War with Iraq
WAR & DIPLOMACY . . . Good riddance to the State Department vet who quit over our Iraq policy, says my friend Jake (not his real name). The numbers are legion of his fellow conciliators and appeasers who LOVE Colin Powell for his historic though now reversed unwillingness to go after the crafty Saddam. So he quits State. With some sort of pension in place, we trust. We don't want old striped-pantsers on the dole, now do we? He leaves with a bow to too-loyal Colin P.
Good riddance because it's one less foot-dragger and/or obstructionist of our safety-first approach of getting the Very Bad guys before they show us their smoking-gun mushroom cloud over Kuwait City or Ankara or even, though it wouldn't be necessary, Manhattan. People will die in the coming invasion, some of them maybe who would otherwise have died under torture after watching their wives violated by Saddam's bully boys but more of them probably who did or supported the torture and raping and executing, says Jake, who demanded space for his venting.
Yes, we could zap an aspirin factory and let it go at that, adding a Very Severe Warning, a la Bill the Skirt-chaser. But how many tongues would that keep from being torn out by bully boys, he asks, or how many portable bugs or filthy bombs from being supplied to Al Q and friends? (3/5/03)
POPE SPEAKS . . . I sadly fear the Pope of Rome, my chief spiritual leader, has fallen into the hands of the wrong geopoliticians. The days are long gone when men in his position blessed troops on their way to war. Italians on their way to Ethiopia, then Abyssinia, in 1935, when Mussolini sought a regime change in that nation, by the way testing the League of Nations no end, come to mind. But does that mean this pope has to continue meddling, except now on the other side of the war-peace equation?
Never war no more, Paul VI said in Yankee Stadium in 1965, and was cheered for it, of course. Priests and bishops are expected to be pacifists and celibates, but are others? Geopolitics, the art, let us say, of making specific judgments in specific circumstances at a specific time, has not been a pope's game for centuries. Gosh, when was the last time a pope had to decide whether to commit his troops to battle?
Rather, the papal game is spiritual guidance. But here is John Paul II sending his men across the world, one to Baghdad, another to Washington, and making his own statements to create pressure for not waging a specific war at a specific time in specific circumstances. He's with France this time around, and Germany and holy Russia and not with UK, US, and a dozen-plus other countries. He thus moves into area occupied by many popes before him, geopoliticians all; but what are his credentials?
So doing, how does he not simply become just another Euro ruler -- as Sun-Times editorialized about him last week -- with his opinion in the matter? His entering the fray this way does no service to his spiritual-leadership potential. He becomes obviously the guy next to you at bar or dinner table with an opinion different from the other guy's. Spending his influence this way is to be a spendthrift. Forget spiritual leadership, go for the gold of this-worldly clout. Not good.
MARTIN MARTY SCORES BUSH . . . "The problem isn’t with Bush’s sincerity, but with his evident conviction that he’s doing God’s will," says Martin Marty in the latest Newsweek. About which Fred Barnes on Fox News 3/11 says, it's evident? Not to Barnes, who asks, where's the evidence? He has interviewed Bush on his religion and has looked through all the other interviews on the subject and found not evident conviction but wondering and praying and searching.
Marty classes Bush in effect with GK Chesterton's madman as in his defense of Christian orthodoxy called Orthodoxy, the man who is sure as hell about one thing which answers all his questions so he need think no more about complicated problems. GK put the materialist philosopher in the same category.
But what about this conviction, evident or not, that one is doing God's will? Should the Christian do anything without that conviction? Marty is a Christian minister. Does he hold suspect people who think they are doing God's will? How strange.
Marty does represent thunder on the religious left, of course, where one does not have what he calls "the now standard 'born again' sort" of conversion Bush had, from roisterer to praying man. And which he has played for all it's worth, ratcheting up his "religious rhetoric" as it played better and better in and out of Peoria.
Marty cites criticism "from cynics abroad" and quotes the singer and Jimmy Cagney character George M. Cohan to demonstrate Bush's supposed hypocrisy, this from the learned historian. It's really quite a nasty remark, the nastier for its evident (I say) smooth urbanity. He gets in other digs, in a wandering display of muted pique at Bush's religiosity -- at faith-based initiatives that undercut the sacred separation of church and state and government programs. It's all in soft-edged references to "some" here, "some" there that preserve Marty's scholarly deniability. It's how they do it in church and some academic circles -- death by a thousand cuts, with a smile.
Bush has eschewed "broader theological debate," dismissing pope, bishops both Catholic and Protestant, lay and clerical leaders "outside [his] core constituency." (Imagine!) But he sent Michael Novak to the Vatican. That doesn't count?
And like all religious leaders or spokesmen, from homilist to magazine editor to pope, Marty finally reaches into his bag of geopolitical expertise: "Bush’s God talk will set the tinderbox that is the Muslim world on fire." The Arab street again.
