Skip to comments.The Forgotten Victims
Posted on 07/31/2006 1:51:04 PM PDT by NYer
In late 1990, in the run-up to the Gulf War, I was a graduate student in political theory at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The coming war occupied much of our talk outside the classroom, and I can recall only one graduate student—a Sicilo-American Republican from Philadelphia who had gone through ROTC and was studying at the law school so he could be a JAG Corps attorney for the Army—who was in favor of the war.
I was a subscriber to the American edition of the Italian Catholic magazine 30 Days, and we were all shocked when the American publisher (Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.) decided to quit publishing the American edition when the Italians ran a cover story on Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the war. (For those unfamiliar with the story, that was the genesis of Catholic World Report, which was given to American 30 Days subscribers to fill out the rest of their subscription.)
While it was clear that there were some Catholics in favor of the war (Catholic politicians, in particular), much of the conservative political opposition to the war was being led by Catholics, such as Pat Buchanan and Russell Kirk, as well as an increasingly Catholic-themed publication called Chronicles.
How times have changed. Today, the war in Iraq is far less justified, morally or strategically, than the Gulf War was; and yet, outside of Chronicles and Pat Buchanan, most “conservative” Catholics have supported the war unquestioningly. Take a spin around “St. Blog’s Parish” and try to find anyone who raises any objection to the war. Mark Shea is about the only one, but even when he questioned the most over-the-top proposal by Michael Ledeen (that “terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not captured“), many of those who commented on his post (as well as many of his fellow St. Bloggers) took him to task.
And anyone who points out that John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger opposed the war is simply dismissed: Don’t you know that they oppose all war? Don’t you understand that this is just a prudential judgment? Are you suggesting that my prudential judgment may not be better than that of two popes? After all, there’s a lot they don’t know—John Paul and Benedict aren’t even Americans, much less Republicans!
And everything I just wrote applies in spades to “conservative” American Catholic support for Israel’s latest attack on Lebanon.
Back in 1990, the opposition of us conservative students at Catholic U was both moral and strategic. One thing that may have set us apart from others, however, was an awareness that the conflict in the Middle East can never be boiled down to just two extremes, whether Judaism versus Islam or Israel versus Arabs. We had watched the Lebanese civil war rage most of our lives; we knew the effect it had had on Maronite Christians. Coming from Michigan, I knew of the massive influx of Lebanese Christians to the Detroit area, in large part because of the war.
In the eyes of today’s “conservative” American Catholics, the Christian populations of the Middle East—the oldest continuing Christian communities in the world—are simply invisible. Palestinians are all Muslims; there are no Melkites. Lebanese are all Muslims; there are no Maronites or Syrian Catholics or Orthodox. Ditto for Syria herself. Iraqis are Sunni and Shiite and Kurd; Chaldean and Assyrian Christians simply don’t exist. And everyone who lives within the borders of Israel is an observant Jew.
This blindness on the part of “conservative” American Catholics is partly ignorance; even many of those who have heard the words Melkite and Maronite have no particular interest in trying to learn anything about either rite, must less trying to grapple with the history of these Christian populations or even being bothered to find out who lives where or how they worship.
More importantly, though, it reflects a growing political reality. Since at least the Six-Day War, the presence of Christians in the Middle East has been a sign of contradiction that has stood in the way of American and Israeli attempts to reduce the broad conflict in the Middle East to the dualism of Judaism/Israel versus Islam/Arabs. The inconvenient reality of Middle Eastern Christianity has been a stumbling block to remaking the Middle East in a particular ideological image.
I started to write the “irreducible” (instead of “inconvenient”) “reality of Middle Eastern Christianity,” but, unfortunately, it is not so. By acting as if they were dealing only with Muslims, both the United States and Israel have changed the demographic reality in the Middle East. Palestinian Christians have left in droves. Much of the Maronite population is now in the United States. The Chaldean and Assyrian Christians in Iraq have, as Wayne Allensworth predicted before the war, largely fled the country.
These Christians, who used to act as leaven, politically and spiritually, in a troubled region can no longer do so. And so the ideological description of the conflict as the dualism of Judaism/Israel versus Islam/Arabs has gone from an inaccurate reduction of reality to something more than a half-truth today.
What is astounding is that so few “conservative” American Catholics realize that the ethnic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East is not, in the long run, in the national interest of either the United States or Israel. Blinded by American nationalism or partisan politics or maybe just bloodlust, they’re supporting policies that will likely cost more American and Israeli blood in the decades to come.
All of which was a long way to introduce the comments below that Andrea Kirk Assaf, a journalist and the youngest daughter of Russell Kirk (author of The Conservative Mind) made in response to Pat Buchanan’s July 21 column on the war. I once knew Andrea quite well, having spent seven months living at Kirk’s Piety Hill with my wife and our first child, at the gracious invitation of Kirk’s widow and Andrea’s mother, Annette. She writes:
Thank you, Mr. Buchanan, for being the lone sane voice among conservatives in Washington today. I really appreciate this article and have posted it on my blog: http://andreakirkassaf.blogspot.com
This is the same Andrea Kirk you know, the youngest daughter of Russell Kirk. I married a Maronite Lebanese man, Tony Assaf, and so have been directly affected by this war. In fact, my in-laws’ home, and sadly my father-in-law too, were hit by the Israeli missile that struck Baabda last night. Incidentally, there are no Hezbollah targets within miles, though the presidential palace is just next door. And Olmert claims he’s trying to help the Lebanese government? I fail to see how destroying Lebanon could possibly help the Lebanese or the Israelis, in the short or long term.
