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The Vatican (re)discovers Humanitarian Intervention?

In today’s news, the Vatican seems to be entertaining the notion of condoning military force in Iraq to stem the tide of Christian persecution at the hands of “The Islamic State” [“IS”], (formerly known as “ISIS”). John Allen Jr. explains:

For anyone familiar with the Vatican’s recent history of bitter opposition to any US use of military force in the Middle East, Rome’s increasingly vocal support for the recent American airstrikes in Iraq may seem, to say the least, a little disorienting.

On Monday, the Vatican’s previously tacit approval for the American intervention turned explicit, as two senior officials offered what amounts to a blessing through official communications channels.

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the pope’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Vatican radio that the American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State forces] could not be stopped.”

In a similar vein, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.

Coming from the Vatican’s prior adoption of a functionally-pacifist and “abolitionist” stance on military action in modern times, this is huge. Compare the above with Cardinal Martino (of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)’s declaration in the National Catholic Register, circa 2003:

Question: “Are you suggesting there is no such thing as a just war anymore?”

Archbishop Martino: “Absolutely. I think with modern weaponry, there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply. It makes much more damage. War is so destructive now. It is not just a fight between one person and another.”

But what’s the reason for this sudden “about face”? — John Allen Jr. explains:

The face-value way to read Monday’s comments from Lingua and Tomasi, however, is as a recognition that there are times when the situation is sufficiently urgent that anyone who steps in, with or without a formal U.N. resolution, can claim the moral high ground.

Even if full legitimacy under international law remains the ideal, in other words, there’s now an exception on the record in favor of “unilateral” action.

Second, the emerging Vatican line clearly establishes a limit to pacifism as an option within Catholic social teaching. In effect, the take-away is that there are times when the use of force is the only option left to serve the greater good.

Third, and most basically, what’s different about 2014 with respect to 2003 isn’t so much the theory but the facts on the ground.

One core reason the Vatican opposed the two Gulf Wars, as well as any expansion of the conflict in Syria, was fear that the fall of a police state in the Middle East would lead to the rise of a radical Islamic theocracy in which Christians and other minorities would find themselves in the firing line.

That’s no longer a theoretical anxiety. It’s the lived reality of the new caliphate proclaimed by the Islamic State …

Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Where have I heard that before? — seems to me the rationale for military action being posited by Allen (or rather, Lingua and Tomasi):

“there are times when the situation is sufficiently urgent that anyone who steps in, with or without a formal U.N. resolution, can claim the moral high ground”;

“there’s now an exception on the record in favor of “unilateral” action”;

“there are times when the use of force is the only option left to serve the greater good”

… sounds awfully similar to that bandied about by the dreaded neocons of yore.

And yet, while I can understand the reasoning for the Vatican’s opposition to U.S. military intervention in Iraq in Gulf Wars I & II — “fear that the fall of a police state in the Middle East would lead to the rise of a radical Islamic theocracy [contributing to the persecution of Christians]” — I confess that I’ve also found this kind of reasoning a little too “tribal” (for lack of a better term) for my taste.

What I mean is this — considering all that Iraqis had to endure under life under Saddam Hussein, just to hit a few high points:

  • The gas attacks by Saddam on the Kurdish town of Halabja (4,000-5,000 casualties);
  • The Al-Anfal campaign of Saddam against the Kurds in Northern Iraq 1988 (reported deaths of 50,000-182,000 people, many women and children);
  • Saddam’s brutal crackdown on his own people in June 1994 following Bush Sr.’s pull-out of U.S. forces in Gulf War I with full scale massacres of Kurds (20,000-100,000) and (60,000-130,000) Shiites. (Perhaps it was his father’s (perceived) abandonment of the Iraqis to their fate under Saddam through a policy of “non-intervention” — a move that Bush Senior perpetually regretted — that in part compelled Bush Jr. by conscience to desire to “finish the job”; as well as the development of “The Bush Doctrine”).
  • Lastly, you have the persecution, rape and torture of his own people throughout the reign of Saddam and his two sons. See Michael Totten’s account tour of Iraq’s “genocide museum” in the old headquarters of the mukhabarat

    The hardest thing to see was the cell used to hold children before they were murdered. My translator read some of the messages carved into the wall.

