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US Bishops' official identifies "ethic of fear"

Post September 11 2001 jitters are leading the US to embrace a formula of instilling fear of the United States as a protection from catastrophic attacks that echoes the philosophy of the brutal Roman emperor Caligula, acording to the director of the Office of International Justice and Peace at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gerry Powers was speaking at a forum to evaluate the legacy of the use of "preventive force" in the recent US invasion of Iraq.

He said: "While a doctrine of preventive war may derive in part from an ethic of responsibility - to protect ourselves and the world from catastrophic attacks - it also has elements of an ethic of fear."

Powers acknowledged that that "ethic of fear" comes from the understandable preoccupation of Americans with their own fears and vulnerabilities in the face of global terrorism.

"Let them hate us if they will, provided only that they fear us," he said, chacterising the new phenomenon.

Powers was speaking at a colloquium on the ethical issues of pre-emptive war hosted last week by Wesley Theological Seminary and its Churches' Centre for Theology and Public Policy.

"That formula might work for the New York Yankees, but it did not work for the Romans and it will not work for us," Powers said. "It will not work because it creates a cycle of fear that fuels a cycle of violence."

Catholic News Service

US Conference of Catholic Bishops: Social Development and World Peace
Just War and Counterterrorism: Views from the Catholic Church (Faith and Reason Institute)
The Churches' Centre for Theology and Public Policy | "Ethical Issues Raised by Pre-emptive War" Colloquium

7 May 2003