Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Clinton Global Initiative
*Dedicated to my fellow Tar Heel Tavern participants and all fellow travelers on this road called Life...
Archbishop Desmond Tutu joyously speaks of hope to the audience of CGI participants
Now that the transcript is available at the Clinton Global Initiative website, I wanted to share with you some of the most inspirational and thought-provoking faith-based statements made at the 2006 meeting by the illuminating and courageous Archbishop Desmond Tutu. May you be as inspired as President Clinton and the participants of the conference were. In India people will travel hundreds of miles for what is called the darshan, the look, of a holy man or woman because this look is believed to confer blessings. Just being in the room where Archbishop Tutu, a walking example of God's love on earth, was speaking was a darshan experience for me.
On Faith and Religion
There is no faith that I know that propagates death, murder, as a principle of that particular religion. There is no faith that I know which does not, in fact, seek to propagate compassion, justice, love, caring. And we need to hold on to that and underscore the fact that religion, in and of itself, is actually morally neutral. It is neither good nor bad. As I’ve sometimes tried to say, it is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting bread, it’s good. If you use that knife to stick into somebody’s guts, it’s bad.
On the Meaning of Terrorism and Religious Perversion
And I am deeply concerned that even here, you know, we are sliding in the thing of saying 'Muslim terrorism.' Muslim - I haven’t heard people describe the guy who bombed Oklahoma... that’s an example of Christian terrorism. I haven’t heard them speak about the guys who are fighting in Northern Ireland. Christian against Christian. But those are Christian terrorists. They will say IRA. I haven’t heard that the Christians were responsible for the Holocaust, the Christians were responsible for apartheid. Somehow, we are able to define Christianity. Most Christians would be appalled if you said that that is a characteristic of Christianity. We would say it is a perversion.
On Pope Benedict XVI's Statement That Resulted in Anger Throughout the Muslim World
...He has tried to apologize. But he shows how very difficult it is to say sorry... very difficult. I find it difficult to say sorry to my wife in the privacy of my bedroom. [audience laughter] And rather than say sorry in public is one of the most difficult things, and that is why it was such an incredible experience to have people in the [inaudible] Commission say, please forgive me, in the glare of television lights.
On the War on Terror
We are part of a world that needs to remember a very simple thing. We are family. And we can try until we are blue in the face, we won’t win a war against terror, so-called, as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate.
On Progressing Together and a Statement on the Subhumanity of "Self-Sufficency"
And so I hope, I mean that we will get to learn that we can survive only together. We can be free really only together. We can safe and secure only together. And that God didn’t make a mistake of creating us. God created us different, not so that we should be alienated from one another, but that we should know our need of one another, that ultimately there can be no such thing as the totally self sufficient. In fact, to be totally self-sufficient is subhuman.
This is a Moral Universe
You and I are frequently appalled by the evil that is around in the world. And that makes us blind to the fact that there is a great deal of good. Well, you are an instance of that. You are here, you don’t need to have been, except because, I mean that Bill Clinton is so persuasive. [audience laughter] but you are here. And the incredible generosity that you have exhibited is part of saying this is a moral universe.
This is a universe with good, with right and wrong matter. It is a universe in which ultimately good will prevail. Ultimately. That you and I are people who are made for goodness. This is why the people we admire are the not macho, the aggressive, the successful, I mean, Mother Teresa. There are many things you would say about her. Macho is not one of them. [audience laughter] and yet, the world reveres her.
God to Self: "Whatever Got Into Me to Create That Lot?"
God sees the tears of the compassionate and is vindicated
You and I are creatures who are made for transcendence, were made for love, were made for caring, were made for embracing one another. I have look out of door but I mean, although God looks down and sees all of the ghastly things and God says 'oh, dear.' [audience laughter] Whatever got into me to create that lot? [more laughter]
And then God sees and God sees the others, the ones who wipe the tears from the eyes of the many, the ones that say we want to do something about poverty eradication. We want to do something about the HIV pandemic and God begins to smile through the tears. And a little angel walks up to God and wipes God’s tears from God’s eyes. And God says, yes, they have vindicated me.
Because you and I are ultimately made for goodness.
The Buck Stops with Bush Before the course of events can change in Iraq, President Bush must change.
