"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

War Crimes in Fallujah

"'The first time you get shot at from a building, it's rubble," [Capt. Paul]Fowler told his platoon leaders. ''No questions asked."

Suspected enemy buildings were to be ''cleared by fire" before troops entered. ''No boots on the ground unless you're looking for body parts," Fowler said.

Guerrillas kept attacking the Iraqi troops as they tried to hold the hospital. A row of houses nearby was nearly demolished. ''We're just cleaning up the trash," Fowler said." - Reports from the Battle of Fallujah, November, 2004.

"To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. "Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings'" - Message for the World Day of Peace, 2005, John Paul II.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Christian Leadership

"The Americans shot every boat on the river because people were trying to escape Fallujah by the river. They shot all the sheep, any animal people owned was shot. Helicopters shot all the animals and anything that moved in all the villages surrounding Fallujah during the fighting.

He said that none of the roads into Fallujah, or around Fallujah were passable because anyone on them was shot. 'I know one family that were all killed.'" - Iraq Dispatches, Dahr Jamail, Dec. 9, 2004.

Precision-Guided Missiles

Anglican bishops speak out:

"The figures for ’collateral damage’ that are emerging are unacceptable in a society that prides itself on civilised values.

It is essential that immediate aid is delivered to the most vulnerable in Fallujah and that long-term assistance is guaranteed for the rebuilding of the homes and infrastructure that have been obliterated.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge that huge numbers of Iraqi Muslims, and in particular those from the Sunni Triangle, increasingly regard the current military action as a war between religions.

The battle for Fallujah began on one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar, the day when the giving of the Koran is celebrated." - Fallujah Civilian Deaths Not Acceptable, Say Bishops, Scotsman, Nov. 16, 2004.

We are still awaiting word from any of our readers with similar statements from Catholic bishops. The Red Cross estimates that as many as 6000 were killed in the attack on Fallujah. Those with sufficient stomach can see photographic evidence of U.S. efforts to liberate Iraq at http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=album28&page=1.

Where are the Christian voices to cry out with the people of Iraq in saying, "Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness…the people of Fallujah are dear to us. They are our brothers and sisters and we are so saddened by what is happening in that city." - Iraq Dispatches, Dahr Jamail, Dec. 8, 2004.

Dear Lord, give us the gift of sadness and wrath. Leave us not to stew in our distractions while our means are spent to murder families, that "sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2205) in their homes. Open our eyes to see brothers and sisters rather than insurgents and terrorists.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Rights and Duties of Man

"Dr. Sami al-Jumaili described how US warplanes bombed the Central Health Centre in which he was working at 5:30 am on November 9. The clinic had been treating many of the city's sick and wounded after US forces took over the main hospital at the start of the invasion. According to Dr. al-Jumaili, US warplanes dropped three bombs on the clinic, where approximately sixty patients--many of whom had serious injuries from US aerial bombings and attacks--were being treated.

Dr. al-Jumaili reports that thirty-five patients were killed in the airstrike, including two girls and three boys under the age of 10. In addition, he said, fifteen medics, four nurses and five health support staff were killed, among them health aides Sami Omar and Omar Mahmoud, nurses Ali Amini and Omar Ahmed, and physicians Muhammad Abbas, Hamid Rabia, Saluan al-Kubaissy and Mustafa Sheriff." - Miles Schuman, "Falluja's Health Damage", The Nation, NOv. 24, 2004.

In 1948, the United States distinguished itself as leader of the free world by signing "The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man", a declaration adopted by the members of the OAS. It was the world's first international human rights instrument of a general nature, predating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by more than six months. The guiding spirit of the document can be read from it's initial statement: "All men are born free and equal, in dignity and in rights, and, being endowed by nature with reason and conscience, they should conduct themselves as brothers one to another."

Among it's provisions:

Article I. Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.

Article V. Every person has the right to the protection of the law against abusive attacks upon his honor, his reputation, and his private and family life.

Article XI. Every person has the right to the preservation of his health through sanitary and social measures relating to food, clothing, housing and medical care, to the extent permitted by public and community resources.