    “I was ten years old. But they changed my age to 18 for execution.”

    “Dear Mom and Dad. I am going to be executed by the Baath. I will not see you again.”

There are testimonies of life under Saddam I could relay that are just as blood-curdling and noxious as any you would read today under ISIS. And yet, what comes to my mind with respect to the Church’s predominant stance vis-a-vis Saddam is not one of clear moral condemnation of Hussein’s regime at the time (did I miss it?), but rather the mental image of the smug, cigar-chomping Taraq Aziz, Saddam’s Deputy Prime Minister — shaking the elderly Pope John Paul II’s hand after receiving “red carpet treatment”; the latter’s resounding declaration of “NO TO WAR”. No doubt the Holy Father was genuine in his intentions, but I couldn’t help but think Saddam got the better of that particular photo-op, or what those persecuted Iraqis under him might have felt.

To clarify: I do not wish to absolve or dispute the United States’ own complicity in the aftermath of Saddam’s overthrow, its incompetency and mismanagement of affairs in the course of helping to establish the new Iraqi state; the collapse of military discipline that resulted in the human rights abuses of Abu Ghraib and elsewhere (thus challenging Bush’s claim that “one thing is for certain … “there won’t be any more torture rooms or rape rooms”).

Nor am I opposed to the United States taking an armed response against IS[IS]. What is happening over there is horrible and forceful reaction on our part is merited. . . . in fact, I am very much in favor of a “you broke it, you fix it” policy with respect to Iraq, and am persuaded that the United States (perhaps at Obama’s wish to have another item to tack onto his post-presidential resume), pulled our troops out of there much too soon.

But to those in Rome who are so emphatic about acting NOW, I am moved to inquire:

Yes, humanitarian intervention NOW . . . but what about THEN?

What I find especially disconcerting about the Vatican’s sudden “about face” is the impression given that it’s only due to Rome’s identification of, and proclaimed solidarity with, the present victims of persecution (= Christians) that they are now urging military action for humanitarian reasons, when humanitarian reasons for intervening on behalf of persecuted minorities strike me to be just as pertinent when said minorities were other than Christian.

Related

  • The Islamic State and the End(?) of Christianity in Iraq: A Timeline 2007-2014.
  • “No religion can justify such barbarity” – Statement of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:

    the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation; -the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places; -the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile; -the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick; -the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya); -the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation; -the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places; -the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries; -the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other religious communities; -the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage; -indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee. No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity.

  • DarwinCatholic on Vatican Middle Eastern Realpolitik? – Some questions for John Allen, Jr.:

    This certainly seems like a plausible ex post rationale, but is there any evidence that in 1991, 2003, and 2013 Vatican thinking was indeed driven by the idea that it was better to keep Middle Eastern police states in place in order to prevent radical Islamist regimes from coming to power? I remember vague discussion about violence never solving anything, but I don’t recall anything specifically making this argument and in some ways it seems out of character. …

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Christopher Blosser

Band of Bearded Brothers with Joe.

39 Comments

  1. Surely, a clear enough distinction can be drawn between Saddam Hussein 2003 and ISIS now.
    The overthrow of a government, in effective control of its territory, however harsh and repressive it may be is likely to result in mere anarchy with the unleashing of forces that can be neither predicted nor controlled. Opposition to insurgents trying to seize control of a territory, by contrast leaves the existing ordering of society intact.
    Throughout the 19th century, European statesmen sought to shore up the Ottoman power, not because its rule was particularly enlightened or benign, for it was not, but because they feared what might emerge from its collapse among its subject peoples, who were not ready, who, perhaps, never would be ready, for the great adventure of self-government. In this they were right; freed of Turkish suzerainty, the Balkans became the powder keg that ignited the First World War.

  2. In this they were right; freed of Turkish suzerainty, the Balkans became the powder keg that ignited the First World War.

    Rubbish. Greece and Serbia had successfully detached themselves from the Ottoman Empire by 1833. The Roumanian provinces were functionally sovereign by 1859, and the northern Bulgarian provinces by 1878. The responsibility for the 1st World War decades later lies with the nine major powers who insisted on fighting it. The bill for any criminal activity by elements of the Serbian intelligence services doesn’t get stuck with the King of Roumania.