What we have done in Iraq - the way we went about this venture - is something I'm sure that President Bush now regrets, even though he'd never admit it. We have a strategic nightmare on our hands, and we also have citizens of Iraq - not al Qaeda, but citizens - murdering one another. The children in the photo you see above are real. A U.S. soldier took this photo and I received a copy of it. Look at their faces for a while. Consider what you think we should do now that you have all the facts about the way President Bush and his administration misled us into what has turned out - because of their absolute inefficiency - as a case where a newly free citizenry has run amok with anarchic, sectarian methods to achieve power. Rather than cooperating with those Iraqis who have been voted into power by millions of purple fingers, anarchists view their elected opponents as friends of "the U.S. occupier" who rely upon (our brave, misused) American troops for the level of security necessary to keep them in power. The Bush administration is using a recipe taken straight from Osama bin Laden's favorite terrorist's 'cookbook'. Our President and his administration do not seem to understand the meaning of cooperation and diplomacy to put an end to the murder and mayhem that we so obviously have failed to abate - and have caused to increase.
There is a better way. We can see it. Many of our legislators can see it.
Do we want our legislators to keep up their partisan catfights on the floor of Congress with the majority party snuggling close to a President that hardly anyone trusts anymore? Of course we don't, but it seems the most reasonable among them has been left with no alternative. We all understand that there are precious lives at stake, and we would expect a pro-life party to act responsibly to honor each life in Iraq. Who do we blame when we go to blame our government for such an unfortunate and disastrous war product?
The buck stops with the Commander in Chief.
If the photo of these beautiful and innocent children looking to this soldier for protection has any truth to it, then we have done them a horrific injustice. We've destroyed their nation's infrastructure and caused many of them to become orphans long after we'd rid Iraq of their ethically perverted leader. Saddam Hussein's been locked up for years. He's no longer their boogie-man. While it's dandy for George W. Bush to brag about his capture, it seems totally disconnected from what we are doing in Iraq today.
We've invited, unleashed and increased the likelihood of terror being imported into Iraq by "taking the fight to Iraq so we don't have to fight them here." Our foolish President begged them to "bring it on." With the on-the-ground facts as we know them today, thanks to real-time intelligence reports, we can see that have done an immoral service to Iraqi citizens by daring terrorists to come to their homeland. The fight, for all intents and purposes, was unjustly brought upon an innocent nation. We'd have to be absolutely blind not to see it. There was no organized foreign terrorist activity in Iraq before 9/11. There was no connection between the government of Iraq and 9/11. The President readily admits it.
It's difficult to sleep at night knowing that my government has done all of this in my name. I wonder if the Commander in Chief loses any sleep at night or during his regularly scheduled beauty naps?
President Bush says that people like me are falling into terrorist propaganda by disagreeing with the awful way this action is being conducted by his administration. That's interesting, because I wouldn't begin to know what that 'terrorist propaganda' might consist of. I pay much closer attention to the way in which this action in Iraq and the overall war on terrorism is being handled, and I can see that we can do much better on all fronts for the good of our nation and the good of these children.
What we are doing in Iraq is not working. This is not the shining example of freedom and democracy in the Middle East that President Bush guaranteed, after he offered so many different and confuted rationales for going into Iraq.
To President Bush, I would recommend a good long look at this picture. Stare into the faces of these children and think about the promises you have made to them. In reality, you gave them - and America - false hope while you misled us and kept a grossly inept Secretary of Defense in power to politically protect a course that's been wrong from the start. Perhaps the problem is that, regardless of who might replace Donald Rumsfeld, the shattered premise for this war can never be altered. It's moral foundations fell apart long ago. New Congressionally-approved rules for torturing prisoners of war and turning away from the rule of law will cause further harm to the family of man, to their human rights, to freedom, to democracy, and to our chances of being a moral victor in this train wreck that we call a war. Dumping Mr. Rumsfeld will do no good unless we can take politics out of the game and look reality straight into its eye.
If President Bush wanted to be a better leader (rather than a bitter leader), he would cease his constant efforts to run down his fellow countrymen and find a way to work out of the political matrix. He would actually take the advice of his Generals. He might actually listen and debate the actual merits of the arguments he's receiving on a regular basis from Democrats and Republicans who are trying so hard to reach President Bush with reason, yet only find that he's locked himself away in a box of hubris, defensiveness, and political bravado that is doing no one any good.
