In his New Year's address, the Pope issued an emotional call for peace:
“What on Earth is happening in the hearts of men? What on Earth is happening in the heart of humanity?” the pontiff decried to tens of thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square, Rome, earlier this week.
“It’s time to stop!” he added in anguished tone and urged the world to “listen to the cry for peace”.
Laudable. But writer Finian Cunningham
wants something more -- a condemnation of "U.S. warmongering."
It’s not just Washington of course. The US plutocracy is but the head of a cabal of Western imperialist powers and their regional proxies, such as the Zionist Israeli regime and despotic Saudi Arabia.
Together, this US-led Axis of Evil is the main wellspring of war in the world. These are the names that the Pope needs to mention, and the system that he needs to specify is imperialism in the service of global capitalism.
This asks too much. I don't think that the Pope can, or should, point the finger at specific governments and call them a cabal or an axis of evil. If the Pope did as Cunningham asks, conservative and even moderate Catholics would stampede toward sedevacantism. And who would be left in the church? Very few. The kind of people who feel comfortable tossing out terms like "imperialism in service of global capitalism" aren't usually the kind of people who wear Miraculous Medals and listen to a lot of Bruckner.
(That said, Cunningham is correct to note the strange convergence of Israeli and Saudi interests in Syria and Iraq. But that's a topic for another post.)
What the Pope can
do, I think, is speak against drone warfare.
If he issued such a statement, he would not be condemning a nation or an economic system or a foreign policy. He would de-legitimize a method of murder. Such a declaration has precedence: The Church has already denounced
chemical and biological warfare.
According to the Vatican Radio account of the meeting, Pope Francis repeated his firm denunciation of the use of chemical weapons, first pronounced in an Angelus address of Sept. 1, and affirmed that "these armaments have no place in the world."
"The international community must continue its efforts to eliminate them and to ensure that they can't ever reemerge," the pope told Üzümcü, according to Vatican Radio...
The Pope has a unique ability to place the debate over drone warfare on a new level. For Catholics -- and even for many non-Catholics -- he possesses the moral authority to force mankind to re-assess this weapon.
So far, Americans have avoided the main issue. We have debated whether drones have hit their intended targets, whether the intelligence has been faulty, whether the war on terror justifies the civilian casualties, whether we can trust the government's pronouncements, whether non-combatants may be killed without trial, and whether drone strikes create more enemies than they eliminate. These are important questions, but they are not the
We need to ask whether we should place drone warfare in the same category as chemical warfare.
I say that we must make a "psychological re-assignment" of the drone. For roughly a century, civilized people have agreed that some weapons have an intrinsic
evil. The drone belongs in that category.
The next time Pope Francis speaks out against chemical weapons, let him also decry the drone. Let him place that weapon outside the confines of "just war" doctrine. With that single gesture, he can ignite a new conversation. He can force us to face the unpleasant truth of our recent history.
I can't think of anything more useful for the Pope to do.
Drones cannot kill unless someone pushes a button. Violence cannot occur without the compliance of a functionary sitting well out of harm's way -- a cola-slurping "warrior" who has become inured to the sight of dead and maimed bodies on a computer screen. If that person was raised a Catholic, he or she should be made to understand that he spits on his faith if he presses that button. The "Hellfire" threat should work both ways.