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Jesuit exposes illogical logic of war, urges resistance

By Al Mangan and Jody Dunn

Showing photos of destruction in Iraq, the Rev. Simon Harak, S.J., anti-militarism coordinator of the War Resisters League, considers the Iraq War part of a national addiction to violence many try to justify with logic.

So he countered the logic of choosing war as the means to the varying ends.

In an interview after his recent speech at the Gonzaga Law School, he said his concern arises from his faith as a Christian.

Last in Iraq in 2000 with Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign he co-founded to break the U.S-backed United Nations’ economic sanctions that devastated ordinary people, he used current photos from the internet for his talk. Father Simon traveled to Iraq three times with Voices in violation of sanctions against bringing medicine and toys to Iraqi hospitals.

Jesus lived under a military occupation.  The Gospel is written from that perspective,” he said.  “The sole remaining superpower in the world at that time conquered a fiercely proud people who wanted to be free from the domination of that empire. 

“Jesus was a liberator from the domination of the empire.  So part of what we are to do as Christians is to be liberators from empires. Our concern is both about what is happening to the people of Iraq and about people in the United States drawn into the dynamics of the empire’s greed, bloodshed and racism,” he continued.

“People in the empire and under the empire need to be freed if we are to be human beings, let alone to be Christians,” asserted Father Simon, who entered the Jesuits in 1970.   He has master’s degrees from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and from Notre Dame, plus a doctoral degree in ethics from Notre Dame.

His multi-media presentation analyzed the war in Iraq, using ends-and-means logic.

The current war, he said, is the fourth U.S. war against Iraq, following  1) the 1991 Gulf War, 2) U.N. sanctions and periodic bombing of Iraq from 1991 to 2003 and 3) invasion of Iraq beginning March 19, 2003.

Citing a UNICEF report, he said 500,000 Iraqi children five and under died as a result of sanctions.  Older children also died.

“In 1996, then Secretary of State Madeline Albright confirmed that number of deaths and said she thought the price was worth it,” he reported.

“We need to have a moral end.  We cannot accomplish a good end using evil means,” pointed out Father Simon, who taught ethics at Fairfield University in Connecticut before joining the staff of the War Resisters League, based in New York City.

He is the author of the book, Formation of Christian Character.

The primary end cited was to remove Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  The first means were U.N. inspections.  About 2,000 weapons inspectors searching for years found no WMDs, he said, when President Bush issued an ultimatum for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq in 48 hours or suffer the consequences

Father Simon said the lack of weapons ended that end to justify the war.  The next ends advanced were: to liberate the people from Hussein and to bring democracy to Iraq.

What were the means to those ends?

• On March 19, 2003 a U.S.-led coalition launched “shock-and-awe” bombardment of Baghdad and other cities.  The means were cruise missiles, 1,000 bombs and other weapons against civilian targets, he said.

“If Hussein possessed WMDs, he would have use them then,” Father Simon continued.  “None were discovered.  In January 2005, the administration officially called off the search for the weapons of mass destruction.

“The means to the end of liberating Iraqis—bombardment by mega-bombs against civilians—seems an unlikely means to that end for many, unless death is liberation,” he said.  “Similarly, using missiles and weapons is not the logical way to bring democracy.

Another weapon used to discover WMDs, liberate Iraqis and bring democracy were cluster bombs,” he said.  “They are anti-personnel bombs, launched from a ‘mother’ weapon that opens and dispenses hundreds of cluster bombs, which then release large quantities of shrapnel to rip through unfortified buildings and human beings.”

He showed the effect on an Iraqi home and an Iraqi girl’s ankle, shredded and bloodied by shrapnel.

“Shock-and-awe bombing continued day and night against civilian centers, causing what the U.S. military calls ‘collateral damage,’ wounding and killing civilians and destroying buildings, including civilian homes—a war crime under international law,” said the Jesuit priest.

Such bombing destroyed government and commercial buildings, but not the Ministry of Oil, oil fields or pipe lines, he reported.

“The U.S. code name for the attack was Operation Iraqi Liberation until someone noticed the acronym spelled OIL,” he added.

“The U.S. arsenal also contains artillery shells and bullets, tipped with Depleted Uranium (DU), a by-product from nuclear weapons production and lethally radioactive fuel rods used in civilian reactors.”

More than 750 tons of DU had accumulated in the United States.  There is no permanent, safe means of storage, he continued. 

“When striking a target, DU is self-sharpening, becomes white hot and gives off a radioactive gas with a half-life of more than four million years.  It destroys enemy equipment, takes their lives and contaminates the environment for virtually all eternity.

“This gas contains sub-atomic radioactive material so small it can pass through micronic filters.  It falls to the ground or into water, is picked up by the wind or is inhaled unknowingly by anyone in the vicinity and deposited on the lungs or other tissue, causing cancer,” said Father Simon.

Use of depleted uranium in the first Gulf War led to deformed babies and contamination of Iraq, he said.

After the shock-and-awe bombing diminished, there was chaos, he said.

“Were the means used by the United States consistent with the ends to be attained?” he asked.

Father Simon wonders if the Iraqi government will ever be sovereign, given U.S. plans to build 14 military bases and the largest U.S. embassy in the world, and given rules that allow transnational corporations to take 100 percent of Iraqi resources and have legal immunity.

He questions the lack of accountability for $9 billion earned from oil revenues under the U.S. occupation and giving non-competitive contracts to corporations.

Father Simon believes that the war was triggered when Saddam told the United States he would make payments for oil agreements in Euros rather than dollars, which Iran now threatens to do.

“That change might cause the U.S. economy to collapse,” he said. “The sudden collapse of empire is dangerous. It can take the world economy with it, so the U.S. believes we need to prevent that possibility.”

Father Simon advises people to keep asking both what are the ends to be attained, and what are the means the government uses to achieve those ends.

For information, see warresisters.org.


By Mary Stamp, The Fig Tree - Copyright © April 2005