Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: Confessions of a military skeptic


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

When it comes to the use of the military, I am neither a hawk nor a pacifist. I am a skeptic.

One of my earliest memories was overhearing my parents talking about the Korean War. I was sitting under a large sycamore tree in our backyard reading a comic book about World War II. I remember being shocked to learn that war was real; it was not just something in comic books.

Growing up Catholic in the 1950s meant that you heard about the horrors perpetrated by atheistic Communists against believers. At school, we even practiced getting under our desks in case of a nuclear attack. I remember discussing whether a first strike against the Soviet Union and China was morally permissible. People unwilling to consider such a strike were considered soft on communism. “If nuclear war is inevitable, let’s make sure we win, even if we do lose a half dozen major cities.” This strategy seemed both heroic and realistic to my young mind.

The Vietnam War became my generation’s struggle to defeat communism and protect Vietnamese Catholics from torture and slaughter. It seemed a righteous cause in the defense of a people under attack. Only later did I learn of inept military leadership, corrupt allies, and how we destroyed villages to save them. At my 50th high school reunion in 2012, we saw the cost as the faces of classmates who had died in that war were projected on a screen.

After thousands died, North Vietnam won. Catholics are still harassed, but the predicted bloodbath did not take place. The country turned to capitalism and trade, and rather than being aligned with China as predicted, the two countries became competitors. Years later, as I watched the Berlin Wall come down, I thanked God that those nuclear realists never had their fingers on the button….

Read the entire article by clicking here.

VIDEO: “How does this end?” questions military intervention

from Brave New Films

Since 1980, we have militarily intervened at least 35 times in more than 27 countries. We keep bombing, we continue spending trillions of dollars, but we’re no safer as a result…

VIDEO: The Church and war, a look at the “humanitarian intervention” norm

The following video is from Rome Reports.

WAR: Pope says world’s many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War III

from Reuters

popefrancisholylandPope Francis said on Saturday the spate of conflicts around the globe today were effectively a “piecemeal” Third World War, condemning the arms trade and “plotters of terrorism” sowing death and destruction.

“Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass during a visit to Italy’s largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried.

The pope began his brief visit to northern Italy by first praying in a nearby, separate cemetery for some 15,000 soldiers from five nations of the Austro-Hungarian empire which were on the losing side of the Great War that broke out 100 years ago….

Click here to read the entire article.


by Stephen Zunes
in The Huffington Post


At the start of classes one year ago, I was having to explain to my students why the United States appeared to be on the verge of going to war against the Syrian government. At the beginning of this semester, exactly one year later, I’m having to explain to my students why the United States may be on the verge of going to war against Syrian rebels.

It is not surprising, therefore, that while the horrors unleashed by forces of the so-called Islamic State are all-too-real, there is skepticism regarding the use of military force.

Already U.S. planes and missiles have been attacking ISIS forces in northern Iraq. Given the real threat of a heightened genocidal campaign against Yazidis and other minorities and the risks of ISIS control expanding into the Kurdish region, even some of those normally averse to unilateral U.S. military intervention abroad were willing to acknowledge it may have been the least bad option.

Within days, however, there were already indications of “mission creep,” as what had been officially declared an exclusively defensive mission turned offensive when the United States provided air support for Kurdish and Iraqi forces, which seized the Mosul Dam from ISIS forces.

Even if one can make a convincing strategic case for such a military operation, the failure of President Obama to go before Congress for authorization of this renewed military intervention in Iraq is extremely disturbing…

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

9/11: A call to prayer and peacemaking

Jim Hugby Jim Hug S.J.

A flurry of conflicting realities converged on me this morning in a way I found challenging:



  • The Gospel at liturgy happened to be Luke 6:27-38: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Turn the other cheek…. Then you will be children of the Most High, for God is kind even to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
  • President Obama addressed our Christian nation last evening promising to “degrade and destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria and anywhere they go.
  • This military effort is in part to protect the vulnerable Iraqis that we pray for every day here at Mass since the Adrian Dominican community where I worship has Iraqi sisters who have had to flee Mosul and are with their families among the displaced and desperate. They wrote to us just a few days ago complaining that “our cries are ignored, and the world turns a blind eye to our sufferings.”
  • Some argue that bombing ISIS and other such groups only helps their recruitment. Others insist Obama has shown weakness and lack of leadership by not acting militarily sooner and more forcefully – thereby encouraging terrorism.  Still others remind us of our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.
  • On this 13th anniversary of 9-11-2001, NPR aired two short segments from Story Corps in which individuals who lost loved ones in the Twin Towers in NY remembered their loved ones with heartrending words.
  • On this day, 9-11, in 1941, ground was broken in Northern Virginia for the building of the Pentagon.
  • Someone left me a quotation in the Missal today that leapt off the page: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.  Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” ~President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953
  • Pax Christi regions across the U.S. are launching a campaign soon with an ad in NCR declaring that “it’s time for the Catholic Church to reject ‘just war’ as inconsistent with the teaching and example of Jesus and to become a Just Peace Church.”
  • A committed intentional Eucharistic community that I have been associated with for decades has had a long debate about whether it could sign on to that ad – and could not reach consensus.

