Neocons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video

September 25, 2008

Neocons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video

by Ali Gharib

with Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe

A group of hard-line US neoconservatives and former Israeli diplomats, among others, are behind the mass distribution, ahead of the November US presidential election, of a controversial DVD that critics have denounced as Islamophobic.

The group, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), is working with another organization called the Clarion Fund, which produced the 60-minute video and is itself tied closely to an Israeli organization called Aish Hatorah.

The Fund is currently distributing some 28 million copies of the DVD through newspaper inserts in key electoral ”swing” states – states like Michigan, Ohio, and Florida that, according to recent polling, could go either way in November’s presidential election.

According to Delaware incorporation papers, the Clarion Fund is based at the same New York address as Aish Hatorah, a self-described “apolitical” group dedicated to educating Jews about their heritage.

The Clarion Fund’s street address as listed on the group’s website and a DVD mailer for the film is apparently not a physical address, but rather a “virtual address” that goes to a post office box in New York City.

Critics allege that the movie “Obsession” is “hate propaganda” which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

At least two major metropolitan newspapers solicited to insert the paid advertisement into their product have refused to do so because of a perceived bias in the film.

“Despite the perilous state of American newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch advertising department took an ethical stand and refused to distribute the DVD of a film that for two years has troubled American Muslims,” wrote Tim Townsend, a reporter at Missouri’s most influential newspaper earlier this month after it rejected the ad.

While the initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund’s financing role, it was EMET that organized and oversaw the distribution, EMET’s spokesman, Ari Morgenstern, told IPS. Morgenstern, a former press officer for the Israeli embassy here, said he contacted IPS at the Clarion Fund’s request.

EMET, according to a recent press release, is “a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to policy research and analysis on democracy and the Middle East.”

According to filings made in compliance with the organization’s tax-exempt 501(c)3 status, “the organization hosts seminars, debates and educational films featuring Middle East experts in order to educate policymakers and the public at large on the common threats facing Israel and the United States.”

Morgenstern told IPS that EMET was “partnered with the Clarion Fund” on what he called the “Obsession Project” which he identified as “an initiative of EMET”. He declined to name the Project’s donors. A spokesman for the Clarion Fund, Gregory Ross, has also refused to name the Fund’s donors, whose identity remains a mystery.

Morgenstern also declined to specify the cost of the DVD distribution, but did say, “it costs a great deal – it’s a multi-million-dollar effort.” Outside experts have estimated the cost of the operation, including reproduction and distribution, at between 15 million dollars and 50 million dollars.

Like hard-line neoconservatives, EMET opposes any land concessions to Palestinians and takes other hard-line positions identified with Israel’s right-wing Likud Party and the ”Settler Lobby” there. EMET’s website says, “We regard ourselves as ‘intellectual revolutionaries'”.

The group’s acronym, EMET, mirrors the name of a predecessor to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which was called Emet. The word means “truth” in Hebrew.

Two weeks ago, EMET sponsored a seminar series on Capitol Hill named for the controversial multi-billionaire casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to right-wing Zionist organizations in the US; the far-right lobby group, Freedom’s Watch; and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), whose efforts to persuade Jewish voters that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is aligned with radical anti-Israel forces in the Islamic world have drawn strong criticism from the mainstream Jewish press here.

EMET’s board of advisers includes a list of familiar neoconservative figures, as well as three former Israeli diplomats, including a former deputy chief of mission in Israel’s Washington embassy.

The group is headed by Sarah Stern, who began her activism on Israeli issues in opposition to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestinians. She made a career out of her activism in the far-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) as its national policy coordinator from 1998 through 2004.

Notable members of the advisory board include prominent hard-line neoconservatives, including former US U.N. Amb. the late Jeane Kirkpatrick; Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum; and the Hudson Institute’s Meyrav Wurmser, the Israeli-born spouse of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top Middle East adviser, David Wurmser.

Other prominent neoconservative members of the board include Center for Security Policy (CSP) president Frank Gaffney; former CIA chief James Woolsey; and Heritage Foundation fellows Ariel Cohen and Nina Shea, who has also served for years on the quasi-governmental US Commission for International Religious Freedom.

The US-born and -educated hard-line deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post and senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at Gaffney’s CSP, Caroline Glick, is also an adviser.

Glick, Pipes, and Walid Shoebat, a “reformed” terrorist and EMET adviser, are all featured as experts in “Obsession”.

Also among the top names of listed advisers to EMET are three Israeli diplomats. Two of them, Ambassadors Yossi Ben Aharon and Yoram Ettinger, were among the three Israeli ambassadors whom then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin referred to as “the Three Musketeers” when they lobbied Washington in opposition to the Oslo accords. Indeed, Stern began her career at the behest of three unnamed Israeli diplomats who were based in Washington under Rabin’s predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, according to EMET’s website.

Ettinger was at one time the chairman of special projects and is still listed as a contributing expert at the Ariel Center for Policy Research, a hard-line Likudist Israeli think tank that opposes the peace process.

Ben Aharon was the director general – effectively the chief of staff – of Shamir’s office.

The third Israeli ambassador, Lenny Ben-David, was appointed by Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as the deputy chief of mission – second in command – at the Israeli embassy in Washington from 1997 until 2000. Ben-David had also held senior positions at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for 25 years and is now a consultant and lobbyist.

But EMET is not the only group involved in the “Obsession” controversy to have direct ties to Israel.

The Clarion Fund has also been criticized for initially denying its ties to Israel’s Aish Hatorah, which were first disclosed publicly by an IPS investigation last year.

Honestreporting.com, an organization set up by Aish Hatorah and also a client of Ben-David, admitted to IPS that it had aided the production of the film.

The Clarion Fund and Aish Hatorah are headed by twin Israeli-Canadian brothers Raphael and Ephraim Shore, respectively. The two groups appear to be connected as Clarion is incorporated in Delaware to the New York offices of Aish Hatorah.

“It seems that the Clarion Fund, from what we can tell, is just a virtual organization that is a front for Aish Hatorah,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told IPS. “They don’t have staff, they don’t have a physical address. Nothing.”

