Season's Greetings, George
Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 by
Season's Greetings, George
by Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ

Christmas Week, 2003

Dear George,

Seasonīs greetings to you and your family. Are you enjoying the peace of this season? Perhaps you are, since you are protected by the most powerful armed forces on earth.

Or are you a bit uneasy at the prospect that chemical and biological weapons might be able to penetrate even your armor, or that a surface-to-air missile might be able to take down Air Force One, or that mad-cow disease may be the latest weapon in the arsenal of terrorism?

Whether you are nervous or not, the American people are living in fear and anxiety this Christmas season under "high" terror alert. It may seem strange to suggest that you are partly responsible for their diminished joy. Let me explain.

In your war against terrorism you are using tactics comparable to those of the people you like to call, so simplistically, "the bad guys," as if the world were a Western. All of you -- those who use terror and those who respond with it -- have bestowed upon the people a cruel Yule gift, robbing them of their most precious experience of this season, the gift of joy and peace.

You have put all Americans and people of other nations on the front lines and made us combatants in the war against terrorism. By your reckless and indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of thousands of civilians, you have heated up the hatred of many peoples against you and us. When your troops kill ten or twelve Iraqi civilians in taking out a suspected militant, as the Israeli forces do in Palestine, you are positioning all of us in the crosshairs of terrorist retaliation.

By continuing to give billions and even more billions to Israel as its army becomes more repressive against the Palestinians and as its government establishes control over more and more Palestinian territory, you put hundreds of millions of us in harmīs way, while you wax pious and rhetorical about the supreme value of human life and about family values.

You and your partners in this administration, which you have transformed into your corporate enterprise, lied to the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and you misled the public into thinking that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis were connected to Al Quaeda terrorism. This was the original sin at the inception of your invasion of Iraq, which the pope called plainly aggression.

What it was all about, George, was getting American companiesī hands not only on Iraqi oil but on the whole economy of that country and region -- privatizing, opening up resources to foreign, mainly U.S., takeovers. Some of your cabinet members, especially those involved with the Project for a New American Century, had been longing to do that throughout the 1990s.

And on the home "front," you and your military and justice department have shown us how fragile our U.S. Constitution is. In view of the police over-reaction in Miami against unionists, environmentalists, and others peacefully protesting free-trade treaties, and considering how citizens of the U.S. and of other countries have been held in secret without charges and without access to lawyers, freedom-loving Americans can no longer exercise their rights to freedom of speech and assembly without having an anxiety attack that they might be repressed as terrorists.

In church you may be singing "joy to the world," but in your economic council you inflict worriment and insecurity on those who have lost their decent jobs and their access to social services, health insurance, and other necessities.

You are the chief executive of the upper crust of American society who correctly see your administration as a profitable investment, but you cater especially to your friends and partners who go back and forth from government offices to corporate boardrooms. People have become so cynical about you that many may be wondering whether the U.S. warning to the French about an attack on Air France had any ulterior motives.

Of course, the threat, and even likelihood, of further terrorist attacks is real. My point is that your aggressive, unilateral policies are not helping to create a just and peaceful world where terrorism would not find roots.

And so, George Scrooge, you have ruined this season for most people this year. The only ones who can sleep in heavenly peace are the dead, many of whom are victims of your policies, and those who, like you, avoid the newspapers and the TV news.

The author ( is a Jesuit priest working with Christian base communities in Nicaragua