Preemptive Truth: 'What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?'

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one who…
Made such a sinner of his memory,
To credit his own life.

~ William Shakespeare
The
Tempest

The above Doonesbury
comic strip of October 19, 2002, puts the lie to ecclesiastical,
civil, commercial and media hierarchs and drum majors who try to
defend their moral rectitude in relation to their support of the
invasion of Iraq by saying, "If I had only known the truth,
I never would have supported this war." By October 19, 2002
what they insist they did not know until years later was public
knowledge — to the point that mainstream comic strips and cartoonists
could satirize the obviousness of the lies being employed to justify
turning Iraq into a killing field?

After the "overwhelming
atrocity" of the Vietnam War, I watched bishops, priests, ministers,
theologians, politicians, celebrities, academics, columnists, university
administrators, former students, TV talking-political-heads, labor
union leaders and members, judges, prosecutors, police officers,
FBI agents, ordinary people in the pews or in bleachers, as well
as institutions — who were politically and/or morally supportive
of that war or cleverly and silently indifferent to its carnage
— re-write their personal and institutional histories. This revisionist
project was undertaken to make it appear they were "really
against that awful thing" but did not feel that speaking out
publicly in opposition to it was right, since they didn't have all
the facts at the time because of government lies that confused them
or kept them completely in the dark. At the time, I had close encounters
of the intense kind with a few of these faux neo-adversaries of
the Vietnam War. I therefore know as a fact from personal interaction
with them what they really thought, what they really did and cooperated
with, and how they and their interests handsomely profited from
their choice to support or to remain silent.

This should
not be permitted to happen with the present "overwhelming atrocity."
Being dead wrong on the morality of an act of organized mass murder
should disenfranchise a person from even being considered as a candidate
to lead people in the Church, the Synagogue, the Mosque or the State
in matters of serious moral import. If a person cannot morally see
murder when it is mass murder, or worse, if he or she sees it and
justifies it or ignores it, they should be spiritually and humanly
disqualified from telling other people what to do and from being
given access to means of coercion (physical, psychological or spiritual)
by which to force other people to do what they want them to do.

But, unless
there is an active and persevering concern to keep those who, out
of culpable ignorance or moral inadequacy led others down a primrose
path to destruction on a grand scale, then in the not too distant
future one can expect to see something like Condoleezza Rice standing
beside her counterpart Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and War
Criminal by the standards of the Charter of Nuremberg, and receiving
the Nobel Peace Prize. As of the time I am writing this, this may
sound absurd. But, as of the time of the 1972 "Christmas Bombings"
of Hanoi, there was not a sane or insane person on the planet who
could conceive the thought that Henry Kissinger, who authored the
plan to drop 40,000 tons of explosives on the City of Hanoi between
December 18 and December 30 of that year, would one day be a Nobel
Peace Prize Laureate. And much the same happened in my own Church
(Catholic) where those who saw the evil of the killing and the destruction
in Vietnam and who spoke up were by-passed and rendered nugatory
in the earthly Church for the rest of their natural lives, while
those who were gung-ho supporters or tacitly and silently complicit
were raised to positions of stature and influence in the Church.
Indeed, in an extraordinary series of ironies (I am not at all sure
that irony is the precise word needed here), one wholehearted supporter
of the war — in "the land of the burning children" (Daniel
Berrigan's phrase for Vietnam during the war) — was made Chairman
of the U.S. Bishops' Right to Life Committee whose purpose is to
protect innocent life. Another Catholic supporter of the mass murder
of Vietnamese was made an Archbishop and has become one of the preeminent
Catholic voices proclaiming that what Catholics are doing in Iraq
is in conformity with the will of God as revealed by Jesus. He has
also been assigned the responsibility of evaluating for the Church
whether Catholic Seminaries in the U.S. are teaching seminarians
what they should be teaching them.

I suspect this
same sorrowful story of the shabby quality of Christian pastoral
leadership in relationship to the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq
can be recounted in all the mainline and Evangelical Churches of
the U.S. Now, however, the sad but seemingly incontrovertible fact
is that the wheels are already in motion, at least in the U.S. Catholic
Church and more than likely in all the others, to move those, who
have morally supported this present unjust war, into the primary
positions of ecclesiastical authority and power in the future. (One
Catholic Bishop, who publicly told the people of his diocese just
before the War on Iraq began that they did not have to follow what
the Pope said about this war being unjust by Catholic Just War Standards,
has already been promoted from being the Bishop of a small diocese
to being an Archbishop of a major archdiocese.) The crumbs of war
given out for supporting a war effort are not just a few new colorful
ribbons on a general's uniform for being part of an operation that
successfully killed large numbers of human beings, nor are they
simply the unconscionable monetary profits that only the chaos of
a war economy can make available. For those who know how to play
the game, war has a big barrel of the widest variety of earthy crumbs
to offer to the go-along-get-along person in every position of upper
echelon leadership in every organization within the warring society.
All that is asked is that he or she not be too morally, intellectually,
or empathically persnickety about what they are going along with
and what they are getting along with.

