Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Come now, let us set things right" (Isa. 1:18a)

These days I try to avoid being overly political. I have not eschewed weighing in on political matters altogether, however. After all, while the Gospel is not an ideology, despite the best efforts of many on both the right and left to reduce it to one, it does have implications in and for the world. One of the issues that should bring people from opposite sides of the spectrum together is the cause of peace. There are many issues that arise from waging war: the killing of innocent civilians, whom we write-off as "collateral damage," the displacement of persons, turning everyone, including families with small children, into refugees, the mental, emotional, and spiritual damage done to our own soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, etc.

Then, especially as it pertains to Iraq, Libya, and now Syria, there seems to be little care taken to apply jus ad bellum principles (i.e., what justifies military, that is, violent action- war is nothing other than organized violence), such as taking seriously that the ultimate goal of a just war is not only to re-establish peace, but, more precisely, to insure that the peace established after the war is preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought. I did not mention Afghanistan because I think it falls into a different category, though not without some criticism. This simple principle speaks volumes to our short-sightedness, especially in light of the human cost. We're coming perilously close to the Orwellian maxim from 1984, "War is peace." As Sen. Rand Paul asked during his recent filibuster with regard to the War on Terror: "Is perpetual war OK with everybody?" After having written all that I can still state that I am not a pacifist! Nonetheless, at least in the period after the Second World War, I believe non-violence has accomplished more good for humanity, more lasting, positive change, than violence.

It seems to me that the "War on Terror" is boundless by design, like the threats of communism in Latin America during the Cold War, which were used to justify many things in places like Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chilé. This brings me at last to the matter I want to weigh in on, yet another consequence of war, how to treat prisoners, especially prisoners taken in this ill-defined war on terror and the legal complexities involved. I am writing to add my voice to those who think it's time, or past time, to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Dr. Susan Windely-Daoust (a.k.a. The Ironic Catholic- her post links you to how you can make your voice heard) has organized a "Close Gitmo Blog-in" among Catholic bloggers.

Like "collateral damage," "detention facility" sounds far too clean. Most people are unaware that some of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo, the exact number is not known, are on a hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions there. You likely do not know this because in the U.S. we have a failed fourth estate, one that's more worried about discussing things like Scarlett Johansson's "leaked" nude pictures than issues that really matter (financial regulation reform anyone?). Their stated reason for striking is the alleged descration of the Qu'ran (see my post Burning the Qu'ran is not the way a Christian acts). It's difficult to verify anything, but apparently some of the striking prisoners are now being force fed, which shows how serious they are. As we know from their trials, or other legal proceedings, a number those detained over the years at Guantánamo, who were held sometimes for years, were found innocent . It was only in September last year that Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was repatriated to Canada after being held at Gitmo for eight years. Though we tend to forget, several years ago our closest ally, the United Kingdom, due to their concerns about conditions at Gitmo and the problematic pace and quality of justice, insisted that all of their citizens being held at Gitmo be repatriated and dealt with there. Undoubtedly some of those detained were engaged in combat and some in terrorist activities. But justice and humane treatment are not meted out on a sliding scale, even on the basis of presumed guilt or innocence.

As a Christian I cannot countenance the inhumane treatment of any human being, this includes being opposed to "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a.k.a. torture). Ends do not justify means; we may never do evil that good may come of it. As we approach Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum, especially Good Friday, the day we venerate the Cross of Jesus Christ as the Tree of Life, let's be reminded of the words of Jesus: "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). Violence begets violence. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to break the cycle of violence, of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. In a fallen world, this is a provocation. In 2008 Pres. Obama promised to close "Gitmo." The Atlantic Monthly's Wire blog has a post, "Obama's Failed Promise to Close Gitmo: A Timeline" that tells you all you need to know about how this is going.

In explaining the rationale behind his choosing of the papal name Francis, the Holy Father, speaking to the news media for the first time said, "Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace." Let's not forget St. Francis of Assisi's journey to Egypt and Palestine. He undertook it during the Crusades with the intention of converting the Sultan Kameel and bringing fighting to an end. In the wake of 9/11 Ann Coulter proposed something different: "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." I'll leave you to judge which is the better of these two approaches in light of the Gospel.

During Lent we hear from the prophets. So let's pay heed to the Prophet Isaiah, through whom the Lord said, "Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged" (1:16-17b).

In addition to the IC's post, Thinking About Hunger Strikes (a Close Gitmo Blog-in post),
please check out:
Frank Weathers
Mark Shea
Erin Manning
Sherry Antonetti and
Thomas MacDonald

1 comment:

  1. This is excellent, Scott (the reflection, not the reality it addresses, of course). Many thanks.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...