The Third Jihad

I recently watched The Third Jihad which portrays radical Islamism and the threat it poses to the rest of the world via jihad. The full feature length film can be viewed here while a 30-minute condensed version can be found here (Part 1 of 4). The film gives a strong visual to the human rights violations conducted in the name of Islam and portrays a strong sense of urgency in facing this threat. However, while I am in strong concurrence for the need to denounce and reverse the trend of human rights violations as well as the need for a strong national defense in light of this threat, The Third Jihad engages in deceitful tactics, misrepresentation and in several cases outright lies. If you want a better sense of the urgency we face in our conflict with radical jihadism then I recommend you watch this film, but take its content with a grain of salt. I kept notes on some of the most significant misrepresentations in the film which I would also recommend you read in addition to watching the film:

1.3 billion muslims, only a very small minority are radical islamists. The Third Jihad cedes this fact in preface to their production. However, only nine minutes into the movie a commentator states that “thousands of millions” of muslims believe in radical islamism and worldwide jihad. There are not even thousands of millions of muslims in the world much less that many hardliners who believe in worldwide jihad.

The Third Jihad expresses fear at the thought of “non-violent”  muslims within the United States who are further labeled “radical” despite admittance to their non-violence because they wish to spread their muslim beliefs and see sharia law established in the White House. What the movie blatantly ignores is that the United States is a democracy and if muslims want to engage in US politics through non-violent means that is their constitutional right as US citizens. US citizenship is not, and never has been, dependent on a person’s religious status – after all, freedom of religion is one of the central tenets of American democracy.

Nearly 25% of young American muslims thought suicide-bombings in defense of Islam were justified according to The Third Jihad. However, in 2002, 72% of Americans approved of the Iraq war which resulted in the killing of over 1 million Iraqis. Even today, 31% of Americans support the unjust war in Iraq – 6 percentage points more than the suicide-bombing approval rate. We cannot condemn American muslims who support terrorism without also addressing the much greater America that supports the Americanist flavor of terrorism and unjust war.

The movie’s illustration of “US homegrown terrorism” is yet another reason why we need to end our wars abroad and focus on defense domestically. To increase military spending abroad and engage in an ever more aggressive foreign policy is self-defeating.

The movie criticizes Middle East countries for making campaign contributions to US politicians. I’m against all monetary donations to politicians that aren’t form individuals but to single out and only mention Muslim states is highly specious when virtually every single American corporation does the exact same thing in order to buy-out politicians. We Should be calling out our leaders for their lack of character and try to fix our broken political system, not demonizing the Middle East for taking advantage of our own shortcomings.

As for the movie’s condemnation of Islamic activists recruiting among the discontented American prisons population, end the War on Drugs and you cut their recruiting grounds by half.

Condemning British muslims for wanting their government to reflect their values is absurd. The video cites that 81% consider themselves muslims first and British second. I consider myself Catholic first and American second and all Christians should consider their loyalty first to their faith and not their country. Both Catholicism and Islam predate British and American government, and faith in God supersedes loyalty to government. We live in a country in which our constitution recognizes that our rights are granted to us not by the government but by God and thus it is to God to whom our first loyalty should lie. Can we really blame Muslims for doing the same? These are not the radical Islamists that promote terror, these are men and women trying to be faithful to their religion and there is nothing wrong with that. To undermine their faith serves only to push them towards radicalism.

The movie’s assertion that Iran is “making every effort” to acquire nuclear weapons is unfounded. Additionally, the assertion that Iran can develop nuclear weapons in a “very short time” is only true if you believe a decade or more to be a very short time – at least two decades for an inter-continental nuclear missile – and only assuming Iran started immediately. Also, the claim that Mutually Assured Destruction does not apply to Iran is absurd. The sheer volume of nuclear weapons necessary to wipe the entire United States off the map, to say nothing of our Allies, is huge – thousands upon thousands more of the kind of nuclear devices than Iran would be capable of producing. However, while Iran would be able to take out one city in the United States in such a hypothetical situation, we could easily kill every single man, woman and child in retaliation. Additionally, Israel has its own arsenal of 300 nukes right next door to Iran and are even less hesitant to use them than we would be. We have the best protection available against any nuclear attack and this is a deterrent to every nation, regardless of ideology.

