(Instead of a Sunday Homily) War Mongering at the New York Times: There’s always a “Why”

Urinating soldiers

Today The New York Times published an inflammatory editorial called “The Fundamental Horror of ISIS.” The evident but unstated purpose of the piece was to strengthen support for the latest waste of our tax-payer dollars on the most recent phase of the so-called “war on terror.” Like its predecessors, that phase has nothing to do with protecting our “homeland.” Rather as Dennis Kucinich has observed, it’s yet another phase of the (by-now) 25 year long war against the impoverished masses who have the misfortune of finding their homes floating on top of a vast sea of oil controlled by foreign outsiders.

To help the White House justify its consequent greed-based aggression, the NYT editorial trotted out the well-worn thesis that ISIS represents unmitigated, irrational evil entirely foreign to the sensitive minds of its gentle readers. So it rehearsed “the beheadings, crucifixions, tortures, rapes and slaughter of captives, children, women, Christians, Shiites.”

This, of course, represents a highly familiar litany relative to our state’s designated enemies. The “presstitutes” made similar allegations against “the Russians” during the Cold War as well as the Chinese Communists. It was also the case with the Sandinistas, the PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Similarly, Manual Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Muammar Kaddafi, and (until recently) Bashar al-Assad all represented unmitigated evil. Now it’s the turn of ISIS and (as of last Tuesday) Khorasan.

In all of these cases the designated enemies in question have represented pure evil without any legitimate grievance other than sadism that strangely and inexplicably has (according to the Times in the case of ISIS) “attracted hundreds of willing followers — yes, also from Europe and America.”

Times editors put it succinctly in today’s rant: “Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators. . . as Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, wrote in a recent piece about ISIS, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.”

To repeat, this level of evil is entirely foreign to the civilized westerners.

Really?

Try explaining that to the victims of the 25 year war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They remember:

• The million and a half civilian deaths in Iraq caused by the U.S.’s naked “war of aggression” against that country – the “supreme international crime” in the eyes of the United Nations.
• YouTube films of U.S. military personnel urinating on the bodies of dead Iraqi patriots defending their “homeland” from barbarous Marines, Special Forces, and Navy Seals.
• Abu Ghraib and its broadly smiling heroes (from next door) sexually assaulting their victims and proudly posing with thumbs up over bodies of those they’ve just tortured to death.
• President Bush and Dick Cheney not only ordering the war crimes of water-boarding and other acts of torture, but joking about it.
• Fallujah and the use of illegal white phosphorous.
• Haditha and the heartlessness of U.S. soldiers systematically slaughtering entire families there.
• The frequent reports of wedding parties and funerals routinely devastated by drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, and who knows where else?
• Chelsea Manning’s release of the film “Collateral Murder,” where U.S. “pilots” joke about “wasting” international journalists and the civilians who came to their aid.
• U.S. insistence on using cluster bombs whose known effect is to blow arms and heads off children attracted to explosives disguised as toys.
• Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s justification of the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, which she admitted killed 500,000 Iraqi children. “Yes, Leslie,” Ms. Albright said to interviewer Leslie Stahl, “we think it was worth it.”
• U.S. supply of arms enabling Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” which wantonly slaughtered more than 2500 Palestinians in direct attacks on civilians and the infrastructure of Gaza.
• U.S. stated intent to adopt similar policy of “relaxed rules” around tolerance of civilian deaths in its latest attacks on Iraq and now Syria.

All of that would easily inspire Al-Jazeera editors to write:

“Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators. . . as one of our reporters wrote in a recent piece about the United States, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.”

But of course, there’s always a “why.”

The difference is that the “why” in the U.S. heart of darkness is greed for oil and the protection of an oil economy that will predictably destroy our planet.

Meanwhile the unexamined “why” of ISIS and the thousands attracted to its cause is intimately connected with response in kind to the Original Aggression of colonialism’s systematic rape of the Middle East. ISIS is responding in kind to U.S. crimes. It’s all blowback.

And the gentle editors of the New York Times (speaking for their employers in the military-industrial complex) can’t stand what they see when they look into the mirror.

(Sunday Homily) U.S. Doublespeak Is More Threatening to the World than ISIS or Khorasan

uncle-sams-lies

Readings for 26th Sunday in ordinary time: EZ 18:25-28; PS 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; PHIL 2: 1-11; MT 21: 28-32 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092414.cfm

If I were you, I’d be careful about air travel. That’s because, as the President reminded us last week, the enemies we’ve so fiercely created over the last 13 years are plotting to blow U.S. commercial aircraft out of the skies. So one of these days Khorasan’s heat-seeking missiles will find the rear end of your plane, and that will be the end of you.

And, when you think about it, those firing the rockets will be justified in doing so. That is, if we allow them to apply the insane logic behind Mr. Obama’s latest justification for bombing his seventh Muslim country in six years.

In doing so the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said last week, “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

Wait a minute!

