Monday, September 2, 2013
THE WINDS OF WAR
Soon I will be departing for Rome and in October for a tour of the Holy Land. And it appears the perfect storm is developing for a world war. I requested this sabbatical I will be taking shortly after my 93 year old mother's death last September 18th.
My mother was in her 20's when World War II came to Italy and she knew the horrors of this war up close and personal. Her city of Livorno was heavily bombed, first by the Americans and later by the Nazi's. Her family's apartment building took a direct hit during an air raid and collapsed, killing everyone who had gone to its basement as an air raid shelter. Only by the grace of God was my mom's family elsewhere during that air raid or they would have been in the basement too. Finally the Italian government evacuated the civilians of Livorno to nearby Siena. My mom and her family lived in caves outside of Siena for a considerable period.
Now, I will be in Italy for the next three months. I am scheduled to visit the Holy Land in late October for 9 days and as fate would have it and perhaps the perfect storm the possibility of a world war looms if common sense does not prevail. Even our Holy Father Francis seems to understand and to sense what is at stake with Syria and military action there by the USA.
I print a comment by James Ignatius McAuley from another post because it captures what is at stake:
James Ignatius McAuley said...
Folks, you have all digressed from Father McDonald's column. We are to fast and prayer on September 7. This is not a platitude, and anyone who denies the power of prayer or fasting needs to reread the Book of Jonah. Our Melkite Catholc Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory the III has spoken out quite strongly against any attack on Syria. The Patriarch also urges all of us to listen to the Pope in this matter.
John Nolan, we are all aware of the situation in Pakistan, but unlike Pakistan, Syria has the ability to ignite a world war. Pakistan is simply immobilized presently by the inertia of its own problems.
Gene - I do not know if you are for a war against Syria or not (Use of any military force is an act of war, no matter how our media spins it) our last war in Iraq shattered the Chaldean Catholic Church. Our so called liberation destroyed the Christian community. Did you ever see the bombing of the churches there, an act which Hussein would never have allowed? The U.S. media ignored it, but you could find the pictures through www.byzcath.org Sure, Assad's not a saint, but as a secular muslim, Assad has protected the rights of Christians, and since the 1950s they have allowed Christians to serve in the government and military of Syria (it shocked Nasser!) And, the so called rebels (called protestors until last fall by our main stream propaganda media) are the ones destroying churches and kidnapping orthodox bishops (have you all forgotten that, or does ecumenism only extend to Protestants, and not those in apostolic succession?) In any event, less whining and more prayer! I am sorry to rant, but should the dogs of war be let loose, we will all suffer. Syria is not Iraq in 2003. or Afghanistan in 2002. They have modern weapons from the Russians and will not be caught napping. Nor will they act passively in response to a missal strike (as Sudan had to after Clinton blew up their pharmaceutical factory!), but Syria has the ability to defend themselves and attack our Mediterranean fleet. I do not have the confidence in America's military abilities as I once did, or in Israel's (they are not the army of 1967 or 1982). An attack on Syria will invite a Syrian response, which will invite an American counter response, which will invite in Russia, Iran and Israel, and voila! a world war!
September 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Posted by Fr. Allan J. McDonald at Monday, September 02, 2013
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James McCauley, No, I am not in favor of intervention in Syria.
That was indeed an excellent post, James McCauley. Thank you.
BTW Father, my mother’s experiences as a German civilian during and shortly after the war (she was 16 when the war started) included:
-- Being bombed by the Allies in Cologne. Her friend next to her was killed; she survived and scrambled out of the rubble
– Being shot at in a field by an English fighter pilot for sport (probably a war crime)
– Being shot at in her bedroom by a fighter pilot (she was too weary even to go to the shelter) and surviving because of her cast iron headboard
– Having the family home destroyed in the fighting after evacuation for the area
– Being the victim of an attempted kidnapping at a railway station after the War and being saved in the nick of time when my British army father arrived (with his side arm) to pick her up. I won’t go into details. Let’s just say people were starving in Germany at that time.
So, yes, as your own family experienced, these are the realities of war (meeting my father and then marrying him was the good part). And people in Iraq and Syria have been suffering the same and worse. And much of it is because of what we have done – opening the Pandora’s Box of violence and unleashing the dogs of war.
So we definitely need to pray for peace. May God have mercy on us all!
Good to know, Gene. Let us both, with John Nolan, say the Office Before Setting Out for a Journey for Father. It is in the Monastic Diurnal. I hope you have it. Wonderful little Breviary of the pre-1911 hours. You can buy it from the Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma.
Gene, you and your family are always in my prayers - All contributors of this blog should pray for each other as members of the mystical body of Christ.