The fight against radical Islam is a cultural battle. Additional invasion and occupation of muslim countries is not the answer; in fact, this will only further unify Muslim culture against the West. Targeting Islam under the law is not the answer; again, these are tactics of oppression that will swell the ranks of our opposition. Instead, we must adhere to and promote our Christian beliefs in an attempt to overcome the culture of death that permeates radical Islam and the concept of jihad. In Evangelium vitae, Blessed John Paul II had this to say about the culture of death:

In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

But Blessed John Paul II also offers a solution:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

For us too Moses’ invitation rings out loud and clear: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:15, 19). This invitation is very appropriate for us who are called day by day to the duty of choosing between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”. But the call of Deuteronomy goes even deeper, for it urges us to make a choice which is properly religious and moral. It is a question of giving our own existence a basic orientation and living the law of the Lord faithfully and consistently: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live … therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (30:16,19-20).

The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who has conquered death; faith in the blood of Christ “that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

With the light and strength of this faith, therefore, in facing the challenges of the present situation, the Church is becoming more aware of the grace and responsibility which come to her from her Lord of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of life.

If we are to survive radical Islam it will not be through militarism, ultranationalism or unjust targeting of muslims through the law, it will be through changing hearts and minds. By practicing true Christian charity we can impact muslim culture and rediscover the heart of Man. Thus, by affirming the esteemed value of human life and dignity through continual cultural exchange we can denounce radicalism in all its forms and together firmly establish the culture of life.


The Culture of Life

Life at its most vulnerable

I’m back from Washington DC and once again I’m blown away by the March for Life. To witness hundreds of thousands of people all congregated in front of our nation’s capital in defense of the unborn. The spirit of joy and determination emanating from the protestors – especially by the uncountable youth present – moved me to reaffirm two simple truths long asserted by the church: first, that humanity is beautiful and, second, that life is precious. It is one thing to understand and intellectually accept these claims but quite another to have them resound in your heart. To see such an affirmation of the culture of life is refreshing.

However, while the witness to the culture of life made by the March for Life every year is wonderful the pro-life movement faces daily challenges. Unfortunately, not all of these challenges are exterior, either, and we must maintain the integrity of the pro-life movement. Many Americans who protest abortion and self-identify as pro-life have not been consistent in their values; these particular pro-lifers, including many of our “pro-life” politicians have taken a “fight abortion at all costs” attitude in the battle for the unborn and have thrown other, apparently accessory, life-issues like capital punishment, unjust war, and inhumane treatment of prisoners by the wayside. This has not gone unnoticed by our fellow Americans. The pro-choice movement has pointed out again and again the contradiction of calling ourselves “pro-life” and simultaneously supporting unjust wars like Iraq or needless executions and as a result many don’t take us seriously – and why should they? When people claim to be for life, but then arbitrarily choose to save unborn children but ignore the deaths of Iraqi citizens caused by a war proclaimed unjust by two popes how is that any different than saying human value is dependent upon the geographical difference of a few short inches between the womb and the outside world?

Many pro-lifers, including many Catholics, have told me that they will support a candidate who endorses torture, or unjust war or some other intrinsic evil based on the rationale that it is necessary to block Obama and defend unborn children. While Catholic moral teaching allows voters to tolerate a lesser evil in order to block a greater one is the state of our nation so dire that ending abortion is the only issue worthwhile of our defense? When, according to Catholic theology, a human life has infinite value can we really prioritize opposing one particular method of needless killing over all others? Just because we have the option to tolerate a lesser evil does not necessarily mean that we should. In Humanae vitae Bless John Paul II condemns promoting even the most admirable ends if the means are evil – no matter how grave the issue:

Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it

This message is reaffirmed in Veritatis splendor:

But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality” ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action . . . “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or“proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation.

Refugees displaced by war

The concept that we must fight abortion at all costs is erroneous. We need to ask ourselves: at what cost? At the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead in an unjust war? At the cost of countless other human rights violations? Abortion is the gravest evil our country has ever faced, but to support any politician or policy that would sacrifice the human dignity and lives of others in the name of combating abortion is to support a culture compromised. While we can distinguish between life-issues, they have one universal root: the real issue, which is our culture’s disregard for life. Abortion is a symptom, a devastating consequence of our twisted perception of humanity and only by defending every life-issue and having the courage to stand as an advocate for all of the weak, born and unborn, can we expect to effect change. In Evangelium vitae Blessed John Paul II affirms the need to be unconditional in our defense of human life and dignity and support a culture of life. Never did he suggest a need to fight abortion at all costs, but instead calls us to defend all life-issues:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

defend human life and dignity from conception to death

Only by effecting change in our culture and instilling a respect for all life and the dignity of every human person can we hope to see an end to abortion. If we continue to undermine the culture of life and treat other lives as irrelevant in the light of the supreme evil of abortion then it could easily be another 52 million lives lost before we prevail. Instead, lets stand against all injustice wherever it may be found, find solidarity with our liberal counterparts and together bring an end to all violations of human life and dignity in America.

