their letter is addressed to the leaders of Christian churches everywhere, many of them listed by name. It discusses major features common to the two religions: belief in one God, the obligation to love God, and the obligation to love one’s neighbor. While not denying that Muslims and Christians differ over important issues of belief, A Common Word is careful to avoid giving offense to Christians. Instead it encourages both Christians and Muslims to follow their respective faiths more closely.

This letter is receiving positive responses from Christian leaders. For example, Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation, has this to say: “I acknowledge this letter in gratitude and recognition of the need for its further study and consideration. I likewise accept it in the belief that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are called to one another as to a holy site, where God's living revelation in the world is received in reverence among the faithful and not in fear of our neighbors.”

A Common Word between Us and You is a timely statement since the two faiths are frequently misrepresented and misunderstood, even by their own adherents. It is an important contribution to the respectful dialogue between Islam and Christianity now on the rise in many places. A Common Word deserves to be welcomed, not only by Christians and Muslims, but by all people of good will.

For a summary and abridgment of A Common Word, as well as the full text and other resources, see

Friday, October 26, 2007


As always, Juan Cole is right on the mark today in his analysis of the latest Bush-Cheney moves against Iran. Yesterday, the U. S. announced new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and several Iranian banks. As Cole points out, this maneuver stinks of the usual Bush-Cheney hypocrisy. The administration accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, when that's just what the U. S. is doing with the Kurdish guerillas now attacking both Turkey and Iran (see here). The new sanctions completely ignore the complexities of Iranian politics and will probably have little effect. For an excellent assessment of what it all means, see this article in Asia Times.

A U S. strike against Iran is probably on the way. The neocons, led by Dick Cheney, appear determined to hit Iran before they leave office. Republicans are lining up with the usual rhetoric declaring Iran a major threat. None of it is true, but that doesn't seem to matter. Iran is many years away from nuclear capabilities and does not have a delivery system remotely capable of threatening the U. S. The evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to the Iraqi insurgency is thin--about as convincing as the evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2002. In any case, the neocons never examine the fine points: the Iraqi insurgency is almost exclusively Sunni, historic enemies of Iranian Shi'ites. It is extremely unlikely that Iran or any of its clients would be providing arms to Sunni insurgents, who in fact are fighting against a Shi'ite government recognized and favored by Iran.

What really boggles the mind is the stunning incompetence of the neocons clamoring for war with Iran. That they are ideologically bizarre has been demonstrated repeatedly, but why does everything Cheney and his thugs do have to be so incredibly counter to U. S. interests? The occupation of Iraq has given al Qaeda new life; it has strengthened the Iranian position in the Gulf; it has strained the U. S. military to the point of collapse; it has destroyed U. S. credibility in the world community; it has run up a staggering debt. In no way has this debacle improved U. S. security. A strike against Iran would be more of the same. It will bolster the tenuous grip on power of the erratic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who wants nothing more than to lead Iran in a military conflict with the U. S. It will disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf. It will lead to much more dangerous circumstances for U. S. troops in Iraq. And it will probably lead to Iranian attacks on Israel. It could easily and quickly spiral out of control. Iran is capable of causing enormous damage--around the Gulf, in Iraq, in Israel, in Afghanistan. Do the neocons seriously think that Iran will simply change its ways and toe the U. S. line?

A military strike against Iran poses cataclysmic possibilities. It does nothing to make this country or its allies more secure. It would be the final move of a desperate administration unpopular at home and despised around the world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Phony Soldiers?

Here's a link to a piece in the Washington Post, 16 October 2007, in which 12 former captains in the U.S. Army describe what's really happening in Iraq. How long will it be before Rush Limbaugh calls them "phony soldiers"? That's his term for any member of the military who dares to express independent views on this disaster (see here).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Al Gore, who was elected President of the United States in 2000 but denied the office by the United States Supreme Court, has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global climate change. The Nobel citation noted that he "is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” to slow down this cataclysmic threat to world peace and stability. The New York Times article on this award is here.

What will be interesting in the next few days--aside from the inevitable speculation on whether or not he will now decide to run for President--will be how the right-wing attack machine will go into full assault mode in its endless efforts to deny climate change and smear Gore personally. The temperature is rising, and the polar ice caps are melting, yet the well-funded climate skeptics, encouraged by the Bush-Cheney junta, will do anything to protect the interests of the fossil-fuel trust.

Global climate change is probably the most pressing issue in the dismal history of the human species. Among other things, it will disrupt agriculture, raise sea levels, cause mass extinctions, and alter precipitation patterns. There's not much time left to avert the worst of what is likely to happen to our planet's already endangered ecological health.

Al Gore deserves this award, and he deserves our respect and support for his efforts to wake up a somnolent world community.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Honorable Interrogation

The Bush regime insists that torture is necessary to extract essential information from its prisoners. But not only is torture immoral and contrary to international law, it is not necessary for effective interrogation. That’s the claim made by several American interrogators from World War II who were recently honored at a ceremony near the nation’s capital.

“During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone,” said George Frenkel from Kensington, Virginia. “We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, an MIT physicist.

When Peter Weiss, a human rights and trademark lawyer from New York, went up to receive his award, he took the microphone and spoke his mind. “I am deeply honored to be here, but I want to make it clear that my presence here is not in support of the current war.”

Read the whole article at

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thank Candice Miller (Really)

Candice Miller is one of many Republicans who voted to expand the SCHIP program that provides health insurance for children from low-income families. The President vetoed that bill yesterday, and the vote to overturn the veto in the House of Representatives will be close. Go to this web site to let her know that you support her position and to encourage her to resist the inevitable White House Pressure to change it.