The Conversion of Jimmy Carter2
July 11, 2012 by eneubauer
In this election year, while so many are talking about the economy and the Catholic Bishops fight for religious freedom, I want to be a voice that raises serious concern about the current state of our foreign policy — especially the way in which we are conducting the War on Terrorism. The 39th President of the United States and activist for human rights, Jimmy Carter wrote an interesting article published on June 24 called, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” criticizing the way in which the United States has conducted the War on Terrorism in general and the current administrations record on human rights in particular. What I find fascinating about this article is the tone that President Carter takes and the Catholicity of its content. In reading the article I had two thoughts almost instantaneously:
“Wow – President Carter sounds extremely Catholic in his critique” and
“Why aren’t our Catholic Bishops, Catholic intellectuals, and other religious leaders sounding the alarm?”
As Catholics we pride ourselves on our lengthy history of great human rights activists grounded in the moral teachings of the Church. In addition to this strong history I am personally proud to be associated with a faith community that has such developed teaching concerning the serious social issues of our day (Catholic Social Teaching) while being governed by the philosophical underpinnings found in Just War Theory (principles used in the 1983 peace pastoral of the US Catholic Bishops). When you place the ideas found within Catholic Social Teaching (i.e. Life & Dignity of the Human Person) and connect them with the principles found in Just War Theory…
- Just Cause, Competent Authority & Comparative Justice (connected to)
- Right Intention, Last Resort, Probability of Success & Proportionality
you see the foreign policy positions of the previous and current administration in a new light.
See as citizens and voters in this representative democracy we have a responsibility to look beyond the “hot button” issues of the day (economy & religious freedom) and think about the idea that, like it or not, we are part of a global community and our standing in the world affects every aspect our American life. Therefore, the US must remain a global force for good which holds fast to foundational principles grounded firmly in the Judeo-Christian ethic. In addition, we must understand that when we compromise those moral principles, for whatever reason (i.e. consequentialism), we hamstring our own development and our ability to operate freely (& influentially) on the global stage.
Now, as a point of fact, I will review some of the concerns brought up in the Carter article that should be of concern for Catholics and others of good will during this election season.
First, President Carter reminds us of our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. This declaration was developed out of our concern relating to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during WWII. As President Carter states, this declaration was, “a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people…”
With the idea that human rights have significance of the highest order he points out several abuses of US foreign policy that are in direct contradiction to our stated commitment to human rights, the truth’s found within Catholic Social Teaching and violations of the principles found within Just War Theory. Other points that should concern us are:
- The targeting of American Citizens for assassination abroad
- Counterterrorism policies that violate “10 of the 30” articles found within the Declaration of Human Rights
- Legislation that legalizes the indefinite detention of suspects “supposedly affiliated” with terrorist organizations or associated forces both within and outside the United States
- Acceptance of collateral damage (the killing of innocents) in the US Drone War currently active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia
- Finally, the fact that even those cleared to “leave” the Guantanamo Bay detention center may never leave. This is in addition to the fact that many were subjected to “Waterboarding +100 times, intimidation with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers.” These activities were approved by the US government in order to obtain “confessions.” (Read: The Black Banners)
The excuses used to approve such grotesque and illegal techniques began under the Bush administration and have escalated under the Obama administration further jeopardizing our ability to hinder terrorism. As a matter of fact, military and non-military personnel have agreed that “the escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior” according the Carter’s article. We should care that actions being employed for “our protection” are actually turning those in foreign lands against us compromising our ability to keep our families safe in the homeland.
As Catholics we need to stand up and allow our collective voices to be heard when policies, developed and enacted by our representatives, violate principles rooted deep within our Christian faith. It should not be left up to President Jimmy Carter to be the lone, public voice of concern regarding issues of such significance. I am proud that our religious leaders have been standing up against the attacks on our religious freedoms, their concerns relating to moral / religious violations embedded within the Affordable Care Act and their continued stand for the Dignity of Life. However, I am cricital when other issues that require careful consideration do not get the attention they deserve (or command) simply because they are not the “hot button” political topics that play well in the press or among certain segments of the faithful.
Catholics – we need to retake the high ground and shout loud this election season regarding the serious issues that we are being confronted with from EVERY segment of our society and within the current areligious culture.
Category: Current Events | Tags: Bush, Carter, Culture, Obama, Politics, Terrorism. Catholic Social Teaching, War
My one concern regarding this post is pulled from the “Just War Theory”. In that teaching of the Church, it remains to the “competent authority” to analyze the threat and act accordingly. We do not, for security reasons, have all the information our government leaders are working from. While I agree that “collateral damage” in the form of innocent civilians IS a travesty of justice, I know there is more to what is going on than we – including former presidents – have knowledge of. In the cause of full disclosure, I was a Marine Corps chaplain during Desert Storm. I know from first-hand experience that not all information was disclosed then regarding the actions taken. I seriously doubt the situation has changed regarding disclosure in the last 20 years.
I do appreciate your response. I do agree with the statement that, “we do not have all the information our government” has regarding global threats of terrorism / violence. However, focusing on that fact really distracts from the heart of the article. We cannot afford nor is it acceptable to attack in the same way / with the same methods as we are being attacked. In addition, we are using the excuse of being attacked or the possibility of being attacked as an excuse to liberalize the rules of engagement. In addition, competent authority is not the only criteria for engagement in a Just War.
I have placed a ton of links in this article which express support for my conclusions. A great book, especially for evaluating EIT’s, is The Black Banners. The author was one of our top agents on the JTTF before, during and after 9/11. Partly Cloudy is a look at the ethics of covert actions including EIT’s although the author shy’s aways from developing a definitive conclusion as to the ethic of such activities. In addition, many from the Left to the Right have evaluated the NDAA 2012 and have found many items very concerning including the indefinite detention to suspects and the widening of the scope of the War on Terrorism to the United States.
Lose our moral standing and reject the principles of Just War and we are in serious trouble. We might not “feel it” now – but we will in the near future.