La Civiltà Cattolica: "Bombs alone risk strengthening the Caliphate"

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“Military analysts attest that the existing military solution is not effective. Being limited to this medium can continue to permit the Islamic State to conquer territory, and give it occasion to commit further atrocities,” the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica writes in an analysis published in its latest issue.

La Civiltà Cattolica is an authoritative Jesuit publication whose draft articles are reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State. The article written by Fr. Luciano Larivera is an important and well thought out piece which does not downplay the Iraq tragedy or the threat presented by the Caliphate and its daily brutalities in any way. It proposes concrete actions that could bring about a lasting solution.

“The United States, the European Union and the Iraqi Government were unable to prevent the violence against the Christian Yazidi, Shabak, Turkmen, Shiite and “moderate” Sunni populations in Mosul and in the Nineveh Plains. All that remained for these people, depending on each case, was forced conversion, death, slavery (for women) or escape…” The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (or the Levant), the Islamic State and Caliphate, was able to besiege and kill thousands of Yazidis in Iraq’s Sinjar Mountains, take control of the Mosul Dam and advance towards Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan.” The analysis piece recalls that August marked the start of a number of initiatives and actions: “the US began its airstrikes to free the Yazidis, take back the dam and lighten jihadist pressure; western initiatives began to strengthen the Iraqi Curd war apparatus as well as the humanitarian rescue missions to help the displaced who were “taken in” by the Curds, in Syria too.”

La Civiltà Cattolica quoted the many appeals sent out by the Pope, the Holy See and the Middle Eastern bishops in detail. It observed that during the in-flight interview with journalists on the way back from Korea, Francis emphasized Catholic doctrine on the conditions when military force is morally just and on the apical and legitimizing role of the UN Security Council and international law, including humanitarian law.

The Jesuit periodical explained that the Church does not support weak and naive pacifism, nor, however, is it “tasked with proposing war strategies and tactics. This is does not fit in with her mission and her competence, but is up to the civil and military authorities, and lay experts, including Catholics.” The Church legitimately: asks for an unjust aggressor to be stopped; sees the military necessity or lack there of, of armed intervention as politics’ last resort; seeks to verify the legitimacy of the political process used to decide on armed intervention; denounces every kind of crime, and especially the disproportionate use of legitimate force.”

More specifically, the analysis highlights the need to strengthen “international bodies and key state institutions. The most important thing of all is to consolidate the establishment of an inter-tribal national army, police force and judicial system in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. This is so that more and more common and shared problems are solved nationally or regionally and so that no parts of the world remain ungoverned (in other words in the hands of criminals and terrorists).”

La Civiltà Cattolica said “it is crucial that we examine and understand why and how IS is fighting its war of religion and annihilation … It exploits power to assert its religious ideology and not vice versa. It is more dangerous that Al Qaeda. It is up to the legitimate government of Baghdad to judge the legitimacy of the targeted interventions it asks for; it is up to the UN bodies, first and foremost the Security Council, which did not seem to express any opposition (China seemed to appreciate this); to those who carry out said interventions and to the community of war and international war experts.”

But, he clarified, “it is their duty to respond to the doubts and criticisms of their citizens and international public opinion. Military analysts agree that the current military solution is not efficient. Using this method only may give IS more opportunities to conquer and carry out even greater atrocities. The Islamic State should be cut off from its supply of arms, the recruitment and training of new combatants, its financing channels, energy infrastructure, and logistics.” Furthermore, ‘the art of war’ is not enough: domestic policy, diplomacy, religion and the economy (giving jobs to young Middle Easterners instead of allowing them to get involved in criminal and mercenary activities) are what is needed.

“Stability and security,” the Jesuit periodical went on to say, “will only e guaranteed if the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq have the same political, civil, social and economic rights as other ethnic and religious groups. But this “domestic policy” solution is only feasible if regional powers reach an agreement on how to stop the sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, restoring peace between Iran and the Gulf Monarchies. And in places where communication is dominated by political correctness, and where societies are individualistic, impressionable, hedonistic and obsessed with appearances.”

“The religious war is taken to the extreme, even against Sunni Muslims who are not “really” Salafists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the Wahhabi Saudis and Al Qaeda’s jihadists. IS sees them as apostates because they do not strive towards a global Caliphate, at most they strive for national States governed by Sharia law. In order to win the consensus and help of a majority of “true Muslims”, IS also carries out Al Qaeda-like actions, i.e. suicide bombings in countries that do not have Muslim majorities.”

The Jesuit periodical stressed IS’s ability to attract volunteers from all over the world, as well as numerous women in occupied territories. “These women agree to fight for this chauvinist jihadism because IS allegedly protects and promotes the rights of Sunni Muslims. The “Islamic Caliphate” offers them an identity and social status – something and someone to die for and secure a place in Heaven – and at the same time a political, albeit theocratic, plan, encompassing “rule of law”, welfare and “cosmopolitanism”. These categories of western modernity have changed and what is more they are losing meaning, values and driving force, particularly in Europe.”

Given IS’ unwillingness to agree to a ceasefire and negotiate, it would be a mistake to respond to its religious war by launching a military counter-offensive inspired by religion, even if it is only an intra-Islamic one: IS’ Islamism would become even more radical in the minds and hearts of many Muslims.”

“The Islamic Caliphate,” La Civiltà Cattolica’s analysis goes on to say, is a proto-State, although a terrorist one. It controls a population of about 6 million people, provides public services and fights against corrupt public officials in order to win over its Sunni subjects. To achieve its religious goals it adopts an apocalyptic approach in politics, the economy and the armed forces. The international Muslim community has the duty to ensure that no Muslim has an extremist conception of the Koran and Islamic tradition. It is everyone’s duty not to exploit Islam (or any other religion) for political, economic or sectarian reasons.”

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By Andrea Tornielli