Please speak out on this as frequently and loudly as you can. It could save lives if certain actors finally see the light.
You can read more details of the attack that injured Andrea’s father-in-law, who for years has been a cook in a Maronite monastery, in this post on her blog, which she has made into an excellent compendium of source documents on the conflict. Those who subscribe to Inside the Vatican may well remember the extensive coverage of Andrea’s wedding to Tony Assaf a few years back. If I recall correctly, there were some photos of Andrea’s in-laws, for those interested in putting a human face on this conflict.
Please keep Andrea’s in-laws (and, of course, Andrea herself) in your prayers, as we all join Pope Benedict in praying “for the day of peace to come today and not tomorrow.”
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Waiting for the first "anti-Semite" or "terrorist lover" accusation to come up, unfortunately...
What is astounding is that so many people in the West, Catholics or otherwise, don't understand that the ethnic cleansing of Christians from the world--which is what we are ultimately fighting against in Iraq--is not, in the long run, in the national interest of either the United States or Israel.
Thanks for posting this excellent piece. Too often, American Catholics are either ignorant about our brothers and sisters in the Middle East or are indifferent or hostile to them.
The foregoing is my distilling of what I read from more than a few hate-Arab-spewing freepers. Some of them even call themselves "Christians". What a laugh. They don't seem to want to help Arab Christians, or convert Muslim Christians. They seem to want them all dead. At least that's my impression from reading posts around here for years.
Okay, I read it again.
I still see no explanation of just how the ethnic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East, which it is undeniable is happening, is caused by American or Israeli policies.
Other than Israel having the gall to exist at all.
A good example: We toppled a secular government in Iraq (Saddan's)that allowed Christians to worship, and in its place an Islamic Shia government has been established. Christians are being harassed and persecuted, and have left the country in great numbers.
I still have no clue who the "forgotten victims" are...
That's when my BS meter pegged and I quit reading.
I don't recall any Jews passing out sweets and dancing in the streets on 9/11. I don't recall any Jews among the 19 9/11 hijackers.
In case you haven't heard, we are fighting a global war against Islamofascism. Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, Islamofascism comes in 2 major flavors, Sunni and Shia (analagous to Nazi German and Imperial Japanese), with Arabs making up the Sunni component and Persians making up Shia component.
So I have no problem with Americans being anti-Arab or anti-Persian after 9/11. IIRC, there was plenty of anti-Japanese and anti-German sentiment in America after 12/7. Japanese and (some)Germans were rounded up and placed in interment camps. Anti-Japanese and anti-German propaganda abounded, complete with cartoonish ethnic stereotypes that would never pass muster in today's politically correct, post-'long-march-through-the-institutions' world.
Sure, there are some loyal Arab-Americans who love this country more than their heritage, just like there were loyal Japanese during WW2. There was an all-Japanese-American Army unit that was one of the most decorated units of the war that fought in the Italian campaign. I would love to see an analogy of that today - a vocal and loyal group of Arab-Americans that stands up for their country against the Islamofascists. AFAIK, such a group doesn't exist, or if it does, it's not getting the media coverage it deserves.
Let's face it: after the murder of 3000+ Americans and others at the hands of Arab savages, being anti-Arab in America should not be unexpected. IMO, the ball is in the Arab-Americans' court to prove that they're NOT terrorists, and are worthy of being American citizens. It worked once before, and it can work again.
Even if he had heard, it probably wouldn't do any good.
Thank you for clarifying the vicious attacks we witness in this forum on a daily basis. It should come as no surprise to you to learn that the Maronite Catholic Patriarch has instructed the clergy and laity in Lebanon to welcome ALL refugees into their homes and communities. And that is precisely what they are doing. One Maronite priest who maintains a web site and blog, has posted pictures of the refugees and talks about how the christians are responding with shelter, water, food and assistance. Following the commandment of our Lord, they are 'evangelizing' through their actions. As Abouna Antonio explains, these Muslims do not know Jesus and are filled with gratitude for the outpouring of comfort and aid.
They seem to want them all dead. At least that's my impression from reading posts around here for years.
I attribute it to ignornace. Truly! We Americans only know a democratic society. We have no historical basis for comparing our 200 years to the thousands of years of persecution, strife and wars experienced by those who live in the Middle East. That is the reason for this thread. Notice the poor response to it vs those threads of a more sensational nature.
Thanks for the ping and commentary.
A.Pole .... would you be so kind as to post the religion map to this thread ... thank you!
You mean this one?
Hmm, I would not even go into imagining such a "puzzling behavior".
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