September 7, 2013
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
If our own government pushes us over the edge of that precipice, the real losers will be the American and Syrian people. There, even greater devastation. Here, another wave of failure to meet the real and increasingly urgent civilian needs for schools, bridges, solar and wind energy, firefghters, and much more.
Source: Shalom Center
One of the metaphors of Rosh Hashanah is that we plead with God -- which means also with ourselves -- to move from the throne of Punitive Justice to the throne of Compassionate Repair.
Is this just a pleasant prayer, or do we mean it in the real world -- the world of bombs, chemical war, ailing schools and rotting sewers and worsening hurricanes?
If moving to the "right" is violently destructive and moving to the "left" is disgustingly immoral, then something is wrong with the box we are in.
Think out of the box, act out of the box.
That's where the US is in regard to Syria: All the "official" choices -- from Do Nothing to One Strike to Overthrow the Regime -- are destructive to us, to the Syrian people, to the US Constitution, and/or to international law.
So -- think fresh.
Drop gas masks, not bombs.
That's a metaphor.
Translate: use the power of the US in nonviolent, non-military, nonlethal ways to counter Assad's (or the rebels') possible use of chemical weapons.
- If gas masks would not meet the need, drop antidotes to the nerve gas Sarin, sending instructions in Arabic by radio and social media.
- Test out what would happen if the US invited physicians to be parachuted into Syria, as brave as the soldiers that some US politicians want to send.
- Drop leaflets and broadcast radio and social-media messages denouncing the use of chemical weaponry and offering amnesty and monetary rewards to anyone in the military who comes forward with information on their use.
- Bollix the Syrian military's computer system just as the US bollixed the Iranian nuclear-research system without killing anyone.
- Ask the government of Iran to intervene with its ally Syria to demand a total end to any use of chem-war, and offer Iran relaxation of US sanctions against it if it does so.
- (In Iran there is fierce opposition to chem-war because Saddam used it in Iraq's war against Iran, killing tens of thousands. The US, by the way, uttered not a peep of criticism of Sadaam's use of chem-war, because the US government saw Iran as an enemy. Indeed, the US may have assisted Saddam in using chem-war.)
- Go to the UN Security Council as well as Congress for approval of such nonlethal, nonviolent interventions.
- And so on. Get it?
What is wrong with the box we are in?
What Obama was publicly proposing, "One Strike" to "punish" and "deter" chem-war, had a very risky flaw: It was essentially assuming "one-man chess." Either the OneStrike would accomplish nothing real -- a useless act -- or if it did hurt, it might well push Assad into retaliating. If there were a response, a retaliatory attack on US forces or assets or on Israel, etc., would the US then shrug and do nothing -- or would the US then re-retaliate? And then?
Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that in fact, under pressure from hawkish Senators, Obama is now actually planning much more than One Strike -- rather, an attack to "degrade," not only "deter," Assad's military, with the intention of regime change.
And there are other reports that the actual text of the resolution that Obama is asking Congress to approve is considerably broader than the One Strike he has said he wants.
So we may after all be standing on our tiptoes at the very edge of the precipice of still another immoral, illegal, unwinnable, self-destructive war.
If our own government pushes us over the edge of that precipice, the real losers will be the American and Syrian people. There, even greater devastation. Here, another wave of failure to meet the real and increasingly urgent civilian needs for schools, bridges, solar and wind energy, firefghters, and much more. More deaths and disasters from forest fires, floods, droughts. Another wave of justifying, in the name of anti-terrorism, intrusive unconstitutional surveillance of practically everyone; police infiltration of peaceful mosques and political activists; and vigilante attacks on Muslims.
What to do? Call 202/224-3121 (the US Capitol) and ask for your Senators and House members, one at a time. When you get each office, leave a message vigorously opposing any resolution authorizing military force against Syria, and pointing to nonviolent, nonlethal alternatuve ways of intervening.
Write a similar letter to your local newspaper.
Forward this letter to your friends and to list-serves you are on.
Try to start a viral message: Drop gas-masks, not bombs.
Remember: One of the metaphors of Rosh Hashanah is that we plead with God -- which means also with ourselves -- to move from the throne of Punitive Justice to the throne of Compassionate Repair.
If not now, when?
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center , a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community. He edits and writes for its weekly on-line Shalom Report.
In 1996, Waskow was named by the United Nations a “Wisdom Keeper” among forty religious and intellectual leaders who met in connection with the Habitat II conference in Istanbul. In 2001, he was presented with the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award by the Jewish Peace Fellowship. In 2005, he was named by the Forward, the leading Jewish weekly in America, one of the "Forward Fifty" as a leader of the Jewish community. In 2007, he was named by Newsweek one of the fifty moist influential American rabbis, and was presented with awards and honors by groups as diverse as the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement of Philadelphia and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.