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

Does Bashar al-Assad Really Need His Planes?


by: on January 16th, 2014 | Comments Off

Bashar al-Assad. Credit: Creative Commons

The very gentlemanly Hussein Ibish, formerly of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, has a chilling article in Now about the plight of Palestinians living under the Assad regime in the town of Yarmouk, Syria. As Ibish reports, there are Palestinians outside of Syria desperately trying to reach their besieged brethren in Yarmouk, some of whom have already starved to death, and thousands more in imminent danger of starvation:

They are, in effect, begging for the lives of innocent Palestinians suffering a siege that, while significantly smaller in scale, is without doubt much crueler and more arbitrary than anything imposed on Gaza by either Israel or Egypt.

Ibish continues:

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies - Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia - must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.


Q & A with Coleen Rowley, F.B.I. Whistleblower: Part Two


by: on January 10th, 2014 | Comments Off

In Part Two of this Q & A with Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent discusses bureaucratic arrogance, psychopathic leadership, and why strict adherence to just war doctrine, not “humanitarian” intervention, will lead to a safer world. In addition, Rowley offers her thoughts on the U.S. response to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, AIPAC’s political influence in Washington, among other issues.


Coleen Rowley, in our last session we discussed the need to have a more frank public discourse about the moral implications of the for-pay soldiery. I’d like to start off the second part of this interview by asking you about the other end of the military spectrum: how our democracy and our security are affected by power-hungry generals.

The 2000 film about the Cuban Missile Crisis, 13 Days starring Kevin Costner, dramatically depicted President Kennedy’s struggle to get control of the U.S. military’s top brass, particularly General Curtis LeMay who was intent on dragging our country into war with Cuba. This struggle between democratically-elected presidents and military generals, a struggle literally over our national destiny, does not appear to be letting up.

For example, in his new memoir to be released next week, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reported to describe President Obama’s deep-seated distrust of the military’s top brass over the war in Afghanistan.


Q & A with Coleen Rowley, F.B.I. Whistleblower: Part One


by: on January 3rd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

In 2002, then-F.B.I. agent Coleen Rowley appeared on the cover of Time magazine, along with two corporate whistleblowers, as Time’s Persons of the Year.

Earlier in 2002, Rowley, then chief legal counsel in the F.B.I.’s Minneapolis bureau, gained headlines for writing a memo to F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller documenting the F.B.I. Headquarters’ series of failures in the weeks leading up to the 9/11 attacks. She later testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, sharing with Congress and the American people what took place in the summer of 2001, and suggesting reforms to avoid repeats of the same mistakes.

Rowley retired from the F.B.I. in 2004. Since leaving the government, the tell-it-like-it-is Iowa native made a 2006 run for Congress on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party ticket in Minnesota, and has become one of the most outspoken critics of America’s post-9/11 descent into militarism and the surveillance state.

In this first of a two part series, Rowley shares her philosophy on government employment, both in the civilian and military sectors.

Coleen Rowley, thank you for granting this interview. Before discussing issues of war and peace, and the ability of governments to bring about both, I would like to ask if you could share with Tikkun Daily readers your own thoughts about the word “heroism.”

Since 9/11, our national political discourse has been saturated in “hero-speak,” if you will. What strikes me about your own whistleblowing background, as well as that of others like Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack and Ed Snowden, is how calm and reflective all of you are. I certainly would not hesitate to describe the courses of action that flowed from those states of mind to be heroic. It would seem that it is these thought-centered actions which are ultimately going to save our American freedoms, not bombs, guns and war.

Can you share with me your thoughts about the concept of heroism, and whether you think the very concept has been manipulated by politicians in the post-9/11 era to nefarious ends. If you believe the word has been manipulated, what can we do as a citizenry to help reaffirm the basic principle that human thought and regard for individual rights will preserve and defend American democracy, not the instruments of violence, be they in private hands or in the hands of government actors?

Thanks for all you do too, Timothy.

