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Timothy Villareal
Timothy Villareal
Timothy Villareal, a Miami-based writer, is a privately-vowed fraternal Catholic monk. His website is http://timothyvillareal.wordpress.com.



America’s Fork in the Road: Endless War or Democratic Reform?

Apr16

by: on April 16th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

Today, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, issued the following statement about NATO’s military response to increased Russian government manuevering in eastern Ukraine:

Today, we agreed on a package of further military measures to reinforce our collective defence and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity.

We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land (read boots on the ground).

For example, air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required. Military staff from Allied nations will deploy to enhance our preparedness, training and exercises. Our defence plans will be reviewed and reinforced.

We will start to implement these measures straight away. More will follow, if needed, in the weeks and months to come.

The NATO Secretary General’s announcement will be music to the ears of those who have been calling for more U.S. troop deployments to eastern Europe in response to Putin’s provocations. Last month in the National Interest magazine, for example, Dick Kirckus, a former “Chair of Warfighting Strategy at the U.S. Marine Corps University” wrote:

Today, the most vulnerable members of NATO in the East Baltic Sea region share a common border with Russia and desperately want American boots on the groundnot combat engineers constructing an antimissile system in Poland to evaporate Iranian rocketsto deter a reckless Russian military provocation. The prospect that U.S. troops will die should Russian troops cross their borders will give meaning to Washington’s pledge to honor Article Five guarantees. After all, the Americans have demonstrated on numerous occasions that if challenged, they will fight.

Got that? No mere missiles and rockets will suffice to deter Putin, only people willing to sacrifice their lives in European military chess matches will be enough to deter Putin’s westward aggression. The glaring flaw in Kirckus’ thesis is that Americans of our generation have by no means demonstrated a willingness to fight and die in pointless wars. On 9/11 our nation was attacked by a ruthless criminal gang, which for a period of time found sanctuary under the ragtag rule of the Taliban. Eventually, most Americans, as evidenced by their refusal to enlist in the military, came to see the demise of the Taliban’s governance and going after the terrorists as the appropriate response to those horrific attacks on our own country; to shed our own blood in pointless wars, most Americans have concluded, is wrong.

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Regular Citizens Should Decide Who Gets to Be a Military Officer, Not Professional Warmongers

Apr14

by: on April 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

The U.S. needs a defense apparatus, not a taxpayer-funded culture of death. Credit: Creative Commons

The New York Times has published a chilling article about the greatest anxiety for this year’s West Point graduates: the newly-commissioned officers won’t get to see any combat action, owing to the end of the Iraq war and the winding-down Afghanistan war. Times reporters Tom Shanker and Helene Cooper write:

For as much as military commanders will publicly say differently, men and women with combat experience are bound to be taken more seriously in today’s military than those without it, defense experts say.

The last time this happened was after a different war, Vietnam, and in an Army different from today’s volunteer and more career-oriented force. But even after Vietnam, the return to peace came with unexpected anxieties.

“As Vietnam was winding down, young officers were begging to go there so they could get the coveted combat infantry badge,” said Col. Robert Killebrew, a defense expert at the Center for a New American Security in Washington and a Vietnam veteran. “It’s not so much a thirst for glory as a professional impulse. When you’re a soldier, if the game is going to be played, you want to be there.”

That’s right, these young men actually want wars to continue – not to end wars which is what most people want – so they can get their ribbons, medals and badges of honor which will help them advance their military careers, which begs the question: Why the heck are we, the American people, continuing to enable these people who are quite obviously willing to embroil our country in wars for their own personal glory?

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An Alternative to the Neocon Response to Putin: Modernize and Democratize NATO, Send Love to Russian People

Mar26

by: on March 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Here’s my definition of a neoconservative: an impassioned intellectual who rightly recognizes that tyrannical regimes are actual biological entities – either in a state of growth or death – but who fails to grasp that dissolving tyranny cannot come by killing off the good cells of democracy, in particular the good cells that already exist in one’s own country. Truly, neoconservative ideology is a bit like chemotherapy: it aims to kill the cancer cells of tyranny as it simultaneously kills off the good cells of democracy and the democratic spirit.

