Three Years and Counting…

March 30-April 5,06
Three Years and Counting…
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) CNS
Activist, Counter-Demonstrators Observe Third Year of Iraq War

BINGHAMTON — March 19 marked the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. The anniversary was met with a sprinkling of protests throughout the Syracuse Diocese, accompanying other demonstrations throughout the U.S.

In Binghamton, Trinity Episcopal Church was the scene for an ecumenical service featuring, among other ministers, Father Tim Taugher, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena. Following the service at the Episcopal church, St. Catherine of Siena hosted its own all-night prayer vigil.

A banner stretched across the steps in front of the altar in Trinity Episcopal Church presented a quote from Pope John Paul II. It read, “War is always a defeat for humanity.” During the day, over 200 activists gathered at the Federal Building in the Southern Tier city to protest the war in Iraq. Tom Hranek, a parishioner at St. Ambrose in Endicott, was among the small group of counter demonstrators who challenged the claims of the protesters.

“We wanted to get the truth out about what’s happening in Iraq,” said Hranek, whose son, Sgt. Joseph Hranek, recently returned from his second combat tour in Iraq. The younger Hranek participated in Operation Restoring Rights, in which newly trained Iraqi soldiers were instrumental in retaking the city of Tel Afar. “The truth is being maligned by people who want to dress up in Halloween costumes and call our president names,” Hranek elaborated.

Many activists and journalists alike have questioned whether or not the situation in Iraq has improved by any measure. Most recently, former Iraqi prime minister Asad Allawi told the British Broadcasting Corporation that his country had already descended into civil war despite the claims of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The administration asserts that there is no civil war occurring in Iraq.

“If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is,” he said. Hranek said that he is more confident in the authority of the American military officers and the information he has received from them.

“I have it from several military sources that there is no civil war but we don’t want it to degrade into one,” Hranek said. Hranek fervently supports President Bush’s claim that the situation in Iraq is, in fact, getting better. “It’s a very much improved and improving situation but it is still very volatile,” Hranek said, adding that the so-called cut-and-run approach to withdrawal would result in widespread bloodshed across Iraq. “Appeasement doesn’t work. Backing down in the face of evil never works. Neville Chamberlain found that out.”

As prime minister of England in the years immediately preceding World War II, Neville Chamberlain famously signed the Munich Agreement, which Adolph Hitler promptly violated. Hranek blamed domestic pressure on the U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam and asserted that it led to the deaths of millions of people. Hranek noted that he receives information on Iraq directly from American military officers and that he puts more stock in their assessments of the situation than those offered by journalists, activists or politicians opposed to U.S. involvement there. “This time, those of us who have highly placed information — from the command structure — aren’t going to let a bunch of present-day 60’s-style radicals control information,” he said.

Several priests have been involved in anti-war demonstrations and other activities in Binghamton since the beginning of the conflict in 2003. Hranek claimed that such priests do not represent a holistic view of the church’s philosophy regarding war and the Iraq conflict in particular. “A priest who demands that we pull out of Iraq prematurely is demanding the abandonment of the 27 million people our coalition forces have liberated, which would result in massive slaughter by the terrorists,” Hranek said. “Such statements in activism are reckless and do not further the Gospel message, which is for soldier and civilian alike.” Hranek cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Just War Theory in particular. Section 2309 of the Catechism reads “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgement of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

“Those with that responsibility are the president and the Congress and they all agreed on our actions before going into Iraq,” Hranek said. Section 2310 of the Catechism reads, “Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.” “The vast majority of our troops have acted honorably and then some,” Hranek said. Father Taugher has been a staunch opponent of the Iraq conflict since the U.S. first invaded. He said the prayer vigil was a component of the day’s events centered on opposing the war in Iraq.

“It’s just a realization that this is the end of the third year for this unjust and illegal war and as a Christian community, our voices need to be heard for this, not just on March 19,” Father Taugher said. “Our leaders need to begin a responsible transition and look for alternatives to war.” Sister Karen Gaube, CSJ, was present at the ecumenical prayer service as well as the vigil at St. Catherine of Siena. “Our community has as its focus peacemaking and non-violence,” she said. “Coming together to pray seems to be one of the best ways of asking God to give us guidance and for inspiration as to how to create a more peaceful world and also to pray for those who have suffered in the war in Iraq.”

In a letter submitted to The Catholic SUN, Bishop James Moynihan noted that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in January calling for a “serious and civil” dialogue in Iraq that would lead to a “responsible transition.” “We the bishops, are encouraging a policy that promotes leaving sooner rather than later and have suggested the following to achieve the conversion to peace; adequate levels of security, the rule of law, economic reconstruction and a democratic political structure.”

The bishop also wrote, “Our faith calls us to a commitment to justice and peace,” and asked that Christians pray for the soldiers still in Iraq, those who have died during the war and “those who have returned with the scars of violence and the innocent victims of war.”

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