Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Ways of thinking: Checking our moral compass

Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years
By Stephen Moore

I get a big kick out of all these folks, like Stephen Moore, who do not give or promote real viable remedies. All they do, at least from what I have read, is to be critical and tell all of us about their ideology: the in-and-out of libertarianism, conservatism, or, in this case, the ideology of an Ayn Rand.

This philosophy is what has got us in trouble in the first place: capitalism, elitism and completely free markets without boundaries.

Now I am a libertarian-leaning thinker, I do believe in the preeminence of the individual – not just the elite. I also know that there must be, in our zeitgeist -- in some future world it may not be the case -- boundaries and regulation, albeit as minimal as possible, within which the folks who do have the where-with-all with power and control must operate.

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is all about those things that are unacceptable and immoral, at least in my mind. Both from a free market-capitalist and an interaction of government point of view the political insights she has hyperbolically expressed, to an extent, might be true,

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Stephen Moore’s book and article are all about avarice and elitism.

I don’t have the answer, either. But I do know that we in the United States and in the World, in government and as a people, must in the most profound way check our moral compass.

These ideologies just don’t “cut the mustard” with me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Robert Francis Kennedy

I grew up in a small town in New England. The population during the mid 50’s was around 3,000 people. I graduated high school with a class of about 32. With the exception of a few non-white Americans, it was practically an all white community.

It was in 1955, attending Boston’s Berkley College of Music, I first met African American men and women.

During those years the name of Dr. Martin Luther King came up often. In the relationships I had with white people at school and in my community the name of Martin Luther King and his civil rights initiatives were frequently discussed, and always, at least it seemed, in derogatory association with Malcolm X and his black power movement, as if they both politically and ideologically were from the same cloth. The belief in the white community, in which I lived, was that Malcolm X and King were out to establish an all black America – a view, by the way, that I heard from many whites in relationship to Barack Obama; that there was no basis for civil rights legislation, because in their mind in the northeast there was no racism, or so they thought, even though there was in fact de facto racism, of which they never seemed to be cognizant. The African Americans who I knew and worked with as a musician never gave me an indication of any interest in black power, I, nevertheless, was still lead by the views of my white associations.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s I traveled as a musician throughout the Deep South. Much to my chagrin I was appalled at not only the poverty, but also the treatment and segregation practices that I witnessed toward African American men, women and children. I was embarrassed that I could be lead by the subliminal racist views of others in such a way as to believe that what I was witnessing, what was in the view of some northerners not fact. If I had not had this experience, the profoundness and propinquity of the celebration of MLK’s life to, and the inauguration of our first African American President, most likely would not be so meaningful to me. It was surreally spiritual, in many ways, at least to me.

Throughout the 60’s to 1975 the United States was involved in an undeclared War. A war waged, seemingly, at the whim of the President of the United States and its military machine. It was an unacceptable use of our military, many lives were lost, there were many atrocities on all sides and by all sides of the conflict, and it was a war that tore our country apart with unimaginable polarization. We had a raging war in Vietnam and an intense war at home; both out of control. Our government was not listening nor, as a result, towards the end of the war, complying with the wishes of its people. A revolution, another civil war, was on our doorsteps, which I believe would have occurred if the war had not ended.

There were many voices speaking for human decency and civil rights, and many voices in opposition to the Vietnam War. Two of the most prominent and eloquent of those voices were Martin Luther King and Robert Francis Kennedy.

Their messages are as relative and their words just as worthy today as they were then.

Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech of August 28, 1963 needs no further explanation of his pursuit on civil rights, or of his pursuit for human dignity. Anyone who has heard or read that speech certainly knows that it speaks for itself. And it is important to understand that his pursuit was not just in the cause of African Americans, but for all people: non-white and white alike.

MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence” speech of April 4, 1967 is less known, but is just as powerful. As Martin Luther King expressed in that speech there is a connection between the have-not’s – those in poverty and of middle income -- and those who have money and power, and the war that people with money and power wage; they cannot be separated. Dr. King also said, “This [the brotherhood of man] is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?”

I was 30 years old when on April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. At the time I understood, at some level, the meaning of his loss. However, it was not until I became an older man, not until Tuesday, January 20, 2009 did I authentically understand in the most profound sense what greatness Martin Luther King achieved. What MLK gave his life for is what came to fruition with the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama.

Many have said that I voted for Barack Obama because he was black.

First, they fail to see that the man is both black and white, born of a white mother and a black father, in which at one time in my life that was considered to be worse than being black. I can very vividly remember the derogatory name-calling of “Half Breed,” and if it were the other way around and one so happened to be white and poor, or white and black they were called “White Trash.” (and, also, by the way, both the so-called “Half Breed,” and “White Trash” seemed to be accepted in the black communities, but not in white communities) Today, unfortunately, those words are still used by some. So, we as a people have not quite reached the mountain top, but it is clearly in view despite the cloudy overcast.

Second, I voted for Barack Obama because of his moral vision, having the same moral vision as Robert Francis Kennedy. RFK’s moral vision was clearly expressed on April 4, 1968 in his “Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr,” and in his speech of March 18, 1968, “Recapturing America’s Moral Vision.”

There are many similarities between the views and political goals of Robert Kennedy and Barack Obama. The same qualities of greatness are apparent in each of them: vision, passion, discipline, persistence, empathy and caring, and the art of communication. They both embraced an America that offers hope and the promise of a better future to America and the world; appealed to the younger generation; possessed qualities that inspire others; advocated transparency and candor within government; and their equally passionate concern, and intended pursuit, for civil rights and human dignity for all. They both embrace the new frontier vision of John Kennedy as expressed in his American University commencement speech of June 10, 1963 “… defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace.” -- RFK more so explicitly because of his direct legacy to JFK; Barack H Obama expressed it more implicitly.

As with James Carroll, as he states it in his recent article in the Boston Globe, I am not an optimist either: “Not that Obama makes me an optimist - one who looks at the evidence and concludes about the future that things are getting better. Indeed, the evidence - from the economy to Gaza - suggests the opposite. But Obama has defined himself by hope, not optimism, and that is different. Hope sees the evidence, and something more. The catastrophes that define the public agenda, and the new president's challenges, can themselves be taken as opportunities. Obama's gifts are impressive, but his greatest asset as he stands before the American people tomorrow is what we are offering to him - a readiness to believe again in the greatness of our nation.” However, I do have hope in America and faith that one day we will reach the summit of Martin Luther King’s dream, as ostensibly do other countries see in America a great hope for their future. I firmly believe: Yes We Can!

Here you can see where Barack Obama’s sensibilities lie: David Leonhardt, writing in an article titled Obamanomics, published on August 20, 2008, in the New York Times magazine, spoke about a conversation he had with Barack Obama during which he referred to as one of Robert F. Kennedy’s “most beautiful of his speeches”: “Two things, he [Barack Obama] said, as we were standing outside the first-class bathroom. ‘One, just because I think it really captures where I was going with the whole issue of balancing market sensibilities with moral sentiment. One of my favorite quotes is — you know that famous Robert F. Kennedy quote about the measure of our G.D.P.?’”

David Leonhardt said that he did not. So here is what the GNP meant to Robert F. Kennedy:

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.”

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Thomas Whalen, Boston University Professor of American History and Social Change, metaphorically and analytically described the comparison between what he envisions in an Obama presidency and that of any of his predecessors: “it’s like comparing Lawrence Welk to Miles Davis.”

In conclusion, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., expresses what this particular inauguration meant to me, personally, and I believe for so many others: “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

This I believe: Barack Obama embraced Robert Kennedy as one of those who look at things the way they are, and ask why, and has dreamed of things that never were, and has asked why not.”

In my life it seems there is always a “time and season for all things.” I believe that the time and season has arrived for America.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Holding Barack Obama’s Feet to the Fire

Out of fear, America wages war, allows torture, we allow violations of our laws and our values, and we allow the President of the United States and others to circumvent the fundamental tenets of the U.S. Constitution. To act out in anger, out of fear, is not a courageous act; it’s a cowardly act and a sign of weakness. To act out in hate and anger, because of fear, is a serious flaw in our personal and national character. On the other hand, fear is a natural and necessary human response, but when it is not an understood controlled behavior it becomes a determent by not acting at all, or it’s a determent when we do not act in an appropriate way, so, instead of fear being a warning to use caution -- a heads-up -- our behavior turns to anger and hate.

