In January 2003, two months before American forces invaded Iraq, in an address to the Diplomatic Corps
, Pope John Paul II listed “certain requirements which must be met if entire peoples, perhaps even humanity itself, are not to sink into the abyss.” Among them he listed “Yes to life!” “No to death!” and “No to war!” In the political culture at large
, war is rarely discussed as a moral issue
, but as Catholic American voters, we must consider it one.
I believe that Ron Paul’s ideas on foreign policy, on war and peace in particular, when considered in light of Pope John Paul’s statements, make him the only truly pro-life candidate.
Regarding “Yes to life!” the Pope said, “War itself is an attack on human life, since it brings in its wake suffering and death. The battle for peace is always a battle for life!”
Ron Paul has said, “I get to my God through Christ. Christ, to me, is a man of peace. . . . He is not for war. He doesn’t justify preemptive war. I strongly believe that there is a Christian doctrine of just war. And I believe this nation has drifted from that. No matter what the rationales are, we have drifted from that, and it’s very, very dangerous, and in many ways unchristian. . . . That is what I see from my God and through Christ. I vote for peace.”
Congressman Paul even considers sanctions, such as the ones imposed on Iraq in the 1990s
—which resulted, by some estimates, in over 100,000 Iraqi deaths
—“an act of war.” He opposed the sanctions on Iraq and calls them immoral. He opposes
sanctions on Iran. In his view, “[Sanctions
] result in terrible, unnecessary suffering among the civilian population in the target countries and rarely even inconvenience their leaders.”
In addition to challenging diplomats and nation states to say no to war, Pope John Paul called for “respect for law.” The Pope acknowledges that the rule of law forms “the foundation of national and international stability.”
According to the Constitution, our supreme law which every president must swear to “preserve, protect and defend,” only Congress has the power to declare war. The last time Congress declared war was on Dec. 11, 1941. Since then, it has been abdicating this responsibility and transferring the power to the executive branch under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a process which circumvents the Constitution and ultimately the American people. Since then, we have had no clear victories in “war,” only an endless series of convoluted, indefinite entanglements with murky goals, murkier results, and thousands of lives lost.
Congressman Paul is the only presidential candidate who claims to have a problem with the way we now go to war, calling it not only “complex and deceptive” but “a danger to world peace.” He filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its “illegal war in Libya” and “abuse of war powers” in an effort to “force the Obama administration to obey the clear letter of the law.”
Paul is always the champion of the Constitution, which is to say the rule of law, but especially when it comes to war, because “a declaration of war limits the presidential powers, narrows the focus, and implies a precise end point to the conflict.”
Pope John Paul also outlined a “duty of solidarity,” saying that “it is important to spare no effort to ensure that everyone feels responsible for the growth and happiness of all.”
Congressman Paul has said that “history shows that without weapons and war, there is more food and prosperity for the people.” He describes his foreign policy
as follows: “I would replace [a policy of mutually assured destruction] with a policy of mutually assured respect. . . . This requires simply tolerance of other cultures and their social and religious values and the giving up of all use of force to occupy or control other countries and their national resource. . . . This would result in the U.S. treating other nations exactly as we expect others to treat us, offering friendship with all who seek it, participating in trade with all who are willing. . . . This is the only practical way to promote peace, harmony and economic well-being to the maximum number of people in the world.”
In his eyes, “If America indeed has something good to offer—the cause of peace, prosperity, and liberty—it must be spread through persuasion and by example, not by intimidation, bribes and war.”
Pope John Paul explained to the Diplomatic Corps: “The peoples of the earth and their leaders must sometimes have the courage to say ‘No’. . . no to death! no to selfishness! and no to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.”
Not only is Congressman Paul known as “Dr. No” on Capitol Hill, he does not mistake bellicosity for courage. On the issue of Iran
, Paul said: “I think this wild goal to have another war in the name of defense is the dangerous thing. The danger is really us overreacting. . . . If [Michele Bachmann] thinks we live in a dangerous world, she ought to think back when I was drafted in 1962 with nuclear missiles in Cuba, and Kennedy calls Khrushchev
and talks to him and talks
him out of this, and we don’t have a nuclear exchange. You’re trying to dramatize this. We have to go to treat Iran like we treated Iraq? And kill a million Iraqis? And some 8,000 Americans have died since we’ve gone to war. You cannot solve these problems with war!
As Pope John Paul suggested, “International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences.”