Soon the chorus
of faux neo-adversaries to the War on Iraq will fill the airways
and auditoriums, the magazines and the newspapers that their constituencies
read, with their version of the ancient self-exculpating refrain:
"The government lied. This administration didn't tell us (me)
the truth regarding the reasons for going to war or what was going
on during the war." Well, "Duh!" Was the two-thousand-year-old
maxim of human wisdom that has been translated into practically
every language in the world, "The first casualty of war is
truth," unknown to these people, whether they be politicians,
press or prelates? To this day I hear and read of ex-leaders of
Church and State saying in relation to their patriotic and moral
support of the Vietnam War, "The government lied to me. If
I knew then what I know now I would not have supported it."
Well, at least by 1966 anyone in power in Church or State, who wanted
to know, could have known the evil that was occurring in Vietnam
under U.S. auspices. In 1966 among many, many other public revelations
in books, magazines, newspapers and on TV, a highly publicized war
crimes trial of Lyndon Johnson took place in Europe, which laid
out in detail abominations happening in Vietnam and the fact that
it was in blatant contravention of the Nuremberg Charter and International
Law. By 1966 thousands of people were demonstrating in the streets,
universities and elsewhere. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the most
noted and respected Catholic Bishop in the U.S. and an anti-communist
conservative of the first rank, said the war was unjust according
to Catholic Just War Norms and that immediate withdrawal was morally
mandated. For people in positions of power and authority in Church,
Synagogue, Mosque or State in 1968, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73 and after,
to be morally justifying and supporting the Vietnam War and subsequently
pleading they were lied to by the government as the reason for their
support is disingenuous.

But, it is
about to happen again — except it will be more morally phony this
time than then. Remember, on February 15, 2003 — a month before
the U.S.-led invasion began on March 19, 2003 — millions of people
in 80 countries and in more than 600 urban communities around the
world publicly demonstrated to denounce preparations for this unjust
war and to expose the reasons being given for the invasion as outright
falsehoods. The chief weapons inspector for the U.N., Hans Blix,
was all over the television telling the world that no weapons of
mass destruction had been found, let alone WMDs capable of imminent
deployment. It borders on the radically improbable that by March
19, 2003 any leader who had the brains, experience and savvy to
rise to the position of being head of a major organization, whether
it be a religious one, a governmental one or a commercial one, could
believe that the reasons given by the Bush administration for going
to war were genuinely valid. Yet, religious, governmental and commercial
leadership generally did not protest the coming mass murder of the
innocent. Why? The reasons are multiple but all have to do with
personal and institutional self-interests overriding all other concerns
— even the unjustified destruction and maiming of hundreds of thousands
of human beings.

So whether
it is in your Church or your government, don't let the leadership
play you for the fool, by portraying themselves as political rubes,
who are "shocked, just shocked" because they were taken-in
by the unscrupulous political operatives in the Bush administration
who lied to them about the administration's war. Don't let them
tell you behind serious and somber faces that they would have declared
the war unjust (Church) or voted against it (State) if they had
only known at the time that there were no WMDs that were being readied
for imminent deployment. Such people, whether in Church or in government
— but most especially in Church — do not deserve to be put in or
to be retained in positions of power, authority and moral leadership.
They will probably graciously, implicitly respond, if requested
to resign their offices because of gross moral negligence or worse,
as George Bush and Richard Cheney graciously, implicitly respond
when caught in murderous lies: "We've got the power and you
can't take it from us, so get lost!" So be it.

However you
will have maintained your human and Christian integrity by not becoming
part of their bloody moral sham of "If only I had known…";
a sham that is a cloaking devise for hiding human beings, whose
moral standards allow them to approve and/or to ignore mass murder
when it is in their interests to do so. Need I say that in the Catholic,
Orthodox and Protestant Churches, it has been the laity's willingness
to silently acquiesce in their leaders manifesting such a lax conscience
that has been an essential piece in the process that has permitted
Constantinian Christianity, with all its blatant contradictions
of the teachings of Jesus, to survive for 1700 years. Silence, every
bit as much as speech, is a choice of the will. Therefore, it also
can be untruthful, unloving, unChristlike and evil.

May
7, 2007

Fr.
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine-Melkite)
of the Catholic Church. Formerly a lawyer and a university educator,
he is the founder and the original director of The Program for the
Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University
of Notre Dame. He is also co-founder, along with Dorothy Day and
others of Pax Christi-USA. He has conducted retreats and spoken
at conferences throughout the world on the issue of the relationship
of faith and violence and the nonviolence of the Jesus. He was the
keynote speaker at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee for
the 25th anniversary memorial of the assassination of Rev. Martin
Luther King, Jr. there. He is author of several books, including
these: All Things Flee Thee because Thou Fleest Me: A Cry to
the Churches and their Leaders to Return to the Nonviolent Jesus
and His Nonviolent Way; Christian Just War Theory: The logic of
Deceit; August 9: The Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love.
He has also authored innumerable articles on the subject of violence,
religion and the nonviolent love of friends and enemies taught by
Jesus by word and deed. His audio/video series, BEHOLD THE LAMB,
is almost universally considered to be the most spiritually profound
presentation on the matter of Gospel Nonviolent Love available in
this format. BEHOLD THE LAMB is now available on
mp3CD through his website
, either at the cost of $5.00 for a
disc or it can be acquired directly by an mp3 downloaded from
the website for no cost
. Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy was
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his life’s work on behalf
of peace within people and among people. He may be reached and his
work may be accessed at the Center
for Christian Non-Violence
.

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