Because of our fears, instead of being outraged that a violation of our American values has taken place, it has become apparent that Americans will allow human life to be violable, allow violations against the sanctity of life, and will tolerate crimes against humanity and civil liberties. We allow the torture of another human, and look for ways of excusing ourselves from that fact by a redefinition of something that does not need redefinition, and by putting torture in the context of complex legal definitions. We redefine and put in legalese the sin of torture as aggressive interrogation technique, or extraordinary rendition to obfuscate or make oblique -- words that cloud what is really taking place -- the handing-off of a human being to another state to be tortured on our behalf.

Disturbing as it is, the Stanley Milgram experiments of close to fifty years ago, and the more recent study by Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University in California, have shown that most of us would torture others if ordered to do so. (1) These studies revealed that most people would obediently deliver painful electrical shocks to others if encouraged to do so by someone in authority, even though it conflicted with their personal conscience. We therefore must reject any directive, by anyone, until we take the time to logically consider and critically think-through the mandates of people in authority or those in-charge, or anyone else, no matter who they are – even if it is the President of the U.S. We must always heed our personal and collective conscience.

Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he will reject torture without exception or equivocation; that he will restore the Rule of Law by closing Guantanamo and restoring habeas corpus; and provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track down terrorists without undermining our Constitution or civil liberties.

However, recently, his transition team interlocutors have said the program should be investigated. According to the Wall Street Journal, a current government official familiar with the transition, interviewed by that paper, said, "Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight.”

I am appalled at the thought that continuance of the United States torture policy would even be contemplated by anyone under any circumstance. I will be absolutely outraged and deeply disappointed if President-elect Obama does anything other than to outright reject torture without exception or equivocation. It would be an absolutely unacceptable circumstance. It certainly would not reflect change.

If this should occur, I would expect all those Americans who voted for him to do exactly what he said in his campaign rhetoric: “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years….” Accordingly, it then would be every American’s responsibility to “… join in the work” and tell him that continuance of a policy allowing torture or rendition is not what we expect of him or our government.

It’s reprehensible that the United States would hand-over to another country a prisoner for interrogation in order to circumvent policy and law prohibiting torture, and for that country to perform violations on our behalf against another human being that America by statute cannot do, but otherwise it would do if allowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable for America to circumvent our obligation to protect human rights and the civil liberties of anyone regardless of reason or what that person may or may not have done even if they are “the worst of the worst.”

We must set the moral example of probity. If we tolerate and allow torture, then “how can we object when our servicemen and women… [or others] are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it." The simple fact of the matter is that America has lost its moral compass. We have rejected probity out of our fears.

President-elect Barack Obama has proclaimed:

“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”

"The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.”

To use an idiom which alludes to an ancient test of courage, we must hold Barack Obama’s “feet to the fire” on these proclamations.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: Three Cups of Tea

Family and friends say I have an interest in politics. My interest is not significant to politics in-and-of itself, that is in its ins and outs, or the political nature of our government, the personalities, its structure or affairs, or to any partisan interest. I am not, in the true sense of the word, political.

My interest in politics and government rests purely in the fact that politics and the affairs of government are fundamental to our national and global well being, to world peace. I have more so an interest in nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s), and in the courageous, magnificent work of others, often at high personal risk that further the well being of others, of humankind.

Recently, my wife Kathy called to me to tell me that there was a story on CBS news Sunday Morning of which I would be interested. The Sunday Morning cover story “Creating Schools, And Bridges, To Children” by Anthony Mason was the story of Greg Mortenson and his pursuit to “Promote Peace One School at a Time.”

Mr. Mortenson has co-authored a book with author David Oliver Relin titled “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time.” He is the founder of the Central Asia Institute , and “Pennies for Peace,” a philanthropy which was created to fund their mission: “Pennies for Peace educates children about the world beyond their experience and shows them that they can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at a time.” CAI’s mission goal further states: “Our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous world lies in the education of all the world’s children. Through cross-cultural understanding and a solution-oriented approach, Pennies for Peace encourages children, ultimately our future leaders, to be active participants in the creation of global peace.”

