Monday, March 31

The embed's report on the shooting of the minivan

As an unidentified four-wheel drive vehicle came barreling toward an intersection held by troops of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, Capt. Ronny Johnson grew increasingly alarmed. From his position at the intersection, he was heard radioing to one of his forward platoons of M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to alert it to what he described as a potential threat.

"Fire a warning shot," he ordered as the vehicle kept coming. Then, with increasing urgency, he told the platoon to shoot a 7.62mm machine-gun round into its radiator. "Stop [messing] around!" Johnson yelled into the company radio network when he still saw no action being taken. Finally, he shouted at the top of his voice, "Stop him, Red 1, stop him!"

That order was immediately followed by the loud reports of 25mm cannon fire from one or more of the platoon's Bradleys. About half a dozen shots were heard in all.

"Cease fire!" Johnson yelled over the radio. Then, as he peered into his binoculars from the intersection on Highway 9, he roared at the platoon leader, "You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!"

US troops fired on from Red Crescent ambulance

Plan B?

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard says there seem to be more missiles coming into Kuwait that CentCom is acknowledging.

Sgt. Stryker says to watch the north.

At Nasiriya

A note before I sign off to work:

I am always grateful for my readers and their comments, but please remember that the reason I have reentered the blogosphere on a daily basis is to give you a place to discuss the war, especially from a spiritual and moral perspective. I am not happy with the tone of some of the commenters, especially from some of those supportive of the war who are responding to questions and concerns with jabs, name-calling and setting up of straw men. I seriously doubt that there is anyone who posts or reads here who believes that Hussein is anything but a tyrant, or who knows that the muted response Coalition troops are receiving is in large part because of the terror and fear of reprisal that still hangs over even the "conquered" areas. Everyone who reads and posts here is very concerned about issues of terrorism, the clash of civilizations and the rise of Islamofascism. As far as I know, Sheryl Crow is not a part of this community here.

So that means when questions are raised, either by me or commenters, you can bet they are serious questions that emerge from serious soul-searching and engagement with the Gospel, Catholic Tradition, and the realities of the present situation.

I would appreciate it if everyone would conduct themselves with that in mind and take each others' concerns seriously and respectfully and just stop the responses like're have questions about the conduct of the war...and you think Hussein would have just left if we'd asked nicely, huh?

That's not helpful.

Great page of links for all kinds of war information and analysis

Writer Russell Shaw offers his views at Catholic Exchange, explaining that disagreeing with the Pope here is not "dissent" and offering is own view of the action in the process:

Before explaining why, let me say for the record what my own position on the Iraq war was and is. It's reducible to three short statements.First, U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq had been resumed and seemed to be getting some results; it was premature, to say the least, to cut that process short by going to war at this time.Second, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, regime change is not an appropriate purpose of war.Third, creating a democratic Iraq by force is a will-o'-the-wisp that the United States has no business pursuing.But Novak, Weigel, Hudson and co. are, as Catholics, entitled to disagree on Iraq with me and, far more important, with Pope John Paul II. For those of us who line up on different sides of this issue — including, as far as I can see, the pope — are expressing prudential judgments rather than matters of moral principle and Catholic doctrine.

Tim Blair has two lengthy posts on the question of the Baghdad market bombs. Scroll down to today's early posts and a long post from yesterday.

He highlights many detailed readers' analyses that suggest the most recent explosion, at least, was the result of Coalition ordinance.

Sunday, March 30

From the NYTimes:

Changing views about abortion among the young.

The Battle for Kifl Falls

In Kifl, which lies North of Najaf and about 130 km south of Baghdad, the strategy may have slowed the US forces, but only at an extremely high cost. Some US soldiers estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis were killed here since the fighting began at dusk on Wednesday, and everyone puts the number in the hundreds. Officers say just one US soldier has died.

The officers said the tank unit fired two 120-mm high-velocity depleted uranium rounds straight down the main road, creating a powerful vacuum that literally sucked guerrillas out from their hideaways into the street, where they were shot down by small-arms fire or run over by the tanks.

‘‘It was mad chaos like you cannot imagine,’’ said the tank unit’s commander, who identified himself as ‘Cobra 6’ as he did not want friends and neighbours back home to know what he had been through.

You might have read that among the foreigners still in Baghdad are three Missionaries of Charity who run an orphanage.

Here's a short article about them

As war rages in Iraq, three Indian sisters of the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity lead a silent crusade in Baghdad.

