We must mourn the dead of Paris. Later in this letter you will see a Mourners Kaddish in Time of War and Terror, in Aramaic/ Hebrew and in English, with an invitation to all of us to draw on it, to use it in our own tongus and teachings..
We must affirm and join the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world in utterly condemning these atrocities. Below you will also see statements issued by the President of Iran and by the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of leading national and local Muslim organizations.
And we must also, as quickly as possible, assess what to do now to prevent such atrocities.
In that assessment, we must take into account what terrible mistakes our government and people have made in the past that served to sprout the seeds of terror that already existed in the Muslim world -- as in other worlds, including some hyper-nationalist and hyper-racist Americans.
There were two such profound mistakes. One was broader than the Middle East, and has not received the focused attention it deserves. It was the failure of the US and other governments to respond to scientific warnings of impending disaster from global scorching. As the NY Times has reported (March 2, 2015; see Earth/study-links-syria-conflict-to-drought-caused-by-climate-change.
"Drawing one of the strongest links yet between global warming and human conflict, researchers said that an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change, and that the drought was a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011. "
"They cited studies that showed that the extreme dryness, combined with other factors, including misguided agricultural and water-use policies of the Syrian government, caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas. This in turn added to social stresses that eventually resulted in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011."
So one urgent lesson for the future is that the US and other governments must take swift and vigorous action in the forthcoming Paris international conference on the climate crisis. Without such action, we can expect more such civil wars, millions of refugees, and desperate acts of war and terror as food and water vanish in many regions of the Earth.
The other profound mistake was the US War against Iraq. Allegedly responding to the terror attacks on 9/11, the US government decided to turn away from pursuing the criminal band Al Qaeda in its home base in Afghanistan and instead decided to shatter Iraq.
The war renewed old furies between Sunnis and Shiites, destabilized the entire Middle East, and turned what should have been a sharply targeted police action into a totally unnecessary war between the US and large parts of the Islamic world (including drone attacks that often murdered innocents and stoked fury among many Muslims).
It also brought deep violations of American values and Constitutional liberties -- the use of torture as an act of official US policy, egregious governmental surveillance of practically all Americans without search warrants, and both governmental and private attacks on Muslims in a growing fever of Islamophobia.
Learning from this past mistake means that any decision to use force against ISIS should in both words and practice define the action as policing criminals within a context of protecting the Syrian and Iraqi publics, not fighting a war against Islam.
That means welcoming Russia and Iran, along with France and other Western nations, into working out a political solution to the Syrian civil war and isolating the terrorist criminals of the ISIS leadership as targets. The goal must be returning millions of refugees to their homes and encouraging the peaceful hopes and lives of the vast majority of Muslims.
And to make clear that our goal is to pursue justice for the peaceful and bring terrorists to justice, not to subjugate Islam, the US should take much more vigorous action to insist on the emergence of a peaceful Palestine alongside a peaceful Israel, in the context of a peaceful settlement between them both with all Arab and Muslim states.
Presidents Hollande, Obama, and Putin should explicitly praise the official statement of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani: