Posted on 13. Oct, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
Taken from popularresistance.org – Corporate media regularly attempts to present Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria as solely responsible for the ongoing conflict in the region. The media does report on events that contradict this narrative — albeit sparingly — but taken together, these underreported details shine a new light on the conflict.
10: Bashar al-Assad has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama
Despite Obama’s claims Assad is illegitimate and must step down, the fact remains that since the conflict erupted in 2011, Assad has held the majority support of his people. The elections in 2014 – which Assad won by a landslide with international observers claiming no violations – is a testament to the fact that although Assad has been accused of serious human rights violations, he continues to remain reasonably popular with the Syrian people.
Obama, on the other hand, won elections in 2012 with a voter turnout of a mere 53.6 percent of the American public; only 129.1 million total were votes cast. This means approximately 189.8 million American people did not vote for Obama. His current approval rating sits at about 50 percent.
9: The “moderate” opposition has been hijacked
There is no longer such a thing as “moderate” opposition in Syria – if there ever was. The so-called Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been dominated by extremists for years. The U.S. has known this yet has continued to support the Syrian opposition, despite the fact the New York Times reported in 2012 that the majority of weapons being sent to Syria have been ending up in the hands of jihadists. A classified DIA report predicted the rise of ISIS in 2012, stating:
“If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria… and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
Further, an FSA commander went on record not only to admit his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), but also that he would like to see Syria ruled by Sharia law.
Apparently, moderate can also mean “al-Qaeda affiliated fanatic.”
8: Assad never used chemical weapons on his own people
A U.N. investigation into the first major chemical weapons attack committed in early 2013 — an atrocity the West immediately pinned on Assad — concluded the evidence suggested the attack was more likely committed by the Syrian opposition. A subsequent U.N. investigation into the August 2013 attack never laid blame on anyone, including Assad’s forces. In December 2013, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article highlighting deficiencies in the way the situation was handled:
“In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports…citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”
7: Toppling the Syrian regime was part of a plan adopted shortly after 9/11
According to a memo disclosed by 4-star General Wesley Clark, shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon adopted a plan to topple the governments of seven countries within five years. The countries were Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Iran.
As we know, Iraq was invaded in 2003. American ally Israel tried its hand at taking out Lebanon in 2006. Libya was destroyed in 2011. Prior to this intervention, Libya had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. In 2015, alone, it dropped 27 places on the U.N. Human Development Index rating. U.S. drones fly over Somalia, U.S. troops are stationed in South Sudan — Sudan was partitioned following a brutal civil war — and Syria has been the scene of a deadly war since 2011. This leaves only Iran, which is discussed below.
6: Iran and Syria have a mutual defense agreement
Since 2005, Iran and Syria have been bound by a mutual defense agreement. The Iranian government has shown they intend to fully honor this agreement and has provided the Syrian regime with all manner of support, including troops, a $1 billion credit line, training, and advisement. What makes this conflict even more dangerous, however, is the fact Russia and China have sided with Iran and Syria, stating openly they will not tolerate any attack on Iran. Russia’s military intervention in Syria in recent months proves these are not idle threats – they have put their money where their mouth is.
Iran has been in the crosshairs of the U.S. foreign policy establishment for some time now. George W. Bush failed to generate the support needed to attack Iran during his time in office — though not for lack of trying — and since 2012, sanctions have been the go-to mantra. By attacking and destabilizing Iran’s most important ally in the region, the powers that be can undermine Iranian attempts to spread its influence in the region, ultimately further weakening Iran.
5: Former Apple CEO is the son of a Syrian refugee
The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was the son of a Syrian who moved to the United States in the 1950s. This is particularly amusing given the amount of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism and hatred refugees and migrants seem to have inspired — even from aspiring presidents. Will a President Donald Trump create the conditions in which future technological pioneers may never reach the United States? His rhetoric seems to indicate as much.