Sister Superior Densy, Sister Teresina and Sister Roselyn, along with Bangladeshi Sister Joseph Carole, run a home for mentally and physically challenged children in the Iraqi capital. The bombing has not deterred them from their mission.

“Whenever there is a bombing, the children feel scared and we have to be with them. Every time the siren goes off, we are alerted that a bombing or firing will follow,” said Sister Teresina in a telephone conversation from Baghdad earlier this week. “This morning we could hear the bombing, but it seemed to be somewhere far away.”

An article about military chaplains Over There, including the question of a part of the supply line you probably haven't considered:

Chaplains, who are part of the military but do not carry weapons, share the grueling conditions in U.S. camps in Iraq, where soldiers shiver through bitter cold nights, eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) three times a day and relieve themselves in holes dug in the dirt. Like other military officers worried about keeping sufficient amounts of supplies, chaplains have their logistical headaches, too.

The biggest is the Communion resupply.

In Catholic practice, only a priest can consecrate hosts, turning them from bread to what the faithful believe is the body of Christ. But in the military, as in civilian life, there is a severe shortage of Catholic priests.

So shortly before they left the sprawling Camp Udairi in northern Kuwait about a week ago, Mahony and other Catholic emergency ministers scrambled to get a priest to consecrate hundreds of hosts.

About 300 were entrusted to Smith, who carried the special package on a convoy that took 70 hours to get to this site in the desert. "Normally they would not give it to a Protestant chaplain, but because of the need in the field, I went through EME training," said the minister, from a Baptist denomination. Other Communion hosts were given to emergency ministers who promised to keep them secure.

Maj. James Geracci, a flight surgeon and emergency minister, was one of them. He keeps his hosts in a large medicine bottle in a pocket on his camouflage vest, where he also keeps field dressings and medical shears. "They have to be on you," explained Geracci, 35, of San Antonio.

Rod Dreher responds to Garry Wills here and here (or just go to The Corner and scroll down to Saturday about 10 pm

See, now, this is interesting, with all kinds of contemporary applications:

St. Benjamin, whose memorial is March 31 (that would be Monday) has his story told at Catholic Exchange, and it begins in a roundabout way:

It was the fifth century and Yezdegerd, son of Sapor III, was ruling Persia. There was little persecution of Christians during this time, however, a Christian Bishop named Abdas changed that. Abdas, in his zeal and out of righteous anger toward idolatry, burned the Temple of Fire, the sacred sanctuary of the Persians. This act infuriated King Yezdegerd and he declared that Bishop Abdas would either rebuild the Persian Temple or the king would burn all the Christian churches.

When Abdas refused to obey the King’s command, he carried out his order and had all the Christian churches utterly destroyed. Abdas was put to death and a great persecution of Christians in Persia began which lasted for the next forty years. Even though Yezdegerd died in 421, his son, Varanes continued the persecution. Under the reign of this ruler, Christians were subject to heinous and cruel torture.

So, there's just one cautionary precedent for the often irritating, sometimes puzzling and even scandalous thing we call Vatican diplomacy....

Oh, and Benjamin? Well, go read the rest to find out, however the CE account is slightly different from the account found here.

You know, I try to be eclectic here. So now, I'll serve up something for....Patrick and Mark, maybe?

The Bravo Company knows who to thank:

The Iraqis were using light machine guns, heavier 25 mm machine guns and mortars. The Marines responded with 25 mm fire of their own and with wire-guided anti-tank missiles, which destroyed several houses where the Iraqis were hiding. The tanks also eliminated several of the houses.

At the height of the battle there was a tremendous amount of noise, with the Marines' small guns thumping, the tanks' guns and the artillery thudding, and the missile rounds shrieking through the air toward their target.

After a brief pause late last week to let supplies catch up to the main elements of the Marine attack force, the Marines now expect to be in action more frequently as they take the final steps on the road toward Baghdad.

After three firefights with the Iraqis, Bravo Company believes it is blessed. There have been no deaths and only three casualties that required soldiers to be removed to the rear and hospitals in Germany.

Several members of the predominantly Catholic unit say it was their rosaries that saved them in battle. An artillery gunner credited Saint Barbara, the artillery's patron saint, with providing divine assistance during the fight.

Pope's Eucharist Encyclical will be released on Holy Thursday

Finds of the day:

It's a few months early, I know, but writers have to work way ahead: A gorgeous, comprehensive site dedicated to St.Nicholas


Need to track a flight in progress? This one gives you a purty picture.

War can't be that bad if they let us watch it. This is the danger of the embed.