I hold conflicted, paradoxical views about “heroism”. For me personally, I eventually came to see it as a mistake to even accept any award–as I explained in my 2005 speech “Awards: the good, the bad and the ugly” I don’t believe in calling any person “heroic” as we are all mixed bags (also called “sinners”) and I agree that the whole concept of putting someone on a pedestal has many downsides and can be used for manipulation of public opinion. Even the Nobel Peace Prize has been subverted over the years. However, I do think that human actions can be heroic. Ethical decision-making needs to be recognized, applauded and hopefully emulated by all citizens.


A Return to the Draft? Or an End to War? (UPDATED: See Below)


by: on December 29th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

U.S. soldiers in the battle of Fallujah, Iraq. Credit: Creative Commons

Last month Andrew Bacevich, a former U.S. Army Colonel and now BU professor, and journalist Ann Jones held a discussion titled “How the Wounded Come Back From War,” which morphed into a broader discussion about the U.S. military and its recruitment system. Bacevich, a conservative who blogs at MichaelMoore.com, has a new book calling for a reinstatement of the military draft. Meanwhile, Jones, who writes for The Nation and TomDispatch.com,argues for an end to all war. The “discussion” can be more accurately described as a high-minded debate between two seasoned people who recognize that the military status quo cannot be maintained, but have vastly divergent views on what direction to take. If the last decade of pointless wars has left you feeling betrayed by our government, bewildered by the American people’s reactions to these wars, or both, this Bacevich-Jones debate is Must See TV, and it can be found on C-Span’s Web site here:


One particularly interesting point of divergence between Bacevich and Jones is on the question of societal culpability for all the war and ensuing misery. Bacevich argues that Americans have been too selfish, unwilling to share the burden of war, while providing only superficial moral support to military servicemembers. Jones argues that most Americans are simpy too busy and stressed, struggling to survive in a cut-throat economy to give too much attention to the great questions of war and the military.

For most of the post-9/11 era, I would have been in the Bacevich camp on that question: namely, believing that the American people were too shallow, too self-consumed and too reliant on the “all-volunteer” military to take seriously, beyond the periodic wave of a flag, the momentous issues associated with taking the nation to war. Having lived longer and seen more, I’m now more convinced of Ms. Jones’ position. And that begs the question: If most Americans can manage to survive in this tough world without learning how to pick up a gun and kill people for a living, which is what the U.S. military currently teaches men and women to do, why should we intellectually and morally excuse those who do just that – engage in warfare to make a living?

Forgive, yes. Heal, yes. Provide and care for them in their hardships and trauma, yes. But excuse? That’s where I would part ways with most involved in the discourse on military reform: the more we morally excuse pay-for-warfare social consciousness, the more we make it an acceptable feature of our society and government. Endlessly spinning our wheels, if you will, in the mud of war and aggression.


Let Them Be Slaughtered?


by: on December 28th, 2013 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

About the heightening conflict in the Central African Republic between that country’s Christian and Muslim populations, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said last week, “People in the Central African Republic are in profound danger, and we have a profound responsibility which we must meet to help them move away from the abyss.”

Reports of mass graves in that country’s capital have already surfaced. According to the AP, some twenty bodies were found in a hillside near the presidential palace; the dead appear to have been tortured before they were killed. According to a Central African Republic prosecutor, “Some of the bodies were bound, their hands tied together with rope. Other bodies were mutilated, with large wounds. Though we don’t know if they were caused by firearms or by machetes.”

The AP further reported “young men parading in the streets with the severed penis of one of their victims, and with the hacked-off foot of another.”

Since December 5th, 3,000 African Union peacekeepers and 1,600 French peacekeepers have been in the Central African Republic. One can only wonder how much worse the situation would be now but for the presence of even that small number of U.N. Security Council-authorized peacekeepers.

So far, Ambassador Power is working diplomatically to prevent further atrocity in that country. As an unabashed interventionist, U.S. military intervention to stem a slide into genocide is no doubt weaving its way into Power’s calculations. Yet already, eleven African peacekeepers have been killed, reportedly by the Christian militia. Under such circumstances, how much support for a U.S. intervention would there be?


