The destructive political rhetoric of Mark Shea.
During World War II, a renowned American poet broadcast pro-Fascist propaganda from Mussolini's Italy. Seven decades after Ezra Pound, a respected Catholic writer is following Pound's example.
Mark Shea is an author and commentator for the National Catholic Register, a conservative newspaper owned by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). His personal blog, "Catholic and Enjoying it," is one of About.com's five nominees for the Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards 2012. Shea passionately opposes American military action against Iran.
In expressing that passion on his blog, Shea engages in such vile attacks, distortions, and fear mongering that one wonders whether he gives aid and comfort to a sworn enemy of the United States.
Take his blog post from Jan. 13, 2012 in which Shea links to that revered outlet for serious foreign-policy analysis, Cracked.com.
In "6 B.S. Myths You Probably Believe About America's 'Enemies,'" Cracked.com's Mark Hill wrote that 1) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comment about obliterating Israel was mistranslated and taken out of context 2) Iran has a smaller military budget than either Greece or Australia and 3) Ahmadinejad can be overruled by his superiors and has no significant power.
"It's sad when the writers of Cracked," Shea wrote, "know more about the Imminent Threat that is not Iran than the warmongers of the Right and the combox cowards who...defend their rhetoric in favor of cold-blooded murder of innocent human beings."
Shea ended by asserting that "all the panic about Ahmadinejad with his finger on the button is pure provincial ignorance...using his stupid blather as a justification for praising cold-blooded murder of civilians as 'wonderful' is both ignorant and evil."
However, the German newspaper Die Welt reported in May 2011 that Iran was building bases in Venezuela for intermediate-range missiles, complete with anti-aircraft batteries and commando facilities. Engineers from a firm owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard visited the site three months earlier.
The purpose, reported Die Welt, was to attack Iranian enemies -- likely the United States -- if Iran itself was attacked.
Since Shea's post, the Washington Post reported on Jan. 31 that "Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States," according to intelligence officials testifying before Congress. On Feb. 24, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Iran's accelerated production of enriched uranium that could be converted easily into weapons-grade stock.
The Revolutionary Guard's own news service published an article on Feb. 4 by Alireza Forghani, a strategic analyst who advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. Forghani called Israel "this corrupting material" and stated that "it is a 'jurisprudential justification' to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm."
So who are these "innocent human beings" Shea mentions? Among them are Iranian nuclear scientists, one of whom was assassinated Jan. 11 in Tehran. Afterward, Sen. Rick Santorum, seeking the Republican presidential nomination, remarked: "On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that's a wonderful thing, candidly."
Shea responded in his Jan. 12 post, "Murderers for Jesus," by assailing Santorum's Catholic credentials:
"'100% Prolife' candidate Rick Santorum...dissenting from two millennia of Catholic teaching which says that you may never, for any reason, deliberately take innocent human life...is now on record in favor of the murder of civilians on the chance that something or other might happen years from now to justify it.
"Some people will try to make the claim that he was not a civilian. Sorry, but we are not at war with Iran. The scientist is part of the military-industrial infrastructure of Iran -- just like the occupants of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were. If you say it is legitimate to murder him, you are saying it was legitimate for Osama bin Laden to murder his victims on 9/11."
Stephen White, a fellow in the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Catholic Studies Program, wrote his rebuttal Jan. 23:
"...Santorum's own remarks clearly indicate that he was talking about Iranian scientists who are working on nuclear weapons capability -- a decidedly military endeavor -- not just making electricity (emphasis in original).
"The Iranian regime invests large amounts of resources in killing Americans. Its president has publicly stated a desire to wipe our ally Israel off the map (something Mark Shea seems to scoff at)....The point is that while Mark Shea may judge that building nuclear weapons for such a regime constitutes innocent behavior, I do not."
White also described as "badly flawed" Shea's attempt to equate the death of the scientist with the 9/11 deaths:
"Under the Just War tradition, the right to use force...does not grant the right to use indiscriminate or disproportional force...his definition of what can constitute a legitimate military target is either so narrow as to exclude those who manufacture WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) or so broad as to include the accountants, janitors, firemen, paralegals and insurance agents who died in the WTC. Neither strikes me as a morally responsible position."
"We are, after all, talking about a field of candidates -- Ron Paul doesn't count since he will never be nominated -- who aspire to be war criminals."
Gingrich further tarnishes himself in Shea's mind by receiving financial support from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who experienced anti-Semitism while growing up in Boston and donates to numerous Jewish organizations.
"Sheldon Adelson finds in Newt Gingrich the best foreign policy money can buy," Shea wrote Feb. 3. "Get ready for more rhetoric encouraging the deathless neoconservative faith in the Immaculate Conception of the State of Israel and its preservation from all sin, both original and actual."
Contempt for Israeli concerns about survival and the American political system permeate Shea's approach.
"And in further insane world news, American troops to be deployed to Israel. What could possibly go wrong?"
Shea couches his contempt as support for American soldiers, whom he portrays as victims of their own government. This Jan. 10 post, "George Carlin, Call Your Office," provided an example:
"There are now eight words you cannot say on television: 'Israel is more than capable of defending itself,' as Cpl. Jesse Thorsen learned -- Ron Paul supporting soldier speaking out against the wars cut off on CNN.
"The business of our troops is to go suffer and die for our damp-handed chickenhawk Ruling Classes and their End to Evil theories, and then return to joblessness and Congressional schemes to strip them of their benefits (if they live) or be dumped in landfills (if they don't). Actually speaking out about the latest mad scheme to send troops to Israel or whatever war is being planned next is not permitted."
The next day, in "Romney the Chickenhawk," Shea not only mocked Romney's support for military action against Iran -- but subtly advocated rebellion in the armed forces:
"What brave and self-sacrificing leaders we have. It will be far more than they deserve if our abused and exploited troops don't mutiny against them someday."
Compare Shea's rhetoric with Pound's (all punctuation, capitalization and spelling are original):
"Will you look at the age of the chief war pimps? Roosevelt now says he saw war coming back in 1937. In 1937, there was no necessity of war. Roosevelt did all he could to make it inevitable. There is no record of a single act of Roosevelt's in the spirit of staving off war." (Oct. 6, 1941, two months before Pearl Harbor)
"The United States has been led down the garden path and may be down under the daisies. All thru shuttin' out news...." (Jan. 29, 1942)
"... any man who submits to Roosevelt's treason to the public commits a breach of citizen's duty....There is no patriotism in submission to the prolonged and multiple frauds of the Roosevelt administration...." (April 23, 1942)
"You are in black darkness and confusion. You have been hugger-mugged and carom-shotted into a war, and you know NOTHING about it." (July 13, 1942)
"Just which of you is free from Jewish influence? Just which political-business groups are free from Jew influence, from Jew control?" (March 19, 1943)
"What are you doing in the war at all?...Every day of war is a dead day as well as a death day. More death, more future servitude, less and less of American liberty of any variety." (May 4, 1943)
At best, Shea is a curmudgeon who shoots from the hip and fails to understand the implications of his ideas. At worst, he is a bigoted fanatic who hides behind his religion to indulge in pro-Iranian agitprop -- accidentally or otherwise.
In either case, does Shea's behavior represent the standards EWTN expects?
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