Little is known about the shadowy Clarion Fund, which is listed with the New York Secretary of State’s office as a “foreign not-for-profit foundation.” The group has rejected requests for information about its donors.

IPS has, however, uncovered one donor to the Clarion Fund, the Mamiye Foundation, which gave it 25,000 dollars in August of 2007, according to tax filings. Four Mamiyes, Charles M., Charles D., Hyman and Abraham, are listed as trustees on the forms.

According to filings with the New York Secretary of State, a contact listed for a Mamiye company is also the same man listed as a contact and counsel for the Clarion Fund – Eli D. Greenberg of the law firm Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman and Herz.

Foreign nationals and companies, and domestic tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofits are prohibited by federal election law from attempting to sway US elections at any level through either contributions to campaigns or advocacy.

Morgenstern, EMET’s spokesman, said that the DVD distribution only went to “swing states” because media attention is focused there, and EMET is hoping to spark a public debate about the threats posed by” radical Islam”.

But CAIR has filed a complaint asking the Federal Election Commission to review the actions of the Clarion Fund both as a foreign entity and as a nonprofit

The complaint by Nadhira Al-Khalili, CAIR’s legal counsel, asked that both charges be investigated.

 
 
 

Open Letter to Christian US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

Open Letter to Christian US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

by Stan Goff
by Stan Goff


DIGG THIS

Who and Whose are you?: Confession of faith and renunciation of evil

On February 1, 1996, I retired from the United States Army. I had served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam as an infantryman, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Ranger Battalion, the Jungle Operations Training Center, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, the United States Military Academy at West Point, 1st Ranger Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, 75th Ranger Regiment, and finally 3rd Special Forces Group. I worked all over “hot spots” in Latin America during the 80s and early 90s. I participated in Grenada and Somalia; and I was the team sergeant for a Special Forces A-Detachment during the 1994 invasion of Haiti.

In all that time, I was one of those atheists in the foxholes they say don’t exist. I could never have known that I’d find the faith to follow Christ and be baptized on Easter of my 56th year. But I did, even when I’d never grasped for spiritual reassurance as I slogged through the Central Highlands of Vietnam, leapt from airplanes into the night, or had helicopters shot out from under me. I’ve been taking up residence close to death for a long time. My faith isn’t about jumping over death. It’s about reconciling with God, who Jesus Christ showed us is Love.

When I was baptized I continued to carry my history; but one identity was sloughed off in the water and a new one born out of it.

I write this open letter to troops, brothers and sisters – of all branches – who profess the faith of Christ. I write you to ask that you remember your baptism, because at that baptism you declared your renunciation of evil.


The big preposition

Note the preposition. I didn’t say faith in Christ, I said faith of Christ.

Christian is a diminutive term; it means “little Christ.” To be a Christian is not to merely have faith in Christ. That’s too easy, and Jesus of Nazareth was not about easy. To be Christian is to aspire to have the faith of Christ.

Christ’s call is not to go along with the program, say the magic words, then be rescued from death. Christ did not merely command belief. Christ commands you to follow him. That command does not wait until death for it to become effective in your life. “Love your enemy.” This is not an etching at some altar that you visit; it is your path laid before you by the footsteps of Christ in this world. This is an action religion, not an abracadrabra religion.

Christ tells us to take up the cross. That means be willing to risk all, to suffer all when suffering can heal the brokenness in the world. The brokenness of 1st-Century Palestine was not altogether different from the brokenness of the world now.

Jesus’ ministry was conducted in the teeth of a Roman military occupation. Like Nuri al Malaki’s “government,” the Palestinian Jewish upper-class then lived in an uncomfortable collaboration with that occupation. There were also Jewish insurgents who fought the Roman occupation, who fought among themselves, and who attacked collaborating Jewish sects as well. One particular nationalist party that emerged prior to the revolt with Rome was known as the Zealots. You may recall that Jesus had such folk among his small band of disciples. “And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot…” (Luke 6:13–15)

We can’t beat around the bush about this comparison. It’s clear.


We Romans

America is now Rome. You are Rome’s army of occupation. To the Roman soldier, when Jesus passed down the dusty byways of his occupied land, he appeared no more or less than a random Iraqi or Afghan appears to you.

What do you look like to them?

Jesus himself looked at the Jewish resistance to Roman occupation, then looked at the corpses rotting on crosses along the roads as Roman examples to the Palestinian Jew; and he chose a new way. His way was neither passivity, nor counter-violence, but non-violent resistance, just like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, who both cited Jesus’ ministry in their own prophetic missions.

Jesus looked at the violence-counterviolence cycle, and determined that each person in that system was redeemable as an individual – each a child of God, each beloved of God. Jewish, Roman, Samaritan, male, female… no matter. He also looked at how the system itself – operating with a self-reinforcing dynamic that transcends the individual – led people into the cycles of accusation and violence; and he proposed to undermine that system with this radical doctrine of spiritual equality, a redemption open to all through grace, and a redemption never imposed at the point of a sword… or under threat of a bomb.

In the original story, written in Greek, Jesus says, “I am not of this world.” At least that’s how many interpretations go. But the original Greek word kosmos means world, flesh, or system, depending on context.

“I am not of this system.”

Not simply the system of Roman occupation, but the system of violence-counterviolence… all systems of domination, because domination breeds the cycle of violence-counterviolence.


Pretensions of the devil

Scripture has been interpreted to suit plenty that is the very evil you renounced at your baptism. The subjugation of women. Slavery. War. Even the white supremacist sects have quoted Scripture. But in order to do so, literalism and decontextualizaton have been used to distort the essence and spirit of the Scriptures for the most impure of motives. In America, we hear much about a few references to sex in the Bible, but little about the many references to poverty, and less about Jesus’ provocations on peace.

When Jesus says his way will break the dominance of one generation over another within the family, between slave and master, between male and female, he does not confine this vision to heaven – where the upside-down “kingdom” without oppression lives in the dimension of Spirit. He says “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus was an earthy guy. He bathed in rivers, shat on the ground, and broke bread with fishmongers, tax-collectors, outcasts, prostitutes, Zealots… and he showed mercy to the child of a Roman soldier.

