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Filmmaker’s notebook #46

GOD’S IMPERFECT KILLERS 

Debate: US Army War College vs. Pax Christi, USA April 1, 2003, Buffalo
Topic: WAR ON IRAQ: JUST OR NOT JUST?

We’d just filmed Dave Robinson in DC, March 26. A few days later, we catch up with him in Buffalo, debating a US Army War College professor at the Jesuit-run Canisius College. Though we may never get around to editing it, it’s potentially too good to pass up. How will the War College express itself – in public debate and a religious setting -- on the 11th day of the blatant imperial war on Iraq? After all, the Pope condemned the aggression, and all war. And even according to the Just War theory, it failed its case miserably, as noted by Chicago United Methodist Bishop Sprague and Bishop Gumbleton (RC, Detroit), March 26, Washington D.C. 

The US Army War College is an integral part of brainwashing upper echelon Army officers, domestic and foreign. Martin Cook, War College prof, is the first speaker. He argues, by inference, that the present war is a Just War.

The professor is dressed in black, with a black turtleneck sweater. Before the debate, as we are setting up mikes on stage, a middle-aged woman approaches Cook with a question: “Father,” she begins…

During his remarks, he twice tells us he is a Calvinist,* and talks about “God” with that reverent, genuflecting, unctuous quality common to many cipher preachers. 

Cook tells us he was an Air Force brat** who grew up on Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases. His father, he says, “flew nuclear weapons.” Young Mr. Cook stayed out of the Vietnam War, and went instead into preaching and teaching religion. He had a PhD in the subject from Rockefeller’s University of Chicago. Why are they so big on religion there? Well, Mr. Cook is one answer.

The professor of religious studies left Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school, for a job more to his liking: a professor of crime justification at the U.S. War College. It’s for good reason academic preachers were deferred during the draft. Having at best second hand experience of war, they can pontificate ingenuously in the service of the state. 

THE US IS GOOD / THE THEM IS EVIL

The professor explains that his job is teaching the “very thoughtful officers who lead the US military to prevent the success of evil in the world.” 

The above is the first of several occasions where Cook identifies the United States (US) as “good.” Please note, his statement is made 10 days after the US has initiated the most egregious crime a nation has committed to date, via “stealth and deceit and murder,” to use the President’s words (see footnote). 

The concept of Just War itself arose, the professor reminds us, when the Christian church got in bed with the Roman Empire (around 325 AD, Emperor Constantine).

As a professional liar,*** Cook’s job is to provide religious justification for Christian believers who, if the programming takes, will make the best cannon fodder and defenders of “legalized killing.” Cook’s other job is to rationalize accidents and purported anomalies of the GOOD SOLDIERS acting on behalf of THE EMPIRE anywhere. 

The professor says that, as a Christian, you must, in post-September 11 America, accept the legitimacy of Just War. The alternative is to surrender to an evil “Al Qaida Dark Age.” Therefore, if you view the CURRENT WAR as unjust (a legitimate option), then you must keep your mouth since you know nothing about such secular matters; or more bluntly, you know nothing; but your pious attitude is a luxury you will be permitted by the state (if you keep your mouth shut). Cook cites his mum Mennonite neighbors in Pennsylvania as representative of this version of “serious deep pacifism.”

There is also, he says, the “deeply confused” version of pacifism which rejects the concept of Just War. This is the group represented by the Pope, and Pax Christi (Cook doesn’t point this out; he’s sneaky) and much of the non-fundamentalist religious community. The belief by the “so-called pacifists” in the “natural goodness of humans” was “a relatively harmless fantasy” until September 11, when it was “shown to be utter utopian.” The reason, he says, is that those who “deny the persistence and depth of human sinfulness,” undermine belief in the good (state). “They confuse Christianity with a sentimentality and an unwarranted set of optimistic assumptions about human nature and about the limits of human conduct.” 

September 11, 2001 was a defining moment for Prof. Cook. Never mind the high probability that it was the first major use of “shock and awe” on the American public, to set them up for participating in shock and awe on “the enemy.” 

In the bipolar world that the operatives in the Project for a New American Century are creating, cause and effect are dismissed as irrelevant when up against Evil. Our professor, of course, didn’t cook any of this up. The group-think is outlined, e.g., in GW Bush’s Sept. 14, 2001 speech at The National Cathedral, Washington D.C.**** 

Cook dismisses the “so-called” pacifist who rejects the concept of Just War – a concept explicitly outlined, for example, by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire: “Militarism and war are legalized killing, and it is evil.” (March 26, 2003, Washington, DC)

The “so-called” or “crypto” pacifist, Cook says, “is especially pernicious” in its rejection of Just War in the post-9/11 world, because while “it is incapable of giving practical advice to those who must bear the sword in modern, practical politics…it may indeed undercut the will to act effectively and decisively in the defense of our citizens, of our civilization, and the relatively peaceful and stable world order which, like it or not, is largely defended by American power.”

