Just who is ignoring facts?

Just who is ignoring facts? September 24, 2008

Joel Legget over at Southern Appeal accuses me of “talking out my a**” when I insist that John McCain’s enthusiasm for war is incompatible with Catholic teaching:

I Challenge Mr. Iafrate to set out in detail A) what McCain’s views are on war and B) how they are inconsistent with just war theory. I sincerely doubt he can do it. In short, he is talking out of his A$$

Once again we see another example of sloppy (malicious?) thinking. Without any evidence to support his outrageous claims Mr. Iafrate claims that Palin is enthusiastic about war and that McCain’s foreign policy will UNDOUBTEDLY lead to more war. Either Mr. Iafrate has been given the gift of divine sight such that he can claim there is no doubt that McCain will embroil us in another war or, (more likely) he is talking out of his A$$.

Rather than talking “out my a**,” let me talk straight from facts and from Catholic tradition.

This is not only a matter of predicting what McCain might do in the future, but what he has already done. Let us start with the obvious: McCain was one of the main architects and is a continued supporter of the war in Iraq and the War on Terror, wars which McCain was in favor of long before an excuse emerged which would enable them to sell the war to the American people. He was an active participant in the lies necessary to “sell” Iraq. Neither the Iraq War or the War on Terror meet just war criteria, as articulated time and time again by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

But this is no matter of McCain making a “mistake” in supporting the War in Iraq, nor is it a matter of McCain making a “prudential judgment” which contradicts the teaching of the Church, both of which might theoretically be something a Catholic might overlook when deciding whom to vote for. No, the matter is much deeper, and goes to the roots of McCain’s approach to foreign policy as a whole and his vision for what can only be called U.S. empire. McCain worked in cooperation with the Project for a New American Century in the late 1990’s pushing for “regime change” in Iraq, long before 9/11, as one small part of an overall vision of “extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” Readers who are not familiar with the PNAC are encouraged to read up on it. Start with “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century” (PDF) from September 2000. This document and the overall work of the PNAC directly influenced the National Security Strategy of the United States and provided the blueprint for ongoing wars of aggression for global domination that McCain promotes. This is no conspiracy theory: read the PNAC and NSS documents yourself. They outline the real goals behind the War on Terror and Iraq in plain black and white letters. The excuses “Bush botched the war” or “it was based on the faulty evidence we had at the time” do not stand up to these important documents which continue to be ignored by most commentators. As much as he insists that he “hates war” (and as much as foolish, ignorant Catholics believe him), McCain’s very philosophy on foreign policy is driven by a vision of global dominance and war as a means to secure it. His stance on war is absolutely incompatible with Catholic teaching.

In light of these documents which express McCain’s approach to foreign policy, let’s say it straight: Certainly, in Catholic teaching prudential judgments made regarding particular wars are debatable. Often there are no clear answers. But this does not make all possible viewpoints acceptable. Some approaches to war are simply out of bounds for Catholics. “Regime change” is not an acceptable reason to start a war according to Catholic teaching. Global dominance with war as a means to secure it is, for Catholic Christians, unacceptable and unsupportable. Wars started in the interests of U.S. interests and prosperity are demonic. McCain’s views on war directly contradict Catholic just war tradition and bear no relationship to it, save for one of the clearest demonstrations of what precisely an unjust war is. Just war tradition does not include the possibility of the war-centered foreign policy that McCain represents. McCain’s stance regarding Iran shows that he has no plans to change his foreign policy of instrumental and perpetual war.

If anyone is “talking out his a**,” it’s those who, like Joel, want to downplay McCain’s blatant disregard for human life through a clear-as-day war-driven foreign policy whose aim is global dominance. He says he “hates war,” but his record shows something else. Open your eyes and read the documents that show where the man is coming from. This is no misstep in making prudential judgments. It is the very animating spirit of the Culture of Death. War is McCain’s very lifeblood. War is the foundation of his personal history, and it will likely be our future should he be elevated to the White House.


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  • Policraticus

    This is a good argument. I think the burden of proof rests on those who claim that John McCain’s views on war ARE consistent with just war theory. Unless these individuals have become deafened to Catholic doctrine and its applications/interpretations by the previous seven papacies, they cannot make the case. All sentiment, no reason.