James McCauley: In the midst of all this serious and grave discussion, fully warranted of course, I have just noticed a lovely “Freudian slip” in your post when you referred to a “missal strike” (intending “missile strike” of course). Yes, yes, and yes again – let us turn our swords into ploughshares and our missiles into missals. Isaiah would be pleased. =).
The Christian communities in Syria Egypt and Iraq which have been in those countries for centuries
have suffered terribly and in some cases been decimated.
This is within the last week(Syria):
Rableh (Agenzia Fides) - Over 12 thousand faithful Greek-Catholics are trapped in the village of Rableh, west of Qusayr, in the area of Homs. Food is scarce, the faithful are living on "bread and water", medicine is lacking to treat the sick and wounded. This is the alarm raised by local sources of Fides that invoke respect for humanitarian law, that confirm what the international press is reporting on the situation in Rableh.
For more than ten days the village of Rableh is subject to a strict blockade by armed opposition groups, which surround it on all sides.
An appeal was launched by His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, visibly moved, to all men of good will so that "Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria, and finally for peace to be reached in our beloved country." Even the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, His Exc. Mgr. Mario Zenari, called on all parties involved "to the strict observance of the international humanitarian law".
More than 1.6 million refugees, most of them women and children have fled for their lives to find refuge in neighboring countries.
The use of chemical weapons is horrendous and morally unacceptable but I fail to see how any miltary
action on the part of the U.S. will help and in fact could very well exacerbate the situation
i will not say I am against war on Syria so that it will not appear that I am trying to qualify my opinion. War is never good, everyone gets 'hurt', but it is the truly the lesser of two evils we must evaluate.
The destruction of the Chaldean Churches is not what made war in Iraq wrong. It was the lack of a clear end state that a benefit to anyone. It is a war in the vein of most Middle Eastern Wars: war for its own sake.
The Holy Father's case against the war, as well as Fr McCauley's must not be based on a military or even social evaluation. That implies debate rather than a moral position. And neither are competent to make those cases and risk defeating their own goals by doing so.
For example, Fr McCauley makes a case against war based on the relative weakening of US and Israeli forces versus Syria. This is never a reason not to wage war. That is actually the best case for striking now because we will never have this advantage again. The situation in iraq was because we refrained from decimated rather than destroyed the Iraqi forces. This was based on our desire to avoid a power vacuum. Instead we created a multi-sided conflict of well armed factions. Syria will only become emboldened by Russia and Iran and will eventually Strike Israel.
The Syrian use of gas is not a problem only because it was against the Syrian people. It is a problem because the use of this sort of weapon is being evaluated to update the information on its use and to test the resolve of civilized countries against its use. To not strike has the distinct hazard of justifying not only the use of lethal force against civilians but also the use of chemical weapons. The Iranians are pouring over the data right now, as are the Russians, and the risk of its use is increasing as we wait.
Prayer is a powerful weapon. But the enemy must understand that we are praying that we will not have to kill them, not praying that they will spare us.
We have armed the most foolish nations at the expense of the well being and fruitfulness of our own people. At this point we are praying that God will not deliver His justice on us for the foolish way we have lived and dealt with each other.
We do not profess Christ's Truth, nor His Salvation. We deny His Way is The One Way. And we have the gall to pray for His deliverance.
We need this war and we need it now. It is the stripes we deserve and we need to clear out the filth we have made of our lives. We think we are avoiding injury to innocents. We are actually ensuring their harm. We are trying to contrive some excuse that will make us seem wise by selling everyone into another generation of slavery. We make War because we are lazy, impatient, and lack faith.
I was not attempting to compare Pakistan with Syria. I was merely querying the failure of the Vatican to condemn Islamic persecution of Christians, and the reluctance of the western media to report it.
What is happening in Syria is a religious and ethnic civil war. It will not end if and when the Assad regime is toppled, since the opposition forces are too disparate. The Syrian armed forces have been degraded to the point that the regime is increasingly reliant on paramilitary organizations, and if attacked by the US are incapable of responding effectively; nor could they risk a conflict with the IDF.
Iran, Russia and China may support Assad, but would not intervene to keep him in power. The Israelis would like to see him fall, and Hizbollah with him, but are under no illusions as to what the aftermath may be.
There won't be a world war (who, incidentally, will be fighting whom, and where?) simply because America decides to express its moral outrage with Tomahawks. I feel desperately sorry for the Syrian people, and certainly believe that peace is worth praying for, but I don't believe limited intervention is going to solve anything, either in the short or long term.
RCG, Wow, you just made some things crystal clear for me. It is difficult for me to disagree with you. But, as I said in the other thread, it does seem fool hardy to go to war with an incompetent head of state. that concerns me as much as anything.
Gene, you could not be more correct. We earn peace by paying for war. Electing fools for leaders is worse than letting your sword go dull. And that includes the clown car with Boener and McCain in it.