Even on the cross, in his final breaths as the Romans’ victim, he cries out to God on behalf of those who kill him: “When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'” (Luke 23:33–34)

What do you think that means? Certainly the Roman soldiers (soldiers like you) knew they were participating in a crucifixion. The Roman troops had done this many times. What they did not understand was how their system led them to do this.

In Matthew 27:54, it was a Centurion who heard these words – “forgive them” – and experienced an earthquake, saying, “Truly, this is the Son of God.” (Do you see how the symbolic truth here is more powerful than the literal seismology?)

Forgiveness unmasks Satan, who is not the boogeyman of popular culture, but the spirit in the culture – some would call it a zeitgeist – that acts as God’s jealous pretender, that promotes Self as God, that plays the accuser to stir up the mob (weapons of mass destruction?), that sets up idols… so that we will “know not what we do,” so we will not know who and whose we are.

You can hear the voice of Satan in every instance of boasting, humiliation of another, profaning of what we know to be sacred (like God’s Creation), every thought and word of aggression or revenge, every put-down of other people (all beloved of God). Where you are, you can see how the state of war and occupation – putting you at odds with an occupied population that does not want to be occupied – amplifies and focuses the malevolent spirit. Now ask yourself why?

Why do troops run down civilians with vehicles to avoid slowing down? Why do troops throw bottles and cans at pedestrians to entertain themselves? Why did the massacres like Haditha occur? Why did the utter destruction of Fallujah happen? Why are wedding parties bombed by US aircraft? Why did a whole squad participate in the premeditated half-hour-long rape and murder of a screaming 14-year-old girl? Why is it that approaching an invader’s roadblock can carry death sentence for a whole family? Why can children be woken from their beds by soldiers kicking down the house doors? Why are thousands held imprisoned without cause? Why are Iraqi and Afghan elders obliged to obey 20-year-old invaders who can’t even speak their language? Why do your peers (perhaps even you) refer to all Iraqis or Afghans with epithets? Why do your peers laugh when they retell stories of their own cruelties and their humiliations of the people whose nations they have invaded? Why are you there?

What is the spirit in our culture that spins out clever excuses for these evils? It is that same spirit that you renounced at your baptism, which I call on you to remember now.

Remember your baptism, where you renounced Satan.


Making and unmaking enemies

Do you really understand – any better than the Roman soldiers who “did their jobs” at Golgotha – how this system has led you to where you are today? You are in the system; but that system is not God’s. It is a system of human concupiscence, human malice, human domination, human hubris… a system that functions when you follow the crowd against the Holy Spirit. Satan loves a crowd. These are the weapons of the Satanic spirit that seizes the lynch mob, that calls us to domination and calls it self-defense – even altruism. This is the spirit of our zeitgeist.

Remember your baptism. You declared your renunciation of Satan, and you made that declaration to God. Did you think it would be easy?

The Roman soldiers had been convinced, and had convinced themselves, that they were right to do what they did. To make it alright in their own minds to do what they did, they had to withdraw recognition of the Jewish Palestinians’ basic humanity. I don’t know what they called the Palestinians, but I am sure there was some equivalent of the term “rag head” or “hajji.” And in turn, no doubt, many angry Jews in Palestine had dehumanizing epithets for the Romans.

That’s the cycle. And as Gandhi said, “and eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Jesus said the same thing. He said that not only were you not to attack your enemies, you are commanded by God to love them.

It was on the mountainside, there with His disciples sitting before the crowds, He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:43–45)

That’s how Christ told us to break the cycle of enemy-making. Fight the system by loving the “enemy,” but fight the system nonetheless. Provoke with your presence, but do not batter. This is how demonic power is unmasked, and how it was unmasked on the cross, where Christ baited a snare for Satan with his own frail body.

Loving the enemy neutralizes the category of enemy.

Unfortunately, even with phalanxes of chaplains ready to distort and press the message of Christ into the business of war, this means that you are now part of an organization that has no reason to exist without an enemy. The ethic of the military is inscribed in the infantry phrase, “close with The Enemy and destroy him.” The ethic of Christ is inscribed in neighbor-love – love of anyone who is near, and enemy-love – the unmaking of the category of “enemy.” These two perspectives – military doctrine and the ethic of Christ – cannot be reconciled.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors (enemies who exploited the people for the economic benefit of Rome) do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles (those who were not of the Jewish nation) do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:46–48)

Christ told you to “love your enemies.” Break the cycle of enemy-making.

Yet the armed forces are based, at their very core, on the existence of an enemy to destroy. The very doctrine that governs your organization, your technology, and your methods, cannot exist without The Enemy. To accomplish that, the armed forces must do two things: they must devalue the lives of all who are not members of the nation, and they must set up an idol to supplant God.


The idolatry of nation

In your military chapels hang American flags. But God’s Creation does not stop at the border of the United States; and God’s love is not extended exclusively to Americans; just as God’s love was not extended exclusively to the Jews, but also embraced Samaritans and Gentiles and tax-collectors, and even the Roman soldiery who conducted the crucifixion of Jesus. And when we say we are blessed, we need to understand that blessing is not a reward of material goods or social power. To bless means to make whole… to heal brokenness. The root word in “salvation” is not save, but salve… a healing balm. If God is to bless America, then first and foremost, that means “heal” America – reconcile America to God. Not put the symbol of political authority in the chapel where it can pose as something holy. America cannot be blessed by God without that same blessing – that same making whole – extending to the entire human family, because under God, the human family is indivisible.

As theologian Shane Claiborne notes:

No wonder it is hard for seekers to find God nowadays. It is difficult to know where Christianity ends and America begins. Our money says, “In God we Trust.” God’s name is on American money, and America’s flag is on God’s altars.

The Hebraic tradition of Jesus forbids idolatry. Making the flag of a nation, one that has entered history only recently and will as surely leave it some day, an object of worship is idolatry. For God clearly says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:3–6) And at the heart of belief is not whether we have the proper mental acquiescence to a particular religious decree but whether or not we will follow this God who loves so passionately that even the enemy becomes the object of love. Such love is always contrary to the systems of empire and domination.