2004 Image of Iraqi prisoner in U.S. Army-operated Abu Ghraib prison. Credit: Creative Commons.

According to the garden variety neocon, for example, we should be outraged that Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) exposed just how tyrannical the United States military is, as opposed to welcoming and celebrating those whistleblowing actions so that We the People have some clue as to what men with guns, using our nation’s name, are doing to the innocent men, women and children in countries our government has invaded.

In other words, the evil Saddam Hussein is gone from the world stage Great. And so are thousands of innocent people, and so is America’ standing and influence on the world stage, owing to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Not great. In fact, awful.

That’s the upshot of neocon geopolitical chemotherapy. It stinks for democracy and human development, and it would behoove all Americans to avoid seeking geopolitical treatment from neocons for the disease of tyranny, wherever it manifests anywhere in the world, including, and most urgently, in the person of Vladmir Putin.

As concerns the high stakes Ukraine crisis, given the potential for misstep here or there on either side of the NATO-Russia divide – a misstep that could embroil the world in World War III in the blink of an eye – it might also behoove us to ask this question: Are all of us, as Americans by default, not a little bit neocon, or at least neocon-ish, or at minimum, neocon-esque?

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Moving Ahead on Mideast Peace with Land Purchases for Israel and Palestine

Mar19

by: on March 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

In one of his “Early Addresses” titled “Judaism and Mankind,” Martin Buber said:

Every man whose soul attains unity, who decides, within his own self, for the pure and against the impure, for the free and against the unfree, for the creative and against the uncreative, every man who drives the moneylenders out of his temple, participates in the great process of Judaism.

Though I’m Catholic, these words resonate with me and, like much of Martin Buber’s accessible discourse, serves as a reminder of the sheer idiocy of any form of supersessionism: the belief that Christian faith yields a holier heart and mind than what is contained in Judaism. Indeed, Martin Buber delivered those words over a hundred years ago, between 1909 and 1911; just this week, a glaring headline in the National Catholic Reporter read “Vatican office calls religious sisters, priests to live poorly, reject capitalism.”

Perhaps many of the holy rollers of my church, the Roman Catholic Church – the very ones whose high on the hog living is now the subject of Pope Francis’s reforms – would have done well to read some Martin Buber before making bank off the name of a poor first-century Jew who was killed at 33-years-old by Pontius Pilate. But isn’t a slow learning curve better than none at all?

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Fear Not Pentagon Head Games About Love For Your Country

Mar3

by: on March 3rd, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. Credit: Creative Commons

As Russia invades Crimea and once again throws international norms into the garbage disposal as it has done with its backing of Bashar al-Assad, a crash course in the origins of this early 21st century Russian aggression is offered by Uri Friedman of The Atlantic. The article is worth consulting if you want to understand how the foreign policy chest-thumpers in the U.S. – now predictably thumping anew in the Ukraine crisis – helped pave the way for the geopolitical conditions that have so emboldened Putin. Friedman cites a report from Russia specialist Nicu Popescu who attributes Russia’s assertiveness to four key factors, including “The retreat of the West from the world stage after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which creates an opening for Russia.”

Knowing that America overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing that our body politic – including the formerly jingoistic freedom fry types – is swinging our foreign policy pendulum in the opposite direction, the gay-bashing blonde thug of Moscow has smelled conquest and control opportunities galore. To boot, Putin has to know that a nation that would sacrifice nearly 5,000 soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars from its treasury to transform what was an effective no-fly zone over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq into an air bridge of weaponry from Iran to Assad’s Syria not only has A) no clue whatsoever about its own geopolitical interests, but B) has no clue because it has ceded most of its entire military to people who are motivated by their own pecuniary interests, not national ones, from the top of the ranks to newest 18 and 19-year-old for-pay soldiers.

