"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.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Obama's Secret Priorities

The sad fact that Obama represents no change from the fundamental priorities of the Bush and Clinton administrations is rapidly becoming manifest. A renewed surge for the war in Afghanistan appears to be one of the few campaign promises he intends to keep. This week, his Attorney General explicitly endorsed Bush's policy on renditions and Bush's refusal to recognize the jurisdiction of US courts in any legal proceedings against those who kidnap and torture foreign nationals. His solicitor general has explicitly endorsed Bush’s policy on enemy combatants.

I strongly endorse the proposals of the Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow, but I must ask myself, as a Christian: "Do I not have an obligation to reflect on why such proposals have so little chance of even being considered, much less implemented?" Jesus did not understand his mission in isolation from its social and political context and neither should we.

Let's examine the first of these proposals in this light. "Set a swift timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO military forces, to be substituted by U.N. forces for short-term security." In order for this to be implemented, we must seriously ask, "Why are the troops there?" Obviously, they are not there to protect the Afghan people or promote democracy. The U.S. not only indiscriminately kills Afghan civilians, but it supports the Northern alliance who are the chief violators of human rights in that country. They also support the Karzai government which is so corrupt that his brother is one of primary heroin dealers in the region. I could go on, but students of the war know that other interests are being served than those of the Afghan people.

The troops are there as part of a plan to support Western oil and gas interests in the region. Obama understands the real nature of U.S. power relationships and therefore virtually all of his plans revolve around supporting those interests. I say this not in a self-satisfied or ideological manner, but with deep sadness at this perversion of the Christian conscience.

We need to start with a critique of power relations as Jesus did when he exposed the hidden interests of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He never deceived himself about what their intentions were. Nonviolence does not entail acceptance of the self-serving proclamations made by ruling interests. We should begin by facing the reality of these interests in their full force.

Once the larger context is visible, we can begin to form a realistic strategy to fight the interests that promote the war in Afghanistan. As with Jesus, the fight will not often be spectacular, but it will be effective. Only a movement that directly challenges these underlying interests can take real steps toward the goal of ending war.


Anonymous said...

Boyd - can I link to this on a catholic worker site?

Boyd Collins said...

Please do. I welcome comments and links from Catholic Worker communities. Dorothy Day is one of my primary inspirations.