Saturday, March 29, 2003

How much of a pacifist is the Pope?

  • Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn addresses characterizations of the Holy Father as a pacifist in a recent editorial (War No More?: How much of a pacifist is the pope?), and questions whether the Vatican's current opposition to the war in Iraq reflects "not simply a disagreement over Iraq but a strain in John Paul's thinking that sits uncomfortably with 1,500 years of Catholic teaching on the legitimate use to force".

    Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, has stated that the classic just-war teaching of the Church may be headed the way of the death penalty, namely, that nations have recourse to alternatives to war that "make it all but impossible to justify in practice." Such revisions to just-war doctrine, says McGurn, provokes further questions: "Namely, how President Bush can be held in breach of moral criteria that (a) are in the process of being radically revised and (b) really can't be met anyhow."

    Archbishop Martino characterized the American response to Iraq as replying with "bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years." The Vatican role, by contrast, would be to play the "the Good Samaritan who kneels to tend the wounds of an injured, weak nation."

    Which begs a question: If the biblical Good Samaritan had arrived on the scene a little earlier and stumbled on the robbers instead of their victim, what would have been his obligation?

  • Weekly news analysis from focuses on the issue of civilian casualties and moral principles, noting what has been readily apparent from the beginning: the sharp and increasing contrast between the efforts of the United States to minimize civilian casualties and the deplorable actions of Iraqi troops (using women & children as human shields, locating military sites next to (or in) schools & hospitals, etc.).

    Also demonstrating Iraqi's notable lack of concern for civilian welfare are reports of Iraqi militia firing on fleeing civilians or those which imply a potential use of chemical weapons by Iraqi troops (which is sure to have an inevitable damage on civilian bystanders).

  • "How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world?" -- Thanks to Bill Cork for linking to the detailed testimony of Assyrian Christian minister Ken Joseph, Jr. -- the "human shield" who changed his mind whom I referred to in an earlier post.

  • Finally, in what demonstrates the necessity of reading multiple sources of information on this conflict, a recent CNN story on alleged resurgence of Iraqi nationalism seems to be challenged by the following report from Essam Al-Ghalib, war correspondent for
    When we finally made it to Safwan, Iraq, what we saw was utter chaos. Iraqi men, women and children were playing it up for the TV cameras, chanting: “With our blood, with our souls, we will die for you Saddam.”

    I took a young Iraqi man, 19, away from the cameras and asked him why they were all chanting that particular slogan, especially when humanitarian aid trucks marked with the insignia of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society, were distributing some much-needed food.

    His answer shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

    He said: “There are people from Baath here reporting everything that goes on. There are cameras here recording our faces. If the Americans were to withdraw and everything were to return to the way it was before, we want to make sure that we survive the massacre that would follow as Baath go house to house killing anyone who voiced opposition to Saddam. In public, we always pledge our allegiance to Saddam, but in our hearts we feel something else.”

    Different versions of that very quote, but with a common theme, I would come to hear several times over the next three days I spent in Iraq. The people of Iraq are terrified of Saddam Hussein.

    -- "Terrified of Saddam Hussein"
    Sunday, March 30, 2003.

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