Please read and respond to the full story with complete documentation and legal citation at http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=7966. And please consider joining with Humanitarian Law Project / International Educational Development (HLP/IED) and San Francisco-based Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) against the United States, along with Veterans For Peace who have endorsed the petition.

Friday, November 26, 2004

License to Kill

"In comments reported by the UN information network Irin, spokesman Muhammad al-Nuri said the Red Crescent believed more than 6,000 people may have died in the fight for Falluja." - "Aid reaches Falluja's citizens", BBC News, Nov. 27, 2004.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Isaac Asimov, Salvor Hardin in "Foundation"

In the words of a Bush aide: "'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"- David Suskind, "Without a Doubt", New York Times, Oct. 17, 2004

Do not pile boasting upon boasting:
keep proud words far from your mouth,
for the Lord is the God of all knowledge
and the judge of all actions.

The bow of the mighty is broken,
and the weak are clothed in strength.
Those who fed well must hire themselves out, for bread;
but the hungry are hungry no longer.
The barren woman has given birth to many;
but she who had many sons is left desolate.
- 1 Samuel 2

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Medical Personnel Tied and Beaten

"The wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Medical personnel and medical establishments, transports and equipment must be spared." - International Committee of the Red Cross.

"They [Al-Jazeera] report today that Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who witnessed the U.S. and Iraqi National Guard raid the general hospital, said, 'We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments.'

She said the hospital was targeted by bombs and rockets during the initial siege of Fallujah, and troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall.

She continued on, "I was with a woman in labor," she said. "The umbilical cord had not yet been cut. At that time, a U.S. soldier shouted at one of the [Iraqi] National Guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver. I will never forget this incident in my life." - " Dogs Eating Bodies in the Streets of Fallujah", Dahr Jamail, Nov. 16, 2004.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Where are the Bishops?

"As hostilities continue in Falluja and elsewhere, every day seems to bring news of yet another act of utter contempt for the most basic tenet of humanity," said Pierre Kraehenbuhl, the ICRC's director of operations.

"Like any other armed conflict, this one is subject to limits, and they must be respected at all times," he added.

The Red Cross has issued a statement in which it can barely hide its anger, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva." "Red Cross hits out at Iraq abuses", BBC, Nov. 19, 2004.

"Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide." Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. #2313

Denial of Water to Iraqi Cities

"Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah were cut off during US attacks during the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate US policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other coalition members, and the Iraqi government." - "Denial of Water to Iraqi Cities", Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq, November 10, 2004. Please read the fully documented report at the following URL: http://www.casi.org.uk/briefing/041110denialofwater.pdf.

We can hear these voices in our hearts. The voices of those dying of disease from sewage-saturated waters - hearts eaten by despair, the impossible burden of fighting on in the face of blind and relentless American brutality. Ordinary people swept up into an incomprehensible fate - if you listen carefully, you can hear the cry for peace.

Where are the voices of the bishops who wrote the following in 1993: "Noncombatant Immunity: civilians may not be the object of direct attack, and military personnel must take due care to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians;" - The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, November 17, 1993, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Where are the voices of those who wrote in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #2314: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

War Crimes in Fallujah

"Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works." - Article 14 of the second protocol of the Geneva Conventions

On 16 October the Washington Post reported that:
"Electricity and water were cut off to the city [Fallujah] just as a fresh wave of strikes began Thursday night, an action that U.S. forces also took at the start of assaults on Najaf and Samarra."

"Residents of Fallujah have told the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks that they had no food or clean water and did not have time to store enough to hold out through the impending battle. The water shortage has been confirmed by other civilians fleeing Fallujah, Fadhil Badrani, a BBC journalist in Falluja, confirmed on 8 November that the water supply has been cut off.

In light of the shortage of water and other supplies, the Red Cross has attempted
to deliver water to Fallujah. However the US has refused to allow shipments of
water into the Fallujah until it has taken control of the city." - "Denial of Water to Iraqi Cities", publication of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq, November, 2004.

Two fundamental Catholic moral principles regarding the conduct of armed conflict are:

"1) Noncombatant Immunity: civilians may not be the object of direct attack, and military personnel must take due care to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians;
2) Proportionality: in the conduct of hostilities, efforts must be made to attain military objectives with no more force than is militarily necessary and to avoid disproportionate collateral damage to civilian life and property;" - "The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace", National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993.

