Saturday, May 22, 2004

War, the religious right and profit

Pardon me if I'm a bit obsessive about this, but what's going on in this country and with this war is deadly serious business.

Take the melding of ultra-conservative politicos and ultra-con religious types into a fascist*, theocratic oligarchy. [*See the 12 Warning Signs of Fascism.]

That would have sounded absurd to me a few years ago, but not anymore.

The Bush administration used fear for political and economic gain. They created a false fear, we all know now, about Saddam Hussein having an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. They created fear about Iraqi involvement in a future terrorist attack. They built on the reaction to 9/11, not to go after Osama Bin Laden, but to build support for this attack on Iraq.

Diane Knippers of the IRD (see my previous post) helped do her part, writing a position paper that was published at the Episcopal Life site, a conservative online magazine:

Coming to terms with war
Christians appropriately support 'Just War'


IT'S TIME to get combative, if you'll pardon the expression, about pacifism.

Christians have historically responded to the question of war and violence in two ways. One way is the historic Just War tradition. The other option is pacifism...

...Some simplistically ask, "What would Jesus do?" The clear implication is that, since we know of no cases in which Jesus employed violence against persons, we must never do so either.

Meanwhile, in parishes like mine across the country, we pray for our sons and daughters who are off fighting a war. But what are we telling them about their duty as Christian soldiers? Are they second-class believers, engaged in counterproductive acts of evil?

I respect pacifists, even while I consider pacifism wrong... Political power is spurned, not sought as a method of achieving justice. Such pacifists might be able to acknowledge, with the Apostle Paul, the responsibility of governing authorities to wield the sword of justice, while also holding that Christians must not bear the sword. The apparent contradiction is resolved if Christians cannot hold responsibility in government...

The Just War tradition, the view held by the majority of Christendom, was developed to wrestle with the difficult moral issues that war presents. Before the fourth century, few Christians participated in what had been a thoroughly pagan Roman army. But when Christians achieved political power and responsibility, it became necessary to elucidate moral guidelines for the use of force.

Just War requires the correct use of force by a legitimate authority in order to bring justice and peace. War must be a last resort, and for a just cause. In its methods it must discriminate between combatants and innocent civilians. It must have a reasonable chance of success. It must be proportional in response. These principles reflect the cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, courage and temperance.

This is what we should be teaching Episcopalians, whether they are soldiers, sailors, chaplains, policy makers or simply citizens and voters. This is the rich moral resource that ought to be made available during national crisis, not neglected or dismissed as the province of the seminary-trained.

Recently, I've learned that Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, placed his treatment of Just War under the heading of Charity. It is the love of neighbor that compels the Christian soldier to seek to protect that neighbor from the threat of violence and evil. While we may decline violent means to protect our individual selves, if we deny that protection to others we are denying neighborly love. Just wars are inherently defensive, and so reflect our commitment to love and peace. A soldier, then, is one who lovingly risks sacrificing his or her own life to preserve the life of another. And that does sound like something a follower of Jesus would do.

War is something Jesus would do? I don't think so. Notice how Knippers paints pacifists as simpletons. She makes it sound un-Christian to refuse to go to war.

Of course, the justifications she used didn't hold up in this Iraqi war. This war was not a last resort; it brought neither justice nor peace; it's not for a just cause.

But the religious right jumped right on it. It's unpatriotic and ungodly, as Knippers implied, not to support our sons and daughters in uniform. We've heard that argument before.

And you have to look at this, from Baptist Press in September 2002. Knippers and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, join together in Bush pro-war propaganda.

Meanwhile, read this interesting and revealing article from Sept. 2003 for the point of view of a Muslim in America on war and religious bigotry:
Preachers of Bigotry. If the link won't work, try

And what was all this jockeying for war for? I think even Bush's "revenge 'cuz they tried to kill my pappy" was a smokescreen. My father was a career Navy man and a patriot, but one who had seen enough to consider politicians' motives suspect.

"Always look to the money. Who's going to profit?" he would ask.

From a Wall Street Journal article this week:

The Pentagon has suspended nearly $160 million in payments to Halliburton Co. (HAL) as part of a lingering dispute over 10 massive bills to feed U.S. troops and other personnel in Iraq.

The suspension, which a Pentagon official said was necessary "to protect the Army's financial interests," could disrupt the provisioning of troops in Iraq if Halliburton withholds payment to the many subcontractors who cook and serve more than 300,000 meals a day.

Some Defense officials suggested that the financial cost to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root could grow substantially as the two sides feud over the proper charge for feeding U.S. personnel. KBR has billed the U.S. nearly $800 million for food charges going back to late 2002 at more than 50 dining facilities in Iraq and Kuwait.

Kellogg Brown & Root has a 10-year, multibillion dollar contract to provide support services. I would like to know how much we are paying them per meal.

I would like to see a breakdown of how much we are paying all the civilian contractors in this Iraqi war -- just how much we are paying to Halliburton and other companies whose executives and owners are friends of our president and vice president.

Just war, my a@@. This is all about George W. and the religious right trying to gain and consolidate power, and about profiteering.

The good news is that most people are horrified about what's happening in Iraq -- at the arrogance and moral decay in our leadership that's caused this situation, that is responsible for those horrible photographs of atrocities in Abu Ghraib. Hence, the memos about the Geneva Convention not applying -- an attempt to have a defense in place in advance in case the need arose. Guess what -- the sordid truth did come out. Hence, the president's dropping poll ratings.

We can't have the arrogance of the Crusaders who went into a Jerusalem where Christian, Jew and Muslim were living in harmony, went on a murderous rampage, then instituted a reign of tyranny. We should be able to learn SOMETHING from history instead of having "interrogators" force prisoners to renounce their beliefs.

What, exactly, is Christian about any of this? Jesus never advocated physical or mental harm to anyone. Even those who rejected him were allowed to walk away, like the rich young man.

Jesus would never have advocated a preemptive war. Even when we've fought wars that actually were just, in self-defense, I know Jesus was weeping.

We should learn that politics and religion make dangerous bedfellows.

This has to be stopped. While we have our freedoms (mostly, so far) to do it.

Rant over. For now.


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