THE USA AGAINST TERRORISM
FROM A CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVE
by Justin Soutar
October 28, 2005 (Updated February 24, 2006)
HOW TO COMBAT TERRORISM
For the best and most enduring protection from every form of evil terrorism, the US should take these four steps.
1. Improve US border and coastal security. The Patriot Act has already provided for increased security at our borders, but this is not enough. Both JP II and the US Catholic bishops have highlighted domestic security, including border security, as a better means of combating terrorism than global war. On January 7, 2004, President Bush officially granted amnesty to illegal aliens who cross our borders and manage to secure a job for a few months. The danger of this policy was evident—terrorists could easily take advantage of it to enter the US and prepare another attack. In fact, thousands of Arab Muslims arrived at the Mexican border, adopted fake Mexican names and walked into the US unhindered; (1) hopefully no terrorists were among them, but this demonstrates just how disastrous amnesty can be. Thankfully, in October 2005 the president effectively reversed his policy by announcing stricter policy toward illegal aliens: ordering border police and immigration officials to let "not a single illegal" into America. Now I know our US Catholic bishops have supported amnesty for illegal aliens; and I respect this opinion because it’s motivated by charitable concern for the poor. However, I believe the US must increase economic assistance to Mexico to close the economic gap between the two countries. This will automatically stem much of the illegal immigration flood across our southern border.
In addition, thousands of people and cargo containers alike pass thru our seaports every day without sufficient security; at three hundred of these ports, there’s no tangible security at all. We must have all ship passengers and cargo inspected at all of our ports. And for heaven’s sake, President Bush, why did you recently transfer custody of six major US ports to the United Arab Emirates? Combined with the illegal aliens already here, this is a drastic blow to our national security right in our own backyard. We the people must give the President a choice: either tell us why you sold out our national property, or we will take it back thru Congress—and start impeachment hearings if necessary.
2. Increase worldwide poverty relief. Our Catholic bishops have joined the Popes by identifying social injustice--and the misery it produces--as a major temptation to terrorism. The stark poverty of one and a half billion of the world’s people looms as a powerful fuel to make the fire of terrorism rage against the prosperous nations of the world. Indeed, all wealthy nations, most especially the US, are responsible for the glaring injustice of global poverty. With its global "runaway capitalist" system, once proudly symbolized by the World Trade Center, the US has become the world’s wealthiest nation by unjustly robbing Middle East and Third World countries of their wealth, thus producing the horrible poverty spectacle of today. This outrage did not have to happen! Capitalism must be kept inside the framework of moral values, not allowed to "run away" and become a tool of global injustice and oppression. Both Popes have repeatedly chastised the wealthy capitalist nations on this point, yet the hyper-capitalist US has replied with hypocrisy, the blind eye, and the deaf ear. If America wants to prevent and eradicate terrorism, as well as retain its reputation as a respecter and promoter of human rights everywhere, then it must increase worldwide poverty relief and reform the global economy. Why? Because the basic necessities of life are primary inalienable human rights, without which no one can enjoy freedom or any of the others. This is all too often forgotten. But America’s selfish system of runaway capitalism, or big business, is responsible for so much suffering outside the gates of America. The US should heed the advice of JP II—utilize the vehicle of the UN to reform the US-monopolized global economic system which tends to divert so much of the world’s wealth to America, while leaving two billion people without the basic necessities of life. So by increasing poverty relief, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, the US will be diminishing the fuel and thereby quenching the fire of terrorism.
3. Engage in dialogue and diplomacy. "But the terrorists hate our values—they’re intent on destroying America. We can’t talk to them—we just have to fight them." This goes back to what I said earlier about America’s Band-aid approach to terrorism. I believe that the US must engage in diplomatic relations with all of the "terrorist countries"—thru the vehicle of the UN, as the Great JP II constantly begged us. Now why did JP II insist on America getting more involved with the UN? Not because it’s morally infallible (it certainly isn’t), but because he astutely noticed America’s selfish drive to further only its own interests, and he wanted us to get back on track. He knew that there’s much to be commended in the UN’s work, that many of its activities are praiseworthy and consistent with Catholic doctrine. Furthermore, JP II realized that America’s president can use the UN as a forum to listen to, and work for, the good of all nations—without abrogating America’s traditional moral principles, as conservatives and neocons fear. No, America should actively take the lead in spiritually transforming and improving the UN, while utilizing it to honestly further the common good of the whole world.
As part of this constructive dialogue, the US should: 1) honestly and promptly reorient all those economic and political interests and policies in the Middle East countries which unjustly make us rich and powerful at their expense; 2) respect the Middle East’s proud tradition of neutrality by not forcing it at gunpoint to be either pro-America or pro-terrorist; and 3) engage in mutual treaties of peace with these countries. On July 7, when London buses were bombed, EWTN’s Life on the Rock happened to have as its guest Anna Halpine, an important Catholic UN worker and activist. When she was asked in an email her opinion on why terrorism exists, she answered, "It’s lack of dialogue." More dialogue is needed between public officials and their people, as well as between public officials themselves. She emphasized that civil leaders must listen to all the problems, concerns and grievances of their people.