In solidary with the people of Iraq, I pray that our bishops will raise their voices in protest at this blatant violation of Catholic teachings on restraint during war.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Grief and Prayer

I have been unable to post for several days while the U.S. writes another tragedy in the blood of this endlessly suffering people. Henri Nouwen reminds us that grief is a way to compassion, and grief has seized my heart in these last few days, as I sit helplessly while those acting in my name carry out a slaughter that is not only immoral, but ultimately inane. Already it is clear that the effect of this manuver has been to spark rebellions in dozens of other cities, to create a potent symbol and rallying cry for those fighting for their country.

As Americans, we often stigmatize grief as weakness. The strong should shake off grief and carry on with the battle, our culture shouts at us. But shaking off grief is often the refusal of a precious gift. In the words of Henri Nouwen, "Grief asks me to allow the sins of the world - my own included - to pierce my heart and make me shed tears, many tears, for them. There is no compassion without many tears. If they can't be tears that stream from my eyes, they have to be at least tears that well up from my heart. When I consider the immense waywardness of God's children, our lust, our greed, our violence, our anger, our resentment, and when I look at them through the eyes of God's heart, I cannot but weep and cry out with grief...This grieving is praying. There are so few mourners left in this world. But grief is the discipline of the heart that sees the sin of the world, and knows itself to be the sorrowful price of freedom without which love cannot bloom. I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving. This grief is so deep not just because the human sin is so great, but also - and more so - because the divine love is so boundless." - Nouwen, Henri. The Return of the Prodigal Son. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

100,000 Dead - Civilians Predominate

"But God cannot leave the crime unpunished: from the ground on which it has been spilt, the blood of the one murdered demands that God should render justice." - "The Gospel of Life", Chapter 1:9, John Paul II, March 25, 1995.

"US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying “we don’t do body counts”. The Geneva Conventions have clear guidance about the responsibilities of occupying armies to the civilian population they control. The fact that more than half the deaths reportedly caused by the occupying forces were women and children is cause for concern. In particular, Convention IV, Article 27 states that protected persons “. . . shall be at all times humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against acts of violence . . .”. It seems difficult to understand how a military force could monitor the extent to which civilians are protected against violence without systematically doing body counts or at least looking at the kinds of casualties they induce. This survey shows that with modest funds, 4 weeks, and seven Iraqi team members willing to risk their lives, a useful measure of civilian deaths could be obtained. There seems to be little excuse for occupying forces to not be able to provide more precise tallies. In view of the political importance of this conflict, these results should be confirmed by an independent body such as the ICRC, Epicentre, or WHO. In the interim, civility and enlightened self-interest demand a re-evaluation of the consequences of weaponry now used by coalition forces in populated areas." "Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq:
cluster sample survey", Lancet, Oct. 29, 2004.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" - Cain

"We cannot but think of today's tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards society's weakest members-such as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children- and the indifference frequently found in relations between the world's peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved." - "The Gospel of Life", Chapter 1:8, John Paul II, March 25, 1995.

"Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs." - Arundhati Roy, Transcript of Speech given August 16, 2004 in San Francisco (http://www.democracynow.org/static/Arundhati_Trans.shtml)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Massacre in Iraq

Seymour Hersh: "I got a call last week from a soldier -- it's different now, a lot of communication, 800 numbers. He's an American officer and he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. It's a place where we claim we've done great work at cleaning out the insurgency. He was a platoon commander. First lieutenant, ROTC guy."

"It was a call about this. He had been bivouacing outside of town with his platoon. It was near, it was an agricultural area, and there was a granary around. And the guys that owned the granary, the Iraqis that owned the granary... It was an area that the insurgency had some control, but it was very quiet, it was not Fallujah. It was a town that was off the mainstream. Not much violence there. And his guys, the guys that owned the granary, had hired, my guess is from his language, I wasn't explicit -- we're talking not more than three dozen, thirty or so guards. Any kind of work people were dying to do. So Iraqis were guarding the granary. His troops were bivouaced, they were stationed there, they got to know everybody..."

