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The Pope tells Congress a thing or three

There must have been - or should have been! - some people listening feeling uncomfortable when the Pope addressed the American Congress.

So many home-truths........

"Pope Francis’ address to Congress was almost certainly not what John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and other congressional leaders had in mind when they invited the pope to speak.

It probably wasn’t what they were all thinking about during the last standing ovations. But here was Pope Francis, revered as the People’s Pope, calling out war profiteers and demanding an end to the arms trade. Just as simple and as powerful as that.

It came near the end of his speech — after his calls to protect the rights of immigrants and refugees, end the death penalty, preserve the planet from the ravages of climate change, and defend the poor and dispossessed.

“Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world,” the pope said. Then he asked the critical question: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

He answered it himself: “Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

Stop the arms trade. What a simple, clear call.

That means the ending things like the $60 billion arms deal the U.S. made a few years back with Saudi Arabia, where those weapons are, in the pope’s words, “inflicting untold suffering on individuals and society,” especially in Syria and Yemen. It means ending things like the $45 billion in new military aid — mostly in the form of advanced new weapons — the Israeli government has requested from Washington between now and 2028. It means ending the provision of new arms to scores of unaccountable militias in Syria, where even the White House admits a non-military solution is needed. And it means ending things like the $1.1 billion in arms sales the United States has made to Mexico this year alone.

And, of course, it means no longer diverting at least 54 cents of every discretionary taxpayer dollar in the federal budget to the U.S. military.

Actually, members of Congress — so many of whom rely on huge campaign donations from arms manufacturers, and so many of whom refuse to vote against military procurement because often just a few dozen jobs connected to it might be in their district — really should have expected the pope to say exactly what he did.

It was only last May, after all, that Pope Francis told a group of schoolchildren visiting the Vatican that the arms trade is the “industry of death.” When a kid asked why so many powerful people don’t want peace, the pope answered simply, “because they live off wars!” Francis explained how people become rich by producing and selling weapons. “And this is why so many people do not want peace. They make more money with the war!”

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