The two big problems today among obstinate conservatives and neocons can be summarized quite concisely: 1) They refuse to recognize and work to rectify US-led social, economic, religious, and political injustice in the world, and just as stubbornly reject the UN as opportunity to do so; and 2) when this hypocritical, blind-eye, deaf-ear policy naturally results in hateful threats against America, they force those leaders to drop their hostility or face war. Does this make any sense? Is it morally upright and sound foreign policy? Not at all, said Pope John Paul. If the US would pursue true dialogue and diplomacy with terrorist nations—shutting its mouth more often to listen--without craftily abusing dialogue to serve its enrichment alone, as JP II and Benedict XVI have urged us for several decades now, global terrorism would drastically decline.
4. End "War on Terror". The three previous steps taken together, and supported by our Popes and bishops, will render America much safer from terrorism than global war. Astonishingly, since the beginning of the "WOT", the number of world terrorists has tripled. (2) Who can honestly tell me we’re safer from terrorism now? No one.
Among conservatives and neocons, the war has been compared with World War II, which puzzles me; because the more I think about it, the more contrasts I see. While World War II--an official war among nations--was fought against the cruel tyrant Hitler, his national army, and the armies of his allies, the WOT is being "fought" against civilian terrorists. While national armies pitched against each other are fairly competitive, the US army pitched against civilian terrorists gives the terrorists most of the advantages. While the US army is numerous, massive, mighty, determined, relatively slow-moving, costly, and confined chiefly to two countries, the terrorists are a relative handful, small, mighty, fast-moving, low-cost, and spread across the globe. In World War II, we knew exactly who the enemy was and where he was, but in the "WOT", the enemy is practically everywhere, and could be any pious Muslim. In addition, Muslim terrorists are intensely, unshakably devoted to their religious principles, while America reeks of hypocrisy. America murdered hundreds of innocents in the November 2001 cluster-bombing of Afghan villages; we demanded Saddam Hussein abide by the same UN convention on WMD that we violated in Afghanistan, and which we continue to violate by possessing WMDs in our gigantic arsenal; and we godlessly detain and torture terrorist suspects in Gitmo and elsewhere. And finally, the US army faces decreasing media and popular support, while terrorists use the world media to effectively get their message out. They disseminate the US army’s acts of hypocrisy (like the repeated missile attacks on news headquarters, hospitals, and other civilian targets in Baghdad in 2003), thus effectively attracting world sympathy to the terrorists’ side and undercutting America’s war effort.
We seem to have completely forgotten what our nation’s founders said: war should be a rare thing for America. And in our country’s early years, it was. Our War of Independence was followed thirty years later by the war of 1812 against the British, and the civil war came fifty years after that. Across almost 100 years, we fought just three major wars. Yet in the past fifteen years alone, we’ve fought another three major wars. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? It certainly is. The US has gone from merely defending itself to fighting wars which it culpably provoked, wars for personal profiteering, and wars for becoming policeman of the world. One of our nation’s founders, James Madison, summed it up completely: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." (3) Clearly America’s aggressive policy of "War on Terrorism" is the wrong answer to terrorism--from a political standpoint, from the abundance of serious moral crimes, and even from a practical common-sense contrast between war and terrorism. We Catholics have a grave moral duty to oppose, at the very least, the demonizing of good and evil terrorism together, the unjust economic system of "runaway capitalism", detention without trial, and torture.
5. Support "Average Joe" Schriner for president. If anyone has dedicated himself to promoting social justice as the primary means of undermining terrorism from below, it’s this guy. He’s a devout Catholic, married father of four children, graduate of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and former substance abuse counselor. Joe has put together a comprehensive policy for the US, in which domestic and foreign policy are smoothly united: pro-life without exception, global economic development, nuclear disarmament, reduced size of government, and a sustainable environment. Possessing a remarkably keen grasp of the temptations provoking terrorism abroad, he points out the similarities between Middle Eastern terrorism and inner-city violence in America. He will abolish abortion and euthanasia, and then ensure free health care and social security for all Americans. After that, his next big goal is to shift the world economy in the direction of justice by distributing much of America’s surplus wealth to develop the world’s needy countries, especially in the Middle East and Latin America. Joe would have the US kick off global nuclear disarmament, which would free up billions of dollars for charity and reduce the "arms race", both conducive to eliminating terrorism. To tame our outrageously expensive bureaucracy, Joe will abolish the income tax and IRS. He will stop widespread abuse and heedless exploitation of God’s environment by recycling most of our waste and banning the use of toxic chemicals on farms. He’s a big voice for small farmers struggling to keep their land out of the clutches of America’s government-controlled mega farms. And finally, he would solve the problem of escalating oil prices forever by dramatically shifting America’s energy sources to electric, wind and solar power.