"They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, "No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents." - Seymour Hersh, Interview, Oct. 8, 2004

"The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." "We must obey God rather than men"" - Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #2242

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The U.S. Violates International Law

"... it is now clear that Iraq had in fact disarmed in compliance with security council resolutions. One of the tragic ironies of the decision to invade Iraq is that the Iraqi WMD declaration required by security council resolution 1441, submitted by Iraq in December 2002, and summarily rejected by Bush and Blair as repackaged falsehoods, now stands as the most accurate compilation of data yet assembled regarding Iraq's WMD programmes (more so than even Duelfer's ISG report, which contains much unsubstantiated speculation). Saddam Hussein has yet to be contradicted on a single point of substantive fact. Iraq had disarmed; no one wanted to accept that conclusion." - Guardian, Oct. 9, 2004

In contrast with Iraq's compliance with the U.N. resolution 1441, Kofi Annan stated that the US-led invasion of Iraq represented a violation of the UN charter and international law.

"From the very dawn of civilization, developing human communities sought to establish agreements and pacts which would avoid the arbitrary use of force and enable them to seek a peaceful solution of any controversies which might arise. Alongside the legal systems of the individual peoples there progressively grew up another set of norms which came to be known as ius gentium (the law of the nations). With the passage of time, this body of law gradually expanded and was refined in the light of the historical experiences of the different peoples.

This process was greatly accelerated with the birth of modern States. From the sixteenth century on, jurists, philosophers and theologians were engaged in developing the various headings of international law and in grounding it in the fundamental postulates of the natural law. This process led with increasing force to the formulation of universal principles which are prior to and superior to the internal law of States, and which take into account the unity and the common vocation of the human family.

Central among all these is surely the principle that pacta sunt servanda: accords freely signed must be honoured. This is the pivotal and exceptionless presupposition of every relationship between responsible contracting parties. The violation of this principle necessarily leads to a situation of illegality and consequently to friction and disputes which would not fail to have lasting negative repercussions. It is appropriate to recall this fundamental rule, especially at times when there is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law.

...In the necessary fight against terrorism, international law is now called to develop legal instruments provided with effective means for the prevention, monitoring and suppression of crime. In any event, democratic governments know well that the use of force against terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law. Political decisions would be unacceptable were they to seek success without consideration for fundamental human rights, since the end never justifies the means." - John Paul II, World Day of Peace, 2004.

Crucial though justice might be, it is not sufficient to maintain a civilization worthy of human dignity, "For this reason I have often reminded Christians and all persons of good will that forgiveness is needed for solving the problems of individuals and peoples. There is no peace without forgiveness! I say it again here, as my thoughts turn in particular to the continuing crisis in Palestine and the Middle East: a solution to the grave problems which for too long have caused suffering for the peoples of those regions will not be found until a decision is made to transcend the logic of simple justice and to be open also to the logic of forgiveness.

Christians know that love is the reason for God's entering into relationship with man. And it is love which he awaits as man's response. Consequently, love is also the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between human beings. Love must thus enliven every sector of human life and extend to the international order. Only a humanity in which there reigns the “civilization of love” will be able to enjoy authentic and lasting peace."- John Paul II, World Day of Peace, 2004.

"And if peace is possible, it is also a duty!" - John Paul II, World Day of Peace, 2004.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Right to Command

"An Army Reserve staff sergeant who last week wrote a critical analysis of the United States' prospects in Iraq now faces possible disciplinary action for disloyalty and insubordination. If charges are bought and the officer is found guilty, he could face 20 years in prison. It would be the first such disloyalty prosecution since the Vietnam War.