So when the religion expert stops talking about what he knows, he wanders off to what one can hear on any talk show or at any bar -- chatter based on reading the newspaper. Marty even hearkens back to the C-word, "crusade," used months ago, before the Afghanistan incursion, and dismissed quicker than a United Church of Christ lay leader at the White House door, once Muslims' "raging reaction" was registered.
And Bush has facilitated recruitment of terrorists by continuing to consort with "the [unnamed] evangelist who prayed at his inaugural" and others who trash Islam. (For shame!) Bush made it hard for "friendly Muslims" to stay friendly by (apparently) not showing Falwell et al. (that's the guy!) the door. (Does Marty means the Muslims who have been so outspoken in condemnation of the bad guys among them? Who are they anyhow?)
Bush boasts. He says he "heard the call" (Marty's quote marks) to go for president. And "after Iraq he promises to transform the Middle East into utopia"! (Come on. Marty knows Bush can't even pronounce it.)
Marty finally, towards the end of his 1,000 words, gets theological, more or less, with a citation from the sainted Reinhold Niebuhr, who 50 years ago quoted a Psalm about God laughing at uppity nations. Yes! Which means what in our present context? God laughs at GW for invading Iraq. For doing anything but talking at the UN? For ignoring Marty's "nuanced" version of the world?
Marty quotes Cromwell and Lincoln here, each to good purpose, but of course with application to be provided based on geopolitical judgments. But he also gets incoherent, making the curious observation, maybe a typo, that "Even Bush’s critics are obliged to see that many of our own convictions may be wrong or misguided." Even? Whose convictions?
All this from a man who on his waking up and his going to bed is critical of the Christian camp where Bush has taken spiritual residence and has been critical of it for a long time. Its language is foreign to Marty as a liberal and a lifelong academician. This is the problem: Bush talks funny. As a foursquare-gospeler Bush is unlikely ever to do other for Marty and friends than make them uncomfortable. There is no balm in this Gilead for them.
ONCE UNO (UN ORGANIZATION, ITS 1ST NAME), NOW NO-UN? . . . The fault line dividing war supporters and war opposers may be belief or disbelief in the UN as indispensable to world order. Some seem more worried about the UN than the US. Sincerely so. A whole geopolitical philos11ophy is at work here. The issue is not Saddam vs. US, except for a few crazies, but UN vs. US, even NATO vs. US, though that's background stuff at this point.
GLOBALLY CHALLENGED . . . Furthermore, the US strategy seems clearly aimed at upsetting the Mideast status quo. We are already at war of course. Hitting Iraq is to open a new front, as we opened one on D-day. Why Iraq? Because it's a proven enemy, a brutal inhuman regime, etc., yes, but why ultimately? To set things roiling and rolling in the Mideast, whence come most of our troubles. The issue is equally Islamic militancy, which we must neutralize, of course, but Iraq is not Islamic. So as a target, it's not 100% enemy, only, say, 90%, in view of its being willing and able to (a) help Islamicists where Saudis have left off helping them and (b) terrorize its neighbors and thus contribute to terrorism in general.
NANCY, NANCY, NANCY . . . "I think . . . we must exhaust every remedy … before we put our young people in harm's way," Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) told George Stephanopoulos on ABC-TV, floundering when asked her position on war with Iraq.
To which Jake: Frankly, my dear, they are much in harm's way already, which is the point of our coming military exercise. They and our old people and those trying to make it through the difficult years between 40 and 60, which means you, my dear. Have a nice day and have a nice term as top House Dem. (2003-02-01)
SOUTH AFRICAN NONSENSE . . . Is Mandela losing it? In Johannesburg he told a women's forum Bush wants a holocaust, said, "If there is a country that that has committed unspeakable atrocities," it's the U.S. Bush wants Iraq's 64% share of the world's oil (5%, CNN corrected him).
Naturally he was applauded for that. Bush and Blair, "undermining" the UN's work, "do not care." Because UN sec.-general "is now and black man?" he asked.
He's 84 and did a lot of stir time in a good cause, so some slack is in order; but he's still out of it and deserves no applause. (2003-01-30)
REALLY O'REILLY? RIGHT. . . (12/26/02) Left-wing Evangelical Christian pacifist Jim Wallis on O'Reilly Factor 12/4/02 says he wants regime change in Iraq. Has he a better way to get it than Bush? He dodges this question. "Bill . . ." he begins. Why do hostiles always want to "Bill" O'Reilly, as if to soften him up? And lecture him on interrupting, as if to change the ways of the Champion Interrupter of the Western World or, God save us, embarrass him!
Here's a guy whom veteran TV, soft-evangelical leftist personality, former LBJ aide Bill Moyers takes on in an expensive newspaper ad rather than come on his show to get him to stop interrupting, and Jim Wallis the hard-core evangelical pacifist thinks he can do it. He is so unsuccessful at it that O'R asks him back, and he says he will come back. He sure will: it's more exposure than he's had in 30 years of beating his pacifist, sorry, anti-war, and socialist, sorry, anti-poverty, drums.
