Last Monday night a group of about 15 Catholic workers and friends continued the resistance to General Peter Cosgrove’s appointment as Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University. On the day of his appointment in 2010, we held vigils at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and St Stephens in Brisbane
This week Peter Cosgrove was invited to be the guest speaker to open Catholic Education week. It was interesting to note that in the advertising brochure, his role in East Timor after the 1999 Indonesian withdrawal was emphasised along with his role in helping clean up after Cyclone Larry in 2006.
Conveniently missing was his role in leading the invasion and occupation of Iraq from March 2003, arguably the most important event of his life. A friend who attended Monday’s event told us it was never mentioned there either. Cosgrove was asked to speak on ‘Community” for the night. This is most ironic given that the invasion of Iraq terrorised a whole nation and destroyed communities (and continues to do so) on a massive scale. Over a million people have died, and 4 million refugees have been created. Over half the Christian population (mostly Chaldean Catholic) has been forced to flee the country in sectarian violence caused by the war. Before the invasion they lived in harmony with Muslims. Tragically, the very day after the Monday night event, Iraq had it’s worst day of bloodshed in months. 100 civilians were killed and 200 seriously injured in a series of attacks.
Now, Cosgrove’s role in leading Australian forces in Iraq could be seen as a simple military blunder, (as perhaps he would like to see it), were it not for the fact that leading up the war the church had unequivocally denounced it as an unjust war. Prior to the invasion Pope John Paul 2 spent an enormous amount of time and energy denouncing the pending war. He sent envoys to both Bush and Blair to condemn it. Australia’s own Bishops issued a statement declaring it ‘immoral and unjust” (See http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/…/2003_03_19_1048031242.html.)
Never before had church leaders (not just Catholic) so strongly declared their nation’s own wars to be unjust. For once the usefulness of the Just War theory was to be tested –and found wanting! The theory was formulated by St. Augustine to mitigate the incidences of war after Emperor Constantine had converted. Instead it has often had the opposite effect – giving Christians an excuse to go to war. This time, when it was used by Church authorities to condemn a war, Catholic military and political leaders felt free to treat it as irrelevant. Worse still, Catholic institutions such as the ACU and CathEd, felt that a Catholic leading an unjust war is a heroic figure, one to represent the Church’s universities and schools.
Here is what the Nuremburg tribunal had to say about the waging of a war of aggression such as the attack on Iraq.
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole
The Nuremburg tribunal clearly lays the blame for all the consequent horrors since the 2003 invasion of Iraq at the feet of the invaders.
And still there is no repentance. Only denial.
When we started to hand out leaflets to those entering the school, the headmaster and P and F leaders came to talk to us, but there was zero engagement on the issue we were there to address, despite our best attempts. They seemed to have no opinion on the issue, at least none they wished to share. The only concern was our embarrassing presence there. They did take our leaflets however, and so did a number of other visitors – especially on leaving the event.
Personally I can only feel sorry for Peter Cosgrove. He is a soldier taught to follow orders. At least he has risked his life to fight immoral laws. Of course it would be great if he was taught to put his conscience before his “duty”. Of much greater concern are those in positions of power and privilege who have sought to use his image to improve their own image, without seemingly giving the slightest consideration to suffering caused by war. These people have made Peter Cosgrove Chancellor of the ACU and ambassador for Catholic Education week, without risking anything.
We will continue our resistance to General Cosgrave’s appointment as long as it lasts.
Ciaron O”Reilly has written about the action, and more photos, can been found at http://wp.me/p1rtyw-Kr
Jim Dowling 27th July 2012
“In an age of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – George Orwell