– Peter Murnane’s response to NZ Catholic Editorial (25 May 2008)
– Maire Leadbeater’s letter published in the Sunday Star-Times (18 May 2008)
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Peter Murnane’s response to NZ Catholic Editorial – 25 May 2008
WHEN IS DAMAGE “CRIMINAL”?
The Editorial in the New Zealand Catholic of May 18-31 raises good questions. It claimed that “authentic Catholic teaching has never condoned the use of criminal actions to try to bring about… justice”.
Catholic moral tradition does teach that while some actions – such as murder or adultery – are always wrong in themselves and may never be used as means to any end. But most actions vary in moral goodness depending on the INTENTION of the person doing them, and on CIRCUMSTANCES. (Catholic Catecechism, No. 1957)
The civil law says that to break down the door of a house is burglary but the moral law would praise us for doing this if the house is burning and children are trapped inside. Even a civil court would hardly prosecute such an action, recognizing that a higher purpose was intended. Likewise, for a starving person who has no other access to food, it is unquestionably moral to “steal” it from those who have more than they need.
The Editorial rebukes me and my companions for damaging a dome at the USA-controlled spy base at Waihopai. Here too motive can make all the difference.
Already the public debate has widened about the purpose of this base. What do this and the other five Echelon bases achieve by spying on people around the world? Until now the local Government Communications Security Bureau that manages it for the USA’s National Security Agency has been largely unaccountable to the New Zealand government and people.
The track record of the US government contains many regrettable policies and actions. To support its material interests it has promoted the overthrow of legitimate governments. Among others, Iran (1953) Chile (1973) and Haiti (1994). It condoned the Indonesian government’s vast massacres of “communists”in the 1960s and its 1975 invasion of East Timor.
The US has supported the long-term terrorizing of whole populations: Guatamala (from the 1950s), Nicaragua and El Salvador (1970s). Sr Dianna Ortiz OSU, at a recent Auckland Eucharistic Congress, bravely told of her torture in Guatamala under the supervision of the CIA.
For decades the US military has trained Latin American torturers at Fort Benning in Georgia. The shocking atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were not the work of “a few bad apples”; torture is government policy, and the Waihopai spy base – among its other tasks – has helped to fill those prisons.
The USA’s record of governmental terrorism is undeniable. It seems a little naive of the Editorial to claim that our local US spy base is “trying to make the world a safer place”. If the USA begins to bomb Iran – where it is now assembling aircraft carriers – and to pollute yet another country with depleted uranium – which now poisons Iraq beyond recovery – Waihopai will already be playing its part. No doubt Waihopai’s links with the USA’s world-wide military activities will be vigorously denied. But if our evidence is only partly correct, could we ask to be judged as a Catholic newspaper might judge the French Resistance in 1943 for damaging the property of the occupying NAZI government?
It is right to lament that the cost of repairing the dome will keep some money from the poor. But should we not ask our government to account for the $500 million it has spent just to run the base, which might have gone to health or education?
But perhaps our strongest reason for attacking this “respectable” symbol of governmental terrorism is that if we do not question and challenge such things, our silence at their presence in our midst makes us complicit in the evils they cause.
Peter Murnane OP
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Maire Leadbeater’s letter published in the Sunday Star-Times (18 May 2008)
The Sunday Star-Times
In early 2003, British intelligence officer, Katharine Gun, leaked a memo from the US National Security Agency’s Regional Targets section. The memo revealed the extent to which the US was spying on UN Security Council member countries, looking for ways to lever their support for the planned war on Iraq.
Ms Gun thought that her revelations would forestall a senseless war but the US and Britain went ahead with their ‘shock and awe’ invasion, sidestepping the UN in favour of a hastily assembled ‘coalition of the willing’. Ms Gun however, successfully defended her actions before the court by pleading a ‘defence of necessity’.
The ‘Ploughshares Three’ are right to fear that intelligence gathered here could help to lay the groundwork for war. Waihopai is part of a global Anglo-American spy network, Echelon, which intercepts the individual, commercial and diplomatic communications from civilian satellites.
New Zealand collects voluminous amounts of data from two Pacific satellites but little of it is analysed here. Most information is fed directly to the Washington headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
We have no right to spy on the private and diplomatic communications of our Pacific neighbours who pose no threat to us,