Politics & Policy

Tone Deaf

Another letter to my European friend, Caro Rinaldo.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the fourth of a series first published in the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore. The first can be read here, the second here, and the third here.

Dear Caro Rinaldo,

The strangest disease afflicts our pacifists over here, Rinaldo, and I see by the e-mail you sent me that it afflicts Italian pacifists, too. Especially among theologians. Our pacifist theologians are always speaking of “peace,” but the tone in which they write, especially of those who disagree with them, is bombastic, fiery and murderously polemical. They are not content to disagree civilly. They describe their opponents as evil, venal, and brainless. They calumniate.

I was disappointed to read the article you sent me by the renowned and holy monk Enzo Bianchi. It is written in a tone of denunciation and invective that is unworthy of him. Actually, he does not offer any arguments. He merely heaps scorn on those who hold different views.

Is this what is known as “theological dialogue” on the continent? Things used to be better than this.

For instance, the only motive that the good and holy monk sees for the U.S. invasion of Iraq is oil. But President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have already pledged that all the oil revenues from the Iraqi oil wells must be put in a trust for the benefit of the Iraqi people. That will be the economic foundation for Iraq’s recovery from the ruination of Saddam and its future free society.

If the United States had wanted Iraqi oil, we could have seized it all in 1991.

Does Father Bianchi really think that the United States is that kind of power? Is that how we treated Italy in 1945? Did we seize Italian soil, or Italian resources? Well, we did request sufficient land to bury our dead at Anzio and elsewhere.

No doubt Fr. Bianchi keeps close track of worldwide markets in crude oil. I certainly don’t, but with a little research I learned that the United States now imports most of its crude oil from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. These nations are much closer to us than the Middle East. From the Middle East, we now purchase less than 28 percent of our crude oil.

I was especially disappointed with the crude language Father Bianchi used for the president of the United States, George W. Bush. However one may disagree with President Bush politically, the record shows that no President has ever stayed closer to the Catholic clergy and people of America than he has. He has supported the Church on questions of abortion, euthanasia, cloning, tax vouchers for parental choice of schools, compassionate social policies, public recognition of faith and prayer, and many other policies. He has visited regularly with several of the cardinals. He accepts many invitations from them for appearances at important Catholic events, such as the dedication of the John Paul II Center in Washington, D.C., where he gave the best pro-life speech of any president ever.

The university entrance exams of George W. Bush ranked him higher in aptitude than either Senators Bill Bradley (a Rhodes Scholar) or Al Gore. No one who has watched Mr. Bush in action since 9/11 2001 can doubt his intellect, bravery or determination. He is a much loved, much trusted, and highly popular president.

This is not to say that President Bush is beyond criticism, or that people overseas have to like him as much as Americans do. But he has earned respect, and ought to be shown it. Argue with him if you must. Yet it is more admirable to present arguments than to display mere emotions.

Does Fr. Bianchi doubt that Saddam Hussein has inflicted horrific tortures on scores of thousands of the people of Iraq? Does he deny the annual reports of Amnesty International and the Middle East Rights Watch on the barbarous abuses of human rights in Iraq these past 25 years? I don’t think that Fr. Bianchi really aligns himself with Saddam Hussein. Or even with those who maintain silence about his crimes, and acquiesce in the sufferings of the Iraqi people. Fr. Bianchi is not that kind of man.

Nor, I suspect, does Fr. Bianchi deny the fact that a huge camp for terrorists in Northern Iraq was recently overrun by the Kurdish liberation army and the American special forces. More likely, he would warn doubters to be careful, because whole caves full of files and a number of computers have now been seized, along with stores of materials for chemical and biological welfare.

Father Bianchi is such a humane and prayerful man that one poorly argued column, one unfortunate display of unworthy passions, should not be held against the body of his work.

— Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Michael Novak was a Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat.

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