The big fear, Cook admits (it’s disguised as a threat) is that “attitudes such as the crypto pacifists hold might guide or significantly influence whole Christian communities…” What is feared is very simply a “culture of peace,” as several religious and human rights leaders call for in their March 26 civil disobedience. 

Pretty clearly, as fellow War College professor and CIA analyst Stephen Pelletiere noted (Q & A (part two), snowshoefilms), the drive for war is orchestrated by a coalition (now called the Coalition of the Willing). Pelletiere elaborated: The coalition is made up of oil and gas interests (particularly U.S. based), the weapons industry, Israel, and fundamentalist Christians and Jews who support Israel. 

SERVANT OF GOD

Cook’s reference to the legitimacy of bearing the sword (above) is derived from Paul (Romans 13), whom he quotes with approval: “The authority does not bear the sword in vain. It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrong-doer. Therefore one must submit to it. Not only because of the wrath, but also because of conscience.”

Professor Cook posits abject surrender to the belief structure of imperialism (god, or the demi-god who heads the empire as Christian). He quotes 2nd Century Tertullian as an appropriate response of Christian subjects: “We pray for life prolonged for the empire. For protection of the Imperial House…” Otherwise, the empire will fall in a “mighty shock.” Only bombing (and gassing, for it may come to that) people to death in large numbers can prevent this from happening.

Revealing the depth of his group think, Dr. Cook said “for one shining moment, the UN had a chance to act responsibly by joining the First Bush in creating the New World Order, but it failed…”

NOT A PERFECT KILLER

The War College Prof. concludes his remarks by praising the extraordinary accuracy of U.S’ weapons of mass destruction: missiles that can “take out targets within 100 yards of our troops, with a margin of error of about 50 feet.” Mistakes, he said, are “technical error or mis-programming.” 

The important question, Cook says, is whether the bombing “was done in good faith.” He clarifies: “I think it’s fair to say that no military in the world is as capable of being discriminate [in its killing] if by that one doesn’t expect perfection… but if the test is perfection, then we’re back to crypto-pacifism. In any war, civilians will die, mistakes will be made.”

Prof. Cook says proudly that one of his student officers is currently giving CENTCOM briefings in Kuwait, just like he practiced at the mock briefings at the Army War College. The duty of such men is to put best spin on collateral damage. Cook can admit this because of his belief that America is Good, but sometimes does Bad Things when it is up against Evil. Cook trots out no list, no numbers, no arguments about why war on Iraq was Just. Instead, he periodically mentions Al Qaida. Evil is pretty much whoever Good says it is. The nation, herded by the corporate media, slides further into bipolar madness. 

As Phil Berrigan said before his death, we have only two rights of the Constitution left, speech and assembly. Let’s make the most of them.

* Calvinist: one’s “good” works or “bad” works won’t get you into heaven or hell (or God’s grace or damnation) if you’re not already on the roster, so you don’t have to really worry too much about questions of morality if you are one of God’s Chosen People, or the Elect, whatever. 

** Being an Air Force brat myself (R. Harvey), I sympathize somewhat with Mr. Cook’s psychological programming. Cook made clear, though, that he was an officer’s brat. We were sons and daughters of grunts; we rarely associated with sons and daughters of officers; they were of another caste. We were rough and tough and did the fighting; they only gave the orders. As a military dependant for my first 15 years, I dreaded the day when I would lose my connection to the Air Force and its purported special privileges and mission (Peace Is Our Profession); I looked on civilians as THE OTHER. 

*** Perhaps this is harsh; if Mr. Cook believes the lies that are fed to him, is he a liar? Or only a believer? There is abundant evidence, for example, that there is no connection between Al Qaida and Hussein… And yet, this is the centerpiece of the administration’s aggression. 

**** “…our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.” President Bush, Washington, D.C. (The National Cathedral), September 14, 2001 [The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, p. 1, Sept. 2002]. 

In God: A Biography, Jack Miles’ interpretation of the Old Testament as a work of fiction, the genocidal God dies, a failure. After a silence of several hundred years, a self-conscious sequel to the novel was enacted and recorded (New Testament): the new way to resist is non-violent civil disobedience, and love. This tactic might bring the empire down yet. Gandhi’s mistake was the opportunistic use of Hinduism, as Eqbal Ahmad points out. 

 

updated Apr 2003