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“Kill! Kill! Kill!”
November 30, 2003 2:29 PM   Subscribe

The Soldiers At My Front Door. "I looked out the front window of the house where I live, next door to the church, and there they were--all 75 of them, standing yards away from my front door, in the street right in front of my house and our church, shouting and screaming to the top of their lungs, 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' Their commanders had planted them there and were egging them on." Rev. John Dear, a Jesuit priest and peace activist, describes an encounter with his local National Guard unit.
posted by homunculus (50 comments total)

 
damned hippies.
posted by tiamat at 2:47 PM on November 30, 2003


I was right there with him until he compared the kids chanting outside his door to Guatemalan death squads. After that, he quickly lost his veneer of reasonableness.
posted by gd779 at 2:55 PM on November 30, 2003


A good man. More power to him.

gd779: I'm sure you'd have a much more measured and reasonable response to 75 soldiers (not "kids") standing outside your house screaming "Kill! Kill! Kill!" And over-the-top comparisons certainly do disqualify one from trying to stop murder. Those of us who are not calm of expression and pure of heart should just shut up and let the slaughter proceed.
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on November 30, 2003


Would the angry priest also be angry if groups of people gathered outside an abortion clinic and began screaming?
posted by Postroad at 3:10 PM on November 30, 2003


Members of the National Guard may be similar in some respects to members of South American death squads, but it's a little-known fact that high-school cheerleading squads are identical to Guatemalan death squads.

It's true -- they're the exact same people. Really.
posted by aramaic at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2003


It's interesting to me that when he protests outside their workplace it's "opposition" but when they protest outside his it's "persecution".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2003


One difference is that it's unlikely anyone would feel physically threatened by a Catholic priest (no altar boy jokes, please) calling for an end to violence. A group of soliders screaming "kill kill kill", on the other hand, might seem a bit more intimidating, no?
posted by jpoulos at 3:31 PM on November 30, 2003


I wouldn't say it's not intimidating, I would say it's not persecution. This guy's stuff reads just slightly less tinfoil-hat than Time Cube Guy.

And damn you for pre-empting my altar boy joke!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2003


Oh man, I need to stay out of these threads. It's not good for my blood pressure.
posted by keswick at 3:38 PM on November 30, 2003


Aramaic, they're only the same in Guatemala. In Canada, they are exactly the same as Major Junior League reserve squads.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:42 PM on November 30, 2003


Ha! aramaic is funny.

Those of us who are not calm of expression and pure of heart should just shut up

I'll go with that, yeah. That's what I do anyway.
posted by gd779 at 3:43 PM on November 30, 2003


"They confronted me personally, just as the death squad militaries did in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, which I witnessed there on several occasions."

I thought this was a ridiculous comparison too, but I think he means that he was confronted in the same manner by soldiers in Guatemala and El Salvador, and he was shocked that he would receive similar treatment here. But if that is what he meant then he should have left out the "death squad" reference, which is just stupid.

But even if the guy is a complete loon, that wouldn't justify 75 people screaming "kill, kill, kill" outside his house. If a bunch of civilians did that outside a National Guardsman's house, they'd probably all be prosecuted.
posted by homunculus at 4:06 PM on November 30, 2003


You know, I think if anyone ELSE gathered outside someone's house and chanted 'Kill! Kill! Kill!', they'd be arrested for harassment and making death threats (not sure what law that is, but I know it's illegal.) The fact that they were soldiers makes the threat extra nasty, since they probably were armed at the time.

There are limits to free speech, as almost everyone agrees there should be. You can't lie under oath, you can't scream fire in a crowded building, and you can't directly and in all seriousness threaten people with harm. This is clearly an example of the third, and not a protest. A protest would be if they shouted 'Free Iraq!' or 'Support the war in Iraq!' or even 'Kill Iraqis!' Just shouting kill is a direct-to-the-point death threat and should be treated exactly as such.

I saw the soldiers, or the commanders that ordered them there, should spend a while in jail, just as would ANYONE ELSE THAT DID THIS. Why should they get special protection? At the very least, they should all be kicked out after the conflict with dishonorable discharges.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:07 PM on November 30, 2003


"Those of us who are not calm of expression and pure of heart should just shut up and let the slaughter proceed."