Jesus clearly refuses the claim of Caesar over his life, economically and as a point of worship. Remember, he asks the followers of the Pharisees and Herod to hold up a coin with a graven image, an image of Caesar – the “divine one,” an image explicitly forbidden by Judaic law, and then says, “give to this image, this false God, what it is due.” “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17)

Jesus was facing an attempt to entrap him in a debate about not paying taxes to The Enemy (Rome).

His reply: Caesar’s money? That’s part of Caesar’s system, not mine, and not God’s.

The use of this story today to claim one realm for religion and another for obedience to the state, the idea that there were two separate spheres in the state and religion then at all, is a grotesque retrojection of later interpretations into 1st-Century Palestine. It is an absurdity that exploits our historical ignorance about that time and place. This obedience-to-the-state interpretation of the story of the coin with Caesar’s graven image was proffered when the church was merged with the state… and it is blasphemy, a demonic co-optation of Scripture by principalities and powers to trick subject populations into support for the schemes of power.

Christ didn’t obey the state; he subverted it. Then the state bowed to the lynch mob and nailed this gentle rabbi to a cross for a slow and painful execution.

There are a couple of things that we can never seem to separate from the state, however: money and war.


The pigeon-sellers of war

The one time Jesus became physically angry in Scripture was when he overturned the tables of the pigeon-sellers and money-changers who were encamped on the steps of the temple, driving them out when they exploit and abuse and rob the poor ones who only seek obedience to God, corrupting a practice that was meant to connect and honor and instead making it an exploitive practice done in the name of religion and under the sanction of Rome. (Mark 11:15–18)

Remember your baptism; and know that God’s currency is courage in love, not the currency of Caesar that dissolves communities with obsession and envy and war. Can you see the money-changers at work again? Look around you now at the orgy of war-profiteering, the get-rich(er)-quick schemes that attach to war like pilot fish on a shark. But the shark must have enemies to feed upon.

Now, even when there is no credible military threat to the United States that a standing military can prevent, you are being bent to the will of a doctrine that must have The Enemy. If there is no enemy, then one must be created. The Enemy is the raison d’être of the armed forces.

And so other nations – nations of people who have already suffered terribly – were selected to become The Enemy in order to justify the plundering of their resources and the subsidized economies of war – from no-bid contracts for hi-tech weapons to contractors who pay exorbitant salaries and charge outrageous prices to wash your clothes, feed you, and run facilities that insulate you from the harsh and incessant realities of the nations you now occupy.

Do you really think that were it not for oil, you would even be in that region? Do you know how many campaign contributions are funneled to politicians of both parties by “defense” contractors?

Enemies make money. Enemies are good business. The business of war is good these days. The structures of evil and the evil of structures are visible to anyone who consents to see.

Consenting to see constitutes an entry through the passageway of Grace.


Entering the New Life

You – as an individual human being – are redeemable through grace. Faith – radical trust – is how we act into Grace. “Consider the lilies of the field…”

All the excuses and twisted explanations that are made for these wars of occupation – and that is what they are, lies and excuses – are designed to clear away the psychological and spiritual obstacles to your carrying out this occupation of other peoples’ lands. The politicians are creating the twisted logic. The contractors are supporting the twisted logic. The warlike culture in America is directed by the very spirit you renounced at your baptism. The malevolent spirit is not just the devil; it is a devil-maker… a demonizer, an enemy-maker.

The devil – the malevolent within our zeitgeist – demonizes Arabs (our brothers and sisters before God), demonizes Muslims (our brothers and sisters before God) and expresses these explanations-for-war as pus is expressed from an infected wound.

Even some clergy are complicit – as it was in the time of Jesus, when the clergy itself called for his execution. (Mark 11:17)

You – soldier, sailor, airman, marine… and you, officer – must pray for them; and you must not obey them.

You know, many of you, that the ugliness of any description of war can never be equal to the stark and actual obscenity of war. That obscenity is the visible face of Satan that many of us are working very very hard not to see.

It’s the twisted imitator of God, the demonic spirit, the misleader… that crafts a War Jesus. That millions have been misled does not in any way change what it is.

Jesus never gave his sanction to war. The most common quote from scripture used by warmongering government and clergy is Luke 12:49–53, where Jesus says He will sow discord in the family.

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He does not say “not peace, but war.” He’s says “not peace, but division.” And the fault line for that division is between generations. Age and gender in 1st-Century Palestine defined familial authority. Familial authority was the basis of social stability (the “peace” of Power). Get your head around that.

These divisions are not between brothers and sisters who are the co-children of God, but between generations and the hereditary powers that inhered in the system of human authority. To name this passage a call to war, or its justification, simply because it says he comes not to bring “peace” to domination in the patriarchal household, is a rhetorical acrobatic, just as the return of Caesar’s image is not by any stretch a call to obey the government. This passage is a call to divide human authority in order to reunite authority under a loving God. And it is a clear call.

The official doctrine of the armed forces is based on an Enemy. The doctrine of the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” has no enemies.

Ever since Constantine subverted the church by making it a state religion, the powers and principalities have taken the name of Christ and abused it to make war. Christ invoked to support prejudice and oppression. Christ invoked to line pockets (ignoring that Jesus said you cannot serve God and money at the same time). (Matt 6:24) Look past these centuries of pretenders, because the Word that is the Christ remains unshakable, even when it is a minority view in a broken and warlike culture. You are called to disobey human authority each and every time that authority commands you to increase the brokenness of the world.

Refuse to fight.

Refuse to support the fighting.

Lay down your weapons and refuse to fight, and you will be blessed. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matt 5:9).

You will be healed and made whole; you will be reconciled to God because you will have begun your reconciliation with the billions of human beings who are – under God – one family.

You will be reviled – powerfully at first – as Christ was on the way to Golgotha. The malevolent spirit will writhe. You will be ridiculed as an extremist, less-than-a-real-man (or whichever other gendered attack), an apostate, just as Jesus was when even his closest friends refused to acknowledge their relation to him while the crowd howled for his blood. And you will enter into conflict with your own families.

