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Law-Abiding Murder: How the Obama Administration Uses 'Just War' Theory to Rationalize 'Kill Lists'

It is a moral and legal impossibility to square “kill lists” for extrajudicial murders with traditional legal and moral American values.

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Help From the Outside

Sometimes it takes a truth-telling outsider to throw light on our moral failures.

South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey, erstwhile chaplain to Nelson Mandela in prison and outspoken opponent of Apartheid, has this to say to the platitude-inclined, patriotism-preaching American clergy in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks:

“We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly or indirectly, by the poor of the earth.

“You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. All around the world there are those who long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”

Albert Camus and Peter Storey are among the true prophets of our time. I think the late Madeleine L’Engle also had it right when she wrote:

“I think if we speak the truth and are not afraid to be disagreed with, we can make big changes.” The biggest obstacle is often within us, she observes. “We get so frightful.”

In A Stone for a Pillow: L’Engle adds:

“The true prophet seldom predicts the future. The true prophet warns us of our present hardness of heart, our prideful presuming to know God’s mind.

“We must be careful … that we are not being false prophets fearing only for our own selves, our own families, our own country. Our concern must be for everybody, for our entire fragile planet, and everybody on it. …

“Indeed, we must protest with loving concern for the entire universe. A mark of the true prophet in any age is humility. … And the final test of the true prophet is love.”

After ten years of ecclesiastical silence regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be a cop-out — pure and simple — to expect the leaders of the institutional “Christian” churches in the United States to act any differently from the way the German churches did during the Thirties in Germany.

Americans can no longer in good conscience expect bold action for true justice from the largely domesticated clergy; nor can we use that feckless expectation as an excuse to do nothing ourselves. As theologian Annie Dillard has put it: “There is only us; there never has been any other.”

And, she might have added, we don’t do “kill lists.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

 
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