Smooth. Think about what you just said. In America, that leaves out 98% of the population. What is being 'pure of heart' all about, anyway? The ability to think your life was lived gracefully and clean? Anyone can make themselves think that their heart is pure. Unless of course you want to converse about religious convictions, to which I reply: Don't start.
posted by Keyser Soze at 4:13 PM on November 30, 2003


no it wasnt a threat at all , just some good ole boys havin a little fun , just like when we put that burnin cross on that niggers front lawn.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:45 PM on November 30, 2003


Pssst -- Kezer Soze, turn your irony detector up a notch.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:57 PM on November 30, 2003


Or Keyser, whichever.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:57 PM on November 30, 2003


priest should have called his congressional rep. and WTF where those troops drilling on the streets for.
posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on November 30, 2003


Irony detctors increasing by 25 percent... brain loading...... brain loading..... brain loading.... Warning: You are out of virtual memory.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:32 PM on November 30, 2003


And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."


— Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2003


Thank you, LittleMissCranky, for necessary technical instruction, and you, IshmaelGraves, for an extremely apposite quote.

Anyone who doesn't see anything wrong with the scene outside the priest's house has serious problems with historical perspective. Use of the military to intimidate critics is bad news.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on November 30, 2003


Several points: any officer that would order a demonstration outside of a church would be relieved immediately. That is, assuming the building looked like a church, and was regarded as a church, not just somebody's house that the owner calls a "church" and not plastered with signs like "US OUT OF IRAQ!", and "NO BLOOD FOR OIL!"

Second thing, is how would a National Guard unit *know*, or care for that matter, that a nuisancesome Jesuit agitator lived in their neighborhood? Might it be that he made it a habit to pester *them* incessantly? I would find it a stretch that he could stand to live within a short distance to a group of fascist baby killers without wanting to bitch to them endlessly about the fact.

Third, as a big advocate of "non-violence", I notice that the most time he's ever served was for a violent attack on a military aircraft.
posted by kablam at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2003


Not that I'd distrust anything written on the CommonDreams.Org site (ummm, yeah) - but is there any verification of thise elsewhere? Can't seem to find it on Google news at all.

The jody calls while running, that's understandable, a military habit - but the standing the soldiers outside his house and a church yelling 'kill kill kill"? That'd be newsworthy - and I don't think it'd be ignored completely by the media.

I hesitate to suggest that something posted on the internet may not be true, but...
posted by JB71 at 7:10 PM on November 30, 2003


This is a half-truth at best.
posted by mcchesnj at 7:14 PM on November 30, 2003


I have a problem when the National Guard are allowed to threaten and harass a citizen whom is a conscientious objector and nothing is done, yeah, in fact it is condoned. Those that don't see it as a problem are a part of that very problem.

If you think there is no difference between a peaceful protest and a unit of armed National Guards yelling Kill Kill Kill outside your personal abode, then I question your rationale.

Not only would I call the local congressional representative and local police, but would then sue the National Guard and lay a few charges. Protesting without a permit, weapons charges...if there is no emergency and the state doesn't call the National Guard, then what the hell are they doing threatening citizens with weapons? Slap on noise violations and disturbing the peace on top of it, as usually it's a peaceful quiet desert town, albeit impoverished. I don't blame the individual 75 National Guards so much as the one they received the authority and command, to threaten a citizen. They're only following orders. A reverend, no less.

I'm quite outraged at this kind of behaviour.

Are you trying to tell me that the one with the bigger gun is right? Because that's what it is about, power and its abuse.

Schools could use a heavy cash injection, but then, why educate the masses? Keep 'em in the dark and stupid and continue to build more prisons for that other War, on drugs. Brilliant. What year is it again? Remind me. Which race is it that over populates those prisons? Hmmmm, no coincidence whatsoever, eh?

So go ahead and send your youth to die, nothing at home worth fighting for, after all, the masses have been brainwashed thoroughly.

Pity.

Welcome to the military "democracy".
posted by alicesshoe at 7:39 PM on November 30, 2003


JB71 - Your trust in the media is strong. Not so for me.

Your comment can be reduced to the following - "If bad things happened, we would surely know of it."

I disagree.


Moving along....."They confronted me personally, just as the death squad militaries did in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, which I witnessed there on several occasions." -- Homunculus, the comparison is really quite exact. I recently read an account by a couple of christian human rights activists, two women who were in Guatemala in the early 1980's when the wholesale ( Reagan Administration condoned ) slaughter of civilians was ongoing : they were in fact personally confronted. They responded in an unexpected fashion and thus lived, but it was their opinion that the normal course would have led to their rape, torture, and slaughter. Many thousands met this fate in the same period. There are hundreds or thousands of such narratives.