Pope Francis on the “Different Species of Human” a.k.a. Women


by: on November 27th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Sister Maureen Fielder has an intriguing critique of Pope Francis’s public discussion on women. In sum, on the subjects of women and gender, Pope Francis’s comments make Sister Maureen want to cry. I sympathize.

In his already widely-discussed document “Evangelli Guadium,”which translates as “Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis has once again slammed the door shut on the ordination of women, as if the first time around last July was not enough. In the new document the pope writes, “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion.”

Yet for those of us who support women’s ordination, what is arguably even more disturbing than the pope’s continuation of the exclusion of women from the priesthood is the language he employs to justify his position. As Sister Maureen writes,

He talks about women’s “sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.” He mentions “the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” In another sentence, he talks about the “feminine genius.”

I am firmly of the belief that when average men, “regular fellas,” use this kind of over-the-top flattery to describe women it’s usually because they have an ulterior motive. Since Tikkun Daily is a family-oriented blog, I won’t get more specific about that male ulterior motive, other than to say that its precise location can be found below the belly button, but above the thighs.

But Pope Francis is not a “regular fella” – he’s the pope. So why is this pope, who otherwise wrote a thoughtful document on the spiritual dimensions of economic inequality, employing such patronizing language about half of the human population? As a 76-year-old pope, his motives are clearly different from “regular fellas” on the hunt for – to borrow a term from singer Ciara – “goodies.” But the pope clearly wants something from Catholic women nonetheless: their ecclesiastical submission.


More Solid Arguments for Second Amendment Repeal


by: on November 20th, 2013 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

America magazine, the Jesuit-run magazine which recently published the widely-discussed interview with Pope Francis, has re-posted an excellent editorial calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The editorial is well worth reading for all who want strong arguments at their side when discussing the gun plague with those, like members of the establishment gun control lobby, who insist on advancing a demonstrably failed political strategy to stem gun violence.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things to encounter in progressive politics, on any given issue, is when a fellow progressive says to your idea or proposal, “That’s just not politically realistic.” Oftentimes, one may find himself scratching his head and asking in reply, “Well, dear friend, if you’re so realistic and politically savvy, how come you’ve been spinning your wheels on your issue for the last thirty-plus years?”

Indeed, if one is going to claim the high mantle of political realism for themselves and their cause, one should try to back it up with, at the very least, a nod to reality.

Unfortunately, the establishment gun control lobby, whose representatives flood the TV airwaves in the wake of every mass shooting to assure gun owners that “No one is trying to take away their Second Amendment rights,” deliver no such nods to reality, even as they claim to be political pragmatists of the highest order. Even, that is, as they attempt to harness the public’s energy into supporting doomed-to-fail, utterly piecemeal gun control measures. To cite just one example of the latter: a piecemeal gun control measure that would prevent a mentally unstable 20-year-old from purchasing a gun, but would not prevent his own gun-obsessed mother from amassing an arsenal in her own home where, of course, the former resides. Think Newtown.


Catholic Bishops Elect New Leader, Still Insist on Conflating Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion


by: on November 12th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Credit: Creative Commons

“Accordingly, Jewish difference challenges Christians not first to speak but to hear speech not their own, not simply to love but to consent to the prospect of being loved by an other.”


Karl Plank, a Jewish literature and thought professor at Davidson College, penned those words for his section of the book Merton and Judaism, an excellent multi-author examination of Cistercian monk Thomas Merton’s relationship with Judaism, including an examination of his correspondence with his contemporary, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Plank is on to something mighty big with the quoted passage: namely, the strong tendency in Christendom to contort the very concept of love itself into a personal power tool. As if Person A (the high and mighty Christian) is a spiritual masterpiece, oozing with divine love, almost selfless, and Person B (Person A’s peer) is just a lowly, selfish desperado, lost and confused, and in need of Person A’s oh-so transcendent love and wisdom. Of course, the whole relationship or interaction between Person A and Person B has nothing whatsoever to do with real love, but is rather part and parcel of Person A’s gambit to assert their dominance – moral, spiritual, you name it – in their social universe.