  • Bemused

    This is a powerful argument. Michael, I completely understand your opposition to the PNAC and how its existence prior to the War on Terror and 9/11 made the invasion of Iraq the next logical step in the Plan. I also understand how the PNAC does not fit the Just War Theory. It is your opinion that U. S. militaristic action would have taken place in the middle east even if there had been no 9/11?

    I am interested in hearing what you think the U.S. should have done after 9/11. I realize that this is a question not directly related to your post, but still I am interested in hearing your views on what the U.S. SHOULD have done after the attacks on 9/11.

    If you choose not to respond because my question is not relevant to your post, I’ll understand that as well.

  • Knuckle Dragger

    The other day Obama said that Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and that he will not exclude the military option. He also supports abortion rights and even says taxpayer dollars should pay for it. Given these facts, I assume you will not be supporting him either.

  • The other day Obama said that Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and that he will not exclude the military option.

    He’s just trying to appeal to you war-hungry wackos.

    He also supports abortion rights and even says taxpayer dollars should pay for it.

    But just because he talks about it, and just because his record shows it, doesn’t mean he’ll actually govern that way once in office, riiiight?

  • Deleted

    Gerald: Make substantive comments.

  • It is your opinion that U. S. militaristic action would have taken place in the middle east even if there had been no 9/11?

    Yes, eventually. There would have been a 9/11 sooner or later. The PNAC document from 2000 actually looked forward to the “next Pearl Harbor.” These are people who secretly rejoiced when 9/11 happened.

    I am interested in hearing what you think the U.S. should have done after 9/11.

    The united states looks after itself and its own interests and its own position of power in the world. The u.s., if it wanted to maintain all these things, absolutely should have gone to war with whoever it could have after 9/11. In the u.s. mentality, we must never ever appear vulnerable. 9/11 threatened that, and so the u.s. did the predictable, evil thing.

    The better question is what Christians should have done after 9/11. We should have been a people of forgiveness and peace, not a people who take “vengeance” on a country that had little, if anything, to do with it. Christians should have refused to participate in the state’s wars, saying “Christians don’t do that.” But american Christians are far too american for that. Vengeance is in our blood. Just ask John McCain.

  • David Nickol

    McCain was the son and grandson of admirals, went to the U.S. Naval Academy, and flew 23 bombing missions over Vietnam, but he says he didn’t love American until he was a prisoner of war.

    I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.

    It seems to me that most men and women who go into the armed services, and particularly those who sign up to fight our wars, do it for love of country. But McCain’s commitment to the military and actual fighting in a war seem to predate his love of country.

    Certainly George Will’s recent scathing comments on McCain’s temperament should raise questions about his suitability to be commander in chief:

    It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

    If you Google “Senator Hothead,” you can find that’s what McCain as been called for many years. For example, I found him called that in a Business Week article from 1999.

    “Country First” doesn’t strike me as a motto acceptable to Catholics.

  • Darren

    Not that I don’t believe this paragraph, but could you give some citations?This is not only a matter of predicting what McCain might do in the future, but what he has already done. Let us start with the obvious: McCain was one of the main architects and is a continued supporter of the war in Iraq and the War on Terror, wars which McCain was in favor of long before an excuse emerged which would enable them to sell the war to the American people. He was an active participant in the lies necessary to “sell” Iraq. Neither the Iraq War or the War on Terror meet just war criteria, as articulated time and time again by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.Thanks!

  • David-

    I don’t think “Abortion First” is a motto acceptable to Catholics either.*

    *see, e.g., http://www.cnsnews.com/Public/Content/article.aspx?RsrcID=7882

    “Well, the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” Obama said. “That’s the first thing I’d do.” Barack Obama

  • David,

    Y’see, Eddie Fedder’s tactic is to respond to any point made about McCain’s demonic policies by pointing to Obama’s demonic policies. Like clockwork.

  • Darren, the citations are in the following paragraph.

    Unless you need me to cite John Paul II and Benedict/Ratzinger’s opposition to the war and the Catholic traditions on which they base this opposition.

