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Author Topic: Orthodox Patriarch Speaks Out About War  (Read 1616 times) Average Rating: 0
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Mor Ephrem
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« on: March 20, 2003, 10:32:36 AM »

Here's an article dealing with the views of the Patriarch of Antioch on the current war in Iraq.  It was posted on Yahoo's Oriental Orthodoxy list, with some parenthetical corrections made by those who posted it.  

+++

Christian patriarch, schooled in U.S., loses sleep over his Iraqi flock

Tue Mar 18,10:50 AM ET

By BRUCE STANLEY, Associated Press Writer

DAMASCUS, Syria - As leader of one of the world's oldest Christian sects (not sects, Churchs, SOCM), Patriarch Zakka Iwas has pursued his calling from Baghdad to New York and back again to the Iraqi capital.

He lives and works now in Damascus, seat of the Syriac Orthodox Church — a 1,500-year (1966-year, SOCM) old institution that counts thousands of members in the United States. His prayers have focused lately on his hometown, Baghdad, and the 10,000 followers of his
church living there.

Candy-red prayer beads clicked in the patriarch's fingers as he spoke of his anxiety about the dangers facing Christians in a war launched by U.S. President George W. Bush against Iraq.

"I'm sick because of it. I sleep only a little, and I'm very worried. I pray that God will have mercy on us and save our people and our country, not only Iraq but the whole area," he said in a recent interview.

Iwas, 69, insists he is no friend of Saddam Hussein. He met the Iraqi President several times while serving as archbishop of Baghdad and Basra. Iwas left Iraq when he became the church patriarch in 1980, one year after Saddam rose to power.

"I am not with the government. I am not with the regime. But I am with the people," he said.

Iwas is suspicious of Washington's motives. Like many in the Middle East, he believes the Bush administration's relentless push to disarm the Iraqi leader is driven by greed for Iraq's oil reserves — the world's second largest — and not by compassion for its people.

"Americans are trying to destroy Iraq, as they did Afghanistan, to get the petroleum and other things. That is clear," he said.

"Is this human rights? What is the business of the United States to move into this country or that country, to remove this or that head of state? Why don't they do that in Israel, to help the Palestinians?"

Iwas, whose official title is Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, draws a sharp distinction between Americans and their government. He spent two formative years studying at the Episcopal Church's General
Theological Seminary in downtown Manhattan. He left in 1962 with a love for the people he met there, and a newfound passion for the music of Beethoven and Handel.

Unfortunately, he said, Americans are likely to find themselves reviled in the Middle East because of an Iraq war, particularly if they make no forceful effort to stop Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights.

Iwas spoke with a passion and bluntness that seemed at odds with the conservatism natural for a cleric steeped in ancient tradition. When he conducts services at St. George Cathedral in the oldest, walled section of Damascus, Iwas speaks in Syriac, a modern version of
Aramaic — the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken. He discusses the medieval Crusades as if they were a recent calamity.

Iwas, a monk, wears a crimson cassock and a matching, fez-like hat. With his white beard and paunch, the outfit gives him the vague look of Santa Claus.

His church, known also as the Syrian Orthodox Church, was founded in the year 452 (37, SOCM) after a schism with the bulk of the world's Christians (not true, SOCM). Of its 4 million members, half are descendants of converts in southern India's Kerala state. Others live
in Germany, Sweden and in the United States, where immigrants from the Near East introduced the faith in the late 19th century. About 4,000 families worship today at Syriac Orthodox churches in America,
with large communities in Los Angeles, Michigan, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Syria's Christians and Muslims have coexisted peacefully for centuries. Although most Syrians are Muslims, about one-tenth are Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, or followers of smaller sects such as the Syriac Orthodox.

"We are very good friends, let me say, brothers," he said of the country's majority Muslims.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?
tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030318/ap_wo_en_ge/me_gen_syria_iraq_patriarch_s_fe
ar_2
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2003, 10:36:56 AM »

Batraq Ignatius, habeebna!

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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2003, 12:31:44 PM »

Patriarch Zakka Iwas<<"Americans are trying to destroy Iraq, as they did Afghanistan, to get the petroleum and other things. That is clear," he said.>>

Huh  I really have to question this statement of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch.  Just what oil in Afghanistan is he talking about?

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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2003, 05:48:14 PM »

Hypo-Ortho, the hypothesis I believe the Patriarch refers to here concerns the once often-spoken-about pipeline to reach Caspian oil.

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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2003, 09:32:56 PM »

Samer, does the Patriarch believe that our interests are *always* nefarious, selfish and in our own self interest, do you think, as regards oil in Afghanistan?  What about the oppresive Taliban?  Did that meet his approval?  Just wondering to myself.

