Since 1990, a crowd has gathered every year at Fort Benning in mid-November to protest against the activities of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas) and demand its closure.
The annual event is not so much a protest, but rather a gathering of the remnants of the religious and cultural left who create a sixties-like carnival atmosphere around Fort Benning. The Army’s efforts to “dialogue” with the protesters by opening their doors to any who wish to review the school’s operation has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, some protesters actually want to get arrested by deliberately breaking the law.
Prominent leftist Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois is the leader of the event. He is facing imminent excommunication by the Vatican for openly opposing Church doctrine. Were it not for this recent development, Father Bourgeois’ presence might give the impression that the participants speak for all Catholics.1 In a similar way, the numerous priests, nuns and Catholic university students seem to cling to the long condemned tenets of “liberation theology,” a Marxist interpretation of the Catholic faith.2
Such a liberationist vision has nothing to do with true Catholic teaching. In their skewed outlook, the military is a symbol of oppression that must be eliminated, forcing all States to renounce the use of force to secure their rights and maintain order. This pacifist mentality harbors a profound dislike for the discipline, order, hierarchy, sense of duty and other values that are part and parcel of military life.
Using typical Marxist class struggle language, the protesters claim to represent peace and justice in defense of the people. The military men sent to the Fort Benning Institute and those who teach there are said to represent the oppressors.
We ask: Who really guarantees the peace? The pacifists? Or those upholding order?
The Military Guarantees True Peace
First of all, we condemn all abuses – on any side. However, we also defend the overwhelming majority of those who have honorably served their country with American aid.
We recognize that throughout history there have always been those who would systematically break the peace, and use violence to impose their rule upon the innocent. Not least among these in our days are those Marxist Latin American revolutionaries, who have wrought so much misery upon their nations. This is the case of groups such as Colombia’s Communist-inspired FARC. Its “tactics” consist of a gangster/terrorist mix of bombings, murder, mortar attacks, drug running, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, and ambushes of conventional military forces. Last February, an estimated 4.8 million Colombians took to the street – well over ten percent of the population – to demonstrate a whole nation’s rejection of this terrorist group.
When such brutal enemies attack society, it falls upon heroic soldiers who risk their lives to save their countries from the Marxist threat. We should applaud the dedication of those who honorably fight and make the greatest of all sacrifices so that others might live in peace.
According to the traditional definition of Saint Augustine, peace is the tranquility that results from good order in society. The existence of true order is a necessary condition for true peace. The goal of war, and therefore of military life, is not to wage war for the sake of war, but to obtain through war the restoration of peace.
An American Hero
We have a vivid example of such dedication to uphold the peace in a recently deceased soldier. War hero, U.S. Marine and practicing Catholic, Col. John Ripley, died at his home in Annapolis, Maryland on November 1.
During the Easter Offensive in 1972, this legendary Marine hero single-handedly blew up the bridge at Dong Ha in Vietnam and thus prevented a column of 200 North Vietnamese tanks and 30,000 enemy soldiers from overrunning the northern provinces of that country.
Col. Ripley would go on to receive the Navy Cross for his heroism along with numerous other awards. At the time of his death, he was considered one of the most highly decorated Marines. Obituaries of the fallen hero used such words as “legendary.” One of the last tributes he received was to be inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, the only Marine to receive such an honor.
What defined this great man was the moral nobility of a fight that is entirely based upon ideas of honor, and of force placed at the service of good and turned against evil. It is the joy of serving with courage, strength, discipline, and heroism that allowed him to live in an atmosphere of legend and glory.
Society should applaud such sacrifice rather than deplore it.
Ft. Benning’s Efforts
We have experienced the tragic lesson of communism that imposed (and still imposes) its ideology upon uncounted millions. Our country faces other threats from rogue nations and terrorist organizations. Other nations face similar threats and need our help to defend order. What stands between civilized society and these threats are those brave soldiers that put their lives on the line.
A Call for Fairness
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) calls upon the protesters to apply a standard of fairness. We find it objectionable that protesters refuse to hear the Army’s side of the story. We call upon the protesters to apply their rigorous criteria for abuse to those on the left. Let them be consistent and condemn the left’s violence with equal and greater vehemence. Let them recognize and condemn the systemic and widespread abuses that have come from Castro’s Cuba, the FARC guerillas and other leftist movements who do not hesitate to use violence against innocent civilians. Let them renounce the Marxist ideologies that inspire these movements.
At the same time, we express our admiration for American military men, like Col. Ripley and Pat Tillman, whose sense of honor, discipline and duty so well represents our armed forces and so endears them to our citizens. We resist those who would vilify, not just the soldiers, but the military in general in the name of an outdated and iniquitous political ideology.
Rather than mourn the death of great men, Gen. Patton once said: “We should thank God that such men lived.”
In our uncertain times, it is the military that guarantees true peace. As Americans, we can be justly proud of our young troops who symbolize the best America has to offer. While we censure any abuses, we are proud of all those who help others fight against the enemies of Western Christian civilization.
May God protect them in their daily battles around the world as they defend our nation and us.
- Fr. Bourgeois’ liberationist views have led him to defy the Church’s teachings on women priests and other issues. After his formal participation in a woman’s “ordination” ceremony, he faces excommunication on November 22.
- This “theology” originated in Latin America in the late seventies and was condemned by the Church on August 6, 1984, in the “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation,” signed by the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.