  3. Hoping for a continuation of plain common sense spoken to this rampage of dark deeds by governments, religious organizations, educational institutions, social groups, and world organization (UN?).

    “No religion can justify such barbarity”
    ” … Opposition to insurgents trying to seize control of a territory, by contrast leaves the existing ordering of society intact. …”

    Life is not cheap and expendable simply by the declaration of extremists.

  4. Art Deco
    As you might have divined, I was referring, in particular to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, following the Congress of Berlin in 1878, remained under Ottoman sovereignty, although it was occupied and administered by the Dual Monarch, with the consent of the Sublime Porte. The Sanjak of Novi Pazar remained under Ottoman administration, although it was garrisoned by the Dual Monarchy.
    The Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated in its capital by a Serbian nationalist.
    Leaving the most backward peoples in Europe to their own devices would have been foolhardy; to leave them exposed to the intrigues of Russia was little short of criminal.

  5. Leaving the most backward peoples in Europe to their own devices would have been foolhardy; to leave them exposed to the intrigues of Russia was little short of criminal.

    There were quite a mess of small states in Europe during the period running from 1833 to 1914. You would be hard put to find an example of one who was a protagonist in aught but localized problems, and you cannot find one in the Balkans prior to 1914. As for the ‘intrigues of Russia’, you’re talking about great powers during the long 19th century; intrigues ‘R’ us. You’re not offering an argument against national states in the Balkans. You’re offering an argument against small states, period, and not a well-crafted argument. That aside, you seem to fancy that when you have two sets of events in time and one precedes the other, the latter is an inevitable outgrowth of the former (at least if you can find some anxiety expressed in the correspondence of some dead Frenchman). That’s perfectly bizarre, as if there were no contingencies in political life (and, in this case, no possibility that seven powers with large armies could come to blows over anything but the Balkans).

    who were not ready, who, perhaps, never would be ready, for the great adventure of self-government.

    Parliamentary institutions of one sort or another were bog standard in Europe after 1860.

  6. Francis’ worst canard however ends that above linked – Statement of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue….from yesterday. But first there is a slight implication favoring just violence here:

    ” Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced.”

    I’m sensing they would prefer that the Kurds use pepper spray because they describe it like it’s analagous to curtailing a much smaller group of people who did not just yesterday use a suicide bomber to kill ten Kurd soldiers.
    But shortly thereafter is Pope Francis’ worst proverb series cited as the ending to the whole statement:

    ” Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. “

    Hitler and Japan were actually defeated by violence and now are beneficent actors. Christ used absolutely no dialogue as He made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple. No dialogue. Zero. Dialogue is irrelevant with law breakers and more so with people who behead little 7 year old girls as ISIS did in Mosul…the worst photo for me …with the forced engaged crying 7 year old girl next to an ISIS mutant…second. We should be bombing all of ISIS stolen US vehicles in Raqqa Syria right now. They’ll come here to the NY harbor no matter what you do or don’t do. People who fade back into all defense in a street fight lose because weakness is provocative to bullies. That’s how Mosul was lost to ISIS…through a lack of violence. Erbil is still free through violent airstrikes and Kurds with balls. But I wish we’d put snipers with the many still on Sinjar mountain.

  7. The New York Times is reporting that Obama is considering US forces on the ground on Mt.Sinjar only to escort the Yazidis out into Syria where the Pesh Merga would then accompany them through Syria and back into Kurd territory.

  8. I read this story over at Hot Air. Given that it is a secular news and opinion site, the usual bunch of anti-Catholics, ex-Catholics and blithering idiots have to spend time criticizing the Catholic Church. It’s the same old BS – the Church did nothing to help Jews, blah, blah, blah. I’m not registered there and it’s a good thing as I would waste far too much time trying to educate morons about the Catholic history of fighting and beating back Islam.

    Realizing that the Holy See did not want to aggravate Muslims into attacking the small remaining Catholic communities in the Middle East, one can somewhat understand their point of view. The problem is that the Holy See threw away their own experience in dealing with Islam – we are at war with it. Paleocons blame the Israeli state’s existence for Muslim “unrest” in Palestine. Interventionists think that Muslims can learn democracy, when we don’t have democracy here (we have a republic, if in name only).