Will anything change? Will the American people wake up and smell the coffee of the war profiteers, high and low, who are devouring the U.S. treasury and serving as de facto bricklayers for Vladimir Putin’s yellow brick road to multi-theater dominance, from Crimea to Syria?

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On This Day, Remembering a Gift From God, As Our Brothers and Sisters Eat Grass

Feb10

by: on February 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Two years ago, on February 11th 2012, Whitney Houston passed into Eternity. Two years after her passing, and a sorrow that never seems to quite quit, I can candidly say the gratitude I feel for this human being, and totally human she was, is finally outshadowing my awareness of her loss. That statement doesn’t come easy.

Perhaps some of us do not know what to make of a country that remains entrenched in the glorification of militarism and soldiery, as ours so clearly is, even in a time when reports of the men, women and children starving to death in Syria – eating grass and stray cats to stay alive – have been documented in the major news outlets. Perhaps some of our brethren think they’re too sophisticated, too streetwise, too savvy – too something – to “fall” for such reports of the starving, dying people of Syria. Perhaps some think nothing we do will amount to a hill of beans anyway.

Tikkun magazine and Tikkun Daily are different from the secular media. Here, in this space, we are freely allowed to profess our faith in the Almighty Creator. We are allowed to express our sorrow, and plead to God to intervene in these human crises that shake our hearts and rattle our consciences.

I am shocked by the way this country has turned its back on the innocent, the gassed, the tortured, the butchered, and the starving civilians of Syria. But I am ever grateful to God for giving us a divine voice, delivered by a beautiful and heart-filled/heartbroken lady who died two years ago today, to help carry us through this time, when we know some of our fellow human beings, at this moment, are eating grass to stay alive. Whitney’s voice increases my faith and gives me strength in the midst of this unfolding crime against humanity, and I hope her voice will increase yours as well, whatever your religion. Whatever your politics, I hope her voice will encourage you to turn back from despair.

Here is a clip of Whitney signing “This Day” in Spain in 1991. Lord, we need your love…this day.

The Bluebirds of Syria

Feb5

by: on February 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Hamza Ali Al-Katheeb. Tortured, mutilated and killed by the Assad regime at age 13. Credit: Wikipedia

Two weeks ago, during the absurd multi-lateral Geneva peace talks with the Assad regime , I posted an image of Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old Syrian boy who was tortured, mutilated and murdered by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Some folks asked for more information about Hamza, so I provided a link to a Wikipedia page devoted to his memory.

Today, the office of the U.N. Secretary General issued a report, to be presented next week to the U.N. Security Council, documenting widespread abuses and torture of children in Syria. While the report suggests that opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army, have recruited child soldiers, primarily teenagers, the brunt of the report appears directed squarely at the Assad regime. From the New York Times:

In 2011 and 2012, the report said, children as young as 11 were held in government detention centers with adults and, according to witnesses, subjected to torture in order to coerce relatives to surrender or confess.

Credit: Creative Commons

“Ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture reportedly included beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shocks, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives,” the report said.

Investigators said they had documented reports of sexual violence against children in government detention, “perpetrated mostly by members of the Syrian intelligence services and the Syrian armed forces” against those who were suspected of being affiliated with the opposition.

From my standpoint, the question that ought to be asked by those of us who read this information could not be more plain: What is our responsibility to the children, and all the victims, who are living, dying and being tortured under the Assad regime?
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B.D.S. and the Attack on Liberalism

Feb2

by: on February 2nd, 2014 | 27 Comments »

A person angry at Israel, now angry at Starbucks too. Credit: Creative Commons

Back in 1995, while studying abroad in Jerusalem, an American Jewish friend and myself were invited by a Palestinian friend to go to a pop music concert at Bethlehem University in its outdoor arena. The female Arab singer was fabulously talented and charismatic, and of course she sang all the songs in Arabic. At one point, she led a song with her fist high in the air, repeating a rhythmic chant, with the impassioned audience repeating the chant, fists high in the air. Again, all in Arabic. Because it was so rhythmic, my Jewish friend and I joined in. When there was a break in the music, I turned to a Palestinian next to me who spoke English and said to him, “That was really great! Oh, and by the way, what were we chanting that whole time?”

