Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 13, 2004
Iraq bleeds U.S. military strength
'Tis the season of the birth of the Prince of Peace
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
During Advent, again and again I found myself wondering if the prophet Isaiah's poetic sense had conquered his common sense. Consider the following text:
"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
Much too idyllic! However, in praying over such a reading, I found myself wanting to applaud more loudly than ever, the federal government's decision to heed the massive opposition of Canadians to the war in Iraq and not to participate in the U.S.-led coalition.
For the most part, the prevailing "war on terror" paradigm has been built on the muscular projection of American power around the world, and the justification of preemptive attacks against potential enemies who might be considering future hostile acts.
A series of overwhelming challenges to the wisdom of this approach to national and international security has surfaced this past year.
The U.S. Senate report on intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq, backed by similar conclusions from the Butler Commission in Britain, has laid bare the recklessness of the doctrine of preemption.
Predicated on the notion that threats must be wiped out before they can materialize, preemption relies on the premise that one can accurately identify and quantify those threats as they emerge. Given the paucity of credible evidence that Iraq was a threat - no weapons of mass destruction have ever been found, and none of the remaining justifications for the invasion - removing a tyrant or building a bulwark of democracy in the Middle East - comes close to meeting the minimum standard required for launching a preemptive strike.
Since the fall of Baghdad, events have exposed the Pentagon's poor logistical planning and its gross underestimation of Iraqi resistance. American troops are likely to be in Iraq for several years.
The misadventure in Iraq has forced the U.S. to delay military retirements, accelerate recruitment, extend deployment periods and reduce troop strength in other global hot spots.
Both Republican and Democratic state governors complain that the Pentagon's dependence on National Guard and reserve troops threatens their local economies, places undue burdens on family members, and weakens the capacity of authorities to respond to urgent local needs such as forest fire-fighting and policing.
The sad irony is that "war on terrorism" has served only to exacerbate the hatred of Islamic extremists around the world and to accelerate the recruitment of anti-American forces. None of this seems to have deterred the brash President Bush who recently made direct public appeals during his Canadian visit for cooperation on continental missile defence.
The sad irony is that "war on terrorism" has served only to exacerbate the hatred of Islamic extremists around the world and to accelerate the recruitment of anti-American forces.
"Our two countries are working together every day to keep our people safe," he said. "I hope that we'll also move forward on ballistic missile defence cooperation to protect the next generation of Canadians and Americans from the threats we know will arise."
This next step in the "war on terrorism" will only unleash a dangerous and cyclical defence-versus-offence dynamic in the strategic environment.
The historic position of successive Canadian governments needs to be re-emphasized: "The only sustainable strategy for the future is the elimination of nuclear weapons entirely." The path to peace is not to be found through the ongoing militarization of relationships and nuclear arms competition.
The Christmas celebration suggests another paradigm: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests on his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness."
We are called to share in God's redemptive purpose and to restore the covenant of love and blessing between God and his creation. National policies ought to be pursued that seek to reduce, and ultimately to eliminate our reliance on the destructive power of nuclear weapons for advancing the national interests.
In March, the Canadian Council of Churches wrote a letter to Prime Minister Martin: "It has been the witness of Canadian churches to successive prime ministers that the possession, use, or threat to use nuclear weapons cannot be understood to be within God's plan for creation. The extraordinary squandering of resources in the vain pursuit of technological immunity from nuclear weapons, especially while new weapons and new nuclear strategies are still being introduced, is itself an offence against the will of the Creator.
"There are urgent worldwide human security crises in health care and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in small arms proliferation and spreading violence, in entrenched poverty, in human rights violations. As a workable alternative to wasting resources on unworkable strategic missile defence systems, we call on the Canadian government to fulfill its public promise to achieve the millennium development goals and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015. We are called then to a vision of a world free from fear and free from want - a world where people live in peace, confident their basic needs will be met. Canada should pursue security according to this vision."
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!"(Luke 2).
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