Posted on October 28, 2014
by Jerry Alatalo
“If Christ should appear on Earth he would on all hands be denounced as a mistaken, misguided man, insane and crazed.”
- HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-1862) American writer
For weeks since the 2nd International New Horizon Conference of Independent Thinkers was held at the end of September 2014 in Tehran, the search for videos of the speakers there has been ongoing. The following video was recently posted on YouTube from the conference, and it’s of Dr./Reverend Stephen Sizer’s short speech. While listening to Mr. Sizer’s fascinating thoughts on Christian Zionism, thankfully the video’s producers included a web address where people can go to read many insightful articles about the nearly cancelled event, where scholars, journalists, filmmakers and experts on the Middle East gathered together from around the Earth.
More speaker videos are probably forthcoming and will become posted here as they become available. It is important that people become informed about major issues in the Middle East, where decades of violence and wars have caused human suffering for millions of the people there. Only from the foundation of truth can the misunderstandings be overcome and peace finally come to those lands.
The following article by retired United States military officer Ann Wright is an example of the kind of information found at the website. Dr./Reverend Stephen Sizer’s message at the conference directly contradicts the spiritual philosophy of Christian Zionist “Apocalyptic” adherents who overlook Israel’s outright mass-murder of Palestinian civilians during July-August in “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s continuing construction of settlements in clear violation of international law, and silence in the face of Israel’s ongoing, decades-old, anti-Christian treatment of the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, Christian Zionist adherents have become turned away from Christ’s message “blessed are the peacemakers” when it comes to Israel-Palestine and the Middle East region. Perhaps Stephen Sizer’s message will be effective in eliminating delusional “end times”, apocalypse thinking wherever it exists, while at the same time – as he mentions – more people shall become true peacemakers – the children of God.
Summary of Ann Wright’s Speech for the New Horizon Conference – Ann Wright
Over the past decade, spanning two different presidencies, the U.S. government and its individual employees have faced extraordinarily important issues at the intersection of national security, law and conscience. Major American policies promulgated in the name of national security regarding war, invasion and occupation, kidnapping, extraordinary rendition, torture, indefinite detention, curtailment of civil liberties, extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations and eavesdropping have all been called into legal question.
For women and men in the United States government, these ethical issues should create crises of conscience. Public servants face the dilemma of how, within the system, to challenge policies that are ill-considered at best, or illegal at worst. Can one continue working for a government carrying out policies it claims are critical to national security, if one believes those policies constitute moral, ethical or legal failures?
These issues transcend administrations. Despite the urging of President Barack Obama to “look forward, not backward” in terms of transparency and accountability for governmental actions, I firmly believe it is imperative to take a look back over the policies of the past 10 years. That is the only way to evaluate how to approach ethical, moral and legal challenges in the future.
Ten years ago, I faced such a dilemma myself. I had been a federal government employee for more than 35 years, first in the U.S. military and then at the Department of State, serving eight presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson. Many of those administrations, of both parties, espoused controversial policies that I did not agree with. But like many other public servants, I sought to carry out programs and policies with which I concurred, morally and ethically.
The Road to War
In late 2002 and early 2003, I became increasingly concerned about the George W. Bush administration’s march to war in Iraq. I had just returned from Afghanistan—having been on the small team that reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in December 2001 and remained there until the first permanent embassy staff arrived in April 2002..
On March 19, 2003—the eve of the U.S invasion of Iraq, I sent my letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. I became one of only three U.S. government employees, all Foreign Service officers, to resign over the issue. Several other FSOs apparently resigned later for the same reason, but did not make their resignations public. In addition, an unknown number of FSOs retired from the Service much earlier than they had planned because of their opposition to the war.
However, neither dissent within the government, nor elsewhere, affected the Bush administration’s decision to wage war on Iraq.
“Dissent Is Difficult”
A decade later, I still wonder whether the resignation of a senior policymaker might have had an effect on that decision. In a 2006 interview, Sec. Powell’s chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, reflected: “My participation in that presentation at the U.N. constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council.”
