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Barack Obama's presidency

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Professor Maguire Criticizes UN Veto

By Daniel C. Maguire
February 26, 2011

Editor’s Note: On Friday, Daniel C. Maguire, professor of moral theology at Marquette University, wrote an open letter to Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, criticizing the veto she cast on behalf of the Obama administration to block a U.N. resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian lands:

Dear Dr. Rice, A criticism and a comment: "Settlement" is, as you know, a euphemism for expropriation of Palestinian property. 

Your casting that vote on February 18, to veto the Security Council Censure of these ongoing ethnic cleansings when all other members of the Council voted for it and when there were 100 co-sponsors among other nations is not a vote you will remember with pride. 

It is also not a vote that serves American interests. Yours is the latest in a long line of American officials bowing to Israeli and AIPAC pressure and sacrificing the national interest of the United States.  

The price we pay for that subservience is high. As the Congressional report on 9/11 said, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed cited our biased support of Israeli policies as a motive for the 9/11 attack. That is a high price to pay and Homeland Security experts say we will pay it again.

Even Dick Cheney has cited our kind of support of Israel policies as one of the "true sources of resentment" against us, a point also made by General [David] Petraeus. Your vote endangered us and our soldiers. Resignation before casting such a vote would be honorable.

Your vote also does not serve Israel's interests since it breeds more resentment against both Israel and the United States. That resentment will certainly find violent expression in an age where non-state actors enjoy the trinity of advantages of guerillas: invisibility, versatility (in micro-weaponry etc.), and patience.  

To see your vote in context, do read University of Texas historian Geoffrey Wawro's encyclopedic book Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East (Penguin, 2010)

A constructive suggestion: your office, in responding to current movements for reform in the Middle East, including in Gaza and the West Bank and East Jerusalem, should note the power of non-violent resistance, as opposed to merely decrying violence. 

In Gene Sharp's trilogy he chronicles 198 examples of the successes of non-violent resistance. Professor Walter Wink notes that "nonviolent general strikes have overthrown at least seven Latin American dictators." 

India was freed by Gandhi nonviolently at a loss of only eight thousand lives: Algeria was freed from the French violently at a cost of one million lives. Do the math.

If you don't cite the effectiveness and track record of nonviolent resistance you suggest that the choices are between violence and passivity.

I fully suspect that if I made these points about our one-sided uncritical support of Likud ambitions to you or to President Obama in private you would both agree. That saddens me.

When courage is wed to ingenuity, marvels can occur. I look for that.

Professor Daniel C. Maguire

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians. He can be reached at

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