    The Catholic Near East Welfare Organization is a charity that assists Eastern Christians from Ukraine to the Middle East to India, if anyone is interested.

    I read about this and I want to watch the movie The Day of the Siege. It reminds me that at one time Catholics knew how to deal with the mindless vicious heresy that is Islam.

  9. Bill Bannon wrote, “Hitler and Japan were actually defeated by violence and now are beneficent actors…”

    Actually, both Germany and Japan appear doomed to extinction, exhibiting a demographic decline that is probably now irreversible, as the pool of women of childbearing age diminishes. In the case of Japan, half the population will be over 60 by mid-century. Germany will have lost a fifth of its population by the century’s end.

    World War II discredited their cultures in their own eyes and their peoples appear unconcerned with the prospect of national extinction. Cut off from their past, what can they hope to hand on to their children? If we do not continue the lives of those who preceded us, nor prepare the lives of those who will follow us, then we are defined by our physical existence and nothing more, conscious of our own mortality.

  10. Michael PS,
    Doomed to extinction? Depressed about being themselves? They both make the best cars. That takes pride. How depressed can they be. Ford never again….I was in the repair shop so often, I had my own key to the rest room.

  11. “Doomed to extinction?” – Their total fertility rates tell their own story: Germany’s is 1.42 and Japan’s is 1.42, with replacement being 2.1. In Germany, this has been, in some degree, masked by immigration. In Japan, with little in the way of inward or outward migration, nothing can avert a precipitous decline in its population.

    As for cars, well, that is just what one would expect. An ageing population will spend less and save more for retirement. Demand will shift from present goods to future goods, that is, securities. The price level of present goods falls. The price of future goods rises and the rate of interest falls. The ageing population trades surplus present goods for future goods, that is, it exports goods and purchases securities with the proceeds, shifting the current account balance to surplus. If, like Japan, it has its own currency, the exchange rate will rise.

    That, by the by, is how Japan can sustain a public debt of 214% of GDP, compared to the US’s 72%: most of it is held by its own nationals.

  12. “Mark Shea’s head will explode.” – May God’s will be done.

    Not quite. If you look at Shea’s blog of late he’s been banging the “we must do something” drum repeatedly because it’s all America’s fault you know. (the comments as they try and figure out what should be done are hilarious though – thankfully Shea never has to worry about internal consistency since all that matters is how he feels now, yesterday was so long ago)

    Actually, both Germany and Japan appear doomed to extinction, exhibiting a demographic decline that is probably now irreversible, as the pool of women of childbearing age diminishes. … World War II discredited their cultures in their own eyes and their peoples appear unconcerned with the prospect of national extinction. Cut off from their past, what can they hope to hand on to their children?

    Their cultures were barbaric! By that logic, we shouldn’t try to stop, hinder, or reform a serial killer because he finds killing to be such a part of his self-realization that he’d rather commit suicide than give it up. MPS, that’s such insanity I’m surprised you even went there. If your being/culture can only survive by the death and killing of others, then quite frankly you deserve to go extinct.

    Oh wait a minute, look at the fertility rates in the world:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_fertility_rate

    Man, Germany & Japan are low but look at all those countries even lower which… weren’t… really involved in any wars. Heck, Canada is only BARELY doing better than them (1.677 vs 1.39), which I’m sure is a consequence of that great Canadian war that… uh…

    In other words: your point is not only morally reprehensible but utter rubbish.

  13. “Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace.”

    Pius V disagrees. He didn’t just pray for the Turks to turn away from their dreams of conquest. He asked Catholics to pray the rosary and put together a fleet to beat the Turks to the punch.

  14. Nate Winchester wrote, “their cultures were barbaric…”
    An odd description of the culture of Kant and Hegel, of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner, of Goethe, Schiller and Herder, of Mommsen and Ranke, of Heine and Mann.
    As for Japan, Sir Harold Nicholson reminds us that “Readers of the Tale of Genji will recall the exquisite symbolism governing the thoughts and actions of a court lady, Murasaki no Shikibu, in a century when our own ancestors had not progressed beyond the crude table manners of the Anglo-Saxons. At a date when a young Samurai would be pondering whether it would be more seductive to send his love a branch of half-open blossom, or only a row of buds, indicating expectant reserve, our own Tostig, earl of the Northumbrians, would let the mutton-fat congeal upon his matted beard.

