Pedophilia in the Church & U.S. Military = the Same Syndrome: Young People Should Abandon the Army Just as They’ve Abandoned the Church

vignette-bacha-bazi

Sex scandal and pedophilia were in the news again last week. And this time it deeply involved more than the Catholic Church, Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.  No, it struck even closer to home than that for all Americans regardless of their religious affiliation. It involved an institution even more revered than Rome, Hollywood, or any Christian denomination.  I’m talking about the U.S. Military.

Yes, we all know about Pope Francis’ faux pas last week when he appeared to embody the ecclesiastical “old boys” syndrome by defending Juan Barros, a Chilean bishop who apparently had shielded a notorious pedophile priest from legal prosecution. The pope’s snippy defense of his prelatic friend, smacked of the cover-ups of child abuse that have come to light in the church over the last 30 years. According to the syndrome, Catholic bishops throughout the world have moved pedophilic priests from one parish to another, where the sociopaths typically continued preying on unsuspecting altar boys and confessional penitents.

Such procedure and its accompanying hypocrisy are prominent among the reasons young people and others have abandoned the church altogether.

A similar procedure involving the U.S. military should persuade young people to despise and reject military service.

I’m referring to an article published in the New York Times last week about a pedophilic practice in the Afghan military known as “bacha bazi” or boy play. It involves the widespread abuse and rape of underage boys by U.S.-trained Afghan Army personnel.

And how does this involve the U.S. military? Its leaders have adopted virtually the same policy that Catholic prelates have used over the years. They’ve turned a blind eye to the scandal and in doing so have allowed it to continue.

You see, there’s such a thing as the Leahy Law on the books. It legislates that when a recipient of U.S. aid commits gross human rights abuses, all aid to the offender must be cut off. Yet, to block application of Leahy, the U.S. and its military arm have invoked another law. It states that in the specific case of the Afghan War, no other U.S. laws apply.

Is that cynical enough for you? Does it remind you of the practice that has brought such opprobrium on the Catholic Church?  Imagine the corruption of two supposedly highly moral organizations (the Catholic Church and the U.S. military) that go out of their ways to protect pedophiles and prevent enforcement of laws that would penalize child abuse! Yet, that is exactly what two of our most trusted institutions have allowed to happen.

Add this black eye for the military to the “Me Too” scandal of sexual abuse of women enlistees in various service branches, and you end up with an outfit whose sexual corruption absolutely dwarfs that of the Catholic Church. Fully 40% of female military personnel claim they have been sexually assaulted by their peers. Eighty percent say they have been sexually harassed. If military women must endure such abuse at the hands of their colleagues, can you imagine how the abusers treat “enemy” women?

It’s time to face the facts. The U.S. military is at least as sexually corrupt as the Catholic Church. It’s time for our decent young people to vote with their feet just as they have with the church.

None of them with any shred of conscience should enlist.

What “Terrorists” Think while Being Tortured (Sunday Homily)

Terrorist

Readings for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: 2 MC 7: 1-12, 9-14; PS 17:1, 5-6, 3, 15; 2 THES 2:11-3:5; LK 20: 27-38. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111013.cfm

One of the wonderful aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition is how so much of it reflects the consciousness of the poor and oppressed, while at the same time giving expression to a “preferential option for the poor.” That’s a gift for us in a culture that generally despises poor people, oppresses the world’s impoverished majority, and spins the news in ways that ignore the poor and reflect a decided “preferential option for the rich.”

This morning’s first reading is especially valuable for us who live in under the torture regime of American Empire. It actually invites us inside the heads of tortured “terrorists.” It raises the question, who are the real terrorists – the forces of empire or those who resist them? In doing so, the reading from Second Maccabees sheds light on the contemporary debate about torture in service of empire. It also highlights parallels between the mentalities of “terrorists” then and now. The reading calls us to question our support for the entire War on Terror.

For starters, consider torture itself. Our culture actually debates torture’s use, its effectiveness and morality! It does!

Previously, that would have been unthinkable. Torture used to be considered one of those intrinsic evils about which there simply could be no debate.

However, ever since Abu Ghraib gave the lie to George W. Bush’s famous prevarication, “The United States doesn’t do torture” – ever since our government’s redefinition of the word to exclude even waterboarding – it has become apparent that Bush (and so many others of our “thought-leaders”) was lying. So today, many prominent “court intellectuals” have been pushed to actually defend torture’s permissibility.