As I noted below, I was very interested in the fact that the Scripture readings today concerned, in part, the Babylonian Exile - a conflict with the ancient empire centered in the land upon which we are today fighting a war.

Did any of your homilists reference this? What did they do with it? How did they work with it? Cuba...

Just a recap of the places I'm going for war news and commentary:

Remember - some try to be more objective than others.

The Agonist

The Command Post

Casus Belli


Daily Kos


No War Blog

Sgt. Stryker

As well as the usual suspects over there on the left...

Cardinal Sin falls ill.

Did anyone else blog this? Surely they did. Am I just hopelessly behind these days?

Michael Moore says that you can blame his Oscar speech on the fact that he went to Mass in the morning.

A word of advice to future Oscar winners: Don't begin Oscar day by going to church.

That is where I found myself this past Sunday morning, at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Santa Monica Boulevard, at Mass with my sister and my dad. My problem with the Catholic Mass is that sometimes I find my mind wandering after I hear something the priest says, and I start thinking all these crazy thoughts like how it is wrong to kill people and that you are not allowed to use violence upon another human being unless it is in true self-defense.

The pope even came right out and said it: This war in Iraq is not a just war and, thus, it is a sin.

Those thoughts were with me the rest of the day, from the moment I left the church and passed by the homeless begging for change (one in six American children living in poverty is another form of violence), to the streets around the Kodak Theater where antiwar protesters were being arrested as I drove by in my studio-sponsored limo.

What a Church. Michael Moore, Michael Novak, Pat Buchanan, Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Andrew and me. It probably pisses some of you off, but something about it pleases me.

A long time ago, I was living in a very small town in Tennessee. Our very small Catholic church located in a prefab building off the bypass was running a vacation Bible school in concert with the First Presbyterian Church located on the town square. I was new in town, and hardly knew anyone. I went to the planning meeting in the Presbyterian church basement, hesitated at the door, but then walked right in. Without even asking, I could tell which side the Catholics were sitting on and which the Presbyterians. Delicately put, the Presbyterian ladies were all in their crisp oxford shirts and chinos. The Catholics were...diverse...and they looked it, including the lady wearing a pantsuit with the names of world cities embroidered all over it (she turned out to be the nun, naturally).

Somehow, that experience has been symbolic of this Church for me ever since.

Saturday, March 29

From Zenit today:

Civilian Casualties and Moral Principles

A look at the UN Population Divison's latest downward revision of its population estimates:

Just two years ago the Population Division forecast a world population of 9.3 billion by midcentury. The new report, released Feb. 26, lowers that estimate to 8.9 billion. (The figure is the medium-level variant, which is considered the most probable estimate.) World population is now estimated at 6.3 billion.

The Population Division concedes that fertility levels in most developing countries will likely fall below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman during the coming century. In fact, the medium variant projection forecasts that by midcentury three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be at below-replacement fertility. This is a well-established phenomenon in economically advanced countries, and the report now acknowledges the dramatic fall in fertility in other nations.

The U.N. Revision also forecasts a worsening of the impact of AIDS, even as it assumes that HIV infections will decline significantly after 2010. During this decade, AIDS-related deaths are expected to reach 46 million. By 2050 the cumulative total of such deaths could soar to 278 million. Outright reductions in population are projected for Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland.

From today's online WSJ

(but I've linked from the original site to save you the trouble of registration)

How the West armed Hussein

In all, the rush to outfit Saddam with mass destruction weapons reveals a lot about national morals. Our organization did a study of Saddam's pre-Gulf War suppliers a few year back. We discovered that Germany garnered fully half the total sales. In fact, just before the Gulf War, Germany was selling complete, ready-to-operate poison gas plants to Iraq and Libya at the same time. The rest of the world divided the remaining half of Iraq's purchases. The Swiss, who have an unreasonably good reputation in the world, placed second in the sweepstakes with about 8% of sales (specialized presses, milling machines, grinding machines and electrical discharge machines found at nuclear weapon sites; procurement of missile parts and supervision of missile plant construction; equipment for processing uranium to nuclear weapon grade). In third place, with 4% each, Italy and France scored a tie.