You will not be nailed to a cross; but you may be jailed, spat on, isolated, abused… but you will also be embraced, accepted, and loved. We already love you.

This is what you need far more than the esteem of the demonic macho culture of war that glorifies the taking of human life – God has already forgiven your past and pointed to the path ahead. Do not any longer give the glory to Rome that belongs to God.


From Jerusalem to Baghdad

Do not expect praise or stained-glass or elegiac music in the background when you refuse. This path blazed by Christ is gritty and hard. As George MacLeod once said,

I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the [street market] as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a cross road, so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek…

At the kind of a place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died for. And that is what He died about. That is where [Christians] ought to be and what [Christians] ought to be about.

“About” in a place not unlike Mosul or Baghdad or Bagram or Khoust.

The mission that made Jesus into the Christ, the anointed, was not cleaned and pressed, not shiny like a supermarket, not sanitary like a freshly scrubbed bathroom, not air-conditioned, not safe. You are at the kind of place where God breaks into the world to the exact degree that you let yourself become a “little Christ” – the hands and feet and eyes and ears of Christ. Christ doesn’t demand your mere belief. Christ demands participation in the work of God.

Lay down your weapons, refuse your orders, accept the ridicule and abuse of the mob that “does not know what it is doing,” and Christ will walk beside you.

You’ll be surprised at how many of us will walk beside you, too.

Who would lead a total revolution that would shake off internal oppression as well as the foreign yoke… Jesus’ approach stood in unique opposition to the prevailing assumptions of his day. He articulated an altogether different way… He did not come in the sectarian guise of his time, offering redemption only to those belonging to a particular group, nor did he adopt a primarily adversarial stance. He came with a prophetic message concerned for the good of all and with an eagerness to bring God’s kingdom within reach of everybody, even the enemy.

[from Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution, by Andre Trocme]

Remember your baptism.

Your allegiance is to the eternal God, not the flag of a transient empire.

Who and whose are you?

You will hear people say that this burnt-out veteran has no authority to speak as a Christian on these matters. And I am burnt out; and I did come to Christianity late in life. But I am not making any of this up. Honest and fearless Christian theologians of the ecumenical, prophetic, and evangelical churches have spoken out against war, and in exactly the terms presented here. I bring nothing original to this plea for obedience to the God of the Nazarene.

I write to you as one who has shared your experience, not that of the clergy or the Academy. I have known your position, trapped between the regrets and guilt of the past and the anxieties of the future, plodding against the current of Holy Spirit to clutch at the “esteem” of your militarized nation, “proving” yourselves again and again to your peers who define masculinity and human value by the ability to risk one’s own safety to dominate or destroy others.

That is who I was before I was baptized into who and whose I am, and that is why I can tell you that the risk you must take is the risk not to dominate. It is the risk of losing the esteem of those who “know not what they do.” Seek your redemption and the redemption of the world, the flesh, the system… by taking up the cross, walking the painful path to Golgotha, and overcoming your alienation from the triune God, who Paul – himself a violent persecutor of Jesus’ followers until his epiphany – called Love, Grace, and Fellowship with your human family.

The fellowship you lose if and when you refuse to fight, if you refuse to give another hour of support to this obscene enterprise, will be replaced not seven-fold, but seven-hundredfold by the fellowship of Peace: Christians, non-Christians, veterans, and non-veterans, and from many nations. This Pentecost waits for you.

Have faith, knowing that faith is not sorcery… not magic… not abracadabra.

Faith is radical trust that God has your back. And trust the evidence not of what those around you try to excuse and explain, but of what you see them actually do.

Watch how your institution treats “the least among us,” because that is how the institution is treating Christ (Matt 25:40). You cannot point a gun at another human being, frighten a child, bully a man, demean a woman, violate the sanctity of a threshold, or kill, and not be doing this violence to Christ. There is nothing circumstantial about it. Christ was categorical about this.

You must resist; and you must do so without violence and be prepared to love those who abuse you for your refusal. And trust, too, that all will be well, even though you might pass through a dark night first.

Your obedience to peer pressure and your obedience to the government are both superceded absolutely by obedience to God.

Elections will not stop this war, just shift its emphasis. Only you will stop it, starting with yourself. That is the way Jesus worked; and at your baptism you promised to follow the Christ.

Refuse your work. Refuse your orders. Refuse to pick up the weapon and fight; and pray for the redemption of those who will stand against you when you stand with God.

When you do, and do so in the name of Christ, there are thousands more waiting that will follow. And there is One who will walk beside you every step of the way.


Links for Christian troops ready to say no:

NOTE

From Wikipedia on Conscientious Objection:

 

A 1971 United States Supreme Court decision broadened U.S. rules beyond religious belief but denied the inclusion of objections to specific wars as grounds for conscientious objection. Some desiring to include the objection to specific wars distinguish between wars of offensive aggression and defensive wars while others contend that religious, moral, or ethical opposition to war need not be absolute or consistent but may depend on circumstance or political conviction. Currently, the U.S. Selective Service System states, “Beliefs which qualify a registrant for conscientious objector status may be religious in nature, but don’t have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man’s reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man’s lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.” In the US, this applies to primary claims, that is, those filed on initial SSS registration. On the other hand, those who apply after either having registered without filing, and/or having attempted or effected a deferral, are specifically required to demonstrate a discrete and documented change in belief, including a precipitant, that converted a non-CO to a CO. The male reference is due to the current “male only” basis for conscription in the United States.

In the United States, there are two main criteria for classification as a conscientious objector. First, the objector must be opposed to war in any form, Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437. Second, the objection must be sincere, Witmer v. United States, 348 U.S. 375. That he must show that this opposition is based upon religious training and belief was no longer a criterion after cases broadened it to include non-religious moral belief, United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 and Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333. COs willing to perform non-combatant military functions are classed 1-A-O by the U.S.; those unwilling to serve at all are 1-O.

This open letter and other written material (like that found in the enclosed links) opposing war on moral and/or religious grounds “demonstrate a discrete and documented change in belief, including a precipitant, that converted a non-CO to a CO,” if they are listed as the persuasive moral, religious, and philosophical arguments leading to your objector status.