But what do tortured terrorists actually think about having limbs removed and tongues cut out? Read today’s selection about the Maccabee brothers and find out.

The Maccabees were members of a heroic family of guerrilla fighters who in the mid- 2nd century BCE terrorized the invading Greek forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (Actually, “Maccabee” wasn’t the family’s name; it was more a nom de guerre for an entire resistance movement. The word meant “Hammer” – the Hammer Gang – so-called because of its delight in pounding to mincemeat the invaders of their beloved homeland. The term “Maccabee” was similar to “al Qaeda,” when it simply meant “the list” – a reference to the Rolodex of assets the CIA used when it employed al Qaeda back when they were “freedom fighters” against the Russians in Afghanistan.)

For his part, the Seleucid king, Antiochus, was anti-Semitic. He considered the Jews historically and culturally backward. For him and his empire’s advancement, Jews had to be brought into the 2nd century BCE even if it meant their kicking and screaming the whole way.

Today we might understand Antiochus’ project as “modernizing” the Jews – as Hellenizing them for purposes of imperial control. Evidently the Seleucid king subscribed to the position that if empire can persuade conquered peoples to adopt its patterns of thinking and especially of imagining God, the task of imperial administrators is made that much easier.

Many Jews agreed with the program of Antiochus. After all, the Greeks’ empire seemed invincible. If the empire couldn’t be beat, it was better to join it willingly. So these “Hellenized Jews” stopped circumcising their sons, and changed their diets even to include eating pork. They became more Greek than the Greeks.

They also became the targets of Maccabee “terrorist” attacks. In today’s terms, such Hellenized Jews would be the targets blown up by Maccabee suicide bombers in marketplaces located in Jewish but Greek-loving neighborhoods. (Even if the Maccabee targeting may have been more selective than that, it is certain that Hellenized Jews were as much the objects of Maccabee terror as were the Seleucid forces themselves.)

In countering such extremism, Antiochus IV proscribed the Jewish religion as itself criminal and illegitimate. This was very similar to the way many “Americans” consider Islam. So Greek troops burnt and otherwise desecrated copies of the Torah in much the same way as our “Christian” troops are frequently caught burning or urinating on the Holy Koran and on corpses of Muslim resistance fighters.

Though the Greeks considered the Maccabean forces to be terrorist, faithful Jews admired them as national heroes and servants of God. They understood that the Maccabees were fighting a Holy War against the much more powerful Seleucids. It was David against Goliath all over again.

In any case, according to today’s selection from Second Maccabees, seven brothers of the gang’s leadership were finally arrested (along with their mother) by the Greek invaders. (This would have been reported to Greeks “back home” as a great triumph – “Senior Leaders” captured making “our troops” and “our world” much safer.)

Then the torture and the screaming start.

To begin with all eight are beaten with whips and instruments designed to tear open their flesh. Then following standard operating procedures still practiced today, other enhanced interrogation techniques were used to torture the brothers one after the other in the presence of their blood-drenched mother, herself near death. The purpose here, of course, was to induce the woman to divulge names, places, and plans that she was privy to as the wife of the one who started the Jewish resistance to the Seleucids.

But what does she do? And what about her sons?

In a word, they are all – mother as well as her sons – completely defiant.

“What do you expect to achieve by questioning us” one of the brothers shouts? “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

Even at the point of death he spits out the words: “You accursed fiend” (I wonder what expletive he really used!), “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”

Another of the brothers sees that his torturers are actually enjoying their work. (The text refers to cutting out his tongue and amputating his hands as “cruel sport.” Does that remind you of Abu Ghraib?) So he sticks out his tongue and stretches out his hands inviting them to do their work. “It was from Heaven that I received these,” he says. “I’d rather lose them than offend Yahweh” (read Allah).

“Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s courage,” the text says. Far from being intimidated, the freedom-fighter “regarded his suffering as nothing.”

Just before dying, another of the tortured brothers undergoing the very same cruelties says: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” As indicated by those words, conviction of a happy eternity moved these guerrilla fighters to embrace death willingly. (Seventy-two virgins, anyone?)

So what goes on in the heads of the tortured? Disdain for their torturers. Defiance. Show of courage. Love for the motherland. Hope.

And what goes on for the people they die for? Admiration. Elevation of martyrs and the tortured to sainthood. Motivation to follow their example.