The U.S. was far from innocent. In 1988, the Unisys Corporation sold Saddam a giant, $8.7 million dollar computer system configured as a "personnel database" - in other words, set up to track Iraqi citizens. Unisys sold it directly to Saddam's Ministry of the Interior, home to his secret police. Unisys also sold high-speed computers to the Ministry of Defense and to the Saddam State Establishment, that cranked out components for missiles and nuclear weapons. Our electronics went to every known nuclear and missile site in Iraq. These included the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, Iraqi sites that made A-bomb fuel and nuclear weapon detonators, as well as Iraq's main missile research complex. Companies like Tektronix (high-speed diagnostic equipment), Perkin-Elmer (computers and instruments for quality control), Finnigan MAT (computers useful for monitoring uranium enrichment), and the U.S. subsidiary of Siemens (instruments for analyzing powders useful for A-bomb and missile manufacture) had sales recorded in government export logs.

If some of this stuff turns up in Iraq after the war, a lot of faces will have egg on them. Some will probably be at the U.S. Commerce Department. It approved virtually all the American exports. The policy at Commerce then, as now, is to put trade interests above everything else, including national security.

I made great progress today, thanks to my wonderful husband, who took care of Joseph for a great part of the afternoon and early evening. I only have a couple of more things to write for this study guide to the Passion in Matthew, then I need to give it a once-over cleanup, put it in the template and then with a click of the mouse it's out of my life - until it comes back for revisions, that is. And best of all, I'm actually fairly pleased with it. But then I still have another two-thousand word project due on Tuesday and three columns of various sorts due around the middle of the week, so I won't be in the clear until Thursday, I imagine. Then I take a breath, revise my Saints" The Sequel manuscript by April 15 and then get to work on a talk I'm giving up in Kalamazoo in early May.

I must tell you about the funniest thing Joseph (who will be 2 on Friday) is doing. Quite frequently, when you ask him if he wants something, and he does, he'll answer with a breathless, "Oh, yeeeessss!" I don't know where he picked that up, but it's very funny. I think he's also confused "thank you" and "okay," in the sense that he never says "okay." You tell him to go sit down and he says, "thank you" and trots over and has a seat. He's either confused, or the most grateful person living in this house.


Today's 1st reading and Psalm, for this 4th Sunday of Lent...

concern the Babylonian Exile:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept remembering Sion.On the willow-trees of Babylon we hung up our harps.

A good news story for you:

About how the world helped rebuild a Salvadoran village flattened by an earthquake

There will lots of scorecards whipped out on the editorial pages and the morning shows on Sunday, so I'll start off with this piece from England's Spectator

In the last Gulf war in 1991, allied forces were dealing mainly with a conscript army with no great interest in fighting for a foreign country, Kuwait. When faced with British and American tanks and armoured columns, the Iraqis had a clear alternative to putting up a fight — they could give themselves up and eventually they would be repatriated to Iraq.

This time the Iraqi troops are more motivated. They are defending their own land, homes and families, and the Iraqi state-controlled media has been playing the nationalism card, calling on soldiers to fight the foreign invaders and defend Iraq not Saddam Hussein. American troops found to their cost in Vietnam how powerful patriotism can be.

But the Baathists are the main source of opposition to coalition forces if only because they have no real alternative. They are not like Kosovan Serbs in 1999 who, however reluctantly, could leave the province of Kosovo for another, safe life elsewhere in Serbia on Great Uncle Milan’s farmholding. The Baathists have nowhere to go and, even worse, they know they face a brutal end if they ever fall into the hands of those Iraqi civilians — the majority of the country — who have suffered so much at their hands. Unlike Iraqi soldiers who can safely give themselves up, surrender is not an option for the Baathists.

Hey! Go to this thoughtful blog - (with which you might not agree, but still...there's interesting stuff there) - its writer is wondering why the war seems to have brought his traffic down...

Here's a great site I just ran across for all of your theological research needs:

Theology Resources on the Internet from the library at St. John's College.

In Sunday's NYTimes magazine:

Garry Wills on religiosity and wartime leaders,

There is ample precedent for such official religiosity in time of war. It was in the period of the cold war with what President Truman always called ''godless Communism'' that ''under God'' was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was in World War II that ''God Bless America'' became the country's unofficial anthem. Of World War I, President Wilson said that it showed America marching to heights ''upon which there rests nothing but the pure light of the justice of God,'' reflecting the ''glimmer of light which came at Calvary, that first dawn which came with the Christian era.'' It was in the Civil War that ''The Battle Hymn of the Republic'' was composed, with its echoes of Isaiah 63:3 and Revelation 14:20: ''He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.'' It was in the War of 1812 that Francis Scott Key wrote the words of our official anthem: ''Praise the Pow'r that has made and preserv'd us a nation. Then conquer we must when our cause is just.'' It was during New England's conflict with Native Americans, culminating in King Philip's war, that the jeremiad became a popular sermon form. The sufferings of the colonists were seen as a punishment for sin, so preachers had to rise like Jeremiah to rebuke the people for their falling off from God.

