Friday, November 2, 2012

Irish-Americans and War (Part 2)

by Jack Gilroy

(Continued from Irish-Americans and War (Part 1) "voices of Irish American human rights activism . . . the Berrigans . . . Kathy Kelly . . . Megan Rice . . . Brian Terrell . . . the Hancock 10 . . . .")

But these Irish-American activists of today find little company in the United States Federal Government. Few Catholics, Irish or otherwise, are ready to strongly oppose war and the preparation for war. In fact, Irish-American leadership in militarism is the norm.

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden square off.
During the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate, Catholic Vice President, Joe Biden, told his Catholic opponent, Paul Ryan, that what he was saying was “a lot of malarky”. That was, Biden noted, “Irish talk”.

Yet, neither candidate talked the real talk of political violence. Like most good Catholics, they skirted Catholic Social Teaching. The first basic principal of Catholic Social Teaching is Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Every person is believed to be precious. Does this not mean people outside of the geographic borders of the United States?

What the nonviolence of their Catholic faith insists on is trumped by political reality. Both Democrat and Republican candidates accept violence of war, violence of assassinations and preparation for war violence.

Did Biden and Ryan actually ever have a class on nonviolence during their Catholic education? Not likely. American Catholic schools K-12, as well as, American Catholic colleges and universities are major recruiting centers for the military. Over 100 Catholic colleges and universities have Reserve Officer Training Schools (ROTC). Most Catholic High schools allow military recruiters into their schools and some Catholic Middle and High schools have Junior ROTC training for their students.

While investigation, interrogation and arrest is police work, the prime function of the military is to find the enemy and kill them. Catholic Social Teaching has a place for police work but it cannot justify militarism and its killing machine.

Yet, Catholics are often leaders in teaching and accepting military and extrajudicial killing. Names like Mullen, Dempsey, Brennan, and Donilon are leading characters in modern American militarism.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain note that since President Obama took office between 285 and 535 civilians were credibly killed by drone strikes including more than 60 children. A joint study of drone causalities by New York University and Stanford University has much higher civilian death rates.

President Obama in the Oval Office with Thomas E. Donilon, left, the national
security advisor. On the right is John Brennan, Chief Counter terrorism advisor.
(Photo: Pete Souza/The White House)

John Brennan, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, made the claim in 2011 that no civilian causalities occurred. Brennan, son of Irish immigrants, had a K -12 Catholic education then went on to graduate from a Catholic university (Fordham). Brennan says that while riding a bus to Fordham, he saw a sign for CIA recruiting and decided it was something he wanted to do “for public service”. Fordham honored Brennan in 2012 with an honorary doctorate degree. Former White House CIA analyst, Irish American, Ray McGovern, said “John Brennan’s open identification with torture, secret prisons and other abuses of national and international law, led to Fordham University’s invitation to him to give the commencement address on May 19 brought, well, shock and awe to many Fordham students, faculty and alumni.”

Pictured with Brennan and Obama in a NY Times article, (May 29, 2012) studying the weekly ‘kill list’ in President Obama’s office, is Thomas E Donilon. Donilon, National Security Advisor, figured prominently during formulation of strategy for Afghanistan and associated discussions, notes Bob Woodward's 2010 book, "Obama's Wars". Donilon, a grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants, attended Catholic schools K-12 before graduating from Catholic University.

Donilon had previously worked with Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen.

Admiral Mullen attended Catholic schools K-12 in California before going off to the US Naval Academy.

When Admiral Mullen retired as Joint Chief, President Obama appointed General Martin E Dempsey as the present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey attended John S Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, NY. Dempsey’s family is from the Irish speaking region of Donegal.

Admiral Mike Mullen
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
General Martin E. Dempsey

With all that history of Catholic military leadership, one might want to label the group as the Irish American Military Mafia.

However, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, had Italian parents. Panetta attended Catholic elementary schools in Monterrey and in 1960 graduated from Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution, and three years later received his law degree from Santa Clara.

If this group of Catholics represent Catholic Social Teaching, it begs the questions: Is it time to revise Catholic Social Teaching to fit American culture?

It’s said that WC Fields, the American humorist of the 1930’s and an avowed atheist, was found with a Bible on his death bed. Asked what he was doing, Fields said “looking for a loophole.”

Is it time for Catholic lay and clergy teachers to find some loopholes to allow a clear conscience for Catholic students who have been taught to embrace violence and military heroes who have served their county in violence?

Or is it time to insist on teaching the nonviolent message of Jesus to love one’s enemies, not kill them?

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