Our “leader’s” logic (if we universalize his pronouncement) has just endorsed an endless cycle of violence that should be completely unacceptable to any human being — not to say any Christian. His words mean that anyone who plots against another country trying to do their citizens harm can claim no safe haven. They will be subject to reprisal.

Tell that to drone victims and to Syrians who lost their children in last week’s bombings – or to similar casualties at weddings and funerals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The President’s doublespeak logic allows them to say, “Once again it must be clear to the Americans plotting against us and trying to do our citizens harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for such terrorists who threaten our people. There will be reprisals.”

That means that the militants in the countries just mentioned can legitimately respond to the terrorism of drone and outright bombing attacks with similar assaults on American citizens in our own “homeland.”

So as I say, hold your breath on your next airline trip to Miami or New York. The blowback is coming – and the blowback to that blowback too.

Such are the realities of Eternal War.

It’s that sort of damned logic (I’m choosing my words) that is addressed in today’s liturgy of the word. It’s not at all comforting.

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel sets the tone. It underlines what Easterners call the Law of Karma. Ezekiel says that people die because of their wicked deeds. He says, “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” That’s karma. It’s an inescapable law of the universe.

St. Paul put it this way, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (GAL 6:7-9). Relative to war, Jesus was even more pointed. He said all those who live by the sword will die by that same instrument (MT 26:52). It’s all karma.

As citizens of a nation that lives by the sword more than any other in world history, what then are we to do? Here, once again, today’s readings supply an answer. We must abandon the destructive path we’re on. That’s what Ezekiel says. Speaking of the potential recipient of negative karma, Ezekiel promises, “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” That too is karma.

In other words, to avoid the negative consequences of our actions, we must change course radically. More specifically today’s gospel selection addresses that imperative to political leaders. It calls them to make their actions correspond to their words.

Yes, today’s gospel is addressed to leaders like our president and congresspersons. There Jesus addresses those in power and tells the local rulers of his day (“the chief priests and elders”) a parable about lip service and the required change of direction. (Remember, in Jesus’ context there was no sharp distinction between religious and civil government.)

“A man had two sons,” the Great Teacher tells these government officials. “He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,‘ but did not go. Which of the two,” Jesus asks, “did his father’s will?”

The chief priests and elders answer,”The first.”

Jesus said to them,”Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

I’m sure you see that Jesus’ parable is about governmental lip service and deception. The parable calls them to radical change in policy. Jesus implies that the leaders of his day were like the first son. They said the right things, but their actions belied their words. As a result, their deeds excluded them from the New Order (God’s Kingdom) which was always the focus of Jesus’ revolutionary discourse.

And that brings us back to our own leaders and the differences between what they say and do. Think of the events of recent weeks – even last week. During that time our leaders have:

• Paid lip service to national boundaries in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then have claimed that national boundaries are irrelevant in their own “war on terrorism.”
• Paid lip service to international law – again in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then ignored that law by going to war with ISIS without the required U.N. resolution.
• Paid lip service to civilization and decency in decrying ISIS’ brutal beheadings (by knife) of innocent civilians, but then beheaded literally untold others via drones and direct bombings. (Yes, drones and bombs inevitably blow heads off bodies.)
• Paid lip service to the human rights of civilians brutalized by ISIS, while ignoring the million and a half civilians their own armed forces have just as brutally killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Paid lip service to nuclear non-proliferation in their demands upon Iran, but then have pledged billions to modernize their own overwhelming nuclear arsenal.
• Paid lip service to environmental protection (following last Sunday’s “People’s Climate March”), but the very next day implicitly embraced the possibility of “nuclear winter” through that same weapons modernization program.

Of course, there are many more examples of our leaders’ saying one thing and doing the opposite. In fact, their lies come so thick and fast that confusion and weariness results on the part of listeners. Our leaders’ honeyed words accompanied by unspeakably cruel acts paralyze us from taking action against or even recognizing in our own country a world force that is far more destructive than ISIS, Khorasan, or al-Qaeda. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the latter represent “retail terrorism,” while the U.S. “network of death” (with bases all over the world) embodies “wholesale terrorism” that is far more evil and destructive.

I believe that danger of confusion and consequent inaction is why Jesus shocked his opponents by saying simply, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

That would be as scandalous to Jesus’ audience as if he said to President Obama and John McCain, “Amen, I say to you, ISIS, Khorasan and al-Qaeda will enter God’s kingdom before you.”

What does that mean for us who are attempting to follow the Way of Jesus and are trying to be part of his Kingdom revolution? It means that we must realize that:

• Perpetual war contravenes the teachings of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies.
• Our “leaders” (just like the priests and elders of Jesus’ day) are liars to the core.
• The United States is (in the words of Dr. King) the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
• That the retail terror and brutality of ISIS pales in comparison with the wholesale terror the United States inflicts on the world’s poor.
• That we must work and pray every day for the defeat of the United States in its endless, genocidal wars.

Believe me: that defeat is coming. Better yet, believe Ezekiel. It’s the law of karma.