4: ISIS arose out of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not the Syrian conflict
ISIS was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which rose to prominence following the U.S.-U.K. led invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is well-known that there was no tangible al-Qaeda presence in Iraq until after the invasion, and there is a reason for this. When Paul Bremer was given the role of Presidential Envoy to Iraq in May 2003, he dissolved the police and military. Bremer fired close to 400,000 former servicemen, including high-ranking military officials who fought in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. These generals now hold senior ranking positions within ISIS. If it weren’t for the United States’ actions, ISIS likely wouldn’t exist.
ISIS was previously known by the U.S. security establishment as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but these fighters ultimately became central to Western regime change agendas in Libya and Syria. When the various Iraqi and Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated groups merged on the Syrian border in 2014, we were left with the fully-fledged terror group we face today.
3: Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia wanted to build a pipeline through Syria, but Assad rejected it
In 2009, Qatar proposed a pipeline to run through Syria and Turkey to export Saudi gas. Assad rejected the proposal and instead formed an agreement with Iran and Iraq to construct a pipeline to the European market that would cut Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar out of the route entirely. Since, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have been staunch backers of the opposition seeking to topple Assad. Collectively, they have invested billions of dollars, lent weapons, encouraged the spread of fanatical ideology, and helped smuggle fighters across their borders.
The Iran-Iraq pipeline will strengthen Iranian influence in the region and undermine their rival, Saudi Arabia — the other main OPEC producer. Given the ability to transport gas to Europe without going through Washington’s allies, Iran will hold the upper-hand and will be able to negotiate agreements that exclude the U.S. dollar completely.
2: Leaked phone calls show Turkey provides ISIS fighters with expensive medical care
Turkey’s support for hardline Islamists fighting the Syrian regime is extensive. In fact, jihadists regularly refer to the Turkish border as the “gateway to Jihad.” In May 2016, reports started emerging of Turkey going so far as to provide ISIS fighters with expensive medical treatment.
Turkey is a member of NATO. Let that sink in for a moment.
1: Western media’s main source for the conflict is a T-shirt shop in Coventry, England
This is not a joke. If you follow the news, you most probably have heard the mainstream media quote an entity grandiosely called the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (SOHR). This so-called “observatory” is run by one man in his home in Coventry, England — thousands of miles away from the Syrian conflict — yet is quoted by most respected Western media outlets (BBC,Reuters, The Guardian, and International Business Times, for example). His credentials include his ownership of a T-shirt shop just down the road, as well as being a notorious dissident against the current Syrian president.
Despite the fact much of the information in this article comes from mainstream outlets, those circulating it refuse to put all of the storylines together to give the public an accurate picture of what is going on in Syria.
Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
- 59 percent of U.S. households with annual incomes below $20,000 spend more than half of their income on rent alone – and child care accounts for another exorbitant expense.
- Anti-poverty programs help many. Programs such as low-income refundable tax credits, SNAP, free or reduced-price school lunch and child care subsidies have helped lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty.
- But many anti-poverty programs don’t reach many who are eligible and other programs would do more good if their benefits were higher or if more people were eligible.
“It is good news that the poverty rate is down, median household income is up, and more Americans are finally benefitting from an improved economy, coupled with federal programs that increase income or reduce expenses,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “But the more troubling news is that the poor and near-poor live in a precarious situation. The simple fact is, it is expensive to be poor in the U.S.”
Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
Three years ago at this time I was part of a delegation of California bishops who paid a pastoral visit to San Quentin State Prison. While there, we had the opportunity to meet with a number of the inmates on death row, hearing their stories, learning of the misfortunes in their lives, and becoming sensitized to their deep spiritual yearnings and innate desire for God. The experience put a human face on a tragic human condition that we very comfortably can – and usually do – completely ignore.
This experience also highlights the challenge we as a society face in determining how we can foster peace in this increasingly violent and complicated world. The answer is certainly not by inflicting more violence. As we, the Catholic bishops of California, said in our statement reaffirming our opposition to the death penalty: “Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime…. As we pray with them and mourn with them we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing. It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already.”