The jeremiad was a sturdy plant, with a long life ahead of it. It is the form of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. The nation as a whole was complicit in the sin of slavery, so God is just exacting the penalty of that sin, proportioning blood spilt by soldiers' bayonets to that shed by slavemasters' whips. A solidarity in sin made the punishment communal, uniting the nation in the sufferings it had brought upon itself. Lincoln sealed the argument by quoting Psalm 19: ''The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.''

Lincoln did not take the next logical step, saying that solidarity in offending God could only be countered by solidarity in worshiping him, but others have been quick and resolute in taking that step. The dynamics of the jeremiad move from rebuke to reform, from communal taint to communal repristinization. The first masters of the jeremiad form said that the purity of worship had been lost. Membership in the churches had fallen off, and those who were members had become lukewarm. The only remedy was better recruitment of new members (by way of preaching and example) and greater zeal in those who were already members.

And after some more historical material, Wills takes on our friend Rod Dreher:

The afflatus of becoming visible saints is intoxicating. It allows one to have great disdain for the manifest sinners who oppose our saintly will. This applies not only to outright enemies but to those (like the French) who do not join our crusade and even to those who dare criticize it. Rod Dreher, a senior writer at National Review, says that clergymen who oppose the war are spiritually disarming us and that military chaplains supporting the war should be heeded, not ''bishops in well-appointed chanceries and pastors sitting in suburban middle-class comfort.'' Dreher, a Catholic convert, must think the pope is one of those cushy bishops, as opposed to the hard-bitten military chaplains who know what God and the devil are up to. We should learn from the ''moral realism'' of soldier-priests, who are ''warriors for justice,'' and not heed ''the effete sentimentality you find among so many clergymen today.'' The priests who do not bow to the War God are, in a chaplain's words that Dreher quotes with approval, reinforcers of the notion that ''religion is for wimps, for prissy-pants, for frilly-suited morons.'' This is what used to be called ''muscular Christianity,'' and Dreher thinks it is the only authentic form of his faith:

''As men and women of faith deliberate the morality of war with Iraq, it is a travesty that more of them haven't had the perspective of military chaplains, that virtually the only religious voices heard in the public square are coming from the antiwar corner. The divide between military and civilian clergy over the Iraq war is philosophically very deep. It cuts to the core of one's belief in evil. . . . Some of the chaplains say the failure of contemporary American society to grasp the true nature of the evil we face means the country is spiritually unprepared for war and its sacrifices.''

Dreher has a view of military chaplains as moral mentors that is quite different from that of Madison, who wrote: ''Look thro' the armies and navies of the world, and say whether, in the appointment of their ministers of religion, the spiritual interests of the flocks or the temporal interests of the shepherds be most in view.'' Madison was aware that most nations have made an instrumental use of God (as the endorser of secular policy) and that this dishonors God rather than honors him. It recruits him to secular purpose and literally ''takes the Lord's name in vain.'' Madison would allow men in danger of death to have chaplains of their own denominations near them if financed by their own denominations. But that is different from putting ministers in government uniform, under government discipline. Dreher tells us, with approval, that the military controls the chaplains and must remove any who show doubt about the war as a danger to ''morale.'' Religion is harnessed to political purpose and is not freely exercised if it does not serve that purpose. That is just the ''cognizance'' of religion Madison called a usurpation by the state.

We were just wondering...

How many British troops have been killed by Iraqis and how many by Americans? And is anyone seeing this as a problem in the UK?

Just a few thoughts before I embark on what I hope will be a fruitful weekend of work. Doubtful, because despite all my big dreams, I hardly ever get any work done on the weekends, although this time, the weather's lousy and the older kids are away, so maybe....

I have to be honest with you and say that as the days go by, almost every time I turn on the news, I wonder, Who the HELL ever thought this war would be a good idea?. I really think that the only way this would have worked is if the Coalition had killed Hussein and as many of his fellow creeps right away. If we can decimate the defenders around Baghdad quickly, there's still hope, but once we're fighting in there, even if we "win," I can't help thinking that we are bound to lose. The longer this goes on, the less it looks like the war the Administration promised. It looks more like a war against the Iraqi people, instead of just the regime, and more like a burgeoning regional conflict. The longer it goes on the more civilians will be killed and the more images of those killed civilians will be played on television throughout the Middle East, over and over and over.