 

September 18, 2008

Stan Goff [send him mail] is the author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti, Full Spectrum Disorder, and Sex & War. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at StanGoff.com.

 
 
 

 
Find this article at:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/goff2.html
 

Row over German mosque plan

Saturday, September 20, 2008
 
 
Row over German mosque plan
 

 Leftist protesters outnumbered nationalists on Cologne’s streets on Saturday [AFP]

 

German police have clashed with counter-demonstrato rs in Cologne while authorities have banned a nationalist group from staging a rally against plans to build a big mosque in the city.

At least one officer was injured in Saturday’s incident.

The rally’s organisers, Pro-Koeln (For Cologne), a nationalist group, had hoped to criticise plans to build a domed mosque – complete with two 177ft tall minarets – in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district.

Some of the counter-demonstrato rs tried to grab officers’ pistols while others threw stones and firecrackers.

The injured officer was hit by a firecracker. Police said they detained about five people.

Police forced Pro-Koeln to call off the rally because there were fears that more serious violence would take place, Burkhard Rick, a police spokesman, said.

Two-day congress

Up to 3,000 policemen had been drafted in and part of the old city sealed off as authorities appealed for peaceful protests against a  two-day congress called by the Pro-Koeln (For Cologne) group.

Pro-Koeln activists oppose what they call ‘Islamification’ [AFP]

Pro-Koeln had hoped 1,500 people would attend Saturday’s rally in the city centre to oppose the mosque and an “immigrant invasion” of Europe.

Those attending the congress, including like-minded leaders from Belgium, Austria and Italy, were protesting against “Islamification, ” and voicing support for Europe’s “shared, thousand-year history” and “Western values and Christian traditions”.

Fritz Schramma, Cologne’s mayor whose city council gave the green light  for the construction of the mosques, criticised Pro-Koeln as “arsonists and racists” hiding under the cloak of a “citizens’ movement” in a speech earlier on Saturday.

An estimated 120,000 Muslims live in Cologne, widely viewed as one of Germany’s most tolerant and well-integrated major cities.

By midday just 30 Pro-Koeln supporters had managed to reach the rally site, a marketplace near the city centre, as thousands of counter-demonstrato rs blocked streets leading to the square.

Some 5,000 more counter-demonstrato rs attended a peaceful rally nearby.

Saturday was the second day of the Pro-Koeln conference.

Opening events on Friday were severely hampered when hundreds of largely peaceful protesters managed to prevent the group’s leaders from holding a news conference in a municipal building, forcing supporters of the groups to seek refuge on a rental boat cruising the Rhine River.

Eight people were arrested for throwing stones and paint balls at the boat.

 

Source: AFP

Why Obama Is Wrong

September 18, 2008

Why Obama Is Wrong

by William S. Lind

A few weeks ago I wrote a column explaining why Senator John McCain is wrong on Iraq. In contrast, Senator Barack Obama is largely right on Iraq. Whether he would follow through on his plan for withdrawing U.S. troops is another question. The Democratic foreign policy establishment is no less Wilsonian than its Republican counterpart, and once it has used antiwar voters to gain power it will want to show them the door as soon as it dares.

But if Obama is right on Iraq, he is wrong on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. His prescriptions for each are so close to the policies of the Bush administration that if McCain is McBush, Obama appears to be O’Bush. It seems many voters’ desire to climb up out of the Bush league altogether is doomed to frustration.

On Afghanistan, Obama wants to send in more troops and win the war. But more troops doing what U.S. troops now do – fighting the Pashtun and calling in airstrikes on anything that moves – guarantee we will lose the war. As was the case in Iraq, the first necessary step is to change what our troops are doing. From what I have seen, Obama has said nothing on that score, probably because his position on Afghanistan is mere posturing intended to show he will be “tough on terrorism.”

Obama’s position on Pakistan is even more dangerous. In August of 2007, Obama called for direct U.S. military action in Pakistan, with or without Pakistani approval. Speaking to the Woodrow Wilson Center, he said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” President Bush took Senator Obama’s recommendation this past July, authorizing such actions.

This is an example of the classic strategic error of sacrificing a more important goal to one of lesser importance. Not even outright defeat in Afghanistan would do America’s interests as much damage as would the disintegration of the Pakistani state and the transformation of Pakistan into another stateless region. The state of Pakistan is already dangerously fragile, and actions such as cross-border raids by American troops will diminish its legitimacy further. No government that cannot defend its sovereignty will last. Ironically, if Pakistan collapses, so does our position in Afghanistan, because our main logistics line will be cut. In effect, Obama wants to hand al-Qaeda and the Taliban a double victory.

In June of this year, Obama spoke to the annual AIPAC conference. What he said there about Iran put him once again firmly in the Bush camp:

 

“As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….

“There should be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action to defend our security and our ally Israel. Do not be confused.

“Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed and have more support at home and abroad if we have exhausted our diplomatic options. That is the change we need in our policy.”

In other words, the change we need in our policy is to offer a bit more diplomatic kabuki before we attack Iran.

As I have said repeatedly and will keep on saying, an attack on Iran could cost us the whole army we have in Iraq. It could set the region on fire, from Afghanistan to the Nile. It could create an oil crisis with severe economic consequences at a time when the world economy is tottering. It is, in short, madness. But it is also what Obama promised AIPAC.

Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment Party, and its internal disagreements are minor. Both McCain and Obama are Establishment Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which, unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.

Such is the “choice” the American people get in November.

 
 
 

The world cannot afford a new Cold War (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)

The world cannot afford a new Cold War
By Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Source: International Herald Tribune  Monday, September 15, 2008

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the world had enormous expectations  that it would finally harvest peace dividends from the ruins of the Cold  War.

Indeed, despite the turbulent transition of the international system, we saw some progress. Relations between the major powers improved significantly and the UN Security Council began to function again. The  threat of World War III and nuclear holocaust fizzled and the arms race  was halted. Strategic rapprochement – especially among United States,  China, Russia – occurred and tensions became manageable. Democracy and  open society spread across the globe.