  15. Bill Bannon wrote, ““Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace.” Pius V disagrees.Pius V disagrees. He didn’t just pray for the Turks to turn away from their dreams of conquest.”

    Yet statesmen just as astute, Bismark and Disraeli to name but two, believed the Ottoman Empire essential to the balance of power. The history of the Balkans and of the Middle East since 1918 suggests they may have been more far-sighted even than Pius V

  16. “The history of the Balkans and of the Middle East since 1918 suggests they may have been more far-sighted even than Pius V.”

    Since the Ottomans were looking to use St. Peter’s as stables, I don’t think Pius V was worried about the balance of power in Europe at the time.

  17. Michael PS,
    Watch your quotes. I wouldn’t say that quote in two lifetimes. Pope Francis said it and Francis literally copied a word ( “refined”) from sect.40 of JPII’s EV slighting of the OT death penalties…when Francis slighted it also in an interview. God gave thirty plus of them to the Jews and two Popes slight them in public. I think these last two Popes have done a conscious repetition ( Benedict only very late in life) of John Paul II’s pacifistic remarks in order to create a new three man hermeneutic of continuity in this new softer side of Catholicism. Meanwhile it aggravates a world atmosphere wherein six billion people on earth via the UN cannot muster an army to surround a criminal army who are about to defile hundreds of captured women whom neither the Church nor the world is even meeting about as to how to rescue them or buy them back then kill the ISIS horde. One month from now the world and the Church apparently will be talking about other things as 13 year old girls are being defiled by ISIS. It’s surreal. Two Amish girls were abducted last night in northern NY. Was that ISIS fellow travelers? Wouldn’t rule it out. They…ISIS… issued a pro rape fatwa.

  18. Brian English,
    Apparently Christ making a whip and violently driving the moneychangers out of the temple without dialogue as a first resort was also a lack of farsightedness. Christ should have known the 70 AD Roman invasion would take care of all temple problems.

  19. World War II discredited their cultures in their own eyes and their peoples appear unconcerned with the prospect of national extinction.

    Germany managed to reproduce at replacement rates up until about 1970 and Japan up until about 1975. Taiwan, Korea, Poland, and Spain are in just as wretched shape as Japan and Germany and Switzerland’s not much healthier. It would seem there are other vectors than ‘discredited culture’.

  20. “People who fade back into all defense in a street fight lose because weakness is provocative to bullies”

    Ok. I have thought this before and never had the nerve to say it as it seems almost sacrilegious. However, I have gotten my nerve up, so here we go.

    I have wondered more than once if part of the cause of the loss of a grip on the reality on evil men & their actions by the Vatican’s upper eschelons–and the loss of a grip on what is necessary to stop an evil doer–(or a group of determined evil doers s.a. ISIS) is out of the reach of men who do not work directly with or have not raised children. There are stages with most children where only direct action affecting the children will change their behavior. The more immediately damaging the unwanted behavior is, the more immediate and drastic must be the response to that behavior in order to stop it. And there must be consistency consequences in response to children’s misbehavior, or the behavior will often be repeated. Dealing with children forces us to confront such realities of human nature on a regular basis. It might do these religious leaders some good in their attempted applications of spiritual principals to such matters to have to have actual experience with discipling children. Children generally respect action that directly impacts their ability to do as they wish–not just words. Just like terrorists.

    I also think the fact that the Vatican itself has been isolated from terrorist attacks has sway on these modern “peace at any cost” pronouncements coming from the some upper eschelons.

  21. Art Deco wrote, “Germany managed to reproduce at replacement rates up until about 1970 and Japan up until about 1975.” Precisely; the decline began as the war-time generation came to the end of it childbearing years and the post-war generation failed to reproduce.
    I certainly would not suggest that the reason for a fall in TFR is everywhere the same. In places such as Ukraine and Moldova, emigration of young people plays a significant role; in those Muslim countries, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia that have seen a sharp decline in their TFR, there is a strong negative correlation between TFR and female literacy rates.

