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I don’t have to remind you of the importance of this Thursday’s debate from a political perspective. But as you prepare, I invite you to spare a few minutes to look at the opportunity from a moral and religious perspective. You may wish to examine your conscience regarding how you have acted on key foreign policy issues and reflect on John 8:32: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
The holy days of religious traditions serve a very useful purpose, if we but take the time to pause and ponder. I write you on Rosh Hashanah, the first of ten days focusing on repentance.
In Judaism’s oral tradition Rosh Hashanah is the day when people are held to account. The wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living," while the righteous are inscribed in the book of life. Those in the middle are given ten days to repent, until the holiday of Yom Kippur—the solemn Day of Atonement.
If that has a familiar ring to it, Joe, we heard it in as many words at Mass last Sunday in the first reading, from Ezekiel 18: "If one turns from wickedness and does what is right and just, that one will live."
At Rosh Hashanah the ram’s horn trumpet blows to waken us from our slumber and alert us to the coming judgment. Rabbi Michael Lerner has been a ram’s horn for me. On Sept. 28, he sent a note addressing forgiveness and repentance.
He encourages us to find a private place to say aloud how we’ve hurt others, and then to go to them and ask forgiveness. "Do not mitigate or ‘explain’—just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness," says Rabbi Lerner. He suggests we ask for "guidance and strength to rectify those hurts—and to develop the sensitivity to not continue acting in a hurtful way."
Again, a familiar ring. Think, Joe, about the instruction we both received as Irish "cradle Catholics." Surely you will remember the emphasis on examining one’s conscience, confessing, and pledging to "sin no more." The phrase comes back, clear as a bell; we were to "confess our sins, do penance, and amend our life, Amen." Remember?
And remember how clean we felt at the end of that therapeutic process? I was reminded of that by Monday’s gospel reading from John 1, in which Jesus says of Nathaniel: "Here is a true child of Israel; there is no duplicity in him." Just think of how Nathaniel must have felt.
Joe, you can feel that clean; but one cannot short-cut the process. You must first come clean on your role in greasing the skids for President George W. Bush’s war of aggression on Iraq. I use "war of aggression" advisedly, for that is the term used by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson to denote "the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole."
There is no getting around that—despite the reluctance of church, state, and the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) to acknowledge it. I imagine that you, as a lawyer, have moments of acute shame over our country’s flouting of international law and the U.N. Charter, duly ratified by the Senate and thus the law of the land.
And there is no getting away from the important role you played in roping Congress into facilitating that war. Were the war not to have killed, injured, displaced hundreds of thousands, your lame circumlocutions regarding your own culpability would be laughable—on a par with, say, some of the recent comments of your rival for vice president. But they are in no way funny.Fulsome Prose
For my own penance, I made myself read again through your marathon, "in-depth" interview with the late Tim Russert on Apr. 29, 2007. Your comments are notable for two things: (1) periodic sentences that can be diagrammed only by a German philologist with the patience of Job in waiting for verbs and an empty quiver for dangling participles; and (2) lies.
It is not hard to spot the lies half-hidden in the underbrush of euphemism and circumlocution. I do not refer to relatively harmless ones like your firm denial of any interest in running for vice president. I’m talking about the real whoppers—the ones we used to call mortal sins. Despite the goings-on in Washington in recent years, Joe, I don’t believe anyone has actually passed legislation repealing the commandment against false witness. It’s time you come clean.Confess What?
--For some reason, you were calling for an invasion of Iraq and making unsupported claims about its "weapons of mass destruction" even before President George W. Bush came into office. Later, on Aug. 4, 2002, after it had become clear to many of us that Bush was intent on attacking Iraq, you declared that the U.S. was probably going to war. That was three weeks before Vice President Dick Cheney voiced his spurious "intelligence" and set the terms of reference for the war. And it was a month before the administration launched its marketing campaign for the new "product."
--You became the administration’s most important congressional backer of Bush’s preemptive-with-nothing-to-preempt war advocated by neoconservatives and various oil-thirsty functionaries.