We teach on this sensitive matter aware of the complexities of this issue, but also in communion with the bishops throughout the United States, with conferences of bishops throughout the world, and with the consistent teachings of the Popes of our time. As Pope Francis has recently stated: “The death penalty is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it … does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance… the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender” (message to the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty, June 2016).
As California citizens we have an opportunity to make our voices heard on behalf of the inviolability of human life and for rehabilitation over retribution. I ask you to join me in voting to end the death penalty in our state by voting Yes on Proposition 62, and voting No on 66. Doing so will put to end the myths of capital punishment – such as the assertion that it serves as a deterrent to violent crimes – and also to the flaws it perpetrates, such as its disproportionate use on the poor and minorities. Most tragic of all, though, is the finality of the sentence: no restitution is possible for a wrongful execution. Since 1973, 151 people have been released from death rows in the United States due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. How many were not so fortunate?
Voting Yes on Proposition 62 will be a vote affirming the human dignity of those on death row, affording them the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. I also ask you to join me and my fellow California bishops by opposing Proposition 66. This Proposition would expedite executions in California. A rush to streamline that process will inevitably result in the execution of more innocent people.
In a decisive historical moment for the ancient people of Israel, when they were about to cross the Jordan River to occupy the Promised Land after wandering forty years in the Sinai Desert, Moses told them: “I set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you … may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
We are likewise at a decisive moment in our country and state, and we, too, are given the same choice, a choice we will make when casting our vote this November. Let us choose life, then, that we may live.
Posted on 23. Sep, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
This #FriarFriday reflection was written by Friar Michael Della Penna, OFM, a Franciscan missionary.
While in Africa this summer, I found myself asking how is it that the poor are so joyful when they suffer so much and have so little? How can children laugh and smile and be filled with such joy when they live in such utter destitution. While the term “joyful suffering” may seem to be an oxymoron, the great saints understood that these two seemingly opposite realities are really more like two sides of the same coin.
When St Francis decided to explain perfect joy to a cold and wet Br Leo, he gave a litany of conventional examples of what perfect joy wasn’t which included: all the brothers giving a great display of holiness and edification; performing miraculous deeds like curing the lame etc, or even raising the dead. Francis then described a miserable scene of them knocking on the door of a friary and not only being rejected, called a liar and left out in the rain while being hungry, muddy and cold, but even being driven out with “oaths and blows”, as “vile impostors” and “robbers.” He concluded saying “If we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.”
This puzzling Franciscan parable about finding joy in suffering is meant to disturb us and even turn our idea of suffering inside out. It challenges our very understanding of happiness, which is often defined in materialistic or hedonistic terms, and so measured by the yardstick of consumerism where “more is better.” Our happiness, however, does not depend on any exterior circumstance but rather is an “inside job” rooted in our relationship with God.
“Suffering,” Mother Theresa said, “will never be completely absent from our lives. So, don’t be afraid of suffering. Your suffering is a great means of love, if you make use of it, especially if you offer it for peace in the world. Suffering in and of itself is useless, but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love.”
Our incredibly generous God mysteriously allows us to share in his suffering and pain as a means of greater union with Him. Mother Teresa believed that while God is a God of love and does not want his children to suffer, our acceptance of pain can be redemptive for us and for others. “If we pray, it will be easy to accept suffering,” which, she said, is “the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.”
Posted on 18. Sep, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
Confinement. Economic abuse. Threats. Sexual violence. Around the United States, Latina women are prisoners of the sex trafficking industry in cantinas and bars. These are just a few of the ways traffickers trap young women and girls in an especially horrendous form of sex trafficking in our country.
Polaris released a new report, “More Than Drinks for Sale: Sex Trafficking in U.S. Cantinas and Bars,” which exposes the brutal exploitation young women and girls face in these criminal networks. They also created an interactive dashboard to learn more about who the victims are, how traffickers operate, and where trafficking occurs.
While federal law enforcement has prosecuted several of these cases in Houston, much more work is needed to end this kind of trafficking. Shining a light on how it happens and who it affects, we can change the equation.