In every detail of this ambitious yet common-sense proposal, "Average Joe" Schriner has embraced the totality of Pope John Paul the Great’s insistent message: care for human beings, and care for the earth—a message so often partially and selectively applied by partisan politicians. Few candidates for public office, let alone the presidency, have accepted both the pro-life and social justice aspects of JP II’s teaching. (Pope Benedict’s own general message to the world’s public officials actually echoes that of his great predecessor.) Being from the baby boomers generation, Joe deeply understands their needs, but he also strongly appeals to me as a young person of the JP II generation. Since 1990, he has been traveling the back roads of the US to find out what this country needs, and since 2000 he has been running for president while gathering valuable grassroots support thruout the US. You probably haven’t heard about him since the corporate media has virtually ignored him; after all, he’s truly a man of the people, not a wealthy Republican or Democrat. He has a great website, www.voteforjoe.com. I met him personally at a farm festival in western Ohio and can vouch for his honesty and integrity.
When the election of 2004 came around, I wrote his name on the ballot for president, both to support him and show my dissatisfaction with Bush and Kerry. This is the way to rescue America from the totalitarian grip of the two-party system which doesn’t represent Americans anymore! The two-party system is dividing America to the core by psychologically forcing us to choose either one party or the other. We the people must take things into our own hands by writing in candidates like Joe who really represent us! When he gets enough of our write-in votes, he can use the Democratic Party ticket as a stepping stone to the presidency! I ask, is it so difficult to write somebody’s name on a ballot on Election Day? Just look at what we have to gain from it: a Catholic president to transform, to change America and the world for the better! But if we hang on to the bad habit of accepting a stale Republican or Democrat, look what that will give us: absolutely nothing but more of the tired old same! The two-party grip can’t be easily broken from above; we the people must break it from below by denying trite mainstream politicians our votes! Ohioans, write in "Average Joe" Schriner for president in 2008!
During a homily at the vigil celebration of World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed to the young people:
"In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common program - expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism." (4)
The pontiff was obviously tying in a key theme of his pontificate with Germany’s twentieth-century history of Nazism and Communism. But this line goes far beyond mere historical reference. The Pope meant it for today: it applies to all human ideas elevated to the status of absolute truth. When I heard that statement, I immediately thought of US foreign policy. Neocons not only accept it wholeheartedly as absolute truth, but many of them display intolerance for alternate opinions, refusing to acknowledge their merit. But the most dangerous aspect of this totalitarianism is it drags morally upright people into accepting, even condoning, evil such as deprivation of inalienable right to trial, murderous cluster-bombing of civilian towns, and even abuse and torture of prisoners.
God would never condone such atrocities! We must radically break out of this totalitarian mindset! I’m one young Catholic who made this break. Yes, after 9/11 I myself was fooled into becoming a totalitarian neocon. But after enough of the US Catholic bishops’ statements, JP II’s wisdom on fighting terrorism, and his showdown with President Bush over the Iraq war hit me, I knew I had to change my opinion. We Catholics have a solemn obligation to accept the Catholic Church’s official teaching on these matters, to live by it, and to spread it. We would also do well to listen to Papal and Catholic bishops’ refreshingly independent opinions on combating terrorism. The US should dedicate itself both to revitalizing the UN and using it as a vehicle to drive for global social justice. This will really get things rolling—it will get rid of mass poverty, a powerful temptation to terrorism, thus helping defeat terrorism from below, which in turn will pave the way for disarmament. The US must permit all domestic terrorist suspects to receive fair trials and lawyers in their own countries, and must deliver all international terrorist suspects up to the International Criminal Court. We must not forget that both good and evil acts of terrorism exist. We must demand that our nation’s courts invalidate each section of the Patriot Act that conflicts with our Constitution. We must demand an end to the evil aspects of the "War on Terror", especially torture.
Thru a sweeping perspective of history and the entire global situation, we can break out of our own little American world and see things more clearly and objectively. We Catholics must be first and foremost Catholic, before we submit to Republican, Democratic, pro-Bush or pro-peace factions. The primary key to terrorism’s increasing occurrence is its ability to instill fear in human hearts. In this context, let’s remember Pope John Paul the Great’s exhortation, "Be not afraid!" This is our best defense against terrorism. Uncontrolled fear drives us into the trap of totalitarianism, which is an even greater danger than the terrorism which prompted it. But the worst peril of all is totalitarianism blinds us to reality—and to our policy’s own inevitable failure! Our economy will collapse. Our Constitution will remain attacked by forfeiture of estate, guilt by association, and cruel and unusual punishment. Two billion people spread across the Middle East and the Third World will remain bereft of food and water. A military draft will be enforced out of sheer necessity. The grave sin of torture will continue putting some of our intelligence officers in danger of hell. And in a few years, Americans will wake up to a real nightmare: the US has fallen into an abyss of moral, economic, and political destruction.
Copyright 2006 by Justin Soutar. All rights reserved.
1. Reported by Michael Savage on "The Savage Nation", August 2004. Website at www.michaelsavage.com.
2. Because of this embarrassing situation, the State Department attempted to withhold the annual, legally required statistics for 2004 from Congress and the American public. See www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/26/AR2005042601623.html. The report’s name was changed from "Patterns of Global Terrorism" to "Country Reports on Terrorism" and thankfully published at www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/c14813.htm.
3. James Madison, Political Observations, 1795.
4. "Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI", Youth Vigil, Marienfeld, Cologne, Germany, August 20, 2005. Available at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/august/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20050820_vigil-wyd_en.html.