He said, “Kick the Jews out!” Of course, that meant all of the land, not only the 67′ lines.

Memories of that Bethlehem episode came flooding back after reading Omar Barghouti’s op-ed in The New York Times today titled, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott.” It seems that at least some of those who reject Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people – a people who have endured milennia of persecution that culminated in the Holocaust – have finally seen the limited public relations range of fist-pumping exhortations of ethnic cleansing, and have instead gone all Madison Avenue on us. In fact, tobacco companies still holding out hope that they can get 5th graders addicted to cigarettes through all manner of subliminal messaging ought to read Barghouti’s op-ed. They could use some new pointers.

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The Gap Between Samantha Power’s Moral Vision and Her Toolkit

Jan30

by: on January 30th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Credit: Creative Commons

Three days ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used a word that has been, for the most part, absent in the U.S. discourse surrounding the Syrian civil war: evil. Granted, the word “evil” is actually quite difficult to inject into a sentence structure that also includes phrases like “the two sides need to meet face to face at the negotiating table.”

Ever since George W. Bush’s infamous 2002 State of the Union speech in which he called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “Axis of Evil,” the word “evil” seems to have left on a jet plane and hasn’t come back again. It seems that for most of the citizenry, from the influential power-brokers in Washington, to the town gossips on Main Street, to anonymous commenters on blogs, the word “evil” is best avoided if one wishes to persuade others.

Before she was even sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Power gave the faux sophisticates of the “no-such-thing-as-evil” crowd a major boost to their cause: her Senate confirmation hearing to be America’s next ambassador to the international body was simply brimming with all manner of denial of the U.S. government’s past atrocities. As mentioned in this article from last July, Power’s confirmation hearing was punctuated in particular with the repeated statement “I will not apologize for America.” Another notable standout from the hearing was her statement to senators that “America is the light of the world.” Needless to say, her confirmation vote passed the Senate with flying colors.

Yet it is precisely that kind of denial, both of history and present reality, that not only leads to foreign cynicism about the intentions of U.S. leaders, but effectively delivers a Betty Crocker cake to those inside the U.S. who would prefer to ignore the evil that Ambassador Power is so devoted to fighting.

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Barack & Michelle: Filling Up Our Senses with Senselessness…Again

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

I will leave it to trained historians to figure out which presidents and first ladies would fall into the category of “Couple-in-Chief for the Exploitation of Wounded Soldiers for Political Gain.”

For now, I nominate Barack and Michelle.

At the close of his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama drew the attention to Sergeant Corey Remsberg, who received severe brain injuries from a roadside bomb on his 10th tour in the war in Afghanistan – a war most Americans categorically reject, much less wish to get paid for. Mr. Remsberg, seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama, received a two minute standing ovation – the longest during the whole state of the union speech – from the very members of Congress who, year after year, fund the for-pay U.S.military enlistment system, which entices some young men like Mr. Remsberg to engage in state-directed violence, not to defend the country from real threat, or serve as foreign peacekeepers, but mainly to line the pockets of the bigwigs in the military-industrial-complex.

The question I’d like to ask is this: Putting aside the obvious gains that the CEOs et al. of the military-industrial-complex are receiving from the feigned affection of members of Congress for wounded soldiers, what do average Americans get out of this form of false worship of any humans, particularly the false worship recipients du jour, namely this for-pay soldiery that keeps us locked in pointless wars and, in turn, skews our sense of global realities?

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