The 'killing fields' of Guatemala in the early 80's have been extensively documented. Most of the victims were unarmed civilians and children, and the methods used were often unspeakable.......Catholic priests and nuns were among the groups targeted most heavily by the government orchestrated violence in Central America during the 1980's This is a simple point of fact.

Kablam - You're equating, somehow, beating on the nose-cone of a US war plane - or just drenching it with blood - with what the plane actually does? It drops bombs which blow living things (humans included) into little bits. (point 3)

By your calculus of proportion, walking out your front door is violent because you might step on some ants.

About your point #2 - Do you think the incident happened randomly? And yours sounds like a blaming-the-victim argument. Please. The guy is a priest, and the Guard was chanting "Kill...kill.....kill" outside his door.

I guess they have a REALLY sloppy PR/public relations department which doesn't pay much mind as they roam about town chanting "Kill kill kill" in front of a new house in town every night? - Not.

mr_crash_davis - I just had a nice time talking with you in Boston, and so (for me) there's now a person behind the white-on-blue print. This is good, because I can't get really mad against a person I know and so : (re) "This guy's stuff reads just slightly less tinfoil-hat than Time Cube Guy." - have you read anything of what was going on in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980's? I'd guess not. And did you know that death threats have recently shut down the forensic investigations into the numerous massacres which happened during that period?

The priest in question has a sharp edge but if he was, indeed, a Catholic priest in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 80's he would have seen some very evil things. He would have very good reason.

I guess I need to do a "Guatemalan/El Salvadoran-civil war death-squad massacre of civilians" post, to fill in the gaps? - I really, really don't relish the thought. Please, don't force me to do it. There are better things in this world.
posted by troutfishing at 7:48 PM on November 30, 2003


JB71: The jody calls while running, that's understandable, a military habit - but the standing the soldiers outside his house and a church yelling 'kill kill kill"? That'd be newsworthy - and I don't think it'd be ignored completely by the media.

You're right that the story needs to be verified, but I disagree about the media attention. It should be newsworthy, but a lot of reporters would be reluctant to drive out to a three block long town in the desert to write a story critical of the military on the word of one maverick priest after the fact.
posted by homunculus at 8:01 PM on November 30, 2003


trout: the comparison is really quite exact... They responded in an unexpected fashion and thus lived, but it was their opinion that the normal course would have led to their rape, torture, and slaughter.

But that's exactly why the comparison is flawed: the National Guard would never have tortured and murdered Reverend Dear.
posted by homunculus at 8:09 PM on November 30, 2003


"Reverend Dear", now that does sound suspicious...
posted by homunculus at 8:14 PM on November 30, 2003


Second thing, is how would a National Guard unit *know*, or care for that matter, that a nuisancesome Jesuit agitator lived in their neighborhood? Might it be that he made it a habit to pester *them* incessantly?

Yes, and he dressed like a slut too.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:29 PM on November 30, 2003


troutfishing: My point is that his story doesn't make sense. His seems to be the *only* description of the incident, one very colored by his *noted* prejudices.

In other words, I think he is extrapolating from what actually happened, turning *something* into a surreal, and personally threatening experience. And definitely from something mundane to something interesting.

Think about it: you'll notice that the story really revolves around *Him*, not them. They were out to get ME. By the time I'd realized they were out to get ME, they had already gotten ME.

Because He is important. As you'll note in the numerous citations in Google, His biography is always mentioned, especially the part about being arrested 75 times. He is the focus of their oppression. He is minding His own business, non-violently destroying something or non-violently trying to get arrested, or just non-violently minding His own business, when they oppress Him.

He even speaks for God, and frequently. I'm surprised that the Pope doesn't agree with Him, rather than vise versa.

So of course, everything they were doing was designed to attack or oppress Him. You'll note that they do all sorts of things like that: tapping His phone, reading His mail, probably beaming satellite xmissions directly to His brain.

And He is doing God's will, so it's okay for him to harass and annoy others. It's for a good cause. His cause.
posted by kablam at 8:30 PM on November 30, 2003


Welcome to the military "democracy".