  22. Barbara Gordon
    Perhaps, the Vatican realises that what we are witnessing is a Sunni-Shia conflict that, like the Thirty Years War in Europe, will only end through mutual exhaustion.
    The real enemy is Iran, whose nuclear ambitions do pose a threat to the existence of Israel. Anything that weakens, humiliates or destabilises Iran’s allies and proxies in the region – the Assad regime in Syria, the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon – is, to that extent, a good thing, however unpalatable one finds the various radical Sunni groups.
    If minorities can be protected by humanitarian relief or the establishment of safe havens, that is all to the good, but it should not be allowed to obscure the big picture.

    The West should follow Richelieu’s policy; he, one recalls, repressed Protestants at home, whilst supporting them against the Habsburg power abroad. This is precisely what Saudi Arabia appears to be doing with radical Islamists

  23. “I have wondered more than once if part of the cause of the loss of a grip on the reality on evil men & their actions by the Vatican’s upper eschelons–and the loss of a grip on what is necessary to stop an evil doer–(or a group of determined evil doers s.a. ISIS) is out of the reach of men who do not work directly with or have not raised children.”

    Barbara Gordon: You are not the only one who has wondered that. (I’ll go further and say that I think the Vatican should consider drawing her priests from both unmarried men and married men, but that is a topic for another time.)

  24. “…is out of the reach of men who do not work directly with or have not raised children.”

    I’m not so sure about that though it may in part be correct. I was single for a long time but realized the evil men can do through my work.

    That may be the problem. Once upon a time priests were tutored about real evil through the confessional. They could also see it in the streets they walked in a world racked by sin and ready death.

    Now there are few confessions and the streets (in much of the World) are clean, healthy and safe – particularly in the West. If you’re stationed in the Vatican, you’re surrounded by many who have never really experienced evil at any level. They have benefitted from a sixty plus year peace in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. They have seen the “success” of the social welfare state and even continue to push for an enlargement of it.

    Now history returns.

  25. @Barbara, I agree, and I think you said it very well: Dealing with children forces us to confront such realities of human nature on a regular basis. It might do these religious leaders some good in their attempted applications of spiritual principals to such matters to have to have actual experience with disciplining children.

    Each child you care for confirms for you that 1. he has a precious soul, and 2. he is a fallen creature.

    @Phillip, very well said. Men (and women) used to deal more closely with children even when they had none of their own.

    Niall Ferguson got into terrible trouble recently for wondering aloud whether John Maynard Keynes’ economic conclusions were informed by his child-free lifestyle.

  26. We seem bent on turning our soldiers into cops and our cops into soldiers. You have probably (unless you have been living under a rock for the past week) all heard about the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., by now. Without getting into all the racial, criminal justice, political, etc. issues involved, let’s just say that when a suburban police force is better armed and taking more aggressive postures than soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — there are numerous pictures and commentaries online by military veterans and other experts pointing this out — something ain’t right. In fact the two phenomena are related: as our military has been reduced to a mere international police force, the leftover military equipment has been filtering down to state and local police departments, with predictable results.

  27. “There are testimonies of life under Saddam I could relay that are just as blood-curdling and noxious as any you would read today under ISIS. And yet, what comes to my mind with respect to the Church’s predominant stance vis-a-vis Saddam is not one of clear moral condemnation of Hussein’s regime at the time (did I miss it?), but rather the mental image of the smug, cigar-chomping Taraq Aziz, Saddam’s Deputy Prime Minister — shaking the elderly Pope John Paul II’s hand after receiving “red carpet treatment”; the latter’s resounding declaration of “NO TO WAR”. No doubt the Holy Father was genuine in his intentions, but I couldn’t help but think Saddam got the better of that particular photo-op, or what those persecuted Iraqis under him might have felt.”

    Imagine, just imagine, what the reaction today would have been if Pope Pius XII had been as protective of the Nazi regime as John Paul II, or rather I think in his latter days, various Vatican officials were of Saddam’s regime. The attitude seemed to be in regard to Saddam that as long as he treated Christians in Iraq no worse than he treated most Sunnis than the Vatican was opposed to his forcible removal. As Sandro Magister noted in this story from 2002, the Vatican had a deliberate policy of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by Saddam:

    http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/6892?eng=y

  28. Donald R. McClarey wrote, “The attitude seemed to be in regard to Saddam that as long as he treated Christians in Iraq no worse than he treated most Sunnis than the Vatican was opposed to his forcible removal.”

