Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho, it's off to war we go

I’m a middle child. Popular psychology enthusiasts have come up with a variety of characteristics that are common to people who are first born, last born, and everything in between. According to “Middle children are peacekeepers by default. They are the mediators.” There’s truth in that description for me, though I’m not totally convinced my traits are due to birth order. Even during the dozen plus years that I was away from the Church, I’ve objected to war and preferred peaceful solutions. As a person of faith the Church provides a natural framework to oppose war. That doesn’t mean all religious people are pacifists. In fact, most aren’t. Many of the wars throughout the ages have been over issues of God.

Differences in Christianity have been used as a reason to go to war, so much so that much of Europe’s map exists because of the various wars over the centuries. In the Middle East the Palestinians and the Israelis have been fighting for what seems like the beginning of time. An Islamic jihad is now wielded as justification for attacks by some countries and groups against others. There’s liturgical support for such actions in each denomination., whether it be the Bible, the Torah or the Quran. There’s also liturgical support opposing such violence as well. How to choose whether to address conflict with bombs or other methods is the challenge that faces political leaders.

The United States came into being with explorers and founders who didn’t want to see the country devolve into factions over religion. They fled Europe in part to avoid religious battles. The result is that the very first Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that the Government will not make any law respecting the establishment of or impeding the free exercise of religion. Over time the pendulum of how courts have interpreted this has swung in various directions. More recent decisions seem to weigh closer towards having religion be a core part of public life. Certainly the leaders have.

George W. Bush said that the invasion of Iraq was “willed by God.” The 43rd President throughout his tenure often used Bible quotes as justification for many things – but especially in matters of war. In contrast Barack Obama won the Presidency thanks in part to a passionate opposition to the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, one of his Administration’s successes has been fulfilling Obama’s pledge to remove American troops from Iraq. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in anticipation of those actions. It’s been a short lived victory.

On August 7, 2014 the President authorized airstrikes in Iraq. “We do whatever is necessary to protect our people. We support our allies when they're in danger," Obama said. According to UPI: “The announcement comes as religious minorities in Iraq, including Christians, fled Sunni Muslim militants operating under the name the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.”

For six years the Obama Administration worked to get Americans out of the country. Having succeeded in that, there shouldn't be any of “our people” there to "protect." As to supporting “our allies?” Syria rebels and many African conflicts are quick examples where the same justification could be used, but hasn’t been.

Pundits, spin-masters and various other talking heads wrap themselves into a pretzel-like contortion in explaining how putting American military personnel and dropping bombs isn’t war. The dictionary definition of war is: “a conflict carried on by force of arms.” In less than a week nearly 1,000 U.S. military personnel have been deployed to Iraq. U.S. bombs are being used to kill people. It may be justified as humanitarian, but it’s war nonetheless.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution states “The Congress shall have Power To declare War.” World War II was the last time the Congress officially declared war. This Congress, which can’t seem to agree on anything, isn’t likely to break the decades long pattern of allowing the Executive Branch to usurp this responsibility. That’s particularly ironic given the lawsuit filed against the Administration for not following the law. I digress. I guess bombing Iraq means that Barack Obama isn’t a middle child?

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