Holder: Americans Have No Right to a Fair Trial

Glenn Greenwald reprimands his fellow liberals for advancing the same police state previously promoted by the Bush administration. The Obama adminstration is now working hand-in-hand with GOP war-mongers like Lieberman and McCain to systematically strip you of all rights. Because in The War on Terror every American citizen must be assumed an enemy of the state and is guilty until proven innocent (assuming your lucky enough to even see a court room):

In a speech at Northwestern University yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder provided the most detailed explanation yet for why the Obama administration believes it has the authority to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution by the CIA without even charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusations, or affording them an opportunity to respond, instead condemning them to death without a shred of transparency or judicial oversight. The administration continues to conceal the legal memorandum it obtained to justify these killings, and, as The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage noted,Holder’s “speech contained no footnotes or specific legal citations, and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo.” But the crux of Holder’s argument as set forth in yesterday’s speech is this:

Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence.The “process” used by the Obama administration to target Americans for execution-by-CIA is, as reported last October by Reuters, as follows:

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

As Leon Panetta recently confirmed, the President makes the ultimate decision as to whether the American will be killed: “[The] President of the United States obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification, and in the end says, go or no go.”

So that is the “process” which Eric Holder yesterday argued constitutes “due process” as required by the Fifth Amendment before the government can deprive of someone of their life: the President and his underlings are your accuser, your judge, your jury and your executioner all wrapped up in one, acting in total secrecy and without your even knowing that he’s accused you and sentenced you to death, and you have no opportunity even to know about, let alone confront and address, his accusations; is that not enough due process for you? At Esquire, Charles Pierce, writing about Holder’s speech, described this best: “a monumental pile of crap that should embarrass every Democrat who ever said an unkind word about John Yoo.”

* * * * *

I’ve obviously written about the Obama assassination program many times before but there are several points worth examining in light of Holder’s speech and the reaction to it:

(1) The willingness of Democrats to embrace and defend this power is especially reprehensible because of how completely, glaringly and obviously at odds it is with everything they loudly claimed to believe during the Bush years. Recall two of the most significant “scandals” of the Bush War on Terror: his asserted power merely to eavesdrop on anddetain accused Terrorists without judicial review of any kind. Remember all that? Progressives endlessly accused Bush of Assaulting Our Values and “shredding the Constitution” simply because Bush officials wanted to listen in on and detain suspected Terrorists — not kill them, just eavesdrop on and detain them — without first going to a court and proving they did anything wrong. Yet here is a Democratic administration asserting not merely the right to surveil or detain citizens without charges or judicial review, but to kill them without any of that: a far more extreme, permanent and irreversible act. Yet, withsomerighteousexceptions, the silence is deafening, or worse.

How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’sexecutions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground.

That the same Party and political faction that endlessly shrieked about Bush’s eavesdropping and detention programs now tolerate Obama’s execution program is one of the most extreme and craven acts of dishonesty we’ve seen in quite some time.

Kudos to Glenn Greenwald for breaking ranks and standing up for our rights.


More Fruits of America’s Unjust Wars

We entered a war in Iraq declared unjust by two popes. So, should it comes as any surprise that after a decade of nation-building that Iraq is quite possibly worse off than before? Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, warned that US nation-building and the Iraq war will lead to “dividing Iraq and to rivers of blood.” We continue to meddle in Iraq even after full troop withdrawal in violation of Iraqi sovereignty and to their outrage. However, none of that matters because the Iraq war was about national security and not some limp-handed humanitarian mission. This was about destroying the terrorists who hate us because of our freedom and Christian values. Oh wait, we totally screwed over Iraq’s Christians in the name of defending Christian values. They’re Iraqis though so they must hate us; only American Christians are truly true Christians with, you know, actual rights and whatnot.

This is just a cross-section of that unjust war looks like. As Catholics we must not waver from just war doctrine again. America’s politicians are under heavy pressure from AIPAC to fight their enemies in Iran for them in what would be yet another unjust war. Lets not be duped again.

Torture Apologists Outraged by Sensory Deprivation Techniques

Neoconservatives are outraged because freedom fighter Amir Fakhravar was detained and subjected to sensory-deprivation via whiteout techniques, representing despicable use of torture by Iran. Yet, the same political ideology lauds use of re-created drowning by our own CIA as an “advanced interrogation” technique and a necessary tool in fighting terrorism. Some conservative Catholics have taken up this same line of thinking, arguing that because the church does not have a specific stance on a specific torture technique then it cannot be torture, and if it is not torture than it cannot constitute inhumane treatment of prisoners, and therefore if it is not inhumane treatment then it is perfectly compatible with Catholic moral teaching.

However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Furthermore, the exact rubric for defining torture is listed below:

The Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

1. violation of human dignity in the form of
2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
4. against that person’s will.

