Sunday, March 16, 2014


The site of a suicide bombing at a checkpoint in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla 4-9-14, at least 45 killed--photo from Agence France-Presse

As we in America arrive at the 11th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq March 19th, it is urgent that we enter a collective examination of conscience, and face the truth.   It was not a just war.  We are not a just war nation, and U.S. Catholics are not a just war church. 

ccording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church all conditions for a just war must be met [Sec. 2309], for a war not to be sinful, murderous.   In the case of Iraq, few of them were met.   Pope Benedict XVI when still Cardinal Ratzinger said shortly after the war’s onset on May 2, “The Holy Father's [Pope John Paul II] judgment [against the war] is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq.”  Both he and Pope John Paul II were completely opposed to the war before it began.  Our U.S. Bishops strongly advised against the war.  But nobody told us directly not to go, so we went.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, for all of us, whether we marched off to war, or were stay-at-home taxpayers for the war.   Millions of Iraqis died or were displaced.  Thousands of U.S. soldiers died or returned disabled.

Most all of us knew in our hearts that this war was to be fought preemptively, not because we were under attack, or even threatened by a nuclear weapon yet to be built, but for wrong reasons, whether to grab oil fields or to get back and finish off Saddam and his army.   It failed most horribly to meet the condition of proportionality.   What little good could come from the massive evil to be done.  It was “shock and awe” from the start.   Most awful for Iraqi civilians.   Violence, bombs, weapons are still now their daily bread.  Divisions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christian minorities, all factions, have never been more lethally severe.  Almost every day one can read another story of explosive violence, innocents killed in Iraq.   And now in a backhanded way, the Sunnis we defeated in Iraq, have been recruited to battle the Shiite ruler of Syria.   More endless, needless bloodshed.
A sin unconfessed repeats itself again and again.  In the United States we continue to fund the biggest war machine in the history of the world, constantly finding and justifying new fighting purposes for it.   This Lent is a good time for each of us to look deeply into our consciences, to confess that this war was wrong, to do prayerful penance, a leaven for peace in our church communities.  Then move on to amend our personal complicity [perhaps paying less federal war taxes directing money instead to further the welfare of all peoples, or and war related jobs--creating new work opportunities for self and others]; finally to firmly petition our leaders leaving the military to convert, from war fighting to peacemaking.

he truth is uncomfortable, but Jesus has promised it will set us free.   We must unchain ourselves from our war economy—our biggest manufactured export.  As Cardinal Ratzinger ended his comments on the Iraq war on May 2, 2003 during the first days of our Iraq War, so must we fully address the question, “…, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’"

One way for U.S. believers of all denominations to lead in this public change of heart would be to request from our national government that March 19th be designated “Unjust War Remembrance Day”—with a call to support national nonviolent service.   This measure of truth-based humility would be real “exceptionalism” among nations, admitting past weaknesses, to re-dedicate to a strength of unparalleled openness—one nation under the merciful God of all peoples.

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?  Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?  You desire and do not have; so you kill.  And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.   James 4:1,2
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.   James 3:17,18

References for the up-to-date bad fruits, and covetousness, of Iraq War ---
"Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year. Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq."

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

St. Patrick banishes the snakes of violence from Ireland--still much more to do worldwide.
What will it be, shamrocks or shillelaghs?

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