  • Michael:

    Could you please read this from Reason Magazine on Obama’s hawkishness and then lay out this case? How can it be a given that Obama, taking into account what he has said about the acceptability of military intervention for “humanitarian” causes and such, would not also be a president who would lead us into an unjust war?

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/128653.html

    But it will not discredit all war, at least not for Obama. The senator believes in humanitarian intervention so deeply that he’s already blundered by interfering in the affairs of troubled states. Two years ago, on his first senatorial visit to Kenya, his father’s birthplace, Obama delivered a speech at the University of Nairobi that blistered the country’s rulers for corruption. Graft, Obama said, is “a crisis that’s robbing an honest people of opportunities they have fought for.” The speech emboldened the country’s opposition, which nearly won the 2007 elections. When reformers didn’t win and rioting voters cried theft, Obama begged for calm. “Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation,” he said, now is not the time to throw that strong democracy away.”

    There was a lesson in this, but there was no sign that Obama had learned it: If McCain-style neoconservatism can cause blowback, so can wide-ranging liberal interventionism. The two candidates have a rigidity to their worldviews that’s unlike anything we saw from the easily led George W. Bush or the desperate-to-look-tough John Kerry. Obama has taken what he likes from Clinton’s brain trust and welded it to his own vision of intervention. Plenty of likeminded liberals agreed with Obama about the Iraq war—that it was an aberration, an unusually bad war botched by a Republican president. They may not necessarily share his views about the next war.

  • David Nickol

    feddie,

    I wasn’t talking about Obama or urging anyone to vote for him. I was making a point about McCain.

    By the way, I saw Obama being interviewed by Matt Lauer the other day, and Obama listed the first things he would do as president. As I recall, there were five, and there was nothing about the Freedom of Choice Act or abortion among them. I think many of us suspect that in actuality there wouldn’t be much difference between a McCain presidency and an Obama presidency when it came to abortion. But in any case, I was talking about McCain and war, not Obama and abortion.

  • No One Important

    Michael,

    With all sincerity I find your disgust of war to be very admirable, and consistent with the church. However, this post also seems to make some assumptions or well educated guesses as to McCain’s true motives. If all that you claim is true, then I would wholeheartily agree with you, but as for now, unfortunately some seems unproven.

    I do have a sincere question. I am an “Independent”, and recently received a listing (from the local bishop) listing 5 political issues that are ‘non-negotiable’, and not open to pruential judgement (abortion, etc.). Sadly, Obama (and many Democrats, and some Republicans) are off on most of these.

    How then would I justify a vote for Obama?

  • David Nickol

    No One Important,

    Were these the five nonnegotiable issues?

    1. Abortion
    2. Euthanasia
    3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    4. Human Cloning
    5. Homosexual Marriage

    If so, they originated with Karl Keating and Catholic Answers.

  • Darren

    Michael, yeah as soon as i submitted that i actually clicked one, oops.

  • Nate Wildermuth

    The right to life is non-negotiable. McCain’s embrace of “aggressive warfare” is in direct violation of the right to life. This is not a numbers game, where we count how many die in abortion as compared to how many die in war. It is simply a matter of principle – where Obama and McCain both reject the right to life in different situations (Obama – abortion, McCain – ESCR & wars of aggression).

    One’s policy on war is a reflection of their support of all human beings’ right to life – those unborn, those born, those citizens, those foreign.

  • Yes, one of the whole reasons behind the Faithful Citizenship document was in response to the hijacking of the agenda by the Catholic Answers crowd and their five issues. That’s why they explained the theology so thoroughly. As you will see from Faithful Citizenship, the Catholic Answers people ignore some pretty serious non-negotiable issues like torture.

  • Jeremy

    Mr. Obama is staunch supporter of ESCR.

  • Jeremy

    MM,
    This is the first I have heard that FC was a direct response to CA. Do you have any references?

  • JB

    Jeremy, that does not affect the validity or force of Nate’s point

  • Jeremy

    Not the validity, but the scope was a little off. Mr. Wildermuth attributed one example to Mr. Obama, and two examples to Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama is on the record as staunchly supporting both Abortion and ESCR. Mr. McCain is on the record as supporting ESCR. Mr. McCain is not on the record of supporting unjust war, that part is inferred. Some recent hawkish statements from Mr. Obama could lead one to believe that he would also support war in circumstances that did not meet the just war criteria.

