Beyond the Abyss


Nothing more clearly illustrates the absurdity of murder for political ends than this moment of chaos in Iraq and Syria.  Imagine spaceships of an advanced alien civilization hovering over that vast desert area and assessing the state of our human endeavors on the basis of the welter of alliances and rivalries to-ing and fro-ing below, leaving trails of blood and traumatized children. As borders arbitrarily set by colonial powers a century ago dissolve, the strategic hopes of strong nations are undercut by vicious tribal rivalries going back almost a thousand years. The so-called superpowers are paralyzed, helpless giants armed with useless nuclear weapons. Moral pygmies who initiated unnecessary wars based on shameless lies have the unmitigated gall to blame those in office for events the liars themselves set in motion.

Time magazine lays it out as clearly as possible in its June 30 issue; it boggles the mind: the U.S. and Iran support Iraq. Iran, Iraq and Shia militias support Assad. The U.S. and the Gulf States want to contain Iran and prevent it from going nuclear. The Gulf States, the U.S. and Sunni militants want to defeat Assad, but the U.S. and the Gulf States have also sent money and arms to extreme Sunni groups in Syria that intend future harm to the U.S. The Kurds, Iran, the U.S. and Iraq want to defeat ISIS, even as the Kurds have benefited from the chaos created by ISIS. Millions of innocent citizens across the region have been displaced, their children hurt in every way, terrorized and starved, with doctors and teachers and business leaders unable to exercise skills essential to the web of civil society.

All of this bloodletting, confusion, and waste has the potential to get much worse because it is unfolding in the context of a planetary moment when our common future is at stake unless we humans can cooperate on a whole new level to find sustainable forms of food and energy. Yet from the perspective of the spaceship, the trackless desert could also be seen as a resource of staggering possibilities. Solar arrays could transform the harshly abundant rays of the sun into power for desalinization plants, preventing future water conflicts. The same solar energy could manufacture hydrogen to power a vibrant economy—a Muslim renaissance. Imagine if the trillions America spent on its Iraq misadventure had gone instead into building such a system. Halliburton, which took a reported $39.5 billion in war profits from that conflict, could have still made billions and actually have done something positive in that part of the world.

When it becomes this difficult to discern who are the good guys and who are the bad, the whole “us and them” paradigm blurs and fades into smoke. The common interest becomes, fundamentally, what’s good for children: Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Iranian, Israeli, American. Brought up short by the helplessness of being unable to distinguish between alliances and enemies, is this not the moment for us to say enough—how much greater proof do we need that war and murder never work? Instead, there is an all-too-pervasive climate of opinion in the American government-industrial-media complex that more war and murder are the only answer to war and murder.

How to respond to evil and chaos with something other than more evil and chaos is one of the great historical conundrums.  But one part of the answer is the nature of this moment, in the largest perspective of the unfolding of geological time.  More and more of us are defining our primary identity not in terms of nation or tribe or religion, but instead in terms of the whole delicate, gorgeous, threatened planet now seen as the outcome of billions of years of evolutionary development. This is new—an encompassing story that has enormous potential to unite the diversity of humans into a larger community.

Meanwhile a hierarchy of needs still operates, and the primary need of the torn-apart Middle East is security, in the bare-bones form of simple cessation of slaughter. It would make zero sense to approach a young, fiery Kalashnikov-wielding adherent of ISIS and plead that he look up at the stars: “Look at who you really are, a descendent of these trillions of galaxies. It is out of this one unfolding universe that our sacred texts of Islam and Christianity and Judaism arose. We are one species. Shia and Sunnis may have a long history of enmity, but go back far enough and they are one, polarized by abstract illusions of difference that are meaningless in terms of this astronomical creativity out of which you came.”

This felt sense of oneness is the great message that bears in upon us from both our biggest challenges and our biggest opportunities—challenges like ocean acidification, rain forest destruction or nuclear proliferation, opportunities for vast networks of communication and understanding represented by the Internet. Global climate chaos encompasses not just physical weather but spiritual weather as well. Though the horrors of Iraq and Syria represent a sickening step backward from the possibility of reconciliation among the tribes and religions of the world, the context of reconciliation surrounds us and points the way ahead, supporting and guiding our creativity toward a world that works for everyone. Great possibilities are known, but the wrong voices are loudest. Let us listen for the smarter, smaller, softer, kinder ones.

Winslow Myers, author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” writes on global issues for PeaceVoice and serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.

Winslow Myers is author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.” He serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?