RCG writes: "Prayer is a powerful weapon. But the enemy must understand that we are praying that we will not have to kill them, not praying that they will spare us."
What absolute sickening bloody arrogance.
May just as well pray: Please Lord, we know you have appointed us to kill others when we think it is appropriate. So please let everyone else know that, especially those that we like the least of all. Let them know it is our God given right to kill them but that we are prepared to be merciful if they comply and behave as we believe they should behave! Thank you Lord that you did not create us as one of them. Amen.
Mark, somehow I don't read that into what RCG said. If an Obama constituent, or a group of them, approach me at the ATM I may quickly pray, 'Please, God, let them mean no harm." Then, if they do intend harm, I pull Colonel Colt's prayerbook and shoot them. That seems reasonable to me. Certainly, it is better than praying, "Lord, let them try something so I can shoot them."
Mark Nel, PS I enjoyed your blog this morning.
Mark, what you write is exactly the prayer of this nation at this point in time. We lazily put off the hard work of engagement and small conflicts of real importance to avoid the inconvenience of being disliked in a series of small matters. We have avoided the many small conflicts only to find the sum their energy now possessing the other party and driving him beyond the ability to reason.
Now we are looking at survival and are at the point we have no credibility with Syria, either as a friend or lethal opponent. We can neither beg nor impose a change to their behaviour and now people are going to die. It would be better for him to fear me greatly and for me to show true mercy and respect. That is the point of the prayer.
As a purely philosophical matter I may be willing to let the enemy kill me if I know that that act clears the slate and those whom I protect will be able to work with the enemy. However, the truth is that it merely leaves others vulnerable to the enemy and without hope of protection. This is very bad position and does not reflect well on me.
I'm against a strike on Syria but not becasue I think for even a second that it will lead to WWIII, I doubt that in the extreme. I'm against the strike because the "rebels" who would benefit are Al-Qaeda and Muslim brotherhood backed, and therefore enemies of America. The "good guys" in the Assad government are only marginally better, being supported by Iran and major sponsors of Hezbollah, but at least they don't outright kill Christians. My preferred solution is that both sides go on killing each other over that wretched patch of dirt without any assistance from anyone.
That's Real Politik
Father Michael Kavenaugh and Father McDonald both know I am not an ordained priest, but at best an acolyte in my Byzantine Catholic Church. By God's grace, I hope ne day to serve as a Deacon. I am an attorney and a historian who is trained in data analysis, military or otherwise.
I respectfully disagree RCG with your statement that "[fo]r example, Fr McCauley makes a case against war based on the relative weakening of US and Israeli forces versus Syria. This is never a reason not to wage war." Having stated that , I simply do not have the time (I run my own business and I have deeds to draft), nor is this the forum, for such a debate. So, just join me and Pope Francis, as a member of the mystical body of Christ, in praying and fasting this Saturday. Also, RCG, kindly, remember Father McDonald in your prayers for his trip.
Thank you , Anonymous 2.
Certainly, Templar is correct. If they would just kill each other off it would be better for everyone.
JIA, let me clear something up: I am very, very much against war. What I am saying is that we deserve it. I respectfully disagree that this is not the venue to discuss this, either. We need to develop peaceful attitudes and thoughts when times allow it to keep us 'between the lines'. We are damned sloppy in our war-making business and lack commitment to it. We provoke countries during peace, then try to talk our way out of it when the time comes. Then we casually commit military actions all along the echelon of peace/military actions and wonder why our friends and foes are confused. Our commitment to peace cannot exclude our commitment to war. We need people like yourself, the priests on this board and other thoughtful people to help us work diligently and tirelessly for a peace that respects the dignity of all and is committed to the Truth I recite each Mass. When war comes all parties will know with clarity it was unavoidable because we did everything humanly possible to avoid it.
I recall very clearly considering the what I was about to do on the eve of battle. It is the ultimate irony that I concluded with all my heart that I did not hate those people I was going to destroy, but it was the ultimate failure as a human that I had let myself get into the position where I had no other choice. the only thing I had left for negotiation was rightfully the life of someone else; either the people who needed defending or the people in my unit. I could not allow either to die because I was half stepping or wavering. If the enemy was going to come to his senses he needed to have a clear view of his own death to help chose. If I have a clear head of the work at hand I can offer compassion when the opportunity presents itself and not have to over come the heat of rage too late for mercy.
We need apologetics for peace just as we need apologetics for our Faith. In both cases there is Right and Wrong that mus be identified right up front to make the discussion fruitful.
Continuing the saga...Assad just said Obama is "weak" and Chrissy-poo Matthews just said that Assad is a racist.