Meanwhile, O'R, picking at W's anti-Iraq war stance, as in signed newspaper ad, opens by asking him where he had stood on the Afghanistan incursion. W. considers this a distraction, and O'R never spells out his reasoning, namely that Wallis et al. had opposed it, predicting the worst, as they had opposed every war in their lifetime, except maybe in Bosnia, where U.S. interests were not at stake and we could not be accused of defending our own corrupt consumerist society or even Christian victims, of which there are still quite a few, lions in the amphitheatre or not, mostly in Muslim-dominated places.
Yes, Virginia, we did step up when Muslims were threatened. Our hearts went out to them, and we, yes, bombed and blasted, with no appreciable peep from the anti-war fraction [not a typo].
Did Jim Wallis et al. oppose war in Afghanistan? We do not get that far on this O'R Factor of 12/4/02, but W. does say he considers our Afghanistan effort a failure because Al Quaida still exists. (And the Taliban?) We should have done what there, instead of bombing and blasting? W. is vague, speaking of UN and diplomacy and all that, but basically dodging the question, which to ask was to answer, since Wallis et al. can be trusted to know zilch about ousting Muslim terrorists from towns and caves, except to picket them or go on a talk show.
Such a pother.
TOMORROW, BAGHDAD . . . 12/18/02 -- Here's what religious leaders can do: pressure Saddam to get out of Iraq. They can even go there and take out ads or even protest.
Consider this: wondering what to do about the bump on your head, would you ask a priest or bishop? If he's got a brother well versed in brain surgery, sure; you ask the brother's phone number.
But for Christ's sake, and it is he of whom we speak as expert in these matters when Christian clergy are involved, what do priests and bishops know about war and when to wage it?
Do they teach that at St. Mary of the Lake, to name the nearest big-time parish-priest seminary to where I live? They do? And what does the teacher of that course say?
HISTORY, ANYONE? . . . Getting Saddam out of Iraq would have Rumsfeld's ok, for starters. It would be "a nice outcome," he said the other day.
But we need a fallback position in case Saddam won't go. Historian Paul Johnson assumed he won't in a National Review article and argued for forcible regime change.
It's what governments are for, he said, "to ensure external defense, to maintain internal order, and to operate an honest currency."
We were attacked, in our governmental center and our main financial center. Once we could defend by stockpiling nukes and keeping allies in line. That was when other states (countries) threatened us. Now we are threatened not by states but by non-states that require state support. Regimes are an issue, such as Iraq's.
It's not an option for us, said Johnson. We stand between civilization and chaos.
As bad as we are. Yes, we and our plucky religious leaders.
Body bags (11/20/02). . . Serendipitously (fortunately, by luck, not same as fortuitously, which means by chance and because of its likeness to fortunately is often unfortunately confused with it) the other day, in the midst of good hot-and-heavy breakfast talk, hearing an interlocutor warn vs. war on Iraq by saying, "Wait till the body bags start coming home," I said they already have, meaning of course the Sept. 11 casualties of 2001.
That's not what I mean, he said.
I know, I said.
PEACE, PEACE, THERE IS NO PEACE (11/30/02) . . . "Don't you know there's a war on?" was a standard put-down of complainers during WW2 on the home front. We called it the home front. There was the Eastern front, Africa front, etc. We were on the home front, suffering inconveniences such as rationing and shortages.
Don't today's complainers and objectors know there's a war on? Some say it began 19 years ago, with the Beirut truck-bombing. On 9/11/01 the home front became the battle front. Or am I missing something?
Another thing: Did the objectors approve of the apparently successful Afghanistan incursion vs. Al Quaeda? Or did they, with that incurable Democrat Andrew Greeley predict indiscriminate slaughter and call it "blood lust" and "the national cry for revenge" that set us off on our "jihad," our "holy war of vengeance"?
And what did our trusty RC bishops, with whom Greeley normally is pleased to disagree scornfully, say then, about going after Al Q. in Afghanistan? Those who now take time from their arduous firefighting duties on the clergy-abuse front to say no to getting rid of Saddam?
They said be careful, in 5,500+ words, within which were this crucial admonition:
"We continue to urge resolve, restraint and greater attention to the roots of terrorism to protect against further attacks and to advance the global common good. Our nation must continue to respond in many ways, including diplomacy, economic measures, effective intelligence, more focus on security at home, and the legitimate use of force."
They bought the "roots of terrorism" line, did they not, though not convincingly enough for some. "It is unfortunate that some media interpreted the bishops as judging this military campaign to be 'moral,'" said 68 priests, nuns, and others on 12/14/01. "Instead, what the bishops did was offer guidelines for making such a moral judgment." Which sounds like what bishops should do.