    So, yes the point was valid, but the situations in which ‘life was rejected’ was misleading.

  • How can it be a given that Obama, taking into account what he has said about the acceptability of military intervention for “humanitarian” causes and such, would not also be a president who would lead us into an unjust war?

    Nancy, a few thoughts:

    1) I know Obama is no pacifist.

    2) I do know that on the one war that he had a chance to support or oppose, he opposed it, unlike the majority of his party.

    3) Obama speculating about humanitarian intervention in general does not trouble me. This sort of speculation does not openly and without apology oppose Catholic teaching on war. Indeed, although I am a pacifist, I recognize that the Church affirms the possibility that humanitarian intervention might be just. Although Obama is no pacifist, he does not have an unapologetic vision of global dominance through war as McCain does.

    4) Talking about hypothetical wars that “Obama might start” is different than talking about actual wars that McCain has been involved in planning and supporting, and the concrete plans he seems to have with regard to Iran.

    5) Hypothetical wars of humanitarian intervention must be judged in the concrete. They may or may not be “just” according to Church teaching. On the other hand, McCain’s view of war, made concrete in his participation in the PNAC and his involvement in arguing for and supporting the Iraq War, is indefensible according to Catholic teaching. Again, read the PNAC and NSS documents. They articulate a vision of military power that is simply not acceptable, and falls outside the possibility of “just war.”

  • Just as it’s clear that Obama is more pro-abortion than McCain, it is clear that McCain is more pro-war than Obama. I’m only pointing out that in principle, both support direct violations of the right to life.

    The real question isn’t over who to vote for, as neither candidate shares our deepest Catholic principles. The real question is what possible course of political action can we take to realistically move our principles forward into practice. It’s kind of like getting stuck in a rip-tide. We don’t dare swim directly at shore (we’d quickly lose strength and drown), rather, we swim parallel to the shore in the hopes of getting out of the riptide. This election is simply one wave in a great political riptide, caused by currents of death running through our culture. The question isn’t which candidate to support – we ought to support neither. The question is what political action will we take as the Body of Christ to see our principles turned into practice. I suggest thinking about split-ticket possibilities.

  • I am an “Independent”, and recently received a listing (from the local bishop) listing 5 political issues that are ‘non-negotiable’, and not open to pruential judgement (abortion, etc.). Sadly, Obama (and many Democrats, and some Republicans) are off on most of these.

    How then would I justify a vote for Obama?

    It a shame that your bishop gave you the Catholic Answers list rather than referring you to the U.S. bishops’ own Faithful Citizenship document. The latter is authoritative; the former is not. I would encourage you to read the U.S. bishops’ document for a better reflection on what to consider when voting.

    Consider also the way you are using the term “prudential judgment.” Yes, of course abortion is non-negotiable. Catholics must oppose abortion. The pro-choice position is not acceptable. What is open to prudential judgment is the question of particular strategies for ending abortion.

    While war is not “non-negotiable” in the same way as abortion (abortion is always evil, while the Church tells us that in theory war can sometimes be justified), the view of John McCain — support for wars of aggression — is intrinsically evil, and this is indeed non-negotiable. While the Church is not pacifist, not all war is open for debate. Support for the McCain stance on war is outside the realm of possibility for Catholics.

  • The question isn’t which candidate to support – we ought to support neither. The question is what political action will we take as the Body of Christ to see our principles turned into practice.

    Yes.

  • Jeremy: I can’t point to anything in print, and they would not say this directly. But I’ve heard it from people with USCCB connections.

  • Could you also please say which bishop gave you this advice?

  • Jeremy: I can’t point to anything in print, and they would not say this directly. But I’ve heard it from people with USCCB connections.

    It’s also quite obvious that the latest Faithful Citizenship document was revised in light of the multitude of bogus “Catholic voter guides.”

  • Knuckle Dragger

    Archbishop Michael,

    Thank you for correcting one of your fellow bishops who was obviously misleading his flock.

  • Jeremy

    It’s also quite obvious that the latest Faithful Citizenship document was revised in light of the multitude of bogus “Catholic voter guides.”