If you want to see the "military democracy", look to recent events in Miami, which were far nastier than what happened to Dear.
posted by homunculus at 8:35 PM on November 30, 2003


troutfishing:

kablam's post above lays out pretty much how I saw the good Reverend's account, so I won't belabor the point.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:37 PM on November 30, 2003


*Ok*
posted by The God Complex at 8:38 PM on November 30, 2003


Miami crowd control would do tyrant proud
posted by homunculus at 1:03 AM on December 1, 2003


Kablam - I tried to address all of your specific points -

"Think about it: you'll notice that the story really revolves around *Him*, not them. They were out to get ME. By the time I'd realized they were out to get ME, they had already gotten ME." - Kablam, You are depicting Dear's account as a paranoid rant, but I reread the posted story several times (to re-check my initial perception of it) and didn't get anything like this from it.

"Because He is important......He is the focus of their oppression. He is minding His own business, non-violently destroying something or non-violently trying to get arrested, or just non-violently minding His own business, when they oppress Him." - Your claim seems bizarre to me. I don't know the Priest in question - and maybe he is self absorbed, I don't know - but the Catholic activists who practice nonviolent civil disobedience who I have met have been, as a group, among most selfless people I've ever met.

You can call getting arrested repeatedly ---often getting beaten up in the process, thrown thrown in jail and later paying court fines and perhaps even serving some jail time--- a "selfish" thing to do, I suppose. I would not.

"He even speaks for God" - So does George W. Bush or, for that matter, Martin Luther. All Protestants, technically speaking, can do this. Catholics are not supposed to - but you think this is a sign of madness somehow?

"His seems to be the *only* description of the incident, one very colored by his *noted* prejudices." - The alleged incident happened early in the morning in a tiny, impoverished desert town. I hardly think that there were UPI stringers hanging around on the streets looking for material. On "prejudice" - Any perspective at all amounts to "bias", and the people I trust the least, in terms of their objectivity, are those who claim to be *impartial* or attempt to hide their allegiances and beliefs.

"In other words, I think he is extrapolating from what actually happened, turning *something* into a surreal, and personally threatening experience." - I happen to think that having 75 or so armed men outside my door chanting "Kill Kill Kill !" would be alarming and personally threatening. I guess you have a much higher alarm threshold than I do.

"You'll note that they do all sorts of things like that: tapping His phone, reading His mail" - Well, the Bush Administration has admitted to targeting Anti-War activists and the widespread and systematic surveillance (and disruption through agent-provocateurs) of anti-war activism and protests during the Vietnam War is a point of widely accepted historical fact.

Local police have been engaged in surveillance, and the USA PATRIOT act dramatically expands government surveillance powers, including the tapping of phones and the reading of mail ( and a lot more than that! ).

"Police shenanigans such as what has gone on in Philadelphia and Denver may become even more common. That's because the Bush-Ashcroft USA Patriot Act grants law enforcement far greater freedom to do things like read our e-mail, tap our phones, and break into our homes without a warrant--or our knowledge. All of this, moreover, can be done to us despite a lack of evidence.

This vast expansion of police powers occurs as the feds are compiling multiple terrorist lists that are susceptible to the taint of political bias, especially given the leeway that authorities have in defining terrorism"


So it is perfectly reasonable to assume that Dear's phone is, in fact being tapped and that his mail is being read. If these issues - the government surveillance of US citizens, under the rubric of the "War on Terror" - were not being debated on the floor of the US Congress, perhaps your "Tin Foil Hat" accusation might carry slightly more weight (though still not much, in my opinion). But as it stands, you might as well just substitute, in the place of "tin foil hat" - "He's a stark raving looney because I - Kablam - say so!"

OK then.
posted by troutfishing at 6:21 AM on December 1, 2003


Once again you delude yourself. You quoted large chunks of my argument then make silly refutations. For example: Ashcroft and the Patriot Act have not been around that long; so was it the Clinton/Reno's FBI that was tapping his phone?
And, no, I didn't say that ALL peace activists are paranoid egotist loonies, and it's wrong for you to say I did.
I might however suggest that the BEST peace activists never get thrown in jail, because they are concerned with peace, not photo-ops, feeling a sense of martyrdom, or grandiose self-importance. One Jimmy Carter is worth a hundred of these noisy buggers.

In the final analysis, I don't believe that a company of men stood outside his house, shouting "Kill! Kill! Kill!" More likely, they were singing 'jodies' while doing their morning PT exercises. And while I would agree that often jodies contain aggressive, militant, even violent content, they aren't overly repetitive, as that would be boring.

