Basra, liberation theology and Iraq
After the Read More! Basra today. Ratzinger on Liberation Theology. Iraq: from enemy to ally. Has Obama betrayed the Palestinians?
Five years on from the invasion of Iraq, the apparent success of the American surge and growing stability in Basra are providing cautious grounds for optimism. There has been a palpable change in the atmosphere in Basra since Britain formally handed over control of the province to the Iraqis last December.
What Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger thought of liberation theology in 1984.
Liberation theology is a phenomenon with an extraordinary number of layers. There is a whole spectrum from radically marxist positions, on the one hand, to the efforts which are being made within the framework of a correct and ecclesial theology, on the other hand, a theology which stresses the responsibility which Christians necessarily hear for the poor and oppressed, such as we see in the documents of the Latin American Bishops' Conference (CELAM) from Medellin to Puebla. In what follows, the concept of liberation theology will be understood in a narrower sense: it will refer only to those theologies which, in one way or another, have embraced the marxist fundamental option. Here too there are many individual differences, which cannot be dealt with in a general discussion of this kind. All I can do is attempt to illuminate certain trends which, notwithstanding the different nuances they exhibit, are widespread and exert a certain influence even where liberation theology in this more restricted sense does not exist. ...
In trying to arrive at an overall evaluation it must be said that, if one accepts the fundamental assumptions which underlie liberation theology, it cannot be denied that the whole edifice has an almost irresistible logic. By adopting the position of biblical criticism and of a hermeneutics that grows through experience, on the one hand, and of the marxist analysis of history, on the other, liberation theologians have succeeded in creating a total picture of the Christian reality, and this total view seems to respond fully both to the claims of science and to the moral challenges of our time, urging people to make Christianity an instrument of concrete world transformation; it seems to have united Christianity, in this way, with all the "progressive forces" of our era. One can understand, therefore, that this new interpretation of Christianity should have exercised an increasing fascination over theologians, priests and religious, particularly against the background of Third World problems.
The Cardinal who was to become Pope Benedict argued that any answer to liberation theology would have to present alternative solutions to the problems the liberation theologians purported to solve. And this is the problem that Barack Obama's speech so carefully evaded. It isn't that Wright's liberation theology is wrong, just that mistakenly fails to acknowledge its already considerable achievements.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. ...
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
But that's begging the question. The world's general economic standard of living has also risen since the 1960s. But not much of that has come from "liberation theology" so much as greater enterprise, trade and technology. There are severe problems facing many black Americans. The unasked question is how responsible Wright's ideology was for some of "that cycle of violence", some of the "welfare policies [that] for many years may have worsened" the erosion of black families is never addressed. Obama's own city of Chicago has been under a Democratic Party monopoly for decades controlled by a "machine" whose concept of civil rights was to create an African-American "sub-machine". How much of "the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods" in Chicago is due to very policies America has not yet had enough of? How much of the poverty in the Third World is actually due to the Marxist nostrums they have not yet had enough of?
US Vice President Richard Cheney's visit to Iraq on the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom was given scant coverage in the media. And yet it may go down in history as a pivotal moment in the transformation of post-Saddam Iraq into a beacon of democracy and freedom in the Arab world.
Hours after Cheney's departure, the Iraqi presidency council announced that it had approved the Iraqi parliament's provincial elections law. This long-awaited act will facilitate Iraq's development into a federal state and so cement the grassroots-level political progress that has made such strides in the last year as a result of the revised US counter-insurgency or "surge" campaign.
The Electronic Intifada remembers Barack Obama before he became the frontrunner:
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
But even though Obama had taken off his coat, he was holding something close to his chest. "Obama's gradual shift into the AIPAC camp had begun as early as 2002 as he planned his move from small time Illinois politics to the national scene. In 2003, Forward reported on how he had "been courting the pro-Israel constituency."
Money and votes, but especially money, channelled through sophisticated and coordinated networks that can "bundle" small donations into million dollar chunks are what buy influence on policy. ... Obama's about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power. ... Only if enough people know what Obama and his competitors stand for, and organize to compel them to pay attention to their concerns can there be any hope of altering the disastrous course of US policy in the Middle East.
Ali Abunimah's article can be good or bad news depending on how cynical you are. Some may see in Abunimah's lament proof that Obama "is someone we can do business with". Others may be disappointed in Abunimah's realization that Obama is just another Chicago politician. Maybe the definitions are equivalent.
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