    ??????

    The FC was revised recently, but I could hardly call it ‘obvious’ that the cause was ‘bogus guides’. It might be for all I know, but it certainly isn’t ‘obvious’.

  • FC is revised every four years. The particular points this latest version makes are obviously in light of the bogus guides.

    In particular see paragraph 8:

    “8. During election years, there may be many handouts and voter guides that are
    produced and distributed. We encourage Catholics to seek those resources that
    are authorized by their own bishops, their state Catholic conferences, and the
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
    This statement is intended to
    reflect and complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teaching of bishops in our
    own dioceses and states. In light of these reflections and those of local bishops,
    we encourage Catholics throughout the United States to be active in the political
    process, particularly in these challenging times.”

    Knuckle Dragger, in light of this section of the latest version of Faithful Citizenship, I repeat my disappointment that the bishop referenced above seems to be distributing an unauthorized voting guide. If such an action causes a Catholic to believe that it is not possible for Catholics to vote for Obama, then indeed this bishop is misleading people.

  • Jeremy

    … disappointment that the bishop referenced above seems to be distributing an unauthorized voting guide.

    Did you really mean to say that?

  • Jeremy – Yes, I mean to say it. It sounds as if this bishop is pushing Catholic Answers or Catholic Answers-style garbage. I don’t know what the commenter above received, but bishops should be pushing their own voter’s guide.

  • S.B.

    I think it’s highly presumptuous (to say the least) for a nobody like Michael Iafrate or MM to start lecturing a bishop on what is and is not an appropriate voting guide. I see yet again the influence of the Protestantized culture.

    [That is a quotation, with minor changes. Original here.]

  • Jeremy

    But a Bishop can push whatever they like. They don’t need to run it by the Pope, the USCCB or me. A bishop is could use the Catholic Answers voters guide, the USCCB voters guide or the Michael J. Iafrate voters guide. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Bishop pushing any voters guide within his own diocese. In fact, I would say it is quite proper for a Bishop to do so.

  • It’s “quite proper” for a bishop to push whatever he wants? Wow. Whatever happened to episcopal communion?

    S.B., I’m not a nobody. I’m a VOX NOVA BLOGGER! (Ha!)

  • little gal

    The claim that McCain is/was a member of the New American Century Project is false.

    Likewise this statement:

    “McCain was one of the main architects…of the war in Iraq and the War on Terror, wars which McCain was in favor of long before an excuse emerged which would enable them to sell the war to the American people. He was an active participant in the lies necessary to “sell” Iraq. “

  • little gal – I didn’t state that McCain was a member. He was a supporter and implementer of the PNAC. He was also president of the New Citizenship Project, which started the PNAC.

    If you could explain why the second statement is false, that would help your argument. As of now, it’s not much of an argument, just a baseless assertion.

  • Thank you, Michael. But I can’t find anything substantial that actually shows that McCain was president of the NCP. It seems that there is a “senate biography” that says that he was, but I can find no record of that. Everything else on the web seems simply to echo that one statement.

    It would be helpful to have more, because this would be pretty big if it is true. But I am suspicious and skeptical, because most of the links that pass around this information also seem to suggest that 9-11 was a conspiracy. So . . .

  • Nate – I’m puzzled about the NCP thing as well, now that I click around a bit. That McCain was the president for a time is repeated around the net, but as you say, most of it copies one or two citations which credit the senate biography as a source. The link they provide, though, is outdated and redirects to his current bio.

    If you plug the cited URL into archive.org, what you get is a press release about McCain endorsing John Walters for some federal drug position:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20030426002255/http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=Newscenter.ViewPressRelease&Content_id=684

    According to that press release, Walters was president of the NCP. When you click from that to the McCain bio, it says nothing of the NCP.

    Not sure if this is a mis-citation, or if something fishy is going on. It seems like such a glaring mistake that it would not show up on many of the credible sites where it appears.

    Interestingly, when I search for “McCain New Citizenship Project” I don’t find anyone disputing that McCain was president of the NCP, which you think would happen if it were not true. I did find one account of a recent McCain appearance where he was blatantly asked about his involvement in the NCP and the PNAC and he dodged the question.