Another alternative explanation was that they had stopped in formation to do the "Army Conditioning Drills", which involved an officer or NCO at the front of the formation, "egging them on" by saying such things, to their chorus as:

officer: "The next exercise is Army conditioning drill 1, exercise 3, 'The Push Up'! 'The Push Up' is a four-count exercise done at a moderate cadence! I will count cadence as you count repetitions! Starting positions: MOVE! In cadence, EXERCISE! One! Two! Three!"

chorus: "ONE!"
posted by kablam at 7:50 AM on December 1, 2003


That something like this could happen and the only one saying anything is one priest is a bit incredulous. Myself, in the Naval services, have seen in the last three years two situations that exploded into the local press fairly easily. One was the uncovering that the two Navy Nuc Schools in Charleston had nearly twenty five percent of the gay discharges the Navy issued that year. (Tangent: never mind that I personally knew many of these were people just trying to get out and it was the easiest way. Usually an honorable discharge. Nowadays, they don't care as much about throwing people out, and telling the Cap't "I'm gay," will probably get you, "Thanks for telling us. Get back to work." But that's a tangent.) The second was a sexual assault case between an instructor and a student.

Lemme tell you that people were up in arms about both. People wanted to know. Local papers had stories. I can say that no one felt too patriotic to dig up info on the military then. And they shouldn't. Keeps us honest. (and slightly paranoid.)

Point is, I somehow doubt the credibility with out other evidence.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:10 AM on December 1, 2003


Lord Chancellor - Fair enough, though I'd note that Charleston ( S.C. ? ) is a decent sized city, while Dear lives in what he describes as close to a one-horse town "I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico" But we'll never resolve this one here.

Kablam, there is a long tradition of the successful use of nonviolent resistance to authority - to the point of arrest. Ghandi used it to great effect, and I doubt that the civil rights movement in the US would have accomplished as much without the tactic. I recently heard an analyst with the US military talking about nonviolent resistance - It can be, he said, fairly effective in some cases, or quite ineffective in others. It depends on the regime or political system in question, he said. This seemed a very reasonable take on it, to me.

Is it as effective in contemporary America as it once was? Well, I am sure it is often ill considered, juvenile and unnecessarily polarizing. But police do often employ tactics - which can amount to attacks against free speech and free assembly rights - which break up demonstrations or move them from areas mutually agreed on by police officials and demonstration organizers. Nonviolent resistance is one of the few methods of resistance to these sorts of tactics which protestors have.

" the BEST peace activists never get thrown in jail, because they are concerned with peace, not photo-ops, feeling a sense of martyrdom, or grandiose self-importance." - Once again, you are characterizing risking arrest - by civil disobedience - as some sort of egotistical act. I'm sure it is in some cases. I think those cases are fairly rare though. The media paid a lot of attention to protestors in the 1960's and 70's - they no longer do. In many cases, organizers are forced to bring their own media and cover protests themselves. Your concept of arrest as a "photo-op" was far more apt two decades ago or more. Meanwhile - about people with grandiose martyrdom fantasies - I can't really say anything about this at all. I'd have to take it on a case by case basis. But, from what I've noticed, the kind of people - not the one-time college students who do it once and then feel grand, but the career civil disobedients who get arrested repeatedly (regardless of whether I consider the tactic useful or not) - are among the least flashy and grandiose types I've met.

"so was it the Clinton/Reno's FBI that was tapping his phone?" - Well, years after the COINTELPRO program was officially ended, there was good evidence of US government attempts to interfere with groups organizing for peace in Central America (in opposition to the Reagan Administration's funding of the "Contras" (through illegal arms sales to Iran), mining of the Nicaraguan harbors (condemned by the UN and the World Court) and so on) and support for vicious counterinsurgency campaigns in El Salvador and Guatemala which tended to kill mainly innocent civilians) and I'm sure I can dredge up a whole host of other examples to demonstrate the, although phone tapping and other such tactics may have been illegal at the time, they were mostly certainly used here and there sporadically since the end of COINTELPRO. I don't think that such things were impossible under the Clinton Administration, either, for at least the reason that new, incoming presidential administrations cannot suddenly snap their fingers (so to speak) to change the cultures of large, entrenched nations law enforcement entities such as the FBI and others.


In the final analysis, the incident in question is quite impossible to prove - due to the apparent lack of corroborating witnesses, so don't worry about constructing hypotheses about what might have actually happened.

