Culture wars and actual wars: The GOP debate and bombing Iran

Justin Sullivan GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former … Continued

Justin Sullivan

GETTY IMAGES

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in a debate sponsored by CNN and the Republican Party of Arizona at the Mesa Arts Center February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona.

Culture wars won the GOP Arizona debate, though actual war did come up. There was a chilling assumption among the majority of the GOP debaters that taking preemptive military action against Iran was a good idea. Culture wars by GOP candidates are being waged from their faith perspectives. But when it comes to actual war? Not so much.

From a faith perspective, what does it say especially about Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich’s Catholic faith that they think a preemptive strike on a country that has not attacked us is justified?

As Catholics, they especially should recall that preemptive strikes, as against the presumed “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, were not morally justified according to both the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and the Vatican. Preemptive strikes do not satisfy the criteria of Just War; this is the position put forward forcefully and repeatedly by Pope John Paul II, who spoke out against the idea that attacking Iraq was justified as a “last resort” in preemption. I, and other Protestant leaders, strongly argued that “preemptive war” is not “Just War,” it’s just more war.

According to Connor Boyack, author of “Latter-day Liberty: A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics,” writing on the subject of preemptive war, “the Book of Mormon neither illustrates nor supports the position of preventive war.” Yet, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, seemed undeterred from the concept, declaring in the Arizona debate, “We must not allow Iran to have nuclear weapon…If I’m president, that will not happen. If we re-elect Barack Obama, it will happen.”

Rick Santorum agreed with Romney’s assertion, except that it would be “President Santorum” who would be the best one for the job. Santorum is consistent; when asked earlier this year if a “President Santorum” would bomb Iran if they were going to obtain nuclear weapons, Santorum replied, “Yes, that’s the plan.”.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, thinks that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, and attacking them is a bad idea. But Paul also thinks sanctions don’t work.

But with the exception of Paul, these few Republican presidential candidates seem to be some of the only leaders who think bombing Iran is a good idea. Famous former Israeli intelligence chiefs, think bombing Iran would be disastrous for Israel and the region; so does the head of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who has said that a war with Iran “would be really destabilizing … I personally believe that we should be in the business of deterring [war] as a first priority,” he said.

Ron Paul’s casual dismissal of sanctions, therefore, is equally troubling. This week a top delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is back in Tehran following a declaration from Iran that it’s ready for talks. Talk, inspect, sanction, repeat: that’s the way to deal with Iranian nuclear pretensions. Sanctions are slow and it can seem like there is “fog of sanctions.” Is it working, not working? When will we see “regime change”?

But it does work over time.

Iranians have recently been posturing on their nuclear program; this is a sure sign that sanctions are working. Americans aren’t the only people whose politicians play to their base; Iranians do too. When Ahmadinejad puts fuel rods in a reactor, he’s isn’t literally making a bomb, he’s making political statements.

Sanctions are working in Iran, and so their leadership acts tough and blusters about their “successes.”

What does it say about these American political candidates who seem to be falling for this Iranian bluster and think bombing Iran is a way to go? Mr. Gingrich seemed particularly prone to being fooled by Iranian bluster, criticizing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for characterizing Iran as a “rational actor” and defending the possibility of preventing an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites.

Unfortunately, when a prominent political candidates say that bombing Iran is a good idea, or sanctions don’t work, it just makes the work of the Atomic Energy Commission in talks and inspections, and the all important question of possible military uses of Iran’s nuclear program, that much harder. What American politicians say about “bombing Iran” is certainly reported around the world, and in Iranian media. It feeds the fear-mongering among Iranian leadership that they engage in, both in their own country and in the Middle East. Indeed, American politicians planning for bombing while sanctions seem to be working, and inspections are ongoing, makes it less likely the sanctions will ultimately succeed and more likely that war can occur.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Political and religious conservatives like these GOP candidates rush to defend the culture wars from their faith perspectives, but when it comes to pursuing preemptive war against a country that has attacked us, they are silent on their faith, and on the explicit teaching of Jesus that peacemaking is blessed.

Why the faith silence when it comes to preemptive war? Could it be because their faiths don’t support attacking someone who has not attacked you?

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • Geeza

    It’s funny how Republicans blame Obama for the rise in fuel prices when it is being driven by speculation of the Middle East scenario. Yet at the same time Ron Paul aside, they blame Obama for not taking a harder stance on Iran.

    I’d love to hear these morons try to explain how they plan on starting another war while bringing oil prices down at the same time, and how this would improve the economy and reduce the deficit.

    These morons are blatantly clueless.

  • ccnl1

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

    19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country’s controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

    20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

    21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

    22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) — Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

    23) “October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. “

  • nosferotica

    Sanctions are an act of war.

    As for you people quoting “terrorist attacks” out of context, you best research everything behind those attacks. You’ll find that they are never done without a reason.

    Do you honestly believe people are willing to give their lives so easily?

  • persiflage

    No more preemptive war – the last couple of unfunded wars nearly bankrupted us, and yet here’s the GOP wanting more of the same. Their shameless hypocrisy is beyond the pale. We’re not invading anyone again, and you can take that to the bank.

    The tragedy is that sanctions will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, and in all likelihood they already have it.

    While the consequences of their using it should be made perfectly clear, that is no consolation to Israel, who is relatively defenseless with regard to a nuclear strike. While the Soviets and the USA played chess with MAD (mutually assured destruction), the fanatics in Iran and elsewhere aren’t kidding around. They’re more dangerous than the North Koreans by a factor of 10. They have no fear of death in the conventional sense……..

