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Posted May 3, 2007

Speech by Very Rev. Louis V. Iasiello, OFM, PhD to
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
New York City -- April 29, 2007

Thank you all very much. It's a real joy to be with the Catholic Council of Electrical Workers this morning, knowing the long and close relationship that you have had with my fellow Franciscans, with great friars such as Patrick Morris, Jerry Carr, and now, Father Brian Jordan.

Your kind introduction and applause, remind me of a comment once made by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The good bishop was quite embarrassed one day by an audience who gave him a rather flattering introduction and ovation, and so he began by saying:

“Applause before a speaker begins is an act of faith, applause during the speech is usually an act of hope, and applause at the end of the speech is almost always . . . an act of charity.”

Well, hopefully you'll give me points for doing what I've done for years as an admiral . . . that is, keeping my remarks short and to the point.

The United States has now been officially at war against global extremism for well over five years. That makes this war, one of the longest running wars in United States history, and that includes our long running Revolutionary War and World War II. And from our intervention in Afghanistan to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, to the eventual intervention in Iraq, there has been much written about whether this fight or national struggle might be truly labeled a just war.

Well, as someone who was present at the Pentagon on September 11, and as a New Yorker who lost a Franciscan brother and thousands of fellow New Yorkers at ground zero, the answer to me is obvious. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter upholds the right of every nation to defend itself, and since we did not initiate the heinous and cowardly acts of 9/11, the answer is somewhat obvious: our cause is just, our intentions are just, and our goal of establishing a just and lasting peace for all the peoples of the world, certainly fall within the guidelines for just war established by Cicero, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, and even our own Roman Catholic Catechism.

And as someone who has visited our troops many, many times, all throughout the world, in the cities, countryside, mountains and even caves of Afghanistan, as someone who has made numerous visits to Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, and to oil platforms in the middle of the Persian Gulf . . . and as a flag officer who has traveled extensively throughout Iraq: from Baghdad, to Babylon, to Ninevah, to Anbar, to Fallujah, let me report that the efforts, the courage, and the patriotism of our young troops is nothing short of inspiring . . . and let me report to you, unequivocally, that these brave Americans have in fact, won over the hearts and minds of the majority of people of Afghanistan and Iraq, in well over 80 to 90% of those countries.

But I must share with you that as an American, I do have one concern. I fear that we have had to focus so much on our war against global extremism that we have lost sight of the other war that America has waged for decades.

-- a war that threatens our country in a way that dwarfs the dangers of our current war against extremism;

-- a war that has caused much more pain and suffering;

-- a war that threatens the very legal, moral, and religious foundations of our beloved country;

-- a war with an enemy more powerful and insidious than al Qaeda, an enemy more formidable than the fascists and Nazis of World War II, an enemy more powerful than the Soviet military machine at the height of the cold war;

-- an enemy, who has already stacked up a very impressive list of victories, inflicted more casualties than the war against extremism;

-- an enemy all the more powerful and insidious because it is silent, cunning, attractive, and yet, invisible.

The enemy I speak of is the moral insurgency that threatens the very fabric of what we would describe as the American way of life.

And why are we losing this war for morals and values? First, because the enemy has convinced us that we have nothing to fear, and so we ignore the moral erosion in society, we ignore the loss of values, we ignore the loss of true character as the price we pay for living in a progressive society.

Second, the enemy has convinced us that all values are relative, that what's right for you may not be right for me, but that’s ok -- for the enemy has convinced us that tolerance is a much higher virtue than values--

The enemy has convinced us that we have no right to express our displeasure or disagreement with the values or lack of values in others, and so we accept a moral impasse as the way to do business as Americans, and we passively embrace values that contradict our own, and we learn to live side by side with God's commandments, and those fabricated by others, and then we treat them as if they are all equal.

Sadly, the enemy has fooled us into thinking that tolerance is enlightenment. As Americans we have been taught to embrace new ideas, new philosophies, new technologies, new political ideas, new religions, and even alternative lifestyles, because Americans would rather be tolerant than run the risk of being considered closed minded, old fashioned, or out of touch. And as a tolerant society the enemy has convinced us that truly enlightened individuals embrace anything that is new-- and discard just about everything that is traditional or old. And even more sadly, we’ve come to view this tolerance as a sign of our societal maturity. And so we treat religious and traditional values with suspicion and skepticism, while willingly embracing the new values of Hollywood, the Ivy League, of gangsters-- and other fringe groups of society-- as if their countercultural values are truth and light-- in essence, the new and enlightened way.