The essay that sparked the military investigation is titled "Why We Cannot Win" and was posted Sept. 20 on the conservative antiwar Web site LewRockwell.com. Written by Al Lorentz, a non-commissioned officer from Texas with nearly 20 years in the Army who is serving in Iraq, the essay offers a bleak assessment of America's chances for success in Iraq." - Salon.com, Sept. 29, 2004

"Since the right to command is required by the moral order and has its source in God, it follows that, if civil authorities pass laws or command anything opposed to the moral order and consequently contrary to the will of God, neither the laws made nor the authorizations granted can be binding on the consciences of the citizens, since 'God has more right to be obeyed than men.' Otherwise, authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches: 'Human law has the true nature of law only in so far as it corresponds to right reason, and in this respect it is evident that it is derived from the eternal law. In so far as it falls short of right reason, a law is said to be a wicked law; and so, lacking the true nature of law, it is rather a kind of violence.'" - Pacem in Terris, paragraph #51

Only Civilians Killed

"As Falluja residents pick up the pieces after two days of US air and artillery strikes, a city official is saying that all the casualties in the attacks were civilian residents.

Mahmud al-Jarisi, Falluja city commissioner, told Aljazeera that sections of the city that faced US military positions had been evacuated and the neighbourhoods recently targeted were in the heart of Falluja and crowded with civilians." - Al Jazeera, Sept. 27, 2004

"Drawing a parallel between U.S. tactics in Iraq and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, President Ghazi Ajil Yawer said the U.S. strikes were viewed by the Iraqi people as "collective punishment" against towns and neighborhoods." - Continued U.S. Air Strikes Draw Criticism, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 29, 2004

"Section I. Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."
- Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 33, 1949. This treaty has been in effect in the U.S. since 1960.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 states: "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed," and "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

"By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to "intimidatory measures to terrorize the population" in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices "strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice."

"Wherefore, a civil authority which uses as its only or its chief means either threats and fear of punishment or promises of rewards cannot effectively move men to promote the common good of all. Even if it did so move them, this would be altogether opposed to their dignity as men, endowed with reason and free will. As authority rests chiefly on moral force, it follows that civil authority must appeal primarily to the conscience of individual citizens, that is, to each one's duty to collaborate readily for the common good of all." - Pacem in Terris, paragraph #48

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Torture Continues

"American legal investigators have discovered evidence of abuse, torture and rape throughout the US-run prison system in Iraq. A Michigan legal team meeting with former detainees in Baghdad during an August fact-finding mission gathered evidence supporting claims of prisoner abuse at some 25 US-run detention centers, most of them so far not publicly mentioned as being embroiled in the Iraq torture scandal..."
"During an interview with Alomari and attorney Shereef Akeel, TNS reviewed documentation the men accumulated covering 53 separate cases of former detainees alleging gross mistreatment at the US-run prisons in Iraq. All of the witnesses have been vetted, said Akeel, their presence at various detention centers corroborated by official, US military-issued paperwork and identification information. Some of the plaintiffs allege US captors committed severe abuses against them as recently as this summer, challenging the widely-held assumption that the military has put an end to the violations." New Standard News, Sept. 25, 2004.

The explanation for this behavior may be found partly in the recently released report by James Schlesinger, described in the New York Review of Books as follows, "Policies and practices developed and approved for use on Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees [in Afghanistan and Guantánamo] who were not afforded the protection of the Geneva Conventions, now applied to detainees who did fall under the Geneva Conventions' protections." - New York Review of Books, Mark Danner, Oct. 7, 2004.

Who makes the decision about which human beings have rights and which do not? Which Iraqis deserve the protections of common humanity and which do not?

"The human person is also entitled to a juridical protection of his rights, a protection that should be efficacious, impartial and inspired by the true norms of justice. As Our Predecessor Pius XII teaches: "That perpetual privilege proper to man, by which every individual has a claim to the protection of his rights, and by which there is assigned to each a definite and particular sphere of rights, immune from all arbitrary attacks, is the logical consequence of the order of justice willed by God."" - Pacem in Terris, paragraph #27

Perhaps, John XXIII can throw some light on why the Iraqis so stubbornly resist our benevolence: "Men all over the world have today--or will soon have--the rank of citizens in independent nations. No one wants to feel subject to political powers located outside his own country or ethnical group." - Pacem in Terris, paragraph #43.

"Authority comes from God alone."