In much of Asia, the guns have been relatively silent – including my  country, where peace now reigns in Aceh. The number of conflicts in the world has declined; the majority of them are now within states rather than between states. Indeed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, for four straight years, between 2003 and 2007, no inter-state conflicts were recorded.

The last thing that we need now is a new chill in the international system. Yet that new chill is being felt with loose talk of a “new Cold War” between Russia and the West following the recent clash betweenRussia and Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

This geostrategic tension, which was fueled earlier by the row over  Kosovo’s independence, remains fluid, with potential for expanded confrontation. That chill is also being felt in the UN Security Council.

It is not likely that the world will go back to the ideological divide of the 20th century. The real danger lies in the fact that this chill, if it persists and reverberates throughout the international system, could  divert attention and resources from the critical issues of the day.

Already, we are seeing disconcerting signs. Military spending by the United States, Russia and China are at their peak, and, except for Russia, higher than at the end of the Cold War.

Total world military spending has increased rapidly in recent years.  Strategic contentions over arms and missiles are resurfacing. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is in jeopardy. There is an evident build-up of mistrust, which makes the risk of geopolitical confrontation more likely.

The international community cannot afford to lose time and focus on defusing the real ticking time bombs: energy, food and climate change. These are the ultimate security threats of our time, and from where we 
stand now, we are barely scratching the surface.

We need to find a proper balance between oil supply and demand, end our addiction to oil and develop cheaper, low carbon alternative energy sources, so that we can end the skyrocketing oil prices now strangulating the world economy.

On food security, we need to achieve a second green revolution – this time more environment friendly – to boost worldwide food supply to prevent potential socioeconomic and political crises in 33 countries, while 
helping the 100 million people worldwide from sliding back into poverty.

On climate change, we need to urgently come up with an ambitious post-2012 global scheme so that we can slow and stop global warming to within two degrees Celsius in the next decades. Meanwhile, countries, particularly major emitters, must begin to ambitiously reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

We also need to push harder so that the global Millennium Development Goal  targets can be achieved on schedule by 2015.

These are all momentous challenges. They transcend East-West and North-South relations. These hard issues will not be resolved by hard power. They can only be resolved by a collective long-term response, 
coupled with adequate political will and enormous resources.

The foundations of our security and survival in the 21st century rest upon our success in meeting these challenges.

And certainly none of these challenges can be achieved unless the major powers work together, and demonstrate the leadership that the world expects of them.

The all-powerful forces of globalization do not make geopolitics irrelevant. But the world cannot afford to slip back into the geopolitics of domination, conquest and confrontation of the past.

Instead, what we need is a new geopolitics of cooperation. This new geopolitics must be driven by the imperative to address common challenges. It would focus on strategic cooperation, not confrontation; on building bridges, not divisions; on the spread of soft – not hard – power; and on mutually assured benefits, not mutually assured destruction.

This new geopolitics is not Utopia. We are already seeing it in practice in many instances: in the admirable global response to the tsunami crisis of 2004; in the global struggle against terrorism; in the six-party talks on North Korea, and in the hard-won success of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last December.

Let us stay on course and complete that journey.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the president of the Republic of  Indonesia
http://www.iht. com/articles/ 2008/09/15/ opinion/edyudoyo no.php

Insight: Artists and politics: Where is Indonesia heading?

source: http://www.thejakar tapost.com/ news/2008/ 09/16/insight- artists-and- politics- where-indonesia- heading.html

If things go as planned, next year Indonesia will have new members of parliament. The 2009 general elections will change the configuration of the country’s lawmaking body, the House of Representatives. Through the polls, old members will retain their positions and new faces will join as rookies in parliament.

There is no novelty in this regard. Throughout the history of Indonesia’s political development, the House — as the product of both competitive (1955, 1999, and 2004) and noncompetitive (1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997) political practices — has been a regular political festivity. With the exception of 1971 and 1977 cases, all elections were held at five-year intervals.

In other words, the circulation of the elite in the House is a regular phenomenon. But the makeup of the 2009-2014 House could be slightly different. If the majority of registered voters think the way party leaders do, then perhaps the country will sport a “fresher” and “glossier” looking lawmaking institution.

The reason behind this assumption has been the move by many party elites, if not all, to enlist a number of young and beautiful celebrities and comedians in their party candidacy lists for the elections. Even though the lists submitted to the Election Commission are still temporary in nature, there will in time be permanent lists. Their names will remain on the list, as party elites seem determined to have celebrities as an important part, in some cases even a spearhead, of their electoral armory.

Why is this the case?

There is no easy answer to such a simple question. Constitutionally, celebrities enjoy the same rights as citizens of different occupations. They have the same right to have a share in public office. This is the reason why there are no laws or regulations prohibiting them, or any one else for that matter, from aspiring to become a member of the House.

Professionally, a serious study has yet to be undertaken to determine what kind of skill and expertise is perceived as most suitable for a position in politics. In this regard, we really cannot entertain the argument that artists are considered less competent for a post in parliament than, for instance, economists, political analysts, religious leaders, lawyers, or even thugs and bullies (the latter’s presence in the 1999 election was enabled by a prominent figure from a major political party).

Many often describe politics as something involving “art”: The art of negotiation or manipulation. If this is the case, then there are no better candidates for practicing politics than celebrities themselves!

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the above constitutional and professional considerations are only conventional or normative arguments. Nations do not live by conventions or norm only. There is also an element of decency that needs to be taken into account in executing and administering our public lives.

Constitutional and professional considerations put aside, given the general picture of the world of celebrities, there is a strong likelihood the majority of Indonesians share the idea that celebrities and the House simply would not click. The awkwardness of a number of celebrities currently serving as House members to carry out their duties is a perfect example of this.

Parliament, as one notable female celebrity wisely said, is not something she or her fellow celebrities can suddenly plunge into it. It needs adequate preparation and adjustment.

In the debate over the decision by many party leaders to recruit celebrities as legislative candidates, the celebrities are not to blame. If my reading of the case is correct, they did not seek such a position. It was the party elites who went after them.

