Category Archives: Nonfiction Books

War Porn by Roy Scranton

Really intrigued by the new book War Porn by Roy Scranton, a veteran of the “war” “on terror” who now teaches Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame.

Here is a good review at The New Republic. (As always, you should skip the review over at The New York Times.)

“Scranton’s debut novel War Porn is at the forefront of what will inevitably be a second wave of books to emerge from post-9/11 wars, as veterans get more distance from them. Consider that the canonical works from other conflicts didn’t appear until decades after leaders signed peace treaties. It would take Joseph Heller 16 years after World War II ended to publish Catch-22 and Kurt Vonnegut 27 years to come out with Slaughterhouse-Five. Books printed either during the war or immediately after it were more likely to be traditional tales of heroism, bravery and survival like Pierre Boulle’s The Bridge over the River Kwai (1952) or other titles modern readers are unlikely to have heard of….

…Throughout the novel, Scranton resists the temptation to deliver a redemptive or sympathetic moment for soldiers who misbehave or suffer humiliation. Soldiers in his book are normal humans capable of equal parts goodness and cruelty. If The Yellow Birds is the backstory we invent that compels us to thank a soldier, War Porn is the unspoken reality that might make some veterans uncomfortable accepting our unsolicited gratitude.”

Review of Andrew Bacevich’s Book

Our blogger Doug has arranged for Andrew Bacevich to give a speech on June 1 in Boston.

Here is a review of his latest book: America’s War for the Greater Middle East at The Intercept. 

Here are the details of the event:

For our readers in the Boston area, here is a chance to get involved:

Please join us on June 1 to hear a talk by Andrew Bacevich on the dangers of American militarism.

Andrew Bacevich is a Catholic historian and Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University where he taught for many years. He is also a Vietnam veteran who retired with the rank of Colonel after over 20 years in the US Army. He has written many books on American foreign policy including The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, and Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. His newest work, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History will be available on April 5, 2016.

Professor Bacevich is also a regular contributor to the Catholic magazine/website Commonweal and many other publications and websites. He has appeared on TV shows such as the Bill Moyers Journal and even the comedy show of fellow Catholic Stephen Colbert.

This event will be the first in a series intended to help American Catholics and others to confront the problems of militarism and perpetual war which exist in our country today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
7:00 PM at:

The Hibernian Hall
151 Watertown Street
Watertown, MA

Free and open to the public. Ample parking. Doors open at 6:30.

Sponsored by Boston Catholics Against Militarism
Join our meetup. Oppose militarism and build Catholic solidarity!

 

The Failure of Just War Theory

Thanks to one of our readers, Robert, for the heads up about this!

Tom Woods did a podcast on the Just War Theory, interviewing author Laurie Calhoun, author of War and Delusion: A Critical Examination (Twenty-first Century Perspectives on War, Peace, and Human Conflict).

Calhoun: “The theory has no content…It is vacuous…If you examine it…you find that in fact [the criteria] tend to be platitudinous and they are used rhetorically by leaders to support their cause for war.”

Indeed, the JWT is used to justify, not limit, war — and it has been that way for centuries.

Obedience to Authority (1974)

During the years 1960-1963 Stanley Milgram carried out some experiments on obedience while working in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. Years later, in 1972-1973 he was granted a Fellowship and, while sojourning in Paris, he condensed in a book the results and reflections on those experiments that had already been presented in a shorter form in various scientific journals.

In 1974 a book by the title Obedience to Authority was published. It makes chilling reading because it unmasks, in the crudest and clearest possible way, the weaknesses of human nature. In fact it shows us that human nature is a very flexible bundle of tendencies and that those tendencies that are highly regarded in our mass society (e.g. loyalty, duty, and discipline) are potentially the most dangerous for the survival of humanity and humankind as they can be used for making people to commit the most heinous actions whenever specific conditions are in place.

And the conditions are (a) the concentration of power in individuals and institutions that circumfuse themselves with an aura of professional authority that puts them beyond moral questioning; (b) the neglect, for the mass of people, of the development of critical faculties made possible through the monopolistic use of the means of communication and education as instruments of propaganda and manipulation, at the service of the Church power in the past and of the state power in the present.

Go here to read the first chapter.

Pat Tillman Anti-War?

Worth Fighting For? by David Swanson is a great article about a book by a former soldier, Rory Fanning, who walked across the United States to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation after leaving the Army Rangers as a Conscientious Objector. There is reason to think Pat Tillman turned against the war and had planned on using his fame as a platform to speak out against it upon his return, and so naturally there is reason to suspect that his death was not an accident. Of course, we can’t be surprised to hear this:

“Fanning recounts a conversation with a military chaplain.  Fanning made the case that the whole war was unjust.  The chaplain made the case that God wanted him to do it anyway. “

worth

June 28, 1914

***The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy***

Friends,

100 years ago today, on June 28,1914, an Orthodox Christian man, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed a Catholic Christian man, Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. This lit the fuse that the arms dealers, called ‘the merchants of death’ after the war, had been trying to light for some time. A feverish frenzy of mutual homicidal violence and destruction, on a scale never before seen, began to engulf Europe. World War I had commenced.

