Sign up for email updates:

 Optional Member Code

FOR Blogs

Remembering the original Freedom Riders

The current issue of The New Yorker includes several fascinating articles, two of which prompted me to write my first-ever letter to the editor to the publication. (I have decided that the sense of righteous indignation that prompted this act was proof that I am, truly, becoming a curmudgeon.) One of the two pieces focused on the invaluable role that copy editors play in their top-quality publication (and others of similar repute). The second essay was a lengthy review of several books by and about the legendary James Baldwin, and how racism and the quest for civil rights affected his life and work as well as that of other famous African-American writers. My letter, which it appears will not be published (lacking the humorous quality that makes many accepted by the publication stand out), said:

A snake by any other name is still...

Today and tomorrow in Washington, activists from across the hemisphere have gathered to organize around and lobby against the School of the Americas (SOA), which continues to play a central role in the global spread of U.S. militarism. Some years ago, the U.S. government officially changed the name of the institution, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, from SOA to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). The diversion in language didn't change its negative impact on human rights, however.

Sri Lanka: The Last Round?

With the Sri Lankan government troops closing in to the remaining Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stronghold, it looks as if this is the last round of a military struggle that began in 1983 but whose roots go back at least to independence in 1948. The ongoing conflict between the Sinhala and the Tamils that has ebbed and flowed derives its emotional force, in part, from competing beliefs that began during the colonial period about legitimate rule, economic wellbeing, and sacred authority. I have tried in earlier articles to give some of the background to this conflict, and I will analyse the situation once the smoke of the guns fades.

I had thought that reason would win out over the irrational drive to settle complicated issues of social-political structures through armed violence. I seem to have been wrong since both the government and the LTTE gave up negotiations in exchange for a military ”˜solution. A military victory seems now possible for the government forces.

Join me in DC to call for an end to U.S. bases

Yesterday I registered to attend what promises to be an outstanding event in Washington, D.C., at the end of this month: "Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases." My colleague John Lindsay-Poland, the co-director of FOR's Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean, will be one of the keynoters — other major speakers include international participants traveling from Guam, Okinawa, the Czech Republic, and South Africa.

Eagle Feather

Winter 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. There are many programs, both in the United States and in Iran, dedicated to this occasion. I have decided to post a short story, "Eagle Feather" by Habib Ahmadzadeh, as a remembrance of a major incident that changed the socio-cultural and socio-political situation of my country forever.

"Eagle Feather" is a short story from a longer book, A City Under Siege, which was translated into English by Paul Sprachman.

Eagle Feather

I see you being dropped off. I stop the movement of my scope and then I center the crosshairs on you—and on you waving the driver goodbye. He drives away — leaving you behind at the place where three roads meet, behind the date grove on the other side of the river. Now you’re not certain which road to take! The main road where you’ll wait for the next vehicle to come by or — the road that I want you to take? Hurry up and choose. My whole job today depends on your decision. It’s not clear from far away, but you put something on your back and move off.

The costs of shutting Guantanamo

This weekend's headlines describe a Friday meeting between President Barack Obama and 40 family members of people killed on September 11, 2001 or in the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole warship. The family members had differing viewpoints on Obama's recent announcement that he would close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp within the next year, and some expressed strong opposition to that decision. However, according to media reports, attendees left the meeting with more positive feelings of the president's plans and a sense that he had listened intently to their concerns.

Today's Washington Post describes Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, Maryland, who lost his father and stepmother on 9/11/01 and who advocates keeping Guantánamo open, saying:

If it's good for Republicans, why isn't it good for Iran?

Yesterday’s New York Times included a humorous story about President Barack Obama hosting a Super Bowl party on Sunday, which included lots of Republicans as well as members of his own political party. Titled "Obama Woos the G.O.P. With Attention, and Cookies," it described the new president’s efforts to reach across the political aisle to build relationships that would not only help change the deeply-polarized current climate in Washington, but could also benefit some of his administration’s policy objectives in the long run.

Two excerpts featuring comments by Republicans profiled in the article stand out for their commentary on what this might forebode for building a new culture in Washington. What interests me is how these quotes could easily be interpreted to suggest how our nation might approach foreign policy in a dramatically different way, too.

Pushing Obama Towards Justice and Peace

Cross-posted at Beliefnet's Progressive Revival blog.

These are difficult times in which to discern the truth, to know what to believe. The language has shifted, the rhetoric softened; but behavior, actions are still troubling. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton send an envoy to the Middle East "to listen." A drone operator on the west coast of the United States drops a bomb on women and children in Pakistan or Afghanistan with the flick of a switch. Hope and change meet inertia and cynicism.

As products of the most religiously pluralistic country in the world and the most faith-driven in the West, I would hope our leaders would model a still more ready posture of listening for a sacred voice of discernment than a continuing exercise of misplaced vengeance.

Help free 17 innocent men from Guantanamo

National Call-In Days to Release 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo

Please join the Fellowship of Reconciliation in participating in this important national campaign this week!


FOR's Annual Report: July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008

About every six months, FOR publishes Witness, a newsletter for our active members and supporters. This year we have combined our 2008 annual report with the latest edition, so it’s an especially interesting read.

Click here to dowload a 1.8 MB PDF of the winter 2008 Witness.

Below is this issue’s welcome message from the Chair of FOR’s National Council, Paul Dekar on “Building King’s ‘World House’”: