Note to a Colleague

January 21, 2003



Note to a Colleague - 20030121 - Charles Cobb, director of the WNY Peace Center, a  respected friend and fellow peace activist in WNY, keeps telling me that the awakening we need to save the futures of our children will not occur in response to the usual rallies, film screenings, and various same-old/same-old events we habitually organize -- attended by all the same people -- those already awakened.  Rather, if it happens at all, he says and I increasingly believe, it will occur as a result of one-to-one heartfelt and informed communication between each and every one of us and those to whom we expose our hearts, our knowledge, our fears, and our hopes.  The linked note is a recent sanitized exchange with someone I know and work with every week.  It may offend him.  He may get angry.  His anger could affect and degrade our working relationship.  But we have to speak up, friends, even with the risk of approbation and mitigation of our working careers.  Surely our children deserve no less than that.  Please,all of you so much better informed and so much more eloquent than I, take a chance and reach out to everyone you know who will listen.  You will not want to live with the consequences of your silence if you do not.


To: [a friend and staff colleague]
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 10:53 PM
Subject: Personal

> I am always interested in questioning authority and non-violent civil
> disobedience.  However, when Iraq is given numerous chances to be civil
> and thumbs their nose at us and the rest of the world.  I wonder what
> other steps there are but to disarm them?  And that may take force.  I
> am very angry at Iraq's refusal to commit to the treaty they signed
> after the gulf war!  Our pilots are being shot at Jim, for monitoring
> airspace that is demilitarized as part of that treaty.  This has been
> going on for years after the gulf war.
> On the other hand we must be aware of our image in the world.  We don't
> want to end up looking aggressive to others and to put ourselves at risk
> for another September 11.  It is a complex problem.  And I am thinking
> about it often.  I would like to think that our government is taking
> similar approaches but I gave up trusting them a long time ago.  I also
> wonder just what is true when I hear media reports.  I have a hard time
> figuring out what is propaganda and what is truly fact. 

My friend, forgive me for commenting freely if it's at all offensive.  Much
of what we learn as we start to wake up to what's being done in our names
is indeed *very* offensive when first heard.  I encourage you to grit your
teeth, to read, to listen and then to do the necessary homework -- which is
not at all hard -- to satisfy yourself as to the accuracy and credibility
of what I suggest.  If nothing else, start to notice the education, integrity,
and souls of the people now starting to raise their voices, even in our own
region.  These are not radicals with political axes to grind but solidly
successful citizens who can no longer find it in themselves to sit in silence
as their names are being sullied by our Nation's behavior.  Now, sadly, some
of them are finding it necessary to put their lives on the line for what they
know to be true that we so willingly choose to ignore.  Please try not to
dismiss them lightly.  You'll meet some of them soon if you like.  Try to
withhold judgement until you do.
If you ever travel at all in Europe, you'll quickly realize how uniquely
and profoundly uninformed the American public generally chooses to remain.
I say "chooses," because in fact our media is market-driven and we, after
all, are the market.  In Europe and most of the rest of the world where
global news is at all available, by stark contrast, the common working
person -- the bricklayers and ditch-diggers, never mind office workers --
have an astonishing (to us) command of the fine points of who is doing what
to whom and why on the global geopolitical scene.  I'll never forget
overhearing heated arguments among such people in working class European
bars about some subtlety of a recently announced IMF decision and who would
stand to lose or gain the most and why.  The arguments were of an informed
depth that one would only find here in a few tiny circles -- even in academe. 
There is lots of irony in this since an informed and educated public is the
bedrock foundation of any democracy and many of these countries lay far
fewer claims to being democratic.  But I digress. 
The point is that most of the world reacted to our tragic losses on 9/11
with sincere empathy but also with a quizzically raised eyebrow at our naiveté
as long standing perpetrators of global terrorism only rivaled in history by
that of the Nazis.  In fact, if you go back to in-depth reporting of the time,
you'll find our most reputable news sources gently reporting or alluding to such
feelings among our allies.  They were indeed deeply empathetic over our losses
but surprised at our shock given what we've been doing on a global basis for so
Your own reaction to our pilots being shot at suggests you may be unaware of
the darker side of our Nation's long terrorist history, indeed you may find my
use of that word genuinely offensive.  I do not use it lightly and have taken
the liberty of ordering a copy of Blum's excellent book for you.  See:
for a quick review and be sure to read the linked review from a reader.  The
reader's scathing critique is marvelously ironic.
So, back to our pilots being shot at, yes, I'm indeed empathetic but I have
to cast that against the backdrop of carnage that we've been wreaking on the
Iraqi civilian population.  Now, thankfully, even our popular movie actors
are taking to producing documentaries of their own travels in Iraq in an
attempt to inform the unwilling-to-wake-up American public on what is being
done to civilian populations in their name.  Really, a few shots at the pilots
responsible for the attacks that destroy entire families and villages, that
deprive innocent civilians of water, food and basic medical care, should be
no surprise at all.  If you are seriously interested in becoming informed,
please consider not just my suggested reading, but possibly attending the
first silence-breaking presentation I hope we'll see on campus this Friday
at the Newman Center late morning.  I'll post the event to the calendar as
it gels but I hope Dave Robinson will be there to offer a repeat of the
presentation/discussion he's offering at Canisius College Thursday evening:
Eyewitness from Iraq. 
A dear and courageous friend of mine will also soon be traveling to Iraq with
a Christian Peacemaking task group to visit/support humanitarian aid facilities
and to directly and personally intervene in the likely event that we start dropping
bombs in earnest.  If he returns to us, God willing, I'm sure you'll soon be able to
hear first-hand reports from one of our most respectable and well known local
successful businessmen. 
And then there's our use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions to reduce the
cost-to-kill while forever polluting foreign environments at staggering costs
to civilian non-combatant populations -- even our Sierra Club speaks out about
that.  Do a Google search on "DU Munitions" for more.  And on and on and on. 
You only have to wake up and want to learn more to start to your own thoroughly
depressing education and to learn about what may be actually inspiring so much
hatred directed at us as a Nation -- not as people, except possibly in our blind
and greedy ignorance.
I'll set aside a copy of Frank Dorrel's compilation of previously aired
documentaries, "What I’ve Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy: The War Against
the Third World" video for you.  He's graciously given me permission to
reproduce and distribute it locally.  Remind me when I next see you and
see: for more information about it.
Also, keep an eye on our on-line regional calendar at:
And consider joining with the many highly esteemed, distinguished and award-
laden faculty and staff now organizing a UB Faculty/Staff for Peace campus group
to promote informed discussion and debate -- the only cure for what ails us.  You
can subscribe to a simple UB news list at:
or email me direct (at if you want to join the
UB Faculty/Staff planning group.
I like and respect you a lot or I would not have bothered to respond at
such length.  Please take no offense and please be assured that we need
never discuss this topic further if you prefer.  I have nothing but respect
for informed opposition: it's typically uninformed opposition that genuinely
frightens me.  And it's not at all for my own sake: I've already lived a long
and highly satisfying life.  If I have to continue to put more and more of
my own life on the line to get folks to wake up and pay attention, it will
be out of increasing fear for the future well-being of my young daughter and
children like her around the world; we owe them far more than this.  If we,
Americans, persist in our ignorance and greedy blind global manipulations,
I have no doubts that others will continue to strike out and back at us as
technology advances and the horrifyingly brutal means become ever more
readily available.  And whatever happens is likely to make 9/11 look like child's
play in comparison.  And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.  Our
own children's blood will then be on our very own hands.  And who among us
could ever sleep at night with that thought?  Which is why so many good and
respectable people are increasingly rising up to say clearly and unequivocally: 
No.  Not any longer.  Not for another minute.  Not ever again.  Not in my name. 

Please consider
joining with us.
Best Regards,

                                     Not In My Name
                 James O'Connor Whitlock
                                         Bitsy's Dad
                                     Buffalo, New York
           -- Cell: (716) 698-1232
      "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed 
           citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it's the only 
                       thing that ever has."
  Margaret Mead
     "In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies
       but the silence of our friends."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.




"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

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