Abraham, Donald and Ike

09-27-2020Fr. John's LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

We all know about the price of war, the blood spilled and the treasure spent but what about the price of peace? While many would argue that the price of war is way too high, particularly endless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, others argue the price of peace is just too costly.

Recently the Washington Post reported that much of the $1 Billion CARES ACT funding allotted to the Pentagon to combat COVID-19 was diverted to defense contractors for military supplies and not to bolstering the country’s supplies of medical and PPE equipment. You might argue this is just another example of mismanagement of taxpayer money. But it’s more than that.

When the Impeachment of President Trump kicked off it was because he put a hold on assistance to the Ukraine. That assistance was not monetary assistance nor humanitarian assistance, it was military assistance. And that military equipment came from US defense manufacturers who contract with the Pentagon. When the President put a hold on that assistance every phone lit up in the Pentagon, State Department and in every Congressional o!ce where a Defense Manufacturer is located. Not sending that military aid would mean a loss of millions in profit and besides what would they tell their shareholders? A proxy war with Russia via Ukraine could be very profitable after all.

Trump should have known better. He was already soundly scolded for mocking the retired Generals who go on to make large sums working for these same defense contractors. He rightly pointed out the vested interest so many of them have in continuing to make war and not peace. When the President decided not to get entangled in the war in Syria he was soundly and harshly criticized by both ends of the political spectrum. No war in Syria, actually it would have been another proxy war with Russia, means no expenditures on military equipment and with the war in Iraq winding down a new front was needed to keep the defense contractors and the Pentagon flowing in cash.

Then there is this. The recent Abraham Accords signed between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain received golf claps from most of our leaders. Haven’t US presidents since Carter been trying to broker peace in the Middle East? For the first time in a quarter century we see the Middle East calming down. No new wars have been started recently, no major military interventions since the defeat of ISIS, no terrorist incidents or major threats of terrorism in the US or Europe in the last few years, again isn’t this what we have been hoping for? These Accords by no means end the conflicts in the region but they help to bring peace a step closer. They also show that Jews and Muslims are not bound to be forever enemies.

In a geopolitical irony, these Accords were made possible by the Iran Nuclear Deal signed on by the Obama Administration and revoked by the Trump Administration. The Deal scared the heck out of the Arab nations who see Iran as their political, military and religious enemy. With the deal Iran was guaranteed at some point to have a nuclear weapon and was given billions in cold hard cash. From an Arab perspective that would allow Iran to continue to finance its terror networks in the Middle East and move closer to asserting hegemony over the region. So, the first country Trump visited after his Inauguration was Saudi Arabia where he culled together an alliance of the Arab nations. Along with the fear of Iran, forming an alliance was made easier by the fact that the US has become energy independent and the oil money has been drying up in the Arab oil producing states and so they need to diversify their economies.

These Accords along with the Accord brokered between Serbia and Kosovo (another place where we spilled blood and treasure under President Clinton) have received little attention. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which issues statements on everything has not even mentioned the Accords. The Vatican briefly mentioned that there was a signing of the Accords at the White House. Not a word from the Pope. I guess peace is so yesterday, it was a John Paul II thing. We’ve moved on to things like Climate Change. Oh, well, I guess I am just an old peacenik.

Peace in the Middle East means a loss of profit for defense contractors. In fact, peace in general means that for those who have become heavily invested in profiting off of war, peace holds little value. This is what President Eisenhower meant by “the Military-Industrial Complex”. It has taken full hold despite his warning. Trump seems to understand this. Which is why these Accords are heavy on economic engagement, trade and manufacturing. Changing manufacturing from the needs of war to the needs of peace is what the Bible calls “turning swords into plowshares.”

The President has been nominated, twice in fact, for the Nobel Peace Prize and rightly so. Right on cue many of his detractors are calling for an end to the Prize itself, being meaningless if he gets it, of course. But is working for Peace meaningless? Certainly not. But unfortunately, Peace is profitless for many.


Fr. John B.