    The world has never been a more dangerous place than it is today, and the republicans are not going to get elected on the promise of containing Iran and gas for two bucks a gallon.

  • dnswilson

    You support sanctions but not war? So impovershing a nation and depriving its people of means of sustaining themselves is ok, it’s just the messy violence you don’t like. Get a grip on reality.

  • dnswilson

    You support sanctions but not war? Get a grip on reality.

  • Geeza

    The point you’re trying to make would carry so much more weight if you would also list the death caused by Western/Christian forces.

    How about starting with WW1 and WW2, the Vietnam War, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the IRA, ETA? Just for starters eh.

    And of course no American President has ever been assassinated.

    And also do let us know when over the last 100 years did Muslims killed as many Jews as those that were killed by Europeans upto and including the holocaust.

  • ccnl1

    The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
    by M. White, (required reading)

    The Muslim Conquest of India

    “The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. ”

    Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

    1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and “Shintoists”)

    2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

    3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

    4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

    5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

    6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

    7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

    8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

    9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

    10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

    11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

    12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

    13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

    14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

    15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

    16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

    17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

    18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

    19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

    20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

    *:” Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

    A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion.”

  • ccnl1

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today’s 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed’s book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere !!!!!!

  • Truthseeker44

    Sanctions are acts of war. Genghis Kahn expanded his empire by scaring the local villagers into their forts and castles. Then he would proceed to restrict their inbound food supply, starving them. Today, the neoconservatives have fooled everyone, including the faithful, into believing our “sanctions” are not the intial acts of pre-emptive war.

  • James210

    so, freelancers bored needing work and looking for subject matter now need an egress? i can sympathize.
    let them “rot”! sound familiar to anyone, including myself,?

    ask judas if he can pull up the dream confession-of the kid running for cover.
    i don’t like blessings? i prefer gifts.

    i can remember a time?
    A sove-reign principle and not worth the reeper-cussions . for what it’s worth?
    remind judas of the coffee shop and put that peace with the scared kid peace.
    i don’t have a full deck? true

    my guess is the bees are tired of being stepped on or may not know??? and the sting of a black wasp, regardless of the calm temperment, can leave one thinking twice about screwing with bees, ever again?

    don’t know whether to say thank you or, you shouldn’t have given it to me.
    i just assume slay the dragon with it.

    o-bi-wand, i am at a disadvantage , i will not fight you.
    if you have anything else to say? i don’t have cable, don’t like the influence of the witch coming through the t.v.? vacation
    however? for some reason i can understand what your saying.

    welcome to peace!

  • ccnl1

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?:

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror like 9/11.

    - One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    - Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    - The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian “religions” and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    - Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    - All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

  • ccnl1

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?:

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    - One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    - Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    - The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian “religions” and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    - Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    - All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  • persiflage

    ‘From a faith perspective, what does it say especially about Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich’s Catholic faith that they think a preemptive strike on a country that has not attacked us is justified?’

    It makes them no better than the last guy that did that from the Oval Office, and who summarily plunged the country into near bankrupcy in the process……and without any notable results for such a monumental investment of lives lost and money spent.

    We will continue to suffer the same fate in Afghanistan for as long we remain in country. Boots on the ground gain us nothing in these nation-buildiing wars – as we should have discovered through the terrible losses incurred in Vietnam.

    The war-mongers are unapologetically still at it………never having suffered losses firsthand themselves. They’re still selling war as a way to gain control of the government…………..

    I personally think folks have had enough.

  • Kafantaris

    Iran faces a delicate issue. On the one hand it wants to show the world all it’s got and put it at ease, while on the other hand it fears that such show ‘n tell will give its enemies a roadmap to bomb it.
    Saddam Hussein faced a similar dilemma ten years ago. Though he wanted the world to know he had nothing to hide, he also wanted to bluff his archenemy Iran into believing Iraq still had WMD.
    Bluffing did not go well for Saddam, and it might not go well for Ahmadinejad.
    But since the price tag for ridding Saddam proved high, maybe we ought to reflect what we are asking of Iran now. On the eve of a threatened attack, we are asking it to take us to the depths of its arsenal and show us all it’s got.
    Such great expectations are a sign we have been talking to our friends too long and are in need of a broader perspective. Exactly when was the last time we asked Pakistan, India, China or Russia to show us their arsenal?
    “But those countries are not advocating the destruction of Israel.”
    True, but Israel is not a thorn on their side either.
    Surely, however, we can see beyond the hyperboles and figure out their underlying purpose. Or have we forgotten that not all Iranians are thrilled with Ahmadinejad?
    He sure hasn’t forgotten.
    Nor has he forgotten that that his countrymen hate Israel even more. So he tells them that Israel will be wiped from the face of the earth. Expectantly, this nonsense unites them against a common enemy. It is even a diversion from the misery and isolation brought on by his theocratic regime.
    Quite clever work by Ahmadinejad — and not a rial spent or a bullet fired.
    So why are we letting the crazy talk about destroying Israel get us all worked-up — to the point of turning the world topsy-turvy again.
    Can we not see the desperate attempts of an unpopular regime simply trying to hold on?

  • jeb_jackson

    Susan, you seem to make some sense today. What happened?

  • tiponeill

    American Christians seem to have a different Bible that the one I’m familiar with.
    The message of Republican Jesus is all about gays and abortion, the Sermon on the Molehill was “Bomb ‘em”. They aren’t a religion so much as a hate cult – of course the Muslims are no better.

    They deserve each other – I wish they could just leave the rest of us out of it.

  • SODDI

    There is no “just war”. It’s just WAR.

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