With these words, Pope Paul VI in October of 1965 addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. They were strong words from a seemingly meek and humble man but they caught the attention of a nation mired itself in a war in Southeast Asia that would continue for five more years and also of the global community.

This weekend we seem to be once again on the precipice of yet another military action with profound possible ramifications and steeped in uncertainty. This time the enemy is the President of Syria who already is a war-crimes criminal for his heinous poison gassing of his own people a little more than a week ago. Catch him alive, try the man in the international court of human justice, imprison him and throw the key away but for God’s sake and that of humanity, I pray that our beloved nation will not risk a wider war by singularly reacting to an event far more certain for sure than the illusive “weapons of mass destruction” which led us into Iraq. We’ve been there before and I for one do not wish to go again.

Neither the war in Iraq nor any action which we might take in response to the atrocity of the mass killing of citizens in Syria will meet the tests of the “just war theory.” And, morally, I believe that the United States needs to step back from attempting to be the world’s police force. Armed action when agreed upon by the family of nations and when many countries join in can perhaps survive moral analysis, perhaps, but one nation choosing to attack on its own is very dangerous.

Today Pope Francis in his “Angelus” address begged the parties not to go to war or even battle against one another. He knows that Syria’s military can not reach the United States in any retaliatory effort, but it can make its point known on Israel, our friend and ally. Attack Israel and they will respond – that one can be taken to the bank. Attack Israel, and the world will respond as likely will Iran and all the political armies of the mideast from Hamas to Hesbollah and many other forces in between.

I am ashamed to say that the Catholic Church in the United States sadly gave President George W. Bush largely a free pass on Iraq. It was a shame then and its consequences even now are incredible. The USCCB did not even react strongly in defense of Blessed John Paul II when he sent Cardinal Pio Laghi (formerly Nuncio to the United States and thought to be a friend of the Bush Family) to personally ask President Bush not to take that action and the President “blew him off.” Did the US bring peace to Iraq? I don’t see it. Did we bring stability to the Middle East? I don’t see it either. His father, the first President Bush, built an international coalition to free Kuwait from the invasive heel of Saddam Hussein and then, achieving his limited mission, he and the allies stopped having met their goal. Kuwait was most likely a just use of force, narrowly targeted to achieve a restoration of government to a small country without a military  to speak of. The search for the Taliban met the litmus test of justice when it began and has had certain success but soon we will leave an Afghanistan more divided than before and with a less than certain future. We are not a good international police keeping force and we lose lives, spend incredible sums of money in efforts which are hardly called successful, and sometimes end up making the alleged cure more deadly than the original disease.

I do not consider myself an isolationist and I do believe that there are moments in history when a nation such as ours joining with allies equally committed should act decisively to rid the world of evil – Hitler being example number one.We need to heed the words of Pope Francis today (click here for his Angelus address) and support him. We need to write to the President and to our two Senators from Florida and our elected representatives in the House of Representatives and ask them to vote no on any military action at this point. In doing so, we will demonstrate moral strength which will trump military might and once again echo the words of Pope Paul VI, “War no more, War Never Again!” The slightest provocation from one country in a world not united in its resolve to attack the evil dictator of Syria could lead to  more bloodshed, and enormous consequences.



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