SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

As an interfaith community of religious and secular members who believe in the power of love to overcome hatred and the power of mercy to conquer vengeance, while affirming the world’s common humanity and the sacredness of human life, we urge President Obama and Congress to reject any military intervention in Syria, including any military attack, arming the rebels, or creating a no-fly zone, and instead to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance through the United Nations and building active multilateral diplomacy without preconditions with all involved parties for an immediate ceasefire, a full arms embargo, and negotiations to end Syria’s civil war.

Over the last year, a religious antipoverty organization has met with U.S. Treasury and White House officials to encourage them to declare the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad an illegitimate government. This action would impose restrictions on lending to Syria that supports its military or the needs of the Assad regime. When governments or financial institutions make this declaration it lets lenders know that if they lend to Syria they may not receive a return on their investment. Types of lending and financing that could be affected are arms contracts with Russia and oil investment from Iran.

The horrific use of chemical weapons in Syria is a crime against humanity and demands an international response. President Obama states that the United States must take appropriate action vs. doing nothing. This is absolutely true. The problem comes in defining appropriate action. There are at least two options, military vs. non-military, the latter with a host of options.

Sep 05

Secret Interrogation Tapes Should Be Public, Attorneys Argue

By The Center for Constitutional Rights, CCR | Op-Ed

NEW YORK - September 3 - Today, in a case filed on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), attorneys argued that video recordings of CCR client Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay should be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.  The government possesses tapes of al Qahtani  made when he was in solitary confinement immediately prior to a period, detailed in a log published by Time Magazine in 2006, in which al Qahtani was systematically tortured.  He is the only Guantanamo prisoner whom the U.S. government has explicitly acknowledged torturing.  Al Qahtani’s attorneys at CCR have viewed the tapes, but are prohibited from discussing their contents, including confirming or denying whether they contain footage of abuse.

On August 31, with the nation eking out the final hours of summer, President Obama took to the podium and, shockingly, did not announce that he was going to continue in the trend of the Imperial Presidency, wherein the Executive branch, in the words of Chris Hedges, “abrogates to itself the right to declare war, which is, of course, traditionally the role of Congress.” Rather, while maintaining that he believes he has the right to act without congressional approval, Obama announced that he would allow Congress to have a voice. His speech was also a direct pitch to the American people to win support for military intervention in Syria. While only 20% of the American people  thought the US should take action in Syria when Obama spoke, that number was up from only 9% last week, indicating that while the march to war may have stumbled, it continues forward.

Sep 04

A Non-Military Approach to the Syrian Conflict

By Paul J Magnarella, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The two and one-half year conflict in Syria has resulted in millions of refugees/displaced persons and more than 110,000 deaths. Recently, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a poison gas attack attributed by some to the Al-Assad regime, and by others to rebel forces―and the world waits for dispositive proof. Given the differing views of the US, Russia and China (all permanent members of the UN Security Council with resolution veto powers), it is unlikely that the UNSC will authorize punitive military measures against the Al-Assad regime. However, members of the UNSC may well agree to employ the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a legal avenue for the impartial investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity by any party to the Syrian conflict, with the possibility of the ICC indicting those primarily responsible.

Sep 04

Recognizing ALL Our Laborers

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

September 2 was Labor Day. And clearly, there is no better way to celebrate workers is to require them to endure long, stressful shifts while the rest of us take advantage of the amazing sales at Best Buy, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Macy's.

It is incredibly sad that some of the worst paid, most poorly treated workers in the U.S. are the ones who get no chance to celebrate Labor Day. A recent report by Forbes found that of the 10 lowest paying jobs, six were in food preparation and food service. Some 2.94 million people work in these fields, where they earn just $9 an hour. Fast food cooks and dishwashers earn $9.03 to $9.10 per hour. Three others in the top ten are in the personal care business, with the remaining one being farmworkers, who of course are laboring so we can enjoy our barbecues and beach parties.

As peoples who take the education of our communities seriously, and who have been past recipients and/or seen the NHSF support many students, we are hereby petitioning you to change your policy on scholarship eligibility so that DREAM students are eligible to receive NHSF scholarships.

Your work is to be applauded because you have already awarded more than 1.5 million scholarships to students since 1975, totaling $368 million. It would be great if DREAM students were part of your mission and success because outside of their legal status, they are little different than the students that you have already assisted throughout the years. To open up your scholarship monies for DREAM students would not contradict your stated goal; in fact, it would adhere to it...

Sep 04

The Four Catastrophes

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington has seen reflections and conversations about the nation's progress toward achieving Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of the beloved community. Not surprisingly, the focus has been on assessing racial equality, as many know Dr. King largely for his work on this issue. Dr. King's vision and advocacy, however, was much broader in scope. As his writings and speeches show, Dr. King was concerned about what he called "four catastrophes:" militarism, materialism, racism and poverty.

The American Dream, it seems to me, is not even slightly ill. It's escaped, soared away into the sky like an eagle, so not even a great puffy Bicentennial can squash it. The American Dream's become a worldwide dream, which makes me so happy and flushed with partly chauvinistic pride (it was our idea) that I sneak down into my basement and wave my flag....

That idea—humankind's inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—coupled with a system for protecting human rights—was and is the quintessential American Dream. The rest is greed and pompous foolishness—at worst, a cruel and sentimental myth, at best, cheap streamers in the rain.