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Solidarity with the Iraqi People

"The bodies of 30 people killed in Zoba were brought to Falluja general hospital as well as 40 wounded," Dr Ahmad Khalil said earlier in the day, adding that many of the victims were women and children.
Khalil also said two Iraqi women were killed and eight other people wounded in another raid on Falluja.
The US military called the attack a "precision strike and destroyed a terrorist compound known to be used by the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi", a Jordanian suspected of heading a network linked to al-Qaida." Al-Jazeera, Sept. 17, 2004.

"In Haifa Street last week, US helicopters fired twice into a crowd, killing 13 people, while claiming that they had come under anti-aircraft fire. But footage of the moments before the rockets struck, killing the al-Arabiyah satellite television correspondent, proved that there was no gunfire." The Independent, Sept. 19, 2004.

The Iraqis are our brothers and sisters, our wives and our children. This cannot be proclaimed too loudly or too often. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #1941: "Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this."

Precision becomes an obscenity when it strikes the lives of the innocent. According to the Geneva conventions, "The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible:
(a) Without prejudice to Article 49 of the Fourth Convention, endeavour to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives;
(b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas;
(c) Take the other necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting from military operations."

In the words of the U.S. Catholic Bishops: "We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem...This same teaching against direct killing of the innocent condemns all direct attacks on innocent civilians in time of war." - "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics", U.S. Bishops, 1998

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. May the U.S. turn to the God who sees the worth and dignity of every human person, the sacredness of all human life.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

September 11 Reflection

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect. Without needing to repeat what I said to you last year on this occasion, I will simply add today, faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, that the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution. And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations." - Pope John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 13, 2003.

Military victories are never the solution. When they are pre-emptive they signal a heightened state of chaos which moves directly counter to the spirit of life. September 11 is a time to remember what makes our world sane and full of bright possibility, which the Pope clearly enumerates in the address quoted above:

1) Respect for law. Law binds by allowing nations to act with mutual respect, recognizing the dignity of each party. Pre-emptive strikes in defiance of international law arrogate an unfounded authority which negates the dignity of those for whom the battle is supposedly fought. In the words of the Pope, "Life within society – particularly international life – presupposes common and inviolable principles whose goal is to guarantee the security and the freedom of individual citizens and of nations. These rules of conduct are the foundation of national and international stability. Today political leaders have at hand highly relevant texts and institutions. It is enough simply to put them into practice. The world would be totally different if people began to apply in a straightforward manner the agreements already signed!"

2) "NO TO SELFISHNESS"! In other words, to all that impels man to protect himself inside the cocoon of a privileged social class or a cultural comfort which excludes others. The life-style of the prosperous, their patterns of consumption, must be reviewed in the light of their repercussions on other countries...Selfishness is also the indifference of prosperous nations towards nations left out in the cold. All peoples are entitled to receive a fair share of the goods of this world and of the know-how of the more advanced countries."

Not only do nations not have the right to protect their cocoons by appropriating the resources of other nations, but their real responsibility is to mend a lifestyle that requires such protection.

"Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #2445.

War is always a defeat for humanity. Those who cannot see its true nature testify to an inner deadness induced by comfort and privilege. Specifically, it is the spiritual death which Pilate enunciated when he said, "What is truth?"

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

$1.7 Trillion?

"To begin with, $151 billion can pay for health care for 23 million uninsured Americans; or housing stipends for 27 million homeless people in this country; or a year's salary for 3 million new elementary school teachers; or more than 678,000 new fire engines.
The international impact of that kind of money is even more breathtaking. That same $151 billion could feed half the hungry people in the world for two years and provide clean water and sanitation for the entire developing world and fund a comprehensive global AIDS program and pay for childhood immunizations for every child in poor countries that constitute the global South.
The United States instead chose to invade Iraq to depose a tyrant who posed little danger to the United States or to the world." - "The Price of Imperial Folly", Phyllis Bennis, July 15, 2004

"$1.7 trillion to be spent on Iraq in the next decade, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report by the Committee on International Security Studies (CISS)." - "One Thousand and One", William Rivers Pitt, Sept. 8, 2004

"Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation." - Catechism, paragraph #2315

Monday, September 06, 2004

Protecting Civilian Lives

"That civilians are being killed by US troops is not in doubt. In a pool of blood on a hospital operating room floor yesterday, doctors were battling to save the life of six-year-old Ali Hussain - shot in the belly.
"He had gone to buy an ice cream," said his mother, 23, watching the laboured breathing of her unconscious son. "He had just made it back to the front door when soldiers in an American tank started firing. They did not even stop as we tried to carry him inside." - Telegraph, August 12, 2004.

"Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: An attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and
(b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated." - Protocol Additions to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, 51(5)

"The Americans can never win us back now. The Americans are frightened of ordinary Iraqi people, that is why they hate us. We are frightened of them, that is why we hate them. In such a situation we can only see death and more deaths. We are begging the Americans to leave.'" -Telegraph, 12 August 2004.

"Justice will bring about peace;
Right will produce calm and security."
- Isaiah, 32:17

"However, it is one thing to wage a war of self-defense; it is quite another to seek to impose domination on another nation. The possession of war potential does not justify the use of force for political or military objectives." - Gaudium et Spes, 79.

Currently, Iraqis civilians are dying by the hundreds. Please keep them in your prayers.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Human Dignity

The measure of a culture is the extent to which it promotes human dignity. Material success is meaningless, or rather the quantity of goods and services can only be of importance in a civilization where respect for human dignity irradiates all work. Otherwise increasing productivity and technological innovation is not only worthless, but corrupting.

"The authenticity of each human culture, the soundness of its underlying ethos, and hence the validity of its moral bearings, can be measured to an extent by its commitment to the human cause and by its capacity to promote human dignity at every level and in every circumstance." - Message of His Holiness John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2001

Targeting Civilians

"At least 20 people, including children, have been killed and as many wounded after US air strikes on the Iraqi city of Falluja, local police and medical sources say." - Al Jazeera, September 1, 2004

"This principle has an immensely important consequence: an offense against human rights is an offense against the conscience of humanity as such, an offence against humanity itself. The duty of protecting these rights therefore extends beyond the geographical and political borders within which they are violated. Crimes against humanity cannot be considered an internal affair of a nation...In no kind of conflict is it permissible to ignore the right of civilians to safety." - Message of His Holiness John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2000

According to news reports, "Two houses were destroyed late on Wednesday when a US fighter jet fired two missiles at the town's residential district of Jabal, some 65km west of Baghdad...'Most casualties were old men and women and children', al-Dulaimi said.
Saif al-Din Taha of the Falluja general hospital told Aljazeera that all the overnight wounded were ordinary civilian families. Confirming that children are amongst the dead, he said it was difficult to identify the corpses as 'the bodies are torn to pieces'." Air strikes on houses in densely populated neighborhoods cannot avoid killing innocent civilians. According to the Protocol Additions to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, "In the conduct of military operations, constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects. " Protocol I, art. 57(1) In addition, "Those who plan or decide upon an attack shall... Take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects;" Protocol I, art. 57(2)

The good of the human person must take precedence over every other consideration. Both those who use civilians as human shields and those who recklessly disregard the potential loss of human life are to blame. Let us pray for both, but most of all for those women, children, and old people who are paying with their lives and limbs.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Respecting Moslem Devotion

"Akeel said former detainees told him that upon arrival at a U.S.-run facility, they were each given a questionnaire asking them about their religious affiliation as well as their vices. In Akeel's words, the questions included: "Are you Sunni? Are you Shia? Do you drink? Do you not drink? Do you have a girlfriend?" Akeel said he found a consistent pattern among the cases: the stricter the religious observance a detainee reported to his captors, the more severe the treatment he would receive at their hands.

Akeel provided several examples of religious desecration, including stories of men who had purified themselves in an Islamic absolution ritual only to be subsequently doused with beer and alcohol by captors. At one prison, plaintiffs told Akeel, captors hung a picture of a pig on the wall toward which prisoners faced to worship and told them, 'Pray to your pig.'"
- "Iraqi Prison Horrors Pervasive, Says Attorney", The New Standard, August 31, 2004.

Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, 3: "The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting."