The first message in Greg Mortenson’s story is that by providing resources for people, leaving them to do the organizing, planning, controlling, directing, and staffing of community or tribal projects, such as a school, empowers them, and gives them ownership of it with very satisfactory outcomes.

This is what the state or government does not do; they instead become the manager of the project at the level of the imposed-on state, imposing their ways, their ideology because in their hubris they perceive their position as more effective, or that it is morally stronger, hoping the imposed-on state will be empowered by it, and that it will trickle-down to benefit people, which never happens.

There must be a mindset that we’re all in this together, and it will take all of us together to arrive at viable solutions; solutions that are autocratically directed are short-lived and not long-lasting.

The second message in this story is that children of every generation are the foundation on which nationally and globally, and in our communities, we evolve. With the birth of every child lies an opportunity for a better future. Teach a child hate, racism, and evil, and the chances are that child will live a life with the imbued example of hate, racism, and evil. If we teach a child through education a better understanding of their world, teach them by example through the exemplary commitment of the Greg Mortenson’s of our world, and by teaching them through examples of love, compassion, and understanding, the chances are that that child will live a life with the imbued example of love, compassion, and understanding.

The other message in the story is that the use of soft power by an in-country military power is more effective than the hard power of terror and coercion through weapons of death and destruction.

There is every indication that the military, especially within its Special Forces operations, are more often using the concepts of soft power, understanding its value in winning the hearts and minds of people.

I foresee a future where militaries will have evolved from forces of war to forces of peace. The cloth of those who serve will represent duty and service to others with a commitment towards achieving and maintaining world peace in an authentic quest for freedom, which cannot be realized in any other way except in the fruition of world peace.

“I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. … The thirst for education here is palpable.”

When General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, read Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson says, he sent me an e-mail with three bullet points of what he’d gleaned from the book: “Build relationships, listen more, and have more humility and respect.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: What Is The Value Of A Human Life?

“Life is cheap!” This metaphorical expression is a colloquialism meaning an apparent disregard for human life; people's lives have little value so if they die it is not important. This perception is supported by examples set by the state in their unreserved willingness to go to war, to inflict capital punishment, in other examples set like Katrina, and in our attitude and complete disregard for others who we consider to be economically, socially, or racially lower-ranking than us.

“How do you value your life? Would you put a higher price on the guy next door or the guy halfway across the world? Who would be the person you’d save from the burning building? As a nation what countries are we chosing [choosing] to rescue from the burning building? Have 9/11, The Tsunami, Katrina, the ongoing carnage in Iraq and Darfur changed the way you value life– yours or anyone else’s?” The Value of a Life,, with Christopher Lydon

‘What is a life worth?’ is an age-old question but it is one that is answered every day, in subtle ways; from the headlines in the New York Times to the obits in the back …”

We most often place a monetary value on life. What is the economic value of life’s current and future personal consumption in goods and services; what is the dollar value placed on human life based on one’s probability of longevity or value of income loss due to a death in a family? Sometimes we ask: what is the most cost-effective way to die, or to kill (except in war where it never seems to cost too much)?

Is a human life only worth the sum of material cost that it would take to make life? According to Arthur Porges, in 1985, it is “$1.98; that is the value of all the chemicals in the human body.”

So, does human life have value? To answer that question one needs to understand the meaning of life -- Its essence.

To further this discussion, my definition of God – what my perception is when I use that symbol -- is important.

God is the internal and external stuff of energy and force that makes everything and anything possible. God can only be described in human terms because all things are determined in the particular entity, the particular dimension in which humans have come into being.

When the word God is referred to in this writing, it should not be taken in any religious sense or perception of that word. God is the energy, force, effect, or a manifestation or an aspect beyond which we do not have current knowledge, but influences all life beyond that which is known.

The essence of human life lies in its most important feature: the reverence for a single, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, transcendent God. The God I speak of is the stuff that we do not have the knowledge to explain – another reality. It is the cause of all that is existential and brought into being, governs it, and is responsible for it in the dimension of existence that we symbolically refer to as human: that god is you as an individual and is us collectively.

Life does have a purpose: our evolution. That evolution is not only biological, but it is collective human experience leading to greater knowledge gained in this dimension utilized in preparing for the world to come, and to lead life into its future. Its purpose is directed toward good, moral, and ethical ways. If the elementary meaning of evolution includes best practices for survival of the species, then evil, immoral or unethical ways are not supported.