Approximately 65 million combatants fought in Word War I, each of whom was the precious and beloved child of some mother or father, each of whom was deceived by the rulers of their states and their Churches to believe that what they were embarking upon was a holy war for God and country. Bishops, priests and minister on all sides blessed, in the name of Jesus, their choice to do their manly duty in spreading the heinous conflagration of World War I.

Central Powers: 22,850,000
Germany – 11,000,000
Austria-Hungary – 7,800,000
Ottoman Empire – 2,850,000
Bulgaria – 1,200,000

Allied Powers: 42,632,000
Russia – 12,000,000
British Empire – 8,904,000
France – 8,410,000
Italy – 5,615,000
United States – 4,744,000
Japan – 800,000
Romania – 740,000
Serbia – 707,000
Belgium – 267,000
Greece – 230,000
Portugal – 65,000
Montenegro – 50,000

With the exception of the Ottoman Empire all the nations on both sides in this campaign of mass human slaughter and destruction were ruled by Christians and had majority Christian populations.

These were the Christians who in 1914-1918 were “our heroes.” They are all now dead. Each is now where he wanted to put the enemy a hundred years ago—in the grave. So, where are they now besides the grave? Heaven? Hell? Are they now? Who cares now? Who will ever care? But “our heroes” of today, 2014, will never be forgotten! They will forever live in glory in the hearts and minds of future generations. What claptrap! This is just the ancient deceitful patriotic and military propaganda ploy used to snookers young people into laying down their lives, their sanity, their health, their time, their family, the truth taught by Jesus and their consciences for the “state,” and to abandon themselves to the whims and wishes and interests and orders of the local economic, military and political titans.

Starting on this date, a hundred years ago, sixty-five million human beings, mostly Baptized Christians, fell for this lie and went the way of achieving everlasting glory by killing, terrorizing, torturing and maiming tens upon tens of millions of their fellow human beings and fellow Christians—with Jesus as their spiritual support person. These Christian went from glory to glory via homicidal violence in the Verdun, at the Somme, in Ypres, to name but a few stops on the glory road “our heroes” traveled between 1914-1918.

Of course such a road to glory would have been considered asinine by any sane follower of Jesus, if the states and the institutional Churches had not unrelentingly worked together to craft from the cradle the minds and souls of children, through the glorification of militarism, into the lie that the road to glory lay not in unconditional fidelity to the Way of the Nonviolent King of Glory, Jesus, but rather in unconditional obedience to the way to glory as taught by the entrenched sociopaths at the top of the economic, political, military and church institutions of their individual tribes. Such brain washing was so successful because the Churches’ leaders cooperated fully in hardwiring into children the absurdity that the way to glory as taught by the local big shots was the same way to glory as the Way of Jesus. And, as Voltaire with prophetic clarity observed hundreds of years earlier, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As history makes clear, holy atrocities, Christlike atrocities, as a way to everlasting glory were the bread and butter of WW I. But, there is nothing new here! Atrocities root in absurdities is Constantinian Christianity has engaged in since it came on stage as a faux witness to Jesus and His Way seventeen hundred years ago.

Below is a photo of the grave of Gavrilo Princip at St. Mark’s Orthodox Serbian Cemetery in Sarajevo. As noted above he is the man who fired the first shot in the deranged orgy of homicidal violence that left fourteen million human beings dead and thirty-seven million human beings maimed in a four years period. The cenotaph at the grave was erected in 1914 by the Orthodox Community of St. Mark’s to honor Gavrilo Princip and his fellow assassins, most of whom were executed in 1914. The marker at the gravesite reads, Heroes of Vidovdan. Vidovdan is a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday in honor of St. Vitus, whose feast day is June 28.

SM1910 AUD8

Such are the glories of Constantinian Christianity Orthodox style. But Catholic and Protestant Christianity matched in infidelity and in blood the glories of Orthodox Christianity during World War I. The most famous Protestant preacher in the United States at the time was Billy Sunday. He pretty much summed up Protestant infidelity to the Jesus of the Gospels and His Teaching during WW I by exciting crowds of Christians to a fever pitch with such evocative sound bites as, “I tell you brothers and sisters, it is [Kaiser] Bill against Woodrow, Germany against America, Hell against Heaven.”