And so, the enemy wins battle after battle and inflicts casualty after casualty. And we wonder why.

We wonder why:

-- violent crime has quadrupled in the last three decades;

-- we wonder why 15 American children die from gunshot wounds, every single day;

-- we wonder why we suffer from tragedies such as those at Virginia Tech, and at Columbine;

-- we wonder why, almost half of all marriages end up in divorce;

-- we wonder why the suicide rate among our youth has climbed to near epidemic levels;

-- we wonder why our sometimes parentless latchkey kids lack values or embrace the skewed values that they learn on the street, from gangs, or from demented and subhuman rap records;

-- we wonder why our prisons are constantly full, and spend billions upon billions to build new prison facilities every year, only to fill them up at record rates;

-- and we wonder why the nation wasn’t in the least shocked when the press reported a few weeks ago that unsupervised fifth-graders put on sex shows for their classmates on the teacher’s desk -- or why promiscuity grows among 13 and 14 years olds -- and why teenage boys consider girls objects or why a growing number of young girls willingly accept the role of someone’s ho as if they’ve discovered true, unrequited love.

And yet, we passively accept these horrible defeats, we continue to allow the enemy to operate without opposition, and most often, with the full support of our society, and we continue to allow this insidious insurgency to dictate our moral and cultural agenda, and the values of our children-- allow it to erode the values and institutions that at one time reflected the fact that we used to be one nation under God-- and we allow this decline to continue unimpeded, without even a hint of any opposition, as if it were the normal course of events for a modern society.

My brothers and sisters, our country is crying out for new, dynamic, moral leadership.

-- it cries out for men and women of integrity and vision;

-- it cries out for men and women of character;

-- it cries out for men and women of deep faith;

-- it cries out for parents who care enough to get intimately involved in the lives of their children-- and citizens who are willing to invest themselves into the civic life of their community and their nation.

Our country cries out for prophets who do not fear the powers of darkness-- or societal rejection--

Our country cries out for the type of leaders once described by the prophet Micah-- who in his own time and in his own country faced the same enemy and the same national threat-- Micah described the type of individual and citizen who could effectively battle this enemy:

“Micah new the type of battle armor his warriors would need to do battle with the enemy-- he knew what it would take for his holy warriors to do the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons. And so, Micah looked for leaders courageous enough to -- act justly, embrace mercy, and who would walk humbly with the Lord their God." (Micah 6:8).

For Micah knew that without these moral and holy warriors the enemy will continue to gain ground-- and more and more of Israel’s national treasure, its children, would fall victim to the enemy’s insidious designs--

June 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law Congressional Act, Joint Resolution Number 243. This act added the phrase under God to our Pledge of Allegiance. At the signing ceremony, President Eisenhower declared, "in adding the phrase, one nation under God, we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; this will help to strengthen those spiritual weapons, which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace. " Perhaps President Eisenhower understood the threat that an amoral insurgency posed against our society. Few knew the cost of waging war better than General and eventually President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And few understood better what it would take to defeat a powerful and insidious enemy better than Ike. And so he reminded the nation that a nation without God, a nation without values, a nation without moral leaders, was doomed to disintegration and eventual defeat. Perhaps, like Thucydides, and Solzhenitsyn, Eisenhower recognized that a nation without values and without moral leadership-- a nation without God-- would eventually perish.

It is my hope and my prayer that Americans like you, hard-working, family oriented, patriotic, moral, Union men and women who have made this country great, will leave here empowered and inspired to face and to fight our most dangerous enemy. I pray that the example of your lives, may inspire others to live their lives with the same moral conviction and the same depth of faith that has inspired you to be who you are this very day.

May God bless all of you, may He bless all those in uniform who must walk this day in harm’s way for our freedoms, may He bless all moral leaders who put the needs of others ahead of their own, and may God bless the United States of America that she may once again become a beacon of light, of faith, and of true moral and familial values, to inspire all the nations of the world to embrace our dream of freedom, justice and a just and lasting peace for all the peoples of the world. Thank you very much.