My one criticism of Dear's piece is that he said the guard troops "practiced" on him. Maybe they did - because they are, indeed, trained to be intimidating. It helps in getting the job done. But I would have used the words "heckled", "harassed" or "intimidated" - all perfectly appropriate descriptive terms in this case, I'd say. But "they practiced on me" seems slightly hyperbolic to me.

However, Dear would have been habituated to the ways of soldiers in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980's, during his time there, and I think his choice of words can reasonably be viewed in that context - he has probably seen, or at least witnessed the aftermath - of wholesale violence committed on civilians by military and paramilitary forces. Massacre sites are still being exhumed in 2003, although this work has slowed down considerably due to death threats against the forensic specialists (and their families) who are carrying out this gruesome work.
posted by troutfishing at 11:31 AM on December 1, 2003


"I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico."

The only active National Guard armory in northeastern New Mexico is located in Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa has a lovely web page, and is a tourist destination community.

"The City of Natural Lakes."

Goes to credibility, your honor.
posted by kablam at 2:10 PM on December 1, 2003


kablam - the plot thickens........I'm tempted to email the thread discussion to the priest to see what he says.
posted by troutfishing at 7:21 PM on December 1, 2003


This may help on the location.
posted by dness2 at 8:22 PM on December 1, 2003


Please cc: to the Public Affairs Officer of the State National Guard, too.

New Mexico National Guard
47 Bataan Blvd.
Santa Fe, NM 87508

FOR GENERAL INFORMATION CALL
(505) 474-1200
posted by kablam at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2003


Let's see. Raton, NM, had under 8k people in the '90 census. They MIGHT be able to come up with 75 National Guard members.

Springer, NM, "is home to 1,262 residents (1990) "

This "tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico" can somehow come up with 75 National Guard members. Maybe they imported some from Santa Rosa?

Ummm.... nah. I just don't buy this. But hey, all he's got to sell is his story - I just wish everyone would be as skeptical of the anti-war folk and their statements as we are of Bush.
posted by JB71 at 7:13 PM on December 2, 2003


I just wish everyone would be as skeptical of the anti-war folk and their statements as we are of Bush.

You're right. I read some of his writings on his website before posting this, and he struck me as an honest person so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I should have been more skeptical and done more research.

It's funny, but despite my own agnosticism and all the Church scandals we read about and discuss here all the time, my first inclination is to assume a priest is being truthful.
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on December 2, 2003


OK, I sent him an e-mail referencing this thread and asking (in a nice, supportive way) if he had any corroboration for his account. I'll post whatever I get.
posted by languagehat at 8:05 AM on December 3, 2003


Here's Dear's response:

Thanks for writing.
The story is on the front page of the state newspaper today, The Albuquerque Journal.
You can read it there, I guess.
The military admits they were there, but deny they were chanting about killing...
I was in a house, and it was early in the morning, but that's what it sounded like to me.
They sure weren't singing Christmas carols!
Then, today, I had a confidential call from a soldier saying in fact I was deliberately targetted, which makes sense given our small town desert life.
yes, I presume the guard unit includes people from Raton, but I don't know any details.
Anyway, I wrote what I experienced. I'm sure some will deny it.


Unfortunately, the Journal website requires a subscription (not just registration) to visit interior pages, but here's the summary on the front page:
N.M. Priest Takes on Guardsmen
By Joseph Ditzler / Journal
  The Rev. John Dear, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Springer and an outspoken anti-war activist, makes no apologies for his run-in with a group of National Guard members last month.
So at least the basic story is confirmed.
posted by languagehat at 11:53 AM on December 3, 2003


Oh me of little faith! Thanks, languagehat.
posted by homunculus at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2003


Well, perhaps it's rude to post the article here, but this is what I found. I apologize for wasting the bandwidth.