The Cost of Unjust War

“Move beyond the prophesying of a smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Today I would like to take the time to approach the issue of US foreign policy from a different perspective and that is by focusing on the actual, gritty real-world effects that our wars have – both on the civilians of the countries we invade or threaten and on our own servicemen and women.

If you want a background as to my perspective in order to better grasp what I have to say below and where I am coming from then you can read my views on the war on terror at large here and on the targeting of civilians here. Also, let me preface the following by stating, so that there is no confusion, that I do not trust Iran or any other country unfriendly towards the United States and in no way view them as the “good guys”. Furthermore, in no way do I support isolationist policies; if America’s national security is under imminent threat and no other method can be reasonably employed than I believe that military intervention against the offending party is licit as long as Catholic just war doctrine is not violated. A brief overview of Catholic just war doctrine is given below as a reference; more information can be found here:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Now, with that said, I believe that our current foreign policy under Obama and in continuation of the Bush legacy, does violate just war doctrine as evidenced in part by the unnecessary and disproportional hardship faced by millions of people around the world as a direct result of our unjust actions, only a few of which are outlined below.

First, let me address the issue of depleted uranium: It is a byproduct of uranium refinement for nuclear power. Depleted uranium is much less radioactive than other uranium isotopes, and its high density – twice that of lead – makes it useful for armor and armor piercing shells. It has been used in conflicts including Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, the Gaza strip, Afghanistan and Iraq and there have been increasing concerns about the health effects of DU dust left on the battlefield. Specifically, birth defects and cancer rates have skyrocketed among the civilian population in these regions following conflicts involving DU and many researchers now believe that there is a direct link between DU used by the US military and cancer and birth defects to the point that many now want to define DU as an indiscriminate weapon – specifically banned by Catholic just war doctrine. However, any conclusive evidence on the effects of DU is lacking due to refusal by the US to cooperate with researchers. Without the exact information of when, where and in what quantity our military has used DU its adverse health effects can only be guessed at. However, with literally tons upon tons of the radioactive waste littering past conflict zones it would be irrational not to suspect a cause and effect between DU and the sudden escalation in birth defects and cancer rates. More information on depleted uranium is available here (Warning: disturbing images). The below two quotes are taken from the above link on DU. Concerning birth defects in Iraq:

In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital, Iraq, had 170 new born babies, 24% of whom were dead within the first seven days, a staggering 75% of the dead babies were classified as deformed.

This can be compared with data from the month of August in 2002 where there were 530 new born babies of whom six were dead within the first seven days and only one birth defect was reported.

Doctors in Fallujah have specifically pointed out that not only are they witnessing unprecedented numbers of birth defects but what is more alarming is:   “a significant number of babies that do survive begin to develop severe disabilities at a later stage.”

Suspected effects of DU on our own personnel:

Terry Jemison of the Department of Veterans Affairs reported this week to the American Free Press that “Gulf-era veterans” now on medical disability since 1991 number 518,739, with only 7,035 reported wounded in Iraq in that same 14-year period.

Soldiers developing malignancies so quickly since 2003 can be expected to develop multiple cancers from independent causes.

This phenomenon has been reported by doctors in hospitals treating civilians following NATO bombing with DU in Yugoslavia in 1998-1999 and the U.S. military invasion of Iraq using DU for the first time in 1991.

Medical experts report that this phenomenon of multiple malignancies from unrelated causes has been unknown until now and is a new syndrome associated with internal DU exposure.

Just 467 U.S. personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991.

Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability.

This astounding number of disabled vets means that a decade later, 56 percent of those soldiers who served now have medical problems.

The number of disabled vets reported up to 2000 has been increasing by 43,000 every year.

Brad Flohr of the Department of Veterans Affairs told American Free Press that he believes there are more disabled vets now than even after World War II.

click for enlarged version

Our military has been using depleted uranium for over twenty years now and yet we still have no way of knowing definitively if a link exists between DU and the staggering increases in deformities and malignancies listed above because not only have we refused to fund research in order to determine the moral licitness of our tactics, but our military also categorically refuses to share any information of DU use with researchers – necessary information if the truth is ever to be established on the effects of DU. In the meantime, if we really cared about following just war doctrine we would cease the use of DU under suspicion of indiscriminate effect on civilians; yet, we continue to use DU unreservedly because, apparently, DU’s usefulness as a bunker buster and anti-armor is more important to our military than the lives of civilians or even our own troops.