We are the reason for existence. It is obvious to me that without the entity of human life there would be no existence. If all of the life on earth were to become extinct, would what we symbolically call the universe, any God, or any religious text exist – Torah, Koran, or Bible; would there be a thing called religion; would 2 + 2 = 4; would there be material things; would there be an economy? Would anything that one could identify exist? The answer is a very affirmative, NO!

Would a tree fall in the Amazon make a noise if a sentient form of life was not there to hear it; would it have fallen; would anything exist if a life of this dimension was not there to perceive or interpret it and give meaning? The answer, again, is NO!

This writing would not exist if I did not cause it to happen.

When human life is taken before its time, or any life is taken before its time, it deprives our evolution from whatever that life’s experiences might contribute to our advancement of knowledge, to society, or our worth to mankind. When we sanction the taking of life, we are saying its okay to kill under certain circumstances (of course, to kill in the protection of ones own life, when no other option is available, is always an acceptable circumstance). We are setting an unacceptable example for others.

When a one human takes the life of another, not only in that act do we deprive the world of any micro or macro contributions she/he might have made to humankind, but we take from that human the two things that all people, and of which especially Americans hold dear: a theft of his\her property, and of his\her very freedom.

The meaning of life lies in attaining the highest form of knowledge and providing the ways and means, techniques, and forums for advancing it. We need to teach the value of life, and learn from life -- we need to learn from each other. That’s not possible if we continue to kill each other, and continue to foremostly perceive value only in dollars and cents.

World Peace will not be possible until all people understand that all life has meaningful intrinsic human value, by which I mean intrinsic value beyond material and economic value in-and-of itself.

Enlightenment in Gaza

President-elect Obama must make the Israeli-Hamas violence first item on his foreign policy to-do list. He must initiate high level processes of arbitration and mediation that are inclusive. One that is not ad hoc, but an on-going process initiated, and a plan to take it forward in a continuous way for as long as it may take.

Immediate, firm, but non-violent, measures must be taken.

For starters, "The Clinton Parameters" may be a good place to begin.

The following is an excerpt from James Carroll's column in the Boston Globe, of which I am in complete agreement.

"His [Barack Obama] enlightenment can be assumed. The question is one of will. Majorities of Israelis and Palestinians understand what the solution requires; the wheel of peace is already invented. Indeed, as the writer Bernard Avishai observes, Obama's secretary of state bears the name of its most succinct summary - "the Clinton parameters." Majorities understand also that the door is fast closing on the two-state finale, which alone offers hope of long-term reconciliation. What is needed now are firm messages from Washington: Israel must cease fire, respect Palestinian rights, and keep agreements; Palestinians must halt rockets, repudiate terror, and empower moderates toward a new unity. Obama must draw the line with both.

For a brief period, America's new president will bask in universal goodwill. The Arab world, Muslims generally, and Palestinians in particular, have unprecedented reason to believe they will be heard. Israel can count on Obama's friendship. The war in Gaza requires him to act boldly and swiftly. If he has political and moral capital, he must begin by spending it there, making sure that such heartbreaking violence stops, for good."

Enlightenment in Gaza
By James Carroll
January 5, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: An Ingredient of Peace - The Long Road to Forgiveness

"Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days, but my heart is cleansed."

"Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?"

South Vietnam. June 8, 1972

Kim Phuc
"The Long Road to Forgiveness"
(As heard on NPR's All Things Considered, June 30, 2008.)

As shown in the picture, Kim Phuc is best known as the girl in the famous photo of a Vietnam War napalm attack near Saigon. She now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two children. Her organization, Kim Foundation International, aids children who are war victims.

An Unacceptable Attitude toward Violence and the Pursuit of World Peace

“I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.” John F Kennedy, June 10, 1963

My expectation is that Barack Obama would renew this call of JFK for world peace. However, I am disappointed in Obama. His inexplicable silence on Israel’s unacceptable, despicable attacks against Hamas and the Palestinian people is remarkable. His statement, “… if somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing" -- well Barack, how about not just crude rockets, but how about IDF F-16’s, or an armored column of Merkava tanks coming at your house where your two daughters sleep, too. Having nothing to say in light of this new outbreak of violence indicates to me that it might mean that he is complicit with the Bush Administration’s and America’s historical support and view of Israel’s action. The president-elect spoke out after last month's attacks in Mumbai, and has made detailed statements on the US economic crisis, but not a word from Obama on the Israeli-Hamas violence, how come? I question now if he will in all cases pursue peaceful, non-violent outcomes as President of the United States.