--------------------

N.M. Priest Takes on Guardsmen

By Joseph Ditzler
Of the Journal
The Rev. John Dear, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Springer and an outspoken anti-war activist, makes no apologies for his run-in with a group of National Guard members last month.
"As a priest, I don't want my people to get hurt or killed," he said Tuesday. "Out of love and respect, I don't want any of them to go to Iraq to kill or be killed."
The subjects of his concern were National Guard troops of the 515th Corps Support Battalion, based in Springer, called up last month for duty in Iraq.
Dear encountered some of them Nov. 20, just after the 515th learned it will ship out in December for 18 months active duty.
The priest claims 75 soldiers on a fitness run about 6 a.m. pulled up in front of the church and rectory, his home, on Springer's Maxwell Street and jarred him from his prayers.
"I didn't know what they were doing, or what was going on. They sure weren't coming for morning Mass, to sing Christmas carols or for spiritual direction," Dear said by phone Tuesday.
He said the troops stood in the street chanting "Kill! Kill! Kill!"
"Their chants were disturbing, but this is war. They have to psyche themselves up for the kill," the priest wrote in an account titled "The Soldiers at My Front Door." His account is posted on his Web site, which includes some of his sermons, excerpts from books and his speaking schedule.
"I decided I had to do something. I put on my winter coat and walked out the front door right into the middle of the street. They stopped shouting and looked at me, so I said loudly, publicly for all to hear, 'In the name of God, I order all of you to stop this nonsense, and not to go to Iraq. I want all of you to quit the military, disobey your orders to kill and not to kill anyone. ..."
"God does not support war. Stop all this and go home. God bless you."
However, the National Guard denies the troops chanted anything of the sort.
Lt. Col. Richard Rael, who said he organized the morning run through Springer that day, agreed with some of the elements of Dear's story. Members of the 515th, a rear-echelon supply unit, were exercising that morning, and Dear came out to exhort them to quit the military in the name of Jesus Christ.
But agreement ends there.
Rael by phone Tuesday said nobody chanted "Kill! Kill!" anywhere, much less outside a church. Rael said he is Catholic but not of Dear's parish. He said the troops in fact had a hard time coming up with a cadence everyone could understand and keep up with.
"I'm a little upset" by Dear's account, the colonel said. "He's writing there that we're chanting 'Kill, kill, kill?' That's a negative."
The troops started their run at a parking lot across the street from St. Joseph's and ended there, Rael said. He said Dear came out as they were cooling down and stretching.
Rael said Brig. Gen. Kenny Montoya, New Mexico National Guard commander, was present. Montoya complimented Rael on the demeanor of his troops following Dear's extemporaneous address, the colonel said. "Not a single soldier even looked at the man," Rael said.
Dear said once he finished his plea, he and the troops stood silently looking at one another several seconds before they started laughing and their commander ordered them to fall out.
Dear said he didn't believe he'd been singled out for harassment by the troops but that some parishioners told him he was targeted, "because I'm so notorious."
Dear does not shrink from confrontation, and his views against the war are well-known.
In October, at a small gathering at the University of New Mexico, Dear, 44, called for the immediate return of all U.S. troops from Iraq. The war, he said again Tuesday, "besides being immoral, is a total disaster." He also spoke out earlier this year when Archbishop Michael Sheehan barred him from appearing at an anti-war gathering in Los Alamos on the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima near the end of World War II.
A Jesuit, Dear has worked in an El Salvador refugee camp, in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Middle East, the Philippines and Northern Ireland. He led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners to Iraq, according to his Web site.
He also spent eight months in jail in his native North Carolina, hammered on an F-15 fighter bomber in an act of protest and has been arrested over 75 times for "acts of nonviolent civil disobedience for peace."
Guard spokeswoman Maj. Kim Lalley said 59 Guardsmen and women from the Springer unit are headed for Iraq.
Many joined the Guard for the added paycheck or the educational benefits. Students, mechanics, civil servants and correctional officers are among those in its ranks. One is a single mother.
The 515th traces its lineage back to World War II, when some of its members walked the Bataan Death March.
They had been training for their upcoming deployment and decided on a morning run through Springer as a morale booster, Rael said. Lalley said only 18 troops took part. Rael said the troops also meant to show their hometown their spirit.
"The locals really enjoyed it, people were looking out the windows," the colonel said. "Colfax County is proud, and a lot of people are stepping up to the plate to take care of business overseas."

------------------------

18 people. Not 75.

Hmmm. And other bits don't quite match.

(Shrug) I think his story about the troops and their reaction to his speech is designed to get him attention and sympathy, not to necessarily to coincide with reality.

JB.
posted by JB71 at 8:24 PM on December 3, 2003


JB71 - Lalley's bits don't match Dear's bits. On what evidence do you conclude that Lalley's bits are true and Dear's fabrications? You are coming down hard on the side of Lalley's account and also claiming that Dear's account amounts to a cry for attention. This seems less than objective to me.
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 PM on December 6, 2003


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