Click here to view a map of the University of St. Thomas campus. We recommend that you park in the Moran Center Garage, 3800 Graustark @ Alabama. Also, click here to download the printable PDF file of the flier.
Here you can listen to the Progressive Forum podcast of Zach Neeley discussing his recent editorial in the Houston Chronicle. Please note that the interview begins at 29:50 and ends at 44:20.
By Zachary Neeley | July 8, 2017
One morning last November while I was in homeroom, there was an announcement over the intercom unlike any I had ever heard before – one of my high school’s graduates had just been killed in Jordan. His name: Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, an Army Green Beret serving in Jordan, and a 2007 graduate of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory.
When I heard the news of Sgt. Moriarty’s death, I was numb. It was not the first time I had heard about American soldiers dying in the Middle East; thousands of Americans have died there in the past 16 years. But even though I had never met or heard of him before, just a few years ago he had studied in the same classrooms, walked in the same hallways, perhaps had some of the same teachers.
I don’t know why, but Sgt. Moriarty’s death piqued my interest, so I did some research about his death. I was surprised at what I found, but I was also moved to reflect more deeply on what his death – and the deaths of so many other American soldiers – means to us back here at home.
Sgt. Moriarty and his team, stationed in Jordan, were on their way back from training a group of Syrian rebels when they were stopped in front of their base by a Jordanian soldier, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha. Tragically, as news reports have confirmed, al-Tuwayha did not follow proper rules of engagement and opened fire on the American soldiers. Two died quickly, while Sgt. Moriarty returned fire before being gunned down as well. Al-Tuwayha was shot by the fourth American soldier, but survived.
Early reports of the incident suggested that it was an accident; the Jordanian government initially described it as a “tragic misunderstanding.” Then it was considered a potential act of terrorism. But an investigation of al-Tuwayha found no links to terrorism. In an abrupt change to the months of defending their soldier, Jordanian officials in April announced al-Tuwayha would be tried in a military court. Hearings on murder charges took place last week, according to a Washington Post report, and are set to continue Monday. Al-Tuwayha has pleaded not guilty.
We may never know with certainty just what precipitated the incident that took the lives of Sgt. Moriarty and his fellow soldiers. But a bigger question looms for us all: Why were they there in the first place?
According to news reports, they were part of a CIA program training Syrian rebels to fight against both the Syrian government and terrorist groups. After several years of training rebels to fight in a conflict that does not affect us, we are still involved there – apparently with no end in sight.
Our involvement in the Syrian civil war has been a puzzling situation. We have poured billions of dollars into funding rebel groups, but some of these rebels have aligned themselves with terror groups the U.S. is trying to defeat. At the same time, the Russians, aligned with the Syrian government, are reportedly attacking the U.S.-backed rebel groups.
The complex entanglement of alliances and factions involved in Syria, and the Middle East in general, makes it too easy for unfortunate incidents to occur, such as the one that took Sgt. Moriarty’s life.
And so I ask: Do those who call for continued U.S. military action in the Middle East fully understand the quagmire which we are sinking deeper into? They should see our troops as people, not tools to advance a political agenda. Every American soldier who dies in the Middle East is one more son, daughter, parent or sibling who doesn’t return home; one more family with one less person to share memories and spend holidays with; one more headstone standing prematurely in a graveyard among thousands for the same tragic reason.
I believe we need to ask some serious questions about U.S. foreign policy, which has created more instability and less safety in the world:
Why is it that we Americans must spend our blood and our money to police the world?
Why doesn’t our government place more emphasis on diplomacy first?
Why do we spend more than a quarter of the federal budget on war?
Why do we have to sacrifice our civil liberties for a foreign policy that does not make us any safer?
The tragic death of my fellow alumnus, Sgt. James Moriarty, is one more example of the growing human cost of the questionable wars we fight. Isn’t it time that we start debating why our government continues to involve us in endless war?
Neeley, a 2017 graduate of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, will attend Trinity University in San Antonio in the fall.
This editorial appeared in the Houston Chronicle. Click here to view it.
FPA Statement on the President’s Use of Military Force
April 25, 2017
Pursuant to the mission of the Foreign Policy Alliance, which calls for a reform of U.S. foreign policy emphasizing diplomacy, law, and cooperation, rather than the use of military force as a means of addressing international conflict, we oppose the recent unrestrained use of military force and the threat of force by the United States government. Under resolve statements number 1 and 7 of the Foreign Policy Alliance’s resolution, “A Call to Reform U.S. Foreign Policy,” we reject the “policeman of the world” foreign policy posture whereby the U.S. intervenes militarily in the affairs of other states. Further, authority to initiate military hostilities rests with the Congress, under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
The recent U.S. attack on a Syrian air base was unconstitutional and could potentially drag the United States into becoming an active combatant in a civil war with regional and global implications. The insertion of U.S. military forces into Somalia expands America’s involvement in yet another civil war. The military posturing and threats of force in response to North Korean missile testing all point to a pattern of aggressive and reckless behavior by the President that must be subject to a full and transparent debate in Congress to determine if the use of force is in the vital interests of the United States, narrowly defined.
Passion Time with Patricia Gras features Eric Botts on the Foreign Policy Alliance
One of our members had the excellent idea to throw a holiday party, so we are doing so.
Please RSVP: Holiday Party and Potluck hosted by Houston Foreign Policy Alliance
Where: Dominican Sisterhood of Houston
6501 Almeda Road
When: December 29, 2016
The Houston Foreign Policy Alliance invites all those who support our goals of reforming US foreign policy (see below) to join us in a holiday party. It’s pot luck, so bring something to eat or drink, to share, and have dinner with us. Or you can make a donation to help us cover expenses. Admission is free!
This will be in the big room at the Dominican Center, on the east side of Almeda. Enter via the second driveway north of Holcombe.
This is a family friendly party, and we’ll have more information about HFPA available.
The Houston Foreign Policy Alliance was invited to speak to students at St. Thomas University as part of the Distinguished Diplomat Program in the Center for International Studies on October 26, 2016.