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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2003, 12:23:41 AM »

The Patriarch speaks from the common experience of American intervention shared by Middle Easterners.  Politicians will be politicians.  Anyways, I am not privy to what Say'yedna personally thinks concerning the possible existance of some good intentions behind military campaigns.

Regarding the Taliban and the strike in Afghanistan, it was obviously not motivated by humanitarian concerns, as the official purpose of the strike after all was to capture the culprits behind September 11, not to overthrow regimes.  The Taliban were oppressive.  And oppression in the form of oppressive social strictures still exists in post-war Afghanistan, only this time funded by American money.  If you have studied the conditions in that region following the strike, you should have found out that women have not been quite "liberated from the veil" as most people think.

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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2003, 09:20:10 AM »

Quote
the hypothesis I believe the Patriarch refers to here concerns the once often-spoken-about pipeline to reach Caspian oil.

Yes it was only a hypothesis. It failed to convince me though. Some of theses conspiracy theories that float around are so narrow and simplistic that they take away from looking at the bigger picture. What was actually at stake was not that they were interested in something as narrow as a single pipeline (which the Taliban had agreed to of and on during the Clinton administration and would not take a military intervention to achieve) but was the fact that ‘hawks’ and ‘strongmen’ finally had some moral justification to unleash what they already wanted to do in the first place: to re-draw the maps and restructure the political landscape of central Asia and the Middle East in the best interests of U.S. foreign policy. People in Bush’s team had already supported this orientation in foreign policy journals over the years so it comes as no surprise to people who pay attention.

Quote
the official purpose of the strike after all was to capture the culprits behind September 11, not to overthrow regimes.


That was the stated aim. I am halfway through Robin Moore’s The Hunt for Bin Laden: Task Force Dagger (yes, the same Robin Moore who wrote the 1960’s classic The Green Berets which the movie by John Wayne based itself on). I find his comments intriguing on this question:
 
"Before the end of the day on September 11, 2001, a meeting was already taking place in Tampa, at the headquarters of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and CENTCOM (Central Command). Every officer in attendance at this meeting prayed to God that the Taliban would refuse the United States’ offer to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial. Dozens of stone-faced career officers, known as ‘silent professionals,’ [an allusion to the Green Berets] were planning the total annihilation of the Taliban and bin Laden’s AQ terrorists."---pg. 17

So of course they wanted to overthrow the Taliban (not that I will miss those backward hooligans) but if they gave in to the demand and handed over Bin Laden, then the State Department would have to construct another premise to overthrow the Taliban.
Quote
does the Patriarch believe that our interests are *always* nefarious, selfish and in our own self interest, do you think, as regards oil in Afghanistan?

Of course not, and U.S. policy is not always that. But you have to understand the hypocritical element that is obvious to people in that region; and when people as conservative as the Syrian Patriarch start expressing that kind of sentiment (I mean, His Holiness is not Shenouda III or Metropolitan Phillip so this comes as a surprise) it gives a big indication of how people in general are taking this war drive.

Osama bin Laden and the Mujahadeen were just as much fanatical, terrorists and oppressive when the U.S. supported them, trained them, armed them, paid them, and fought along side them (clandestinely) in the 1980’s against the U.S.S.R. as they are now. They oppressed women, then (they used to throw acid into the faces of women who refused to wear the veil) as they do now. They were ruthless then, as they are now. The whole tradition of inviting foreigners (Arabs, Chechens, Iranians) to join the jihad in Afghanistan was started by the American state department and not the Taliban.

The Regan administration encouraged the worlds Muslims to come and join in the Holy War against the Soviet Union. It backfired, as policies that narrow and opportunist eventually will. Saddam Hussein is as much a brute today as he was when the U.S. was supporting him and supplying him with chemical weapons (and Britain was building the factories). The only difference is that, due to the years of disarming him and economic sanctions, he is less of a threat today as he was then.

There is no consistent and non-contradictory argument that can apply to, say Saddam Hussein, that cannot equally apply to one of the U.S. allies. Not ‘breaching UN resolutions (Israel),’ not ‘weapons of mass destruction(Israel and South Africa during Apartheid)’ and not ‘export of terrorism (Pakistan’s insidious subversions inside of democratic India, including the assassinations of some of its political leaders),’ 'oppressing the Kurds (most of the Kurds live in Turkey). There is not one argument that applies to one and not the other. So to justify military action on these grounds will always look hypocritical to people on the receiving end of cruise missiles.  

America needs to return to the era of visionary leaders like JFK who knew how to win contracts and profits for US corporations by winning friends in foreign nations (who will joyfully and willfully extend the honor without being coerced) and not, necessarily always, by resorting to brutal military force nor by overriding the Bill of Rights. As for Gorge W....well Darth Vader said it best referring to an admiral before he choked him with the Force, “he is as clumsy as he is stupid.” And just watch all of this militarism backfire like hellfire just as the Regan policies did. There is a better way.
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