And ultimately victory for the tortured and assassinated. . . . I mean, against all odds, the Jewish resistance – the Hammer Terrorists – did succeed in evicting the Greeks from their homeland.

As I was saying, this reading should cause us to reevaluate our attitude towards terrorism, terrorists, and the scandal of debating the pros and cons of torture.

STOP THE WARS:Thoughts on Afghanistan

Lately I’ve been reading Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold Story of U.S. History. It’s a terrific read.  In fact, I gave hardback copies to all the members of my family for Christmas. The book’s final chapter on the Obama administration devotes lots of space to Afghanistan. In brief, here’s what it says:

There is no way the U.S. can “win” in Afghanistan. In fact, no one knows what “winning” might mean. That’s because the exact purpose of continued presence in Afghanistan is unclear. Originally, it was to dislodge the al Qaeda brain trust and fighters from the country. Now, we’re told, fewer than 100 such “terrorists” remain there. Most al Qaedans are now based in Pakistan. So the mission has morphed into preventing the Taliban from regaining control of the country. Most likely, the real reason for hostilities is Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources which are of supreme interest to multinational mining corporations.

In any case, the U.S. continues its military operations that impoverish not only the Afghan people, but our own country.  In other words, the United States is pouring vast sums of money down a rat hole – money that could be better used to address problems at home. It’s amazing that Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for austerity measures here while wasting trillions (!) there on a hopeless cause. If they truly want to balance the budget, STOP THE WARS!

For its part, the Karzai government is hopelessly corrupt. The would-be president was “elected” by a massively fraudulent process recognized as such by practically all observers. Graft constitutes the very purpose of seeking office in Afghanistan. Bribery is a way of life. Banking scandals involving Karzai’s relatives have rocked the country and enriched his family.  At one point, Karzai even threatened to join the Taliban.

Meanwhile, President Obama has lacked the courage and integrity to own his position as Commander in Chief and stop the war. Virtually everyone outside his hawkish Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and McChrystal has advised him to do so. Yet Obama’s obsequiously deferred to the military brass at every turn, and has doubled down on a losing cause with troop surges and waffling on withdrawal deadlines.

All of this reveals the genius and success of Osama bin Laden’s strategy to repay the United States for its crimes against the Muslim world. The day after 9/11 bin Laden enumerated those transgressions quite clearly. They had nothing to do with “hating our freedom.” Instead he pointed to more than eight decades of the West’s exploiting the political economy of the former Ottoman Empire, to unqualified U.S. support of Israel in its oppression of the Palestinians, and to its desecration of Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina by stationing foreign troops there following the First Gulf War.

Bin Laden wreaked his havoc in New York and in Washington’s Pentagon for a reported cost of $50,000. That’s what preparation and implementation cost to hijack those airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In response, the United States has fought two illegal wars at the cost of more than $4 trillion, bankrupting itself in the process. It has disgraced itself by violating international law in its refusal to prosecute the war criminals responsible for such atrocities.

The U.S. has also shredded its own Constitution by suspending habeas corpus, routinely violating the 4th Amendment’s protections against unlawful search and seizure, and claiming the right to execute even its own citizens without trial. Additionally, the United States has also lost any claim to its alleged “exceptionalism” by its practices of torture and rendition and by routinely employing brutal death squads in Iraq and Afghanistan and their remotely controlled counterparts in its programs of drone assassinations in at least five countries. In the meantime, bin Laden’s strategy has American soldiers killing themselves more efficiently than their al-Qaeda enemies.

In other words, on an investment of $50,000 bin Laden has brought the U.S. economy to its knees, undermined its self-confidence, defeated the U.S. military, and has ruined the reputation of a country once widely admired throughout the world. And the bleeding continues; the returns are still coming in. So much for the protection of “defense” budgets currently shelling out more than a billion dollars each day!

What to do about such suicidal madness? It’s as simple as one, two three: (1) STOP THE WARS.  (2) Reinvest in U.S. infrastructure and job programs the millions wasted each day fighting Afghanistan’s heroic people who polls show want the U.S. out of their country. (What we call “terrorists” are defending their own borders from foreign invaders and brutal occupiers. They are the very people our government organized and funded as “freedom fighters” when they were terrorizing the Russians with the same tactics now being used against U.S. troops.) (3) Reconfigure U.S. military policy, cutting the Pentagon’s budget by at least 50% so that its purpose becomes defending our borders rather than the interests of multinational corporations which couldn’t care less about the United States or its people.