"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, 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.