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from issue no. 03 - 2003

The Jesuits and the Iraq crisis

The war, a path to global disorder

The Jesuits and the Iraq crisis

by Gianni Valente

It’s commonly thought that the language of Jesuits is by nature accommodating and hard to pin down. But many official statements from the Society of Jesus on the pre-emptive war threatened against Iraq have expressed extremely clear and even sharp views. Some examples.
The editorial published in January in Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine, the proofs of which are “looked at” by the Vatican, is still perhaps the most authoritative demolition of the theory of pre-emptive war from the Catholic point of view. The article, entitled ‘No to pre-emptive war’, acquires weight precisely because of the prior authorization given in the Vatican. On the other side of the world, Mensaje, the monthly of the Chilean Jesuits focused in its October 2002 issue on the growing «uneasiness about a country [the US, ed] that claims to defend freedom, democracy and free trade and, instead seems to trim its convictions to its own interests». Starting from the South America viewpoint, the review also referred to «the obscure aspects of the “struggle for freedom” in United States foreign policy that became clear in the backing given over decades to dictatorships, often bloodthirsty, in every part of the globe, so they would oppose the Soviet Communist hegemony. And that also showed in the spread of the doctrine of National Security propagated in their academies and assimilated by several armies in Latin America, with its tragic sequel of torture, assassinations and disappearance of thousands of people».
America, the American Jesuits’ weekly, began a long sequence of articles on the pre-emptive war with the editorial in the issue of 28 October last, eloquently entitled ‘Design for a disaster’, in which the probable negative fall-out for US interests is also considered: «Seen from the perspective of the national security strategy, war against Iraq will not be an exceptional event, but a paradigm for US global dominance. This strategy is a prescription for global disorder, including intensified anti-American terrorism on a global scale».
On the European side, Etudes, the review of the French Jesuits, printed ‘Querelles transatlantiques’, an essay in which Jesuit professor Paul Valadier analyzed the «clash of civilization» scenarios that seem to be shaping «within western civilization itself». The article described Bush’s entourage as «strongly conditioned by the Protestant fundamentalists whom various Egyptian newspapers have recently not hesitated to call the Christian hezbollah». But according to Valadier «the long hostility of the United States towards international institutions, including the courts, goes well beyond the sole government of Bush jr. It derives from a political culture of imperial type foreign to the Europe of the present». The article concluded with sharp-edged judgments on the European repercussions of the disagreement between the United States and the so-called Franco-German axis: «The future will show whether these divergences contribute to making conscious well-founded disagreements. In that case it might well happen that the current crisis leads to the strengthening of a certain Europe aware of no longer having to rely on the United States for a freedom that its own institutions can well defend, as opposed to the servile proclamation by the eight European countries led by Spain and Great Britain at the end of January 2003».
The Jesuit Pasquale Borgomeo, Director General of Vatican Radio, has been responsible for the sharpest judgments on the prospect of everlasting war broadcast by the radio station of the Holy See. On 4 February, after referring to the central role of intelligence work in the war against terrorism, Father Borgomeo asked, en passant, an uncomfortable question about 11 September: «Wouldn’t better collaboration between the CIA and FBI have enabled them, before and not after the massacre, to put together in a single and thereby legible picture the pieces of the puzzle the two bodies had separately acquired?»

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