As Catholics, our first duty to our Moslem brothers is to strengthen their faith in the one God. We are called to immerse ourselves in prayer, to be always ready to kneel and abandon the world which presses down so hard. On the day of judgement, those who have built up the faith in others will receive their reward.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Torture as Blasphemy

"Citing military documents, eyewitness accounts and news reports, Miles says medical personnel were involved in a range of violations. Acts he condemns include falsification of death certificates, tampering with Iraqi corpses and in one instance, reviving a man brutalized into unconsciousness so that soldiers could resume a torture regime."

"Miles’ article concluded: "Army investigations have looked at a small set of human rights abuses, but have not investigated reports from human rights organizations, nor have they focused on the role of medical personnel or examined detention centers that were not operated by the Army.… Reforms stemming from [a complete] inquiry could yet create a valuable legacy from the ruins of Abu Ghraib. 'Iraqis leaving Abu Ghraib have regularly insisted that torture and mistreatment continue inside the prison walls to this day.' -
"Top Brass to Evade Abu Ghraib Punishment; Medics Involved in Torture", Brian Dominick, The NewStandard, 20 August 2004

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2148: "It is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God's name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1756: "It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Protecting the Image of God

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2273:
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined."

According to Human Rights Watch "The Road to Abu Ghraib", June 2004:
"First, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Bush administration seemingly determined that winning the war on terror required that the United States circumvent international law. Senior administration lawyers in a series of internal memos argued over the objections of career military and State Department counsel that the new war against terrorism rendered “obsolete” long-standing legal restrictions on the treatment and interrogation of detainees."

These policies lead directly to confusion about the legal status of detainees that resulted in the following attitudes among the military charged with their detention:
"In May 2004, a member of the 377th Military Police Company told the New York Times that the labeling of prisoners in Afghanistan as “enemy combatants” not subject to the Geneva Conventions contributed to their abuse. “We were pretty much told that they were nobodies, that they were just enemy combatants,” he said. “I think that giving them the distinction of soldier would have changed our attitudes toward them.”

The United States declared a "category of human beings", namely "enemy combatants", to be without the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them.

From the same Human Rights Watch study:
"Second, the United States began to employ coercive methods designed to “soften up” detainees for interrogation. These methods included holding detainees in painful stress positions, depriving them of sleep and light for prolonged periods, exposing them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, hooding, and depriving them of all clothing. News reports describe a case where U.S. personnel with official approval tortured a detainee held in an “undisclosed location” by submerging him in water until he believed he would drown. These techniques, familiar to victims of torture in many of the world's most repressive dictatorships, are forbidden by prohibitions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment not only by the Geneva Conventions, but by other international instruments to which the U.S. is a party and by the U.S. military’s own long-standing regulations."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #1930: "Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims."

Gaudium et Spes, 27:
"...everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus."

Catholic Teaching on Torture

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2313: "Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out.”

The New York Times reported on Friday 27 August 2004 that "Classsified parts of the report by three Army generals on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison say Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, approved the use in Iraq of some severe interrogation practices intended to be limited to captives held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan. "

The "severe interrogation practices" included the following:

"At Abu Ghraib, isolation conditions sometimes included being kept naked in very hot or very cold, small rooms, and/or completely darkened rooms, clearly in violation of the Geneva Conventions," a classified part of the report said. "

"That task force policy endorsed the use of stress positions during harsh interrogation procedures, the use of dogs, yelling, loud music, light control, isolation and other procedures used previously in Afghanistan and Iraq."

In a related story from the Washington Post for August 24, 2004: "Earlier reports and photographs from the prison have indicated that unmuzzled military police dogs were used to intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib, something the dog handlers have told investigators was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers there. But the new report, according to Pentagon sources, will show that MPs were using their animals to make juveniles -- as young as 15 years old -- urinate on themselves as part of a competition."

The Catechism, paragraph #2297, says: "Torture, which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."

Another passage from the Catechism, paragraph #2298, "In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors."

The root of this teaching is in human dignity. As it was put recently in a speech by a prominent human rights activist, Arundhati Roy, "Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated.” Transcript of full speech by Arundhati Roy in San Francisco, California on August 16th, 2004.

Let us pray for the Iraqi prisoners and for their tormentors. Let us also pray for those whose fear drives them to believe that by torturing our fellow human beings that we can become safer.