At low intensity, waterboarding intentionally inflicts mental harm against the prisoner’s will in order to extract information or as punishment, and at even moderate intensities can be lethal. Thus, waterboarding constitutes torture and is an intrinsic evil in violation of Catholic doctrine. Americans who support “advanced interrogation” techniques need to reevaluate their beliefs and ask themselves who are they really loyal to? Do their Christian morals come first or are they merely an accessory to the neoconservative cause? Both sensory deprivation techniques like “white” torture and waterboarding constitute an intrinsic evil to be categorically opposed – regardless of whether the offender is the American CIA or our enemies abroad; for individuals to condemn one and protect the other constitutes an unprecedented duplicitousness that devalues human life in favor of trivial party loyalties.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Malcolm W. Nance, a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies and a 20-year veteran. If you believe that waterboarding is a viable tool or are undecided then I recommend that you read the full article.

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussionabout this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but “not all of it reliable.” Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we —to trade our nation’s soul for tactical intelligence?

I’ll end with a quote from the Second Vatican Council, in discussing the respect due to the human person:

“Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator

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.”

The GOP Debate: as Disappointing as Ever

The GOP primary debate is currently on live in South Carolina and I’ve finally reached the breaking point where I just can’t watch anymore. If anyone says anything else interesting I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about it. In the meantime there were two statements made that I found particularly enlightening and would like to address.

The first statement was made by Romney as he announced his support for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial under suspicion of terrorist activity thus allowing the executive branch to completely bypass our judicial system. Up to this point Romney has not held a position on the bill as far as I am aware (At the time of the Iowa caucuses he stated that he was “unaware” of the bill and promised caucus goers that he would read it at a later date). I personally find it very disturbing that our legislators and many of the GOP candidates vying for the presidency have apparently lost all faith in our judicial system during the course of their war on terror and are now eager to completely excise it from our justice system at the expense of the constitutional rights of all American citizens.

The second statement was made by Rick Perry regarding the marines who urinated on the corpses of Afghani soldiers. In response to the marines the Secretary of Defense and the Obama administration condemned the actions as “utterly despicable”. Perry, however, while he thinks that these soldiers should be punished by the military, believes that this reaction from the President is too strong and that the marines should not be prosecuted for any crime. Furthermore, he relayed this incident in order to provide an “example” of Obama’s “disdain” for our military. Let me repeat that: Rick Perry thinks that condemning the marines who urinated on foreign soldiers corpses within their own land as “utterly despicable” equates to disdain by Obama for our entire armed forces, dishonoring them and all their sacrifice. However, what Rick Perry seems incapable of understanding is that the president’s words were entirely accurate: desecration of dead bodies illustrates a grave disrespect for the sanctity of human life and the immutable truth that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God our creator. President Obama’s choice of words were completely appropriate in respect to this violation and in no way was a reflection of his views on the military at large. That Rick Perry is willing to compromise recognition of the infinite value innate to human life for blind allegiance to our military bodes ill for the protection of human rights.

This is why I don’t like watching these debates. It doesn’t seem like much to ask for public servants who will simply uphold our constitutional rights and respect and abide by Catholic moral teaching yet apparently even that is more than our politicians can handle. I urge my readers that, in order to send a message to our politicians, you simply support a candidate compatible with Catholic moral teaching no matter how “unelectable” they may be, a candidate who doesn’t support abortion, unjust war, assassinations, torture, preemptive military strikes, foreign aid to dictators, covert operations against countries without declaration of war, redefinition of marriage, or increases in government power at the expense of our constitutional rights to name a few. Its more difficult than it sounds as such candidates appear to be rare this presidential race. The only major candidate on either side of the aisle who comes close in my opinion is Ron Paul, but don’t take my word for it; find out for yourself.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Unacceptable Position

“I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. In our present day, Martin Luther King Jr. has become an icon for racial harmony and today we hold parades for him, we’ve named our streets after him, but we also censor him. While King has been accepted into American culture as a great pioneer for civil rights here at home what we so quickly overlook is the fact that he was a steadfast proponent for the rights of those outside our own borders as well.

What the mainstream media and the flock of political leaders who “honor” him today conveniently forget to mention is King’s staunch criticism of US foreign policy, condemning it as militaristic. In his own words, King declared the United States government the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and went on to declare, “It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries.” Replace communism with “terrorism” or “radical Islamism” and you have an accurate statement of today’s times.

While our foreign policy at the time of the Vietnam War was aggressive, it pales in comparison to today. We have over 1,000 military bases worldwide in 116 countries, are only just now ending two decade-long foreign wars, we are on the verge of another, and we give billions in “foreign aid” to tin pot dictators around the globe. If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he would be ashamed at the state of our nation – and rightly so.