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Archive for January, 2011

It’s not every day you get to hear the former head of the Pentagon explain why we should get rid of nuclear weapons. William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, was once the chief developer of nuclear weapons. Now he favors eliminating the weapons he helped build.

Why?  What drives a man with such a long and distinguished career to commit himself in his advanced years to traveling all over the world to advocate nuclear disarmament? He could be taking it easy, playing golf in Florida, but instead next week he’ll brave the snow of northern Indiana to speak with students, faculty, and interested publics about a world without nuclear weapons.

In a public symposium at Notre Dame (Thursday, Feb. 3) entitled “Ethical Dimensions of a World Without Nuclear Weapons,” Perry will explain his reasons. He will focus on the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the spread of global terrorism and argue that global nonproliferation can’t succeed unless all states, led by the United States, commit themselves to eliminating nuclear weapons. (more…)

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The following are excerpts from remarks I delivered at the 4th annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, Indiana, on January 9.

Dr. King inspired and challenged us with a vision of love and hope, leading us toward a society no longer torn by racial hatred and segregation, toward a country distinguished not by its accumulations of superfluous wealth but by how well it treats the least of these, a nation that measures its strength not by the capacity to wage war but by its commitment to justice and peace.

King insisted on the inseparability of ends and means. “Nonviolence demands that the means we use be as pure as the ends we seek.” We cannot achieve a just end with unjust means, a peaceful result with violent means. History has seen too much of armies and conquerors “who came killing in the name of peace,” of revolutionaries who won power with the gun and ruled by the same. To achieve a moral end we must use moral means. As the great A.J. Muste said, “there is no way to peace, peace is the way.” (more…)

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Last Sunday I had the honor of being the guest speaker for the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, about an hour’s drive from Notre Dame. I was deeply moved by the experience, both by the event itself and by the condition of the surrounding community. My family and I arrived early for the event (I wanted to be certain of getting there on time), so we drove around the city for about 20 minutes. It was a shocking experience to see the extent of the city’s decay, a landscape of empty brown fields, decaying buildings, and wrecked and abandoned homes, surely one of the most devastated urban settings in America.

I was depressed and shaken as we approached the Cathedral for the event, but everything changed the moment we entered the door, the gloom of the surrounding city giving way to hope and a spirit of friendship and love from the people inside. We were warmly welcomed and escorted to our places in the magnificent sanctuary of the Cathedral. During the program we were treated to the glorious sounds of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, one of the finest high school musical ensembles I’ve ever heard. As I prepared to give my remarks I felt wonder and gratitude for the many people who make the Cathedral a joyous place of hope, a fortress of faith.

I came away from the event convinced that we at Notre Dame can and must do more to support our neighbors, who live so near, share our values, and urgently need our help to realize Dr. King’s dream of a better tomorrow.

Here is a news account of the event. In my next post, I’ll excerpt a few passages from my remarks.

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I finally had a chance to see Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” which depicts the Bush administration’s efforts to silence former ambassador Joe Wilson by outing his wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The film should be required viewing. It effectively exposes the blatant deceit and criminality underlying the decision to wage war on Iraq, and the lengths to which White House was willing to go to cover up the truth. It is against the law to expose the identity of a CIA agent, but when Wilson wrote an op ed disproving Bush’s claims about uranium from Africa, officials in Vice President Cheney’s office leaked word to the press of his wife’s connection to the CIA. Their goal was to divert attention from why Bush lied to questioning Joe Wilson’s motives. They also sought to deter any other would-be truth tellers.

What struck me most in watching the film and recalling those dark days of deception was the complicity of the U.S. national security establishment. With very few exceptions, most foreign policy officials went along with a war they knew to be unjustified and foolhardy. The truth about fake uranium from Africa and bogus aluminum tubes was well known to anyone paying attention at the time. So were the reports of Hans Blix’s UN inspectors, who visited hundreds of Iraqi sites in the weeks before the invasion and found no evidence of WMD. (more…)

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