Person B is merely the conduit to achieve that end.

Gay Catholics who are sick and tired of the never-ending “love the sinner, hate the sin” claptrap from Catholic clergymen would do well to meditate on Karl Plank’s insight into Christian-Jewish relations and, I would certainly argue, apply it to what is now and has been happening between gay lay Catholics and Catholic priests, and the bishops in particular. Namely, the former becoming nothing more than conduits for the latter’s efforts at the self-purgation of their own homosexual desires.


Q & A with Tom Pickering


by: on November 10th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Tom Pickering is a living legend of American diplomacy. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Persian Gulf War. He has also served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Israel, India, Jordan, Nigeria and El Salvador. Pickering’s last State Department post was as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs during President Clinton’s second term.

Now 82-years-old and active as ever in U.S. foreign policy discourse, Pickering brings to bear his decades of experience to answer some questions about the seemingly endless array of Mideast policy challenges facing the United States, including the effort to secure a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.


Ambassador Pickering, thank you for granting this interview.

Before getting to the specific questions about some of the major challenges facing the United States, I found something very intriguing in your bio that I’d like to ask you about. Your bio states that when you first started out in college at Bowdoin, you wanted to pursue a career in ministry.

Can you share with Tikkun Daily readers a bit more about your early interest in ministry? What did you have in mind back then as a young man? Relatedly, would you characterize your ultimate decision to pursue a career in American diplomacy as a kind of alternate manifestation of your interest in ministry, perhaps by endeavoring to make the world a safer place for all God’s children?

My interests then did not seem to be a real “calling” and so I shifted my goals and aspirations. It is certainly true that neither profession makes much money and I was not interested in that kind of return.

Perhaps my early interest in church things somehow conditioned me to think in terms of rewards through public service. I believe that public service can be very rewarding in the cause of improved safety and security for the public and in the search for peaceful solutions.

According to your bio, you turned 82-years-old last week. Are you more or less worried about the outbreak of a nuclear war somewhere in the world today than you were when you began your career in the diplomatic corps back in the 1960s?


The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an ATM Machine


by: on October 16th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Today in the Roman Catholic church we celebrate the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century French nun. Jesus not only appeared and spoke to St. Margaret Mary, a nun of the Visitation order, He let the nun, like St. John the Beloved at the Last Supper, rest her head on His heart. Some outside of the Catholic church mistakenly believe that we Catholics worship the saints. Nothing could be further from the truth: we venerate the saints. Indeed, every Christian, Catholic or not, whose Christian life has been enhanced by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has great reason to thank St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about St. Margaret Mary today, not only because it’s her feast day, but because I think if the nun lived in the world today, and in this particular money-obsessed country, the poor woman would have had to go on Xanax. The financial exploitation of Jesus Christ not only occurs in every region of the United States of America, it is has become entirely normative.

Equally devastating, American Catholic bishops, who otherwise never hesitate to inject themselves into any number of modern-day events and issues, remain largely mum about the galloping spread of the total lie that is called the “prosperity gospel.” For decades, as televangelists have reinvented, refocused, and altogether sharpened their tool of spiritual destruction known as the prosperity gospel, Catholic bishops have been out to lunch. Perhaps the reluctance to forcefully challenge the purveryors of this naked distortion of Christ’s teaching is rooted in fear: How can Roman Catholic bishops throw stones at prosperity gospel preachers when some of them are living in glass mansions themselves?

Yet I think it is important to emphasize to all spiritual progressives, regardless of faith tradition or no tradition, this particular point: When Roman Catholic clergy, and I would include Mainline Protestant clergy also, keep mum in the face of the spread of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” your lives are undoubtedly impacted as well. For if we, in the name of religious freedom, consent to living in a society where Jesus Christ can be turned into a personal ATM machine without anyone standing firmly against it – or at most just give a roll of our eyes at the practice – don’t be surprised when you find yourself living in a society that is simply brimming with people who are trying to turn you into an ATM machine as well.