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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.

An Old Voice, A Young Voice, On the Highly Unfashionable Word Called Evil


by: on January 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Today, U.S. Secretary State John Kerry, age 70, had his voice heard during the Syria “peace” conference in Switzerland, in which he reiterated the State Department’s position that Bashar al-Assad must leave office by “mutual consent.” As reported by the New York Times:

Putting the best face on the meeting, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Wednesday night that it was significant that senior diplomats from 40 countries and organizations had gathered in the lakeside Swiss city of Montreux, to initiate the conference. Mr. Kerry insisted that he had always known that the talks would be “tough” and described the conference as a “process,” which he implied could last for months or even years.

Since Secretary Kerry, age 70, has had his voice today on how to respond to the atrocities of the Assad regime, I would like to use this post at Tikkun Daily to give voice to Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb, who was arrested, tortured, mutilated and killed by the Assad regime in 2011.

Hamza was 13 years old.

We could not heal and repair the world in time for Hamza and so many others around the globe, or even implement already established, and basic, international law to spare his short life, and his indescribable suffering.

Thus, the only voice he has to give us is from his perch in heaven, and through his before and after photos of his torture and murder:

Make Guantanamo, and All Torture, History (Update: Link to CNN Report of 11,000 Syrian Government Torture Victims)


by: on January 20th, 2014 | Comments Off

Anti-torture activists at the White House fence. Credit: Creative Commons

On January 11th, the dedicated activists from Witness Against Torture broke new ground: they raised public consciousness about the Obama administration’s ongoing torture regime at the Guantanamo Bay military prison and other military prisons, not by holding signs in front of the White House, but by creating a “living exhibit” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, an unauthorized demonstration where the activists donned the orange jump suits that the United States government forces upon human beings who have never been charged with a crime.

The video of this “living exhibit” demonstration is compelling. Hundreds of tourists of all stripes, who thought they were in for a day of absorbing the extraordinary exhibits on display at the American History Museum, got to witness an exhibit on the most important feature of America’s founding document: the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the right of free speech, free assembly, and the freedom to petition our government for the redress of grievances – of which protest against the torture of human beings must be paramount, if all the other rights are to have any meaning whatsoever.

The Youtube link to this moving, unauthorized, live-person exhibit of the First Amendment and basic human decency is down below. Thankfully, however, all those of us who are not able to see, or participate in, these crucial anti-torture demonstrations taking place in our nation’s capitol and around the country have another outlet to voice our support.

The organization Women Against Military Madness is sponsoring an anti-torture activist video contest called “Tackling Torture at the Top.” There are eight short videos that have been selected as the finalists, and members of the public are encouraged to cast their votes. The public voting will end on January 30th, and the winner will be announced on February 7th. Make sure to cast a vote.


Memo to Vatican: Murder by Starvation is Not a Family Value


by: on January 17th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

As the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen reveals in this article on the Vatican’s response to the never-ending atrocities in Syria, it’s not just the “family values” politicians who manipulatively exploit the warm sentiments that many associate with family life. It’s Roman Catholic prelates too.

But before getting to Allen’s must-read article and the too-close-for-comfort relations between the Vatican and the Assad regime, here is this opening paragraph in a New York Times report today about that regime’s so-called local “ceasefire” initiatives, which vividly describes Bashar al-Assad’s truly demonic use of food to attack his own people, be they rebel fighters or innocent civilians:

To the starving residents and rebel fighters in the bitterly contested suburbs of Damascus, the offer from the Syrian government can be tempting enough to overcome their deep mistrust: a cease-fire accompanied by the delivery of food supplies, if they agree to give up their heavy weapons and let state-run news media show the government’s flag flying over their town.

But as The Times reporter Anne Barnard chronicles in the same article, the offer of food is merely a ruse used by the Assad regime to get locals to hand over rebels:

The government rains aerial attacks on areas that refuse cease-fire offers. People in places that accept can find themselves facing new demands: to turn over wanted men, give up their light weapons and accept a military governor. Food is delivered piecemeal to retain the government’s leverage.

The government has repeatedly given permission for aid convoys to enter, then blocked them, as people continue to suffer and even die from a lack of food and medical care.

International aid workers, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect aid projects, say that the government has shown little commitment to the politically neutral delivery of aid. Many contend that the government uses the truces more as a tool of surrender starving people and luring them into one-sided deals than as building blocks of compromise.

Now enter Pope Francis and the Vatican’s handling of the Syrian atrocities.


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.