    Could it not be a case of « Et puis? » namely, that the results of his removal were likely to be both unpredictable and uncontrollable.

    History suggests that minorities often fare batter under authoritarian rulers (especially where those rulers belong to a minority themselves, like the Mughals in India)than under those that have to pander to the mob. Such governments wish, above all, to forestall or repress any widespread popular excitement and to see their subjects going quietly about their own business.

    Jewish communities have a long history of reaching accommodation with rulers in Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East, who saw them as a valuable source of revenue and, sometimes as physicians and financial advisers, in places where, if the masses had had their way, they would have been expelled or slaughtered. The history of the Parsees, Jains and Sikhs in India is similar, where Muslim princes were, often enough, their protectors against the Hindu masses.

    One could add that Saddam was a check on Iran, which constituted (and constitutes) an existential threat to Israel, which he did not.

  29. “History suggests that minorities often fare batter under authoritarian rulers”
    Not under Saddam as the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs would be happy to attest.

    “One could add that Saddam was a check on Iran”

    Rubbish when one considers his failed war against Iran. If anything he cemented the power of the mullahs in Iran by his failure, after spilling rivers of blood, to conquer the oil regions of Iran. The simple truth is that Saddam was a mortal threat to not only the people luckless to live under his rule but the entire Middle East as demonstrated by his Iraq-Iran war and his failed attempt to annex Kuwait, all in an attempt to make himself the controller of most of the oil on Earth. Saddam was a minor league Hitler who wished to enter the major leagues.

  30. Dealing with children forces us to confront such realities of human nature on a regular basis.
    –Barbara Gordon

    I learned a lot about dealing with women and children from training dogs.

    And dealing with women and children taught me a lot that was useful when teaching adults in a classroom.

    Barbara Gordon’s speculations about “men who do not work directly with or have not raised children” are, in my experience, much more applicable to men who suffer from too much concern for the opinion of females–a deep problem throughout Christendom since the Victorian Era.

  31. Donald R. McClarey wrote, “”History suggests that minorities often fare batter under authoritarian rulers”
    Not under Saddam as the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs would be happy to attest. “

    But we should not overlook the prominent rôle of Tariq Aziz and other members of the Christian community in the Ba’ath party. Saddam used stern measures against dissidents and separatists; there is not a shred of evidence that he ever persecuted Christians, simply for being Christians. The same is true of Yarsanis, Yazidis, Zoroastrians and other religious minorities

    As for the Iran-Iraq war, this certainly weakened a régime that is confronted with a declining number of men of military age and diminishing oil revenues. We can only hope that conflicts arise between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan over oil rights in the Caspian, especially as 25% of Iran’s population are ethnic Azeris.

    Of course, one cannot but welcome the destruction of the security apparatus in Iraq, along with its political and civil society (and in Syria, too). Anything that weakens Israel’s enemies by plunging their counties into chaos must be welcome to Christians everywhere.

  32. “But we should not overlook the prominent rôle of Tariq Aziz and other members of the Christian community in the Ba’ath party. Saddam used stern measures against dissidents and separatists; there is not a shred of evidence that he ever persecuted Christians, simply for being Christians.”

    That is incorrect. After the Gulf War Saddam liked to appear as a champion of Islam and persecution of Christians was ever increasing. Your citation of lickspittle Tariq Aziz is ironic. His real name is Mikhail Yuhanna. Saddam forced Assyrian Christians, the largest group of Christians in the country to adopt Arab names. The Assyrian written language was suppressed. When Michel Aflaq, the founder of Saddam’s Baath Party, died in 1989, Saddam falsely claimed that he had converted to Islam and had him buried as a Muslim, to the dismay of his family. Such persecutions do not fit the rosy picture that has been painted of life under Saddam since his fall.

    http://www.wnd.com/2004/08/25902/

    The Christians in Iraq of course also had to deal with the usual terrors of living in a police state that all Iraqis were subject to.

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