Jamais Plus La Guerre!
57 years ago, just 20 years after the end of World War II and in the midst of the Vietnam War, Pope Paul VI stood at the podium of the United Nations as he issued the heartfelt plea across the ages and for all times, in French: “Jamais plus la guerre! Jamais plus la guerre!” Never again war! Never again war!” His speech was stunning. I remember watching it on an old black and white television — this was the first time any pope had ever traveled to the United States, had ever addresssed the United Nations personally, and he was making a clear and ardent plea for the U.N. to do its job to ensure peace in this world. The full quote:
“Was not this the very end for which the United Nations came into existence: to be against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man who is no longer with us, John Kennedy, who proclaimed four years ago: “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” There is no need for a long talk to proclaim the main purpose of your Institution. It is enough to recall that the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future history of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind!” (Pope Paul VI, Speech to the United Nations, October 4, 1965)
Vladimir Putin’s evil plan to invade and subjugate Ukraine is a hideous act of war, worthy of condemnation and resistance by all civilized people and nations. The moral clarity of a Pope’s call to end war rings across six decades to confront Putin’s immoral, unjust, murderous campaign of conquest against a sovereign nation whose people chose Democracy and Freedom after years of subjugation as part of the old USSR.
We will have time to parse the history, culture and political nuances of the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of a free Ukraine, the vengeance and bloodthirsty impulses of a dictator like Putin. Right now, however, we must stand firmly with all free people of the world to proclaim the rights of the Ukrainian people to live in freedom without fear, to choose their own government and destiny, and to resist the violence and horrific tyranny that Putin seeks to impose. There can be no justification for his actions.
Reports from the last 48 hours suggest that the people of Ukraine are mounting a fierce resistance, that they are rising to defend their homeland in every way imaginable. The heroism and sacrifice is amazing, and deserving of our support.
The United States, our NATO allies in Europe and all freedom-loving nations of the world are united in opposing Russian aggression. We may need to take even stronger measures in the days ahead. The American people need to be prepared to make sacrifices to ensure that Putin is thoroughly defeated.
I am traveling in California and yesterday I posted a tweet about $5 gas prices here. Someone commented that the tweet was “tone deaf” at this time of global crisis, but I certainly did not mean it to be so. Rather, it is an observation of where we already are economically — California gas prices were at $5 before Russian invaded Ukraine — and the pain that may well come. The price of gasoline is a harbinger for inflation of all consumer prices, and the U.S. is likely in for even greater inflation in prices as we impose necessary but painful economic sanctions on Russia, including cutting off oil supplies. As I drove up I-5 through the great central California valley with all of its apricot and almond groves and produce farms, I could not help but wonder how the rising price of gasoline and other prices will affect the already-low-income workers in the fields, the people in the food supply chain driving trucks to markets and stocking shelves and the cashiers, the restaurant and hotel workers I see each day while traveling. I can easily say that I’m prepared to pay $5 or more a gallon for gas as a statement of my solidarity with resistance to Putin, but what of the millions of others for whom the inflation driven by the pandemic is already a household financial crisis?
Along with economic sanctions against Russia, the Biden Administration will need to take action to ensure that those already suffering on the economic margins in the U.S. get relief. The pandemic relief funds of the last two years are going away; we will need a new program to keep families and workers afloat as we confront the Russian aggressor.
We all can stand in solidarity with Pope Paul VI: Jamais plus la guerre! Jamais plus la guerre!
What are we willing to sacrifice to ensure the defeat of Putin and a restoration of peace and freedom for Ukraine?