Wilkerson went even further in 2011, when he said that his role in preparing the presentation was “probably the biggest mistake of my life.” He regrets both his participation and his decisionnot to resign over it.
Six years after the Iraq War began, Richard Haass—who had delivered the official response to my Dissent Channel message—described his own reservations about the decision to go to war in a 2009.
Newsweek article, “The Dilemma of Dissent.” In it Haass, now chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, says: “Had I known then what I know now—namely, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the intervention would be carried out with a marked absence of good judgment and competence—I would have been inalterably opposed. Still, even then, I leaned against proceeding.”
Haass added: “Dissent is difficult…No matter how good the advice, however, there will be times when it is resented or rejected,” Haass concluded. “It may be rebuffed on the merits, or because of politics or personalities. Sometimes, smart people just see things differently. It doesn’t matter.”
But in issues of war and peace, it does matter—to the thousands who will kill and be killed, or spend the rest of their lives maimed physically or emotionally, due to the decisions of those in power.
It also matters to the rest of the world, symbolically and practically, when the country with the strongest military in the world decides to attack and occupy a small, oil-rich country that had been under extreme sanctions and inspections for 10 years.
And it matters that even a handful of U.S. government employees resigned in opposition to that policy. We became symbols to the rest of the world that not everyone in the U.S. government waswilling to go along with a war opposed by the member-states of the United Nations, and by the people who voiced their concerns in the largest stop-the-war marches in history.
The Lessons of History
We now know the lengths to which Bush administration officials went to ensure the silence of those who opposed their policies, by classifying controversial and illegal policies and operations. As a result, anyone trying to challenge those policies in public automatically risked being charged with revealing classified information.
Those brave souls who challenge such policies anyway have seldom fared well. Here is just a partial list of U.S. government employees who have experienced retaliation, either for trying to work within the system to end these practices or becoming whistleblowers: Peter Van Buren and Matt Hoh (State); Jesselyn Radack and Thomas Tamm (Justice); Mike Gorman, Coleen Rowley and Sibel Edmonds (FBI); Bunnatine Greenhouse, Commander Matthew Diaz, Specialist Joe Darby and Specialist Samuel Provence (Defense); John Kiriakou (CIA); and Russell Tice and Thomas Drake (National Security Agency).
One can add to this list Katharine Gun and Craig Murray, both British whistleblowers, and Danish Major Frank Grevil, all of whom were accused of criminal acts. Murray was fired from his job, Grevil was court-martialed, and Gun was threatened with prosecution in civilian court, though the British government dropped the charges against her the night before the trial.
In addition, Private First Class Bradley Manning was court-martialed in June, 2013 for releasing classified cables from both Defense and State that have rounded out our knowledge of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries. While I recognize that many Journal readers may be extremely concerned about his disclosure of a large volume of classified information, and do not see him as a dissenter, I see Manning’s actions as similar to those of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who believed Americans had the right to know the secret history of their government’s involvement in Vietnam.
We know the pervasive untruths told by senior government officials to take the nation into war, as well as the protection of criminal acts committed by government officials: kidnapping, torture, eavesdropping and assassination. Whether such measures were authorized via secret memoranda or by legislation that attempted to retroactively legalize previously illegal acts, the truth has now been exposed.
Yet whistleblowers who revealed the torture program years earlier have lost their jobs and even gone to jail.
Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
That, of course, is the great dilemma inherent in confronting policies that one disagrees with—particularly when the policies concern life and death. There is no doubt that dissent may cut short your government career. But living dishonestly may cause you a lifetime of anxiety and grief.
Ultimately, the nagging feeling you have in your stomach that something is profoundly wrong is a much better guide than the comments of senior government officials on whether policies are right or wrong, legal or illegal.
Extract take from Ann Wright’s article “The Role of Dissent in National Security, Law and Conscience” featured in The Foreign Service Journal, July/August, 2013
For information on the 2nd International New Horizon Conference, please visit:
(Thank you to Hamedhamed109 Hamed at YouTube)