    McCain’s ties to the PNAC are certainly more clear, though, and verifiable. He is very close with many of the members and has explicitly endorsed at least one of their statements:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070811110517/www.newamericancentury.org/russia-20040928.htm

  • There would have been a 9/11 sooner or later. The PNAC document from 2000 actually looked forward to the “next Pearl Harbor.” These are people who secretly rejoiced when 9/11 happened.

    First, here is the actual reference to Pearl Harbor in RAD:

    Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor. Domestic politics and industrial policy will shape the pace and content of transformation as much as the requirements of current missions. A decision to suspend or terminate aircraft carrier production, as recommended by this report and as justified by the clear direction of military technology, will cause great upheaval.

    You can disagree with PNAC’s recommendation to transform the structure of our armed forces to accommodate new situations in a post Cold-war era (ranging from the prospect of conventional warfare as repelling Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to smaller-scale contingencies prior to 9/11, in which the U.S. has played a “constabulary” role — Kosovo, Somalia, etc.), but this observation is a far cry from “rejoicing in 9/11”.

    Secondly, if you want an accurate description of the decision-making process in reaction to 9/11, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would recommend Doug Feith’s War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism”. As an assistant to Rumsfeld, Feith was privy to the exchanges between the Defense and State Dept. and CIA, in which he took copious notes. Feith’s attention to detail makes for tedious reading, but IMHO a beneficial read if you want to evaluate this topic. You may find some of your assumptions about what happened in 2002-2003 challenged.

    Finally, while Ratzinger did venture his judgement on Iraq, he did not explicitly denounce a military response to terrorism — see Cardinal Ratzinger, After the 9/11 Attacks: Interview With Vatican Radio From 2001, two months into the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

  • First, here is the actual reference to Pearl Harbor in RAD . . . this observation is a far cry from “rejoicing in 9/11″.

    I disagree. They used a national tragedy to push through a war of “regime change” that they had been planning for almost a decade, lying in order to tie that war to 9/11. 9/11 was the excuse they were looking for. They continue to invoke the memory of 9/11 for their own political purposes.

    Finally, while Ratzinger did venture his judgement on Iraq, he did not explicitly denounce a military response to terrorism — see Cardinal Ratzinger, After the 9/11 Attacks: Interview With Vatican Radio From 2001, two months into the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    It’s amazing to me the ability you have to read whatever you damn well please into the words of Benedict/Ratzinger.

    All he does in this interview is to admit that countries have the right to defend themselves. Ratzinger has consistently reminded the Church and the world that only defensive wars could ever be considered just, and even then, not all defensive wars are automatically just. The War on Terror has been a war of aggression. It is a war with no clear adversary. Is he open to countries defending themselves against actual attacks? Absolutely. But there is NO WAY that Ratzinger approved/s of the general “War on Terror” because there is no way that it is compatible with just war tradition.

  • I disagree. They used a national tragedy to push through a war of “regime change” that they had been planning for almost a decade, lying in order to tie that war to 9/11. 9/11 was the excuse they were looking for. They continue to invoke the memory of 9/11 for their own political purposes.

    It’s clear that we part ways in our understanding of what actually happened. Of course to you, it’s indisputable that it was a grand neocon conspiracy from the beginning to propagate a war of aggression with the aim of world domination. Unfortunate, that a reading of other (factual) accounts challenges that assumption — but let’s not let the facts get in our way. Don’t see much point in continuing.

    The War on Terror has been a war of aggression.

    I think this is disputable. Obviously you don’t.

    Ratzinger lays out the criteria for military action and concludes that “we cannot totally exclude the need, the moral need, to suitably defend people and values against unjust aggressors.” Given the timing of the interview I don’t think he was speaking purely theoretically.

    I’d agree that the U.S. has fallen short of adhering to the criteria, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that terrorists such as Al Qaeda might be considered “unjust aggressors”. (I expect you’d confine the applicability of the label to the United States?)

  • Unfortunate, that a reading of other (factual) accounts challenges that assumption — but let’s not let the facts get in our way.

    What facts? I wasn’t aware that you mentioned any.

    Given the timing of the interview I don’t think he was speaking purely theoretically.

