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Catholics should not participate in U.S. military at this time Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008 -- 1:00 AM

To the editor:

Last spring the U.S. marked five years at war in Iraq and now we approach the call-up of 3,000 Wisconsin National Guard members for duty in Iraq. Surely there will be a growing number of local deaths in the Iraq war.

At the beginning of the U.S.-Iraq War, the U.S. Catholic Bishops counseled against war. Five years later, is it prudent to participate in the U.S. military considering current conditions? I believe not.

First, U.S. military spending is greater than 600 billion dollars annually. The Department of Defense and Department of Energy nuclear weapons spending is an amount greater than the military spending of the rest of the world combined. This spending is impossible to explain as limited to legitimate defense. Several popes have recognized that military spending is destructive and steals from those who are hungry.

Second, the present war has not met the long-standing just war criteria. A war of intervention is not a moral war. A just war must be winnable and after five years of death and destruction our leaders cannot predict a conclusion to this war.

Third, the treatment of prisoners by U.S. military has involved torture. The conditions at Abu Grabe and Guantanamo have held people without due process. People are flown by the U.S. to nations with weak human rights laws for interrogation. A once proud nation in the arena of human rights is now questioned around the world. The U.S. military is at the center of wartime human rights abuses.

I hear reports of U.S. military personnel returning not only injured and with limbs missing but also a huge rise in suicide rates among Iraqi veterans. Those with post traumatic stress disorder will suffer the horrors of war for decades to come. These effects of war do not reveal a people that value human life when it is the barbaric cost of the resolution of conflict.

The U.S. military continues to maintain and research nuclear weapons. Popes John XXIII and John Paul II have deemed the use of nuclear weapons as always evil. Our U.S. Bishops have taught that it is wrong to threaten something that is always evil. I would conclude that participation in the U.S. military is involvement in and support for the moral evil of nuclear weapons, which threaten our existence.

This would lead me to believe that a cautious and prudent moral conclusion would be that participation in the U.S. military at this point in history would likely involve immoral activity.

Pope John Paul II said that war is always a defeat for humanity. When the U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars for military preparations, when wars continue year after year, it is difficult to remember St. Augustine’s position that peace is the norm and that a morally just war is to seek the re-establishment of peace. Catholics could have a major impact on morality in the U.S. if they rejected support and participation in the U.S. military at this time.

Fr. Jim Murphy, Portage