Next, I’d like to address the Iraq war, specifically. Blessed John Paul II condemned the Iraq war as a violation of Catholic just war doctrine, stating:

War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity… War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations… War cannot be decided upon except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations (Address to Diplomatic Corps,  Jan. 13, 2003).

However, we went to war anyway under the pretext of national defense based on “intelligence” that stated Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. Our “evidence” however consisted of a single eyewitness report and thus was faulty at best. Furthermore, U.N. weapons inspectors presented evidence they said disproved those claims. Despite, the tenuous grounds of our allegations against Hussein we continued with our plan to bomb and invade Iraq. According to CNN, “Subsequent U.S. investigations into the intelligence failure around the claims found that German intelligence considered the defector “crazy” and “out of control,” while friends said he was a “liar.” And, it turned out, the CIA not only never spoke with him, it never even saw transcripts of the German interviews, only the Germans’ analysis of the interviews.” The cost of this unnecessary and unjust war are staggering. Opinion Business Research, estimated that the death toll of Iraqi citizens between March 2003 and August 2007 was 1,033,000. Furthermore, over 4 million people were displaced in one of the largest refugee crises in history and over 140,000 new cancer cases have been reported (depleted uranium being the suspected cause). Finally, the Iraq war has resulted in 4,484 American military casualties and 33,186 wounded. Additionally, the economic hardships and continued adverse health effects inflicted upon the Iraqi populace can be expected to continue for decades to come. So, what did the Iraq war accomplish in light of all this? Well, considering that our national security was never actually in jeopardy and that we killed more Iraqis than Hussein’s despotic regime ever did its hard to argue that we accomplished anything at all.

But the Iraq war is now essentially in our past. It is a cautionary tale, however, that we must heed in the future to avoid similar calamity – the soul of America is in jeopardy in light of such evil, another atrocity like Iraq and we may lose it forever. With US-Iran relations heating up another war seems probable, but we must approach Iran with a prudence that our foreign policy has lacked up to this point. With the publication of the November IAEA report, which claims evidence illustrating the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, we must be cautious of the same kind of faulty evidence that lead us into the Iraq war nearly a decade ago. It is paramount that we return to Catholic just war doctrine as the guiding principles underlying our foreign policy.

In addition to the US insistence that Iran not pursue a nuclear weapon, many US leaders are vehemently opposed to Iran’s entire nuclear program, some going so far as to threaten preemptive missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear reactors for fear that Iran’s nuclear power program is a facade and actually the groundwork for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, leaders like Rick Santorum and Barack Obama have refused to take preemptive nuclear strikes off of the table. However, while it is true that the nuclear power capabilities of Iran do bring them one step closer to achieving nuclear weapons than they would otherwise be, using this as justification for preemptive war is wrong for a plurality of reasons. First, Iran’s nuclear program according to experts in the field poses no imminent threat making any military action by the US unjust under Catholic doctrine. Secondly, Iran has met its obligations under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has a right to peaceful use of nuclear energy under the treaty. Third, Iran’s need for nuclear power generation is real. Even when Iran ‘s population was one-third of what it is today, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, negotiating on behalf of President Gerald Ford, persuaded the former Shah that Iran needed over twenty nuclear reactors. With Iran ‘s population of 74 million and its oil resources fast depleting, Iran may be a net importer of oil in less than a decade from now. Nuclear energy is thus a realistic and viable solution for electricity generation in the country. To demand that Iran shut down their nuclear reactors thus forcing its 74 million inhabitants to rely on nonrenewable and fast-depleting oil for their livelihood is draconian. Worse, preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran’s nuclear reactors would result in an estimated 3 million civilian deaths and compromise the well-being of another 71 million people.

In terms of sheer numbers, the United States is perhaps the greatest violator of human rights on the world stage. We need to completely throw out our current, militaristic foreign policy and establish a military strategy based in Catholic just war doctrine. By doing so we can preserve the lives of millions and perhaps even begin healing the deep wounds between the West and Middle East. Its a long and hard road ahead of us, but to quote one source at the Vatican, “The vase had been broken, and we have to try to find a way to mend it.”