The American Catholic Church leadership jumped in to do its part in plowing under the road to glory approved and taught by Jesus. On April 18, 1917, Cardinal Gibbons, the Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote in a letter to President Woodrow Wilson, which is signed not only by him but also by all the other U.S. Archbishops. It reads, “We are all true Americans … Inspired by the holy sentiments of truest patriotic fervor and zeal, we stand ready, we and all the flock committed to our keeping, to cooperate in everyway possible with our President and our national government, to the end that the great and holy cause of liberty may triumph. Our people, as ever, will rise as one man to serve the nation.” Cardinal Gibbons, on the threshold of the U.S. entrance into the demented hellhole of WWI in 1917, continually and sternly told Catholics that when war is declared “the duty of a citizen [is] absolute and unreserved obedience to his country’s call.”

In England during WW I the notion of a Christian duty to fight in homicidal warfare was nearly universal among the Anglican clergy. Those expressing Christian pacifism as a possible alternative were virtually nonexistent during the war. In fact, academic history is unable to find a single man who had taken Anglican Orders who denounced the war for the reasons traditionally put forth by those who believed that Jesus was nonviolent and commanded a Way of Nonviolent love of friends and enemies for His disciples. However, the theology that it was a Christian duty to fight for God and King was all but universal among Anglican clergy and their congregations.

World War I delaration of War in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1915 the Anglican Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram, called for the men of England to “band in a great crusade -we cannot deny it- to kill Germans. To kill them, not for the sake of killing, but to save the world; to kill the good as well as the bad; to kill the young men as well as the old, to kill those who have showed kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends who crucified the Canadian sergeant, who superintended the Armenian massacres, who sank the Lusitania… and to kill them lest the civilization of the world should itself be killed.” His Excellency went further, giving the war a crusading touch the equal of Billy Sunday’s, by adding, “As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who dies in it as a martyr.”

In France belief that Germany was an amoral nation unified not only French Catholics, but also the nation as a whole, and it gave the country a moral obligation to win the war. Modris Eksteins wrote “French clergymen dressed Jesus in khaki and had him firing machine guns. The war became one not of justice but of righteousness. To kill Germans was to purge the world of the Antichrist…and to herald the New Jerusalem.”

In Germany the pulpits and the Christians were inebriated on the same drug of self righteous, homicidal Constantinian Christian violence as were their enemies in France, England, Russia and the United States.

Adolf Hitler at a rally in the Munich Odeonsplatz to celebrate the declaration of war, August 2, 1914. It is the great deception of evil that it convinces people that once they choose it, they can control it.

Adolf Hitler at a rally in the Munich Odeonsplatz to celebrate the declaration of war, August 2, 1914. It is the great deception of evil that it convinces people that once they choose it, they can control it.

How blind must the blindness have been of those Christian prelates of distinction—and of no distinction—who believed they could serve two masters, Jesus and a nation engaged in a glorious homicidal orgy? How terrible that they used their office to pied-pipered millions of mothers’ son down the garden path to physical, mental, moral and spiritual destruction—and all in the name of Jesus.

In summing up why he wrote his most recent book, The Great and Holy War: World War I a Religious Crusade, Philip Jenkins says,

“The most important thing is to understand what shapes the world’s modern religious history. This story is important for any efforts at interreligious dialogue and understanding. Westerners today often assume that Islam is some dark militaristic doomsday cult because of its willingness to support armed violence, but just a hundred years ago, Christian nations were doing very much the same thing. We don’t have to go back to the Crusades to find eerie parallels among Christians to the jihadi mind set.”

I would add that Christianity today does not even have to go as far back as World War I to find such parallels. Today’s newspaper, secular or Christian, will reveal both a latent and active Christian jihadi mindset among ecclesiastics and laity, for those who have eyes to see and a mind to understand.

In fairness, before concluding this reflection on WW I, it should be specifically noted that Pope Benedict XV (1914-1923) subordinated everything to the moral and evangelical condemnation of war. In language that other Popes have reserved for the Mafia, Benedict XV said to the heads of nations and the world at large, “The rulers of the peoples should be satisfied with the ruin already wrought.” To everyone he proclaimed, “You are children of the same Father in Heaven.” In a public Mass at St. Peter’s in July of 1916 at which five thousand children received their First Holy Communion, Benedict XV said to the children and to the world, “You know, my children, how for two long years men who were once innocent and affectionate like you, and are so no longer, have been tearing each other apart and killing each other… May God spare you and your household and the entire world from this.” But alas, what he said and what he called for, “Peace without victory,” the economic, political and military elites on all side, as well as, all clergy on all sides utterly ignored, even his own Catholic bishops and priests.