In other news, Obama is going to push the gay rights agenda when he visits St.Petersburg (Russia) soon. Let's see, Putin has just warned Obama about Syria, Putin has sent state-of-the-art anti-ship missiles to Syria, so Obama thinks the right thing to do is thumb his nose at Putin with a great big sister-boy rally in Putin's country. Truly amazing. Again, the jokes just wqrite themselves.
The whole point is that the US is not threatening to go to war with Syria. Assad now controls only about 40% of the country. What Obama is planning to do is intervene (from a safe distance thanks to advanced military technology) on one side in a religious and ethnic civil war. It may bring a quicker end to the Assad regime, but what then? The factional fighting will continue. The US doesn't really want the other side to win. It's moral posturing and grandstanding, and Cameron was doing the same until his own party told him to put a sock in it.
What adds to the irony is that the United States used chemical warfare on a massive scale between 1962 and 1971 in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in what was known as Operation Ranch Hand. 20 million US gallons of Agent Blue and Agent Orange, containing high levels of dioxins were used in what was euphemistically called a 'defoliation program'.
I had two friends who were Seabees who died from cancers directly related to their handling of Agent Orange. This stuff visits their children, as well. Humanity's drive to find better ways to destroy one another certainly gives the lie to progressives' plans for creating a Utopian, or even a good, society on earth.
Thjs thing in Syria does not bode well...
I have no opinion or argument about Syria. I just wanted to say I hope you enjoy your sabbatical. It sounds like you will have quite the adventure. I will pray for your safe return.
Although we may disagree that there is no alternative to suffering a war now as a sort of chastisement for our past failures, I very much appreciated reading your perspectives. Two remarks you made struck a particular chord with me.
First, you said, in the sobering and compassionate account of your thoughts on the eve of battle that: “It is the ultimate irony that I concluded with all my heart that I did not hate those people I was going to destroy, but it was the ultimate failure as a human that I had let myself get into the position where I had no other choice.” This poignantly captures the tragic failure represented by war and the responsibility we all share collectively for that failure.
Second, you referred to “the clown car with Boehner and McCain in it.” I will doubtless be unpopular with some here for saying this but, in my view, the biggest clowns of all in the clown car were G.W. Bush and his merry men (and woman). They are, I believe, responsible for the greatest recent human failure that has led to the present tragedy. Their foreign policy antics were far, far worse than those of Obama and his crew. They opened Pandora’s Box and now we reap the whirlwind. Anyone who doubts this should ask themselves what the Middle East would look like now if Saddam Hussein had been left in power.
Of course, if we want to go back further in time to explore the history of Western entanglement in North Africa and the Middle East in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, the questions become even more interesting. And perhaps most interesting of all is to go back to the times of the Roman Empire in the first century A.D.
Don't get me wrong - the greatest achievement of the Pax Americana was the destruction of Communist tyranny in the Cold War. However, it was achieved by diplomacy backed by military power and the clear implication that the US was not bluffing.
As far as Syria is concerned, it is in the interests of the powers concerned (Russia, Iran, Israel, the USA, even France since Syria was a French League of Nations mandate) to restore stability to that country. This can only be done by co-operation. Palmerston demonstrated in the 19th century that the best way to achieve your ends is to work with the Power you perceive to be the greatest threat.
Unfortunately there is a strong thread in US foreign policy which dates from Woodrow Wilson and which claims to hold the moral high ground. This, when allied with a ruthless pursuit of self-interest does not produce good results. The Korean War was absolutely justified - the Vietnam War shows that the US (which had no idea how to fight a counter-insurgency campaign and was too arrogant to listen to those who had actually had that experience) was a disaster.
Being a superpower gives you enormous diplomatic leverage. Start using it.
John, Our current "leader" is not comfortable with the US being a super power and he is trying to play that down by bowing and scraping and engaging in all kinds of submissive behaviors abroad. If he could somehow make the Syrians and Russians feel guilty for being "racist," then that is the arena in which he knows how to work. Of course, he could have the CIA print off a few million EBT cards and air drop them into Syria. All their soldiers would quit working then.
I think our current President understands that, since the end of WW2, we have not been and should not attempt to be the superpower that intervenes here and there as we deem necessary or needed.
Vietnam, Beirut, Granada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (again), Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria - "War becomes perpetual when it is used as a rationale for peace." While there may be some long-term benefits to nations or regions after some level of war, it just doesn't have the effect we hope for, openly or covertly.
"Just" or not, war is always grotesque and always the result of failure.
Pater, your current President is the one who is advocating intervention in Syria. It is not intervention per se that is at issue. NATO was right to intervene in the Balkans, after the UN had proved (once again) that it is worse than useless at peacekeeping.
US policy for most of the post-war period was one of containment rather than intervention.
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