We as a Church community and as a national community are deeply divided over how to respond to violence and injustice and how best to work for peace. Respectful and probing public discussion could certainly help us move forward a little.  The path will inevitably be long and difficult.

I hope, though – and believe – that at this time we should all be able to agree on the importance of investing more of our resources and energies in new and creative approaches to large-scale peacemaking.  And join in prayer for peace for all peoples, bringing resurrection from our global cross of iron.

REFLECTION: On the anniversary of 9/11, The Things That Make for Peace

Below is the statement Pax Christi USA released on the tenth anniversary of 9-11. For other items and resources we compiled for that anniversary, click here.

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-42)

sept_11_webTen years ago, just scant hours after our nation witnessed the tragic events of September 11th, Pax Christi USA released a statement which said, in part:

We recognize that as the reality of the magnitude of loss becomes clear, our nation’s grief will soon move toward rage. As people of faith and disciples of the nonviolent Jesus, we must be willing, even now in this darkest moment, to commit ourselves and urge our sisters and brothers, to resist the impulse to vengeance. We must resist the urge to demonize and dehumanize any ethnic group as ‘enemy.’ We must find the courage to break the spiral of violence that so many in our nation, we fear, will be quick to embrace. (Pax Christi USA’s Official Statement on 9-11, published on September 12, 2001)

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of 9-11, as we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together, a question will be put to us:

Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?
Can anyone refuse mercy to another, yet expect pardon for one’s own sins? (Sirach 28:3-4)

These past ten years, we have witnessed the failure of policies built on vengeance. Our elected leaders manipulated our grief and fear to justify foreign policy decisions which had little to nothing to do with the tragedy of 9-11. Our nation was ensconced in a culture of fear, where the scapegoating of peoples, the fanning of religious intolerance, and the curtailing of civil rights served the needs of political expedience.

We have been witnesses to the dark places where our government’s response to 9-11 led our nation—the justification of torture, the moral bankruptcy of pre-emptive war, the daily reports of innocent civilians killed as collateral damage, the deaths of thousands of U.S. service personnel, and the stealing of our national wealth to pay for wars abroad as our children, our elderly, and the most vulnerable are left to suffer at home.

Today, as we acknowledge the ten year anniversary of 9-11, there can be no doubt that responding with war and violence can neither console us in our grief nor achieve the security for which we long.

In the weeks following 9-11, Pax Christi USA proclaimed that very message, and challenged our political leaders to seize this moment for peace by establishing justice for all peoples throughout the world. Until we commit our own nation to the pursuit of peace and justice for the entire human family, we should not be surprised when the violence suffered by those living on the other side of the world—as well as those living on the wrong side of town—eventually engulfs us all.

Ten years have passed, but we believe that the opportunity is still with us. Let us start, now, today, in Washington, D.C. and in every city and town across this land, in our schools and our places of worship and within our own homes. Let us write a new chapter and create a new legacy for all those whose lives were shattered on 9-11. Let each one of us decide what it is that we can do to create a legacy which heals instead of harms. Let us begin with the assurance that such healing will come if we make economic, political and social justice for all our top priority.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, at the responsorial, Catholics will sing in churches throughout our nation:

Our God is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
God pardons all our iniquities, heals all our ills, redeems our lives from destruction, and crowns us with kindness and compassion. (Psalm 103)

This anniversary offers us an opportunity to reflect the values of the God to whom we have given our allegiance. Let us remember those who were lost and memorialize this day by committing our lives to “the things that make for peace”—drawing closer to those who suffer, cultivating understanding in the midst of suspicion, finding truth in the arguments of those with whom we disagree, embracing some measure of personal sacrifice today to make a better world for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

Let us gather one decade from now—not amidst the ruins of all that has been torn down—but in the midst of that new world of peace and security for all which we have built up together.