Your blessing priest, make haste!
For we have no time to waste;
We must be dying, dying, dying,
Our Emperor’s greatness glorifying!
-Bertolt Brecht (Germany, 1917)

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” writes George Orwell. One would think that the carnage and agony of World War I, produced and suffered by mostly Christians, would awaken the leadership of the Churches to the fact that it is preposterous and monstrous for them to maintain that war, and the acts that war requires, are consistent with the teaching of Jesus, with the Will and Way of God as reveled by Jesus in the Gospels, with following Jesus, with fidelity to Jesus, with loving Jesus. But, it didn’t and it hasn’t! Why does this depravity, of Churches justifying their communicants participating in war as a way of following Jesus, still find a welcoming abode in the institutional Churches and in the hearts of their leaders? This is a mystery, a mystery only a scintilla short of the mystery of evil itself.

On June 28, 1914, a Christian man killed another Christian man and woman. His Church honors him as a hero for his homicidal deed on behalf of the local Christians. Nothing new here! Christians and Churches have done the same things ten of millions of times during the last seventeen centuries. Open the newspaper for June 28, 2014, and you will find one or many reports of the same charade of glory and faithful discipleship.

I will leave the second last word in this reflection on the hundredth anniversary of the culturally accepted date for the beginning of World War I to Jonathan Dyson, who lived a hundred years before World War I in England. He was a Quaker, who wrote a few well thought out monographs on Christian pacifism and the way of peace. The following is from his An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War:

“It is the will of God that war be eventually abolished and Christianity is the means by which this is to occur. Christianity with its present principle and obligations is to produce universal peace. It is because we violate the principle of religion, because we are not what they require us to be, that wars continue.”

The last word belongs to the Word, Jesus:

As He drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If only this day you knew what makes for peace” (Lk 19:41-42)

Christians Killing Christians

Here is a great book review at The Christian Century on the book The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.

Philip Jenkins builds upon this specialized historiography as it treats the Great War as a global religious conflict. His vividly written synthesis be­longs at the top of reading lists on the conflict.

Not only does Jenkins provide detailed accounts of interactions between religion and militarism, religion and combat, and religion and trauma on all sides of the war, he also demonstrates that the world torn apart by the Great War was a world of many shared religious concerns and vocabularies, a world that needed the extreme fission that religion accomplishes in order to launch and sustain such a brutal conflict.

25th Anniversary

“I don’t know that the United States learned anything from it.” Oliver Stone speaking recently on the Vietnam War at Ebertfest.

Here’s one we can’t forget on our People page, whenever we get around to finally making it: Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July.

Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Mr. Kovic contributed this letter for the American people to the MY HERO website on Sept. 14, 2001.

Dear Friends,

My heart and soul weeps with everyone in America right now. I was deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. I didn’t sleep much again last night, as it’s been for me, and I’m sure so many others since Tuesday. I wonder if we will ever sleep “normally” again? I have thought about it a lot and I am deeply disheartened by the blind patriotism, hatred and desire for revenge that I see growing more and more in this country each day. Resorting to violence and warfare is a great mistake. The painful anguish resulting from this senseless act of violence stirs in all of us a desire for swift retribution. I strongly believe that to move in this direction will lead us into a terrible and disastrous war which we, as a people and a nation, may never recover from. It is a dark and dangerous time in America, and I, in good conscience, will never support such an act of madness! We seem to have learned nothing from Vietnam, and those of us who have come to understand through great suffering the awful waste and deep immorality of war, are not being listened to. Those of us who have found that love and forgiveness are more powerful than hatred are not being heard. We remain invisible, isolated and alone, voices in the wilderness in a country that has truly gone mad. I encourage all of you to raise your voices on behalf of peace and non-violence everywhere. I love this country so much that I don’t want to see it go through the senselessness and agony of war ever again.

With love and a sincere hope for peace!

Ron Kovic

Ron Kovic at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles, California on October 12, 2007.

Ron Kovic at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles, California on October 12, 2007.

 

Archibald Baxter

Archibald Baxter, Catholic Conscientious Objector from New Zealand

Archibald Baxter, Catholic Conscientious Objector from New Zealand

From Lest We Forget:

Archibald Baxter was a hard working farmer, Catholic and pacifist. In 1915, when he was 33, Baxter was arrested, sent to prison, then as one of 14 conscientious objectors, shipped under guard to France where he was forced to the front line against his will. Punished to the limits of his physical and mental endurance, Baxter was stripped of all dignity, beaten, starved and placed directly in the line of fire. Field Punishment No.1, which Baxter and his fellow conscientious objectors received regularly, included ‘the crucifixion’, in which they were tied to a post, their hands, knees and feet bound and held in this position for up to four hours a day. In later life Baxter published We Will Not Cease, an autobiography which recounted his experiences as a pacifist.

archi