I certainly do not expect Israel to do nothing, nor do I expect the Palestinian Authority represented by Hamas to do nothing, either. I would not tolerate rockets fired at my home, neighborhood or country, but there are acceptable responses and there are those responses that are unacceptable and out of proportion.

In view that there has not been one nation who has engaged seriously, and in a continuous way, in a peace process, no willingness by either side or any nation for diplomacy, to discuss or negotiate, which leaves neither Israel nor Hamas a peaceful alternative. However, Israel, in this instance, does have a response that is proportionate to rockets fired at them—rockets, by the way, that have limited range capability. In order to limit casualties, they could have seized the territory from which the rockets are launched. The Israeli’s have the ways and means of isolating the Gaza strip, too; they have the capability of providing a barrier between them and Gaza, beyond the range of those rockets. The Israeli’s do have a way of making a proportionate, measured and appropriate response.

Gaza’s land mass is 139 sq. miles while Israel’s is 8,019 sq. miles. Israel has a well-trained military; they have a Navy, an Air force, modern up-to-date military assets and munitions, while Hamas has crude – some rockets are homemade -- and limited weaponry in comparison. Gaza is densely populated, its 1.5 million resident’s area already experiencing shortages in medicine, power and basic supplies due to 18 months of an Israeli blockade. There is no ethical reason why a proportionate Israeli response could not have been taken.

It is clear and understandable that Israelis and Palestinians will never reach an accommodation on their own. There are not only moral but political dimensions to this crisis, as well. For there to be peace between Israel and the Palestine people, Arabs, and its neighbors, the kind of peace to which Kennedy refers, there needs to be an unbiased arbiter.

Bush had eight years in which to carry out continued diplomacy, to discuss or negotiate, but ignorance abounds and the profound truth underpinning diplomacy, discussion and negotiation has not been perceived. Bush did not have the willingness to pursue negotiation The United States has not passionately pursued peaceful outcomes, and has not engaged seriously in any peace process.

Israel and a future Palestinian state equally have a fundamental right of sovereignty

Both sides must be condemned for the violence. The only support anyone should give is not to Israel or Hamas, but to peace. This is the message I would expect from president-elect Obama and America.

Peace is a forward looking continuous process that should have persisted in our past and must be initiated now and continued into eternity. It must be our fundamental passion. The process must not have hiatuses, there must be continuity. The process embraces diplomacy, discussion and negotiation. All nations must engage their friends and enemies in perpetuating unconditional discussions.

First, our world’s nations need to recognize all people as human beings. They must be concerned for the suffering of all people no matter what the causes or reasons. World peace cannot be contemplated if this very basic human concern is not embraced.

Second, we must examine our attitude towards peace; examine our attitude towards other nations and to one another. For as JFK said, “No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue”; among the many traits that people have in common, "none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war.”

Brent Scowcroft believes that for progress to be made in the Middle East, the United States must talk to Hamas. I agree, and I would expect Barack Obama to agree, also; but apparently he does not.

Scowcroft said, "I think we should be open to negotiate with anybody. It's much harder to solve problems if you don't talk to people, and you don't necessarily solve problems by talking to them. But at least you open up the avenues; you understand what the hard sticking points are and how to resolve some. And you see if there is a chance for progress and if so, what kind."

“And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights: the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation; the right to breathe air as nature provided it; the right of future generations to a healthy existence?” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

And is that not only a right for Israel, but for Hamas and the Palestinians as well.

We need world leaders like John Fitzgerald Kennedy with a passion for peace, and leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev who said, “This is our common goal [world peace], and it is only by acting together that we may attain it." Gorbachev's model for Obama by James कार्रोल्ल

Relative story: Gaza Conflict May Affect Obama Peacekeeping Vow; As Violence In Gaza Worsens, What Can Obama Do?

by Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, David Ignatius