Before the course of events in Iraq can change for the better for children like the ones in the photo above and for this country, President Bush is going to have to change. The buck stops there.
Apollo's Story - A Boy Gets a Second Chance in War-torn Uganda
We need to spend more on humanitarian relief and education, and far less on building walls, guns, bunker busters, ABM systems, space war technology, and daisy cutters. In northern Uganda, as many as 30,000 children have been kidnapped and forced to serve as soldiers in a nightmarish civil war that the world has largely ignored. These innocent children are brutalized and mutilated, forced to commit atrocities, and given as sex slaves to military commanders. This targeted abuse of children is unacceptable. [see Firecrow's story at Daily Kos].
Read Apollo's story. He's an orphan and a former abductee and child-soldier who lost every single person and thing that had meant anything to him in this world. When it came time for something positive and hopeful to come his way, he had no one to congratulate him, and he made sure to take the time to congratulate himself. The IRC has done a great job in telling many stories like Apollo's. You can read more of them by linking here.
Sep 2006 - I am Apollo, 18 years old, both an orphan and a former child soldier. My original home is in the Pader district of northern Uganda. Now I am residing at an internally-displaced persons (IDP) camp due to the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency. When I was abducted by rebel soldiers at the age of 16 years, I was made to carry the wounded and other big loads that were not fit for my age. I would cry within my heart for fear of being killed, get tired since the march was very laborious, and had sleepless moments because of the severe pains all over my body.
New abductees were not allowed to drink water. Many perished and rotted like mushrooms. I am lucky to have survived.
I was not allowed to eat food for five days after I was abducted, yet had to carry heavy weapons. Many recruits died including my beloved brother, Otema.
On many occasions when we were escaping from the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers and gunship helicopters, I would knock my legs against stones and tree stumps and fall down with the patient I was carrying. Immediately the rebels would come and beat me with the barrels of guns and big sticks which have been put in fire. I felt partly dead and paralyzed in some parts of my body, like my hands, neck and chest.
I was made to be an attendant to the brigade commander. I was supposed to bathe him daily and this gave me a lot of burden because however much I bathed him he was never contented with my service. He would call for his bodyguards and instruct them to discipline me by severe caning.
At times we would enter ambushes laid by the UPDF, which killed many inexperienced abductees. Other abductees would throw down their baggage to escape from the bullets and the UPDF soldiers. We had been told that once you are caught by the UPDF, you are killed there and then. But once you throw away your baggage you face the death penalty when you reach the base. I have seen a number of my fellow abductees being brutally murdered for such acts.
I got involved with the International Rescue Committee's ORACLE project after I returned from captivity in the bush in 2003.
I had nobody to help me go back to school because my sister, who was paying my school fees, was killed the day I was abducted. The rebels used the new and young recruits to kill my sister. These were inexperienced children who used clubs to beat her ‘til death. So when I returned home I thought only of very bad things like hanging myself or joining the armed forces, since I had earlier bush experience.
I received a letter from the IRC saying that I am most wanted in the IRC Kitgum office to fill out a form for education sponsorship. Since I am somebody who likes studies so much, I said to myself, "‘My God, congratulations! Congratulations!"
After filling out the form, I was enrolled at a high school in Pader district. I forgot about joining the armed forces and I started concentrating on studies as a way forward for the betterment of my life.
The IRC supported me by paying school fees and giving me a school uniform, pens, pencils, books, and a mathematical set and ruler. When I sat for my exams I passed with first marks and I was the third best performer in the Pader district despite the atrocities I saw while in captivity.
Apollo works with the IRC in camps for Ugandans displaced by the conflict as a peer educator and HIV/AIDS counselor. He has been offered a place in a secondary school science program and plans to study biology, chemistry and mathematics. He says the IRC helped him overcome the trauma of his captivity and gave him hope and courage.
The IRC's ORACLE project, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor, protects children and young people from the exploitation of child labor by providing educational opportunities that help them meet their needs and goals.