Similarly, Congressman Paul
has said, “This policy of American domination and exceptionalism has allowed us to become an aggressor nation, supporting preemptive war, covert destabilization, foreign occupations, nation building, torture and assassinations. This policy has generated hatred toward Americans and provides the incentive for almost all of the suicide attacks against us and our allies.”
“We have 12,000 diplomats in our government. I suggest we start using our diplomats and do a little bit of diplomacy once in a while.”
Fittingly, Congressman Paul has named Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as two of his heroes for their effective leadership through a commitment to the Gospel message of nonviolence. They were social diplomats for change through peace.
* * *
In a press conference on May 2, 2003, then-cardinal Ratzinger said
, “Given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'.”
Nobody really knows how many civilians have died in the “War on Terror,” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the other countries we have bombed or are currently bombing. (Honestly, I can’t keep track. What are we up to in Yemen? Are we bombing them? Or are we are “just” assassinating
American citizens with drone strikes?) A conservative estimate
puts the number around 130,000 civilians dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1,500 in Pakistan, and 7,000 in Somalia. As Catholics, we must be honest with ourselves: Is this
a Just War?
These deaths do not take account of the spiking suicide rate among American soldiers and veterans. Of the 30,000 suicides each year in America, about 20 percent
are committed by veterans (from all wars), which makes for about 6,000 every year, or 18 per day. The suicide rate has been increasing significantly among young men
who have fought in the War on Terror. About 300,000 troops
suffer from PTSD. Psychologists are now saying that guilt, known clinically as “moral injury
,” is a leading cause of PTSD. Moral injury describes ongoing inner conflict
, feelings of guilt
and shame related to moral dilemmas encountered in war, rather than the lingering anxiety from terror experienced during combat, at the sight of dead bodies or from fear of getting killed.This suggests that our military is suffering inner conflict as to whether what they are doing, or why and how they are doing it, is right and just.
And let us not overlook the 13,000 troops that have suffered traumatic brain injuries, the 40,000 maimed and wounded, the thousands who are drug addicted
(to alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs for depression or chronic-pain management), not to mention the deaths caused by the war indirectly once soldiers get home (they have a much higher likelihood of dying in things like motorcycle crashes and drunk-driving accidents). Let us not overlook the children who are being raised with an absent parent due to deployment overseas, or the spouses of soldiers who struggle daily to raise their children alone. Let us not forget the families who see an increase in verbal and physical aggression after soldiers have come home mentally and spiritually crippled by PTSD.
“One of the greatest threats to the family is war,” Congressman Paul has said. “It undermines the family.”
Congressman Paul, who wants to “Bring home the troops!” and put and end to American empire abroad, has received more campaign donations
from military personnel than all of the other Republican candidates combined
. If we want to support the troops, maybe we should start paying more attention to who the troops support.
When asked what he thinks is the most pressing moral issue of our time, Congressman Paul said: “We now promote preemptive war. We have rejected the just war theory of Christianity.”
I think we Catholics need to start thinking a lot more about war as a “moral issue” and a “life issue” and not simply as an “election issue” or a matter of “policy.”
Congressman Paul says “yes to life
.” He respects the Constitution and the rule of law. I believe his foreign policy, based on “mutually assured respect,” would encourage solidarity with people throughout the world. He has the courage to say no to war and reject war propaganda, and would instead engage in diplomacy, dialogue, and free trade to promote peace. He wants to protect all human life
. For this, he has my vote. And I think, at a minimum, he is deserving of respect from Catholic voters.
Congressman Paul had this to say upon Pope John Paul II’s passing: “I would encourage those who wish to honor his memory to reflect on his teachings regarding war and the sanctity of life, and consider the inconsistencies in claiming to be pro-life but supporting the senseless killing of innocent people that inevitably accompanies militarism, or in claiming to be pro-peace and pro-compassion but supporting the legal killing of the unborn.”
The United States has the largest, most expensive and expansive, technologically advanced, dangerous military the world has ever known.
, as Ron Paul claims, Christianity actually teaches peace and not preventative wars of aggression?
What if, as John F. Kennedy proved, diplomacy could be far superior to bombs and bribes when it comes to protecting not only America, but the world?
What if, as Pope John Paul II said, “choices need to be made so that humanity can still have a future,” and “it depends on each of us?”
What if, as the Pope said, “Yet everything can change”?
Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Ron Paul 2012Ellen Finnigan is author of a new book, The Me Years. Visit her at ellenfinnigan.com.