And their choice is understandable given the plummeting popularity of political parties in the public eye. Corruption, moral indecency and a lack of seriousness are among the most oft-perceived stereotypes the public harbors about their representatives at the House.

All parties appear to suffer the same burden of unpopularity. Neither religious nor nonreligious parties seem to uphold their stature of morality in doing politics. Regardless of the ideological fact that some religious parties aspire for a more symbolic and formal connection between religion and politics, their lawmaking performance suggests otherwise, where religious ethics do not appear to function or have any influence in their day-to-day legislative activities.

To avoid further electoral deterioration, many parties are seeking a shortcut. Perhaps inspired by the general perception that the majority of voters are simple people, to whom political issues do not really matter, celebrities — simply because of their popularity — are invited to save the party’s popularity by serving as vote-collecting spearheads.

Theoretically, this line of logic might work. In practice, however, the public is not dumb enough to choose a comedian over an economist, a model over an NGO activist, or a soap-opera star over a political analyst.

Should my observation prove wrong, then it is true that in the last 10 years, politics has become the only game in town in its naked sense. The primacy of politics has been reduced dramatically from an art of governing, lawmaking and adjudicating, to becoming an instrument of power for the sake of power, condoned by the public.

In this new development, I am not sure Indonesia is heading in the direction our founding fathers once point to in their introduction to the 1945 Constitution.
 

The writer is a lecturer at the State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta. He can be reached at bahtiar_effendy@ yahoo.com

Indonesian celebrities go for political seats

Indonesian celebrities go for political seats

THE JAKARTA POST – September 03, 2008

Diaz Hendropriyono, Washington, DC

The rise of celebrities in the political arena has created a mixed message. While many are against it, mainly because of their lack of political experience, others are willing to give these actors an opportunity to prove themselves.

At the executive branch, as it is widely known, actors Rano Karno and Dede Yusuf have been democratically elected as the vice regent of Tangerang, Banten, and deputy governor of West Java, respectively.

Currently, Helmi Yahya is running for deputy governor of South Sumatra and Dicky Chandra for vice regent of Garut, West Java. There are at least two “dangdut” singers running for deputy mayor, Syaiful Jamil in Serang, Banten, and Ayu Soraya in Tegal, Central Java.

Additionally, there are indications that Wanda Hamidah, Della Citra and Ikke Nurjanah are eyeing the second-in-command position in the City of Tangerang and the regencies of Serang and Majalengka.

Having celebrities running for a political seat at the executive branch is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon. In the Philippines, actor Joseph Estrada had been the mayor of San Juan before becoming president. Comedian Joey Marquez was the mayor of Paranaque City. The job of chief minister in the Indian provinces of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu was filled by actors N.T. Rama Rao and M.G. Ramachandran, respectively.

Turkish actress Fatma Girik was the mayor of Sisli. Argentine cabaret dancer Isabel Peron replaced her husband as president. Twin child-actors Lech Kaczynski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski were for a year the president and the prime minister of Poland at the same time. And in Russia, actor-comedian Mikhail Yevdokimov was trusted as the governor of the Altai Krai region.

In the United States, actor-producer Sonny Bono, once married to singer Cher, was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California; TV host Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio; “Dirty Harry” star Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel, California; singer Jimmie Davies was governor of Louisiana and World Wrestling Federation star Jesse Ventura was mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, as well as governor.

As was more popularly known, actor Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California before becoming the U.S. president. And presently, actor-bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is in his second term as governor of California.

In some cases, celebrities’ popularity is not always enough to get them elected. For example, Filipino actor Fernando Poe, Jr. lost the presidential election to incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Beverly Hills Cop star Gill Hill failed in his bid to become the mayor of Detroit, Michigan. Italian adult movie star Ilona Staller was unsuccessful in her run for the mayor of Milan. And more recently, TV star Fred Thompson withdrew his candidacy for U.S. president after losing in the primary election.

In Indonesia, running for deputy governor of Banten, Marissa Haque lost the provincial election. Didin Bagito even decided to pull out from his candidacy for deputy mayor of Serang before the election for lack of public support.

Although there are celebrities running for political offices in other countries such as what is found in Indonesia, there is still one notable difference: The majority of Indonesian celebrities seem reluctant to run for local executive head and are more comfortable to be number two. Among the many who participate in the race, only a few run for the first-in-command posts. Although unsuccessful, Gusti Randa ran for mayor of Padang, and Primus Yustisio is now running for the regent of Subang.

The small number of celebrities who run for regional head may create negative impressions. The public may judge that these actors do not have the confidence to manage a government, thus they need to be coupled with someone who has experience in public administration and policy. Doubtless, this will eventually hurt the artists’ reputations.

It should be remembered that there are many actor-politicians who have had some accomplishments during their administration. For instance, although the court found him guilty of plunder before finally being pardoned by the current president, some still consider former president Estrada a success. At least 46 Moro Islamic Liberation Front secessionist camps, including that of Abu Sayyaf, were overrun during his time in office.

California Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed landmark legislation to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. He also banned the sale of sodas in schools and set a stricter nutritional standard which required more fruits and vegetables in meal planning. And California will be the first state in the nation to ban the use of trans-fat oils in restaurants.

In his first inaugural address, former U.S. president Reagan boldly preached: “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” During his presidency, he reduced income tax rates, increased GDP by 3.4 percent annually, created more than 16 million new jobs and increased military spending — although at the end, left his government with a huge deficit. Many even think he deserves credit for ending the Cold War.

To forbid Indonesian celebrities from entering politics is to go against the pillars of democracy. Their participation does not violate any law either. Hence, celebrities who take part in district head elections must prove themselves capable of managing a government administration and creating public policies, such as those movie stars in other countries. It is then the public’s duty to evaluate their performance.

However, evaluating their contribution to the public seems difficult when these celebrities are “only” elected as second-in-command. Thus, celebrities must be emboldened to run for, and political parties need to support them as regional heads, not deputies. Only by doing so will the public know whether or not these celebrities can truly govern.


The writer is PhD Candidate at the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech University. He can be reached at d_hendropriyono@ yahoo.com