Former Senator John Edwards is visiting Uganda on a humanitarian mission. From Sept. 28th - Oct. 3rd, Senator Edwards is traveling to Uganda with the International Rescue Committee. The group will look at the dire humanitarian needs of Uganda's massive displaced population, estimated at 1.5 million. The delegation will also examine the conditions facing the displaced as they begin to return home to long-neglected villages that have largely been out of humanitarian reach. I am hoping to hear about the trip upon Senator Edwards' return.
A writer named Maccabee at Daily Kos has written a diary about a cabbie he met who came from Uganda with some insightful views.
By taking strong and very wrong steps after 9/11, President Bush has sought to bury his administration's utter failure to stop the 9/11 attacks with macho rhetoric in which he runs down his fellow countrymen more than he criticizes the terrorists themselves.
Today in his wretched speech to the Reserve Officers Association in Washington D.C., he said some things that showed how much in denial he really is, if he actually believes his own words.
You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism.
With this statement, Bush shows that he's totally in denial about the fact that we have created the kind of extremism in the Middle East and beyond that leads to hard-line, anti-West leaders being democratically elected. With the April NIE facts in front of his face, he stubbornly denies the bitter truth about the ways that the Iraq war has created the widest East/West divide seen in centuries. Worse, he lashes out at his own countrymen for facing the bare and unvarnished facts.
Iraq is not the reason the terrorists are at war against us. They're at war against us because they hate everything America stands for.
This line - the tired "they hate us for who we are" - is a very old one that only the most ignorant or stubborn of Bush supporters believe anymore. Why? Because most intelligent people see that Bush squandered the world's good will after he impulsively attacked Iraq and made a disaster of it to boot. A recent Pew study on global attitudes showed a steep incline in the percentage of residents in Middle Eastern nations who have a very low opinion of America. More of those people would support a war against us today than in 2001. So, you see, not only the terrorists hate us now. Thanks to the immoral disaster known as the Iraq war, just about every decent person hates us. If Bush was succeeding, the results would reflect more trust from average citizens in those Middle Eastern nations.
Bush said this about the NIE analysis of the threat we face from terrorists and extremists and about those who make the obvious case that, by our unjust attack and subsequent occupation of Iraq, we are clearly less secure. Bush said:
This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them. I want to remind the American citizens that we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001.
This is where we are required, as mentally healthy human beings who are perfectly capable of reason, to remind Bush that Iraq had no connection to 9/11. He admitted it himself, yet he's happy to score a cheap round of applause from ignorant people for stupid comments like that. A booming majority of Americans now know that there were no terrorists in Iraq on 9/11.
Bush is in total denial about where the arguments are coming from and, by his brand of deliberately insulting rhetoric, he shows that he really doesn't give a damn why they're making them. He wouldn't dare to debate the actual merits of the argument in front of any crowd, so instead he falsely asserts that those who make the argument are appeasers who fall into Osama bin Laden's trap. That's laughable, in a very sad way, when you think about who it was who actually fell into Osama bin Laden's trap - into Osama's hopes for big American attacks on Muslim nations.
Who actually fell asleep at the wheel when former President Clinton's administration soundly warned the Bush administration about a dangerous and gathering threat from al Qaeda? Who moved Richard Clarke out of the way and practically ignored his warnings for eight of the most crucial months in America's history?
When Afghanistan was the place - and Hamid Karzai was the fine leader who needed our help so badly and we had a chance to control the Taliban's extremist activity there and to capture teh mastermind behind teh 9/11 attacks on 3000 Americans, what did we do? We took our eye off the ball and attacked Iraq - a nation having nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.
Every time he runs down his fellow countrymen for offering healthy criticism, he looks like those people that his own party leaders call "haters." Why does George W. Bush hate American Democratic voters? Why does George W. Bush hate ths majority of Americans who now believe that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost in blood and treasure?
One more look at this statment:
This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them.
We're not supposed to be "provoking them," Einstein. We're supposed to be defeating them. A terrorist couldn't touch us if they were defeated.
It's clear that Bush and his administration has no clue how to defeat terrorists while winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world...just as his administration had no clue how to protect us from the 9/11 attacks.
A Democratic president in 2008 will likely inherit the Iraq disaster from a Republican administration who left it for someone else because they failed to defeat extremism - and grew it like a field of wild weeds instead.