    Sure, consider the timing of the interview. You might also want to consider the actual question that Ratzinger was asked: Is there any such thing as a “just war”? That’s about as general as you could get.

    I’d agree that the U.S. has fallen short of adhering to the criteria, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that terrorists such as Al Qaeda might be considered “unjust aggressors”.

    Of course. But this admission hardly suggests that Ratzinger, now Benedict, would ever approve of such a think as a general “War on Terror.” The idea is absurd.

  • What facts? I wasn’t aware that you mentioned any.

    I made recommendations as to some resources where you can find them. Sorry, but don’t see much point in a drawn-out debate unless you’ve actually done some homework.

    But this admission hardly suggests that Ratzinger, now Benedict, would ever approve of such a think as a general “War on Terror.”

    Show me a quote in which Ratzinger specifically denounces the U.S. engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Al Qaeda in general.

    As for a general ‘WOT’, I’d concur with you. (Curiously, so would Secretary Rumsfeld).

  • Sorry, but don’t see much point in a drawn-out debate unless you’ve actually done some homework.

    You’re right… just because I didn’t read the book you recommended means I probably have not done “my homework,” dear teacher.

    Show me a quote in which Ratzinger specifically denounces the U.S. engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Al Qaeda in general.

    I didn’t say that Ratzinger opposes military action in Afghanistan. Why shift away from the claims I actually made?

  • Here’s what I think, Michael:

    I concur with concerns about a general “war on terrorism” and its ambiguity and difficulties relative to present just war criteria. When there is a persistent threat of this nature, how do you declare an “end” to such hostilities”? — But that is not to say I think the Church out and out condemns any and all actions in response to terrorism.

    Ratzinger mused that “the Christian tradition on this point has provided answers that must be updated on the basis of new methods of destruction and of new dangers. For example, there may be no way for a population to defend itself from an atomic bomb” — I don’t think you can merely here refer to the use of the atomic bomb in the 1940’s or the potential use by warring states (U.S., Russia, India, Pakistan, perhaps Iran as things continue as they are). I think one might equally refer to our present conditions, in which a nuclear or biological device could actually be wielded by a non-state actor (terrorist) supported in turn by ‘rogue states’ who are not averse to supplying such weapons.

    Or, for that matter, in which the U.S. and Europe finds themselves engaging not a clearly identified military force in uniform but those who conceal themselves AS civilians, who operate in networks of covert cells rather than a fixed army, who are not averse to deliberately targeting civilian populations.

    I think it would do well for the Church to evaluate just war criteria in light of such conditions — unfortunately, while the recommendation has been made by our present Pope and countless others, we have yet to see the Church devote itself to this question in detail.

    And no — I don’t think one can say that either Ratzinger or his predecessor held the conviction that the response to this kind of threat categorically ruled out the use of armed force against terrorists altogether.

    If you read the book I mentioned, you’d actually find that the Defense Dept. was concerned with becoming the “jailor to the world” (Rumsfeld actually reduced the size of GITMO, on account that if it were made according to its initial plan of 2,000 cells there would be pressure to fill those cells); you will find the Defense Dept. was likewise concerned about the over-emphasis on this being an exclusively military venture, given the many fronts of the conflict: financial, diplomatic, law enforcement, information, intelligence, etc.

    Needless to say, the account of the actual deliberations that occurred lead me to conclude that this is something more than a simple “war of aggression” in which our heads used 9/11 as an excuse to wage a war for global domination.

  • So I think we can at least agree that the United States have an obligation to protect its citizens against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. I’m not sure whether you would agree that this may entail some kind of action — military or otherwise — on actual states with a history of aiding by provision of shelter, finances or weaponry such terrorists.

  • So I think we can at least agree that the United States have an obligation to protect its citizens against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

    Of course. Part of that obligation can be met by sincerely looking at the causes of terrorism.

    I’m not sure whether you would agree that this may entail some kind of action — military or otherwise — on actual states with a history of aiding by provision of shelter, finances or weaponry such terrorists.

    Personally, I don’t agree, no, as I’m a pacifist, but I do think the Church would theoretically be open to that possibility in light of an actual terrorist attack that has occurred. That was obviously not the case with Iraq.