If Bush really believes what he's saying today, he needs some serious psychiatric help because he's in the kind of denial of which only good drugs can pull him out. Why? Because today we understand that Bush and his administration had blown off warnings for a stronger troop presence in Iraq, just like his administration blew off the blatant warnings that al Qaeda was ready to attack us on 9/11.
I'm sure you'll recall Bush, in previous speeches, telling us that the Generals would decide how many troops we needed. He led us to believe that the troops levels were satisfactory. We now know it wasn't true at all. How can we trust this person or his advisors? Historians will surely look back and see how misled and misinformed the American people have been and how wrong they were to have placed as much trust as they did in these socially sick and professionally incapable people.
Torture is at the Root of Jihad and Radicalization
Do these three Senators who have claimed to have "stood up" against George W. Bush and against torturing prisoners of war look proud of themselves now that they have passed a law that fails our nation's 217-year old high standards to refuse to copy the brutal standards of unciviled groups of thugs and murderers? When he first ran for Congress in 1982, John McCain's opponent had challenged him as an "out-of-state carpetbagger." McCain replied, "The place I've lived longest is Hanoi." That response allegedly silenced his opponent. Twenty-four years later, he has voted to rip away basic rights from America's prisoners of war. It appears that he has traded away some of his integrity and more of our Constitutional protections on the gamble that his party will look "strong." As someone who cares about the strength of our rule of law, and understanding that only through a breakdown of that rule of law could America be undone, I aver that McCain and the Rubber Stamping Republicans are not "strong" - they are "wrong."
...it now looks like we're going to have a law passed that, barring intervention from the courts, will leave it to George W. Bush to interpret what types of interrogation techniques violate the Geneva Conventions.
And just how scary is that?
I'll let you decide just how scary a proposition this is. I'm shivering.
There are arguments with no solid moral foundations being presented by the rightwing to rationalize the abandonment of the Geneva Convention rules and the abandonment of basic human rights. Having had an Uncle who was a tortured prisoner of war and a surviving victim of the Bataan Death March who passed down pearls of wisdom to his family about the whole experience, I find that using those prisoners and their experience in support of torture and in the defense for the abandonment of the rule of law and basic morality in America is far more frightening than the threat posed by any extremists.
We may win some battles by throwing out a code of justice, but we will have lost this war and the freedom of our human souls if we have lost our moral authority.
Torture is at the root of jihad and radicalization. If we argue that giving terrorists a taste of their own medicine is a war-winner for America, than we are surely on our way to the kind of radicalization that destroys our American freedoms. It would create for us a whole new brand of American jihadists. That is not the America that I wish to see us become, and I would wager that the majority of justices on our U.S. Supreme Court would agree with me on that.
We have rightwing intellectuals getting bitterly partisan about some of our current intelligence community led by John Negroponte:
"Some, at least, of our intelligence experts are antiwar moonbats.."
and turning out little gems of "wisdom" like this one:
The NIE doesn’t say that the war in Iraq is counterproductive but that must be what a significant part of our intelligence apparatus believes.
..and making incredibly light of the rational analysis of the best information contained in the NIE:
"The NIE doesn’t say that the war in Iraq is an impediment to our war on terror. It‘s like a palm reading, it doesn’t really say anything at all."
Judging from what we now know about what the "palm readers" of the rightwing "read into" the NIE in October of 2002 about WMD in Iraq, I think it's quite bold of them to judge harshly about the common sense analysis of more recent NIEs.
Senator who uses the experience of a prisoner of war to warn American that we risk losing the war of ideas and increasing the divide between East and West, doing irreparable harm to America and the world in ways the rightwingers who are hyperfocusing on what they call "Islamofascists" are obviously not thinking clearly about for all their irrational anger and dependence on public fear to maintain a grip on power. Watch:
Human rights activist Vladimir Bukovsky was tortured for nearly twelve years in Soviet prisons. Last December, he wrote a WaPo op-ed titled "Torture's Long Shadow." In it, he relied upon his knowledge gained by his unfortunate experience to warn us against "reinventing the wheel" on the legal issue of torture:
".. if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already."
We are failing our own high standards in a decision by a one-sided and wrong-minded Congress that will soon have us back in the Supreme Court where this nightmare of a bill will surely be undone.