But that's just the opinion of one midwestern civilian chick on military strategy, which means you probably should have skipped it, anyway.

What follows is random, because that's what I'm feeling these days, a feeling perhaps generated by the fragmented nature of the coverage I'm admittedly immersing myself in.

Critics of the anti-war protesters have quite correctly wondered where the heck all these people have been when protests against various outrages against various regimes have been necessary. Good point, but where have the rest of us been?

The Church scandals of the past year and this war have birthed a feeling of dis-ease within me, to be honest, and not a dis-ease with what I see outside, but with what I see within myself. I am a witness to terrible evil and tragedy. It's in the newspapers, it's on television, it's on the internet..but it's over there. It's in that diocese. It's about those people.

A typical cocooned middle class Westerner, I go about my business here in the Summit City, ferrying my children about, preparing meals, writing my books and commenting on a world gone mad.

But what I feel is a pull in another direction. The events I am witnessing call me not towards more commenting or the importance of me establishing the correct views, but towards awareness of my ties to the suffering and my responsibility for them. This is hard to explain, but bear with me.

It is common and traditional for Christians to contemplate the sight of the crucified Christ and use it as an opportunity to consider our own sins - the sins that put Him there. That is the feeling that fills me when I contemplate the sight of the crucified today - the victims of abuse, the young men and women facing death in the desert - their own and that of others, Iraqi children trembling under a hail of bombs, Iraqi victims of Hussein and his thugs. There is such a thing as direct personal responsibility for sin, but there is also a sense that the world keeps birthing sin, over and over, and we are a part of the world, so we are midwifining it. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, our sins - the sins of humanity, of which I am a part, not separate from - let evil people do evil things.

One of the things that most disturbs me about some supporters of this war, especially those that use religious arguments and imagery to support it is apparent reluctance to admit that war is the result of sin - and not just the "enemy's" sin. Iraq is where it is today because of the pride and greed and short-sightedness and arrogance of generations of people, from Hussein and his supporters, to the Stalinists who inspired him to the American interests that supported him to the British that created the country to the tribes and competing religious visions that have inhabited the land for generations engendering an ethos of retributive justice and mutual hatred.

So perhaps we are "right" in trying to "liberate" the people of Iraq - an argument I can understand but still profoundly doubt, both for moral and practical reasons - I cannot be comfortable with a vision of this action that fails to take into account that war is, indeed, an expression of a failure of humanity. It may, in the end, turn out to have been "necessary" and God can certainly bring good out of anything, but even so, while some see the action as evidence for the goodness of the Coalition nations, and evil of the other, but I can't shake the general grief for humanity as a whole that this evokes in me. Do you see? This is not an exercise in "moral equivalency" at all. It is a recognition of the way that war tells us all, in the boldest relief, that we have failed.

So back to the beginning. The events of the past year have shaken me - not in the sense that I found out things that I didn't know, or that I was shocked. I'm an historian and a realist. But they've shaken my complacency about what I'm here to do. The Church is crying out for seriousness and reconciliation. The world shivers on the brink - the clash between civilizations is real and the explosion comes closer every day. Where am I in this? Am I just an observer? Am I a victim? Or am I called to be something more, to accept what responsibilty I have, as part of the Body of Christ, as part of the human race, for the sin that runs rampant, and to involve myself more than I am?

Pope on the war today:

Pope John Paul said on Saturday he hoped that the human tragedy of the war in Iraq would not set Christians and Muslims against each other and spark "a religious catastrophe." "War must never be allowed to divide world religions," he told visiting Roman Catholic bishops from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country. The Pope said good inter-religious relations were important "at this moment of heightened tension in the entire world community." "Let us not permit a human tragedy to become a religious catastrophe," he said.


I'm stunned.

And honored - that goes without saying. I guess I'd better get busy and try to be worthy...

Talk about pressure.

Friday, March 28

This, I can't get my head around.

Variety reports that Michael Moore is working on a new documentary about the purported relationship between the Bush and bin Laden clans and business interests, and that he is negotiating with Mel Gibson's production company for financing.

You might want to be reading Back to Iraq, a blog written by a freelancer who's trying to make his way...back to Iraq, of course. Today, he's headed from Ankara to Syria.

In the article I cite below, Peter Hitchens refers to a scene I found hard to believe. So, of course, I googled it, and here you go...

Aboard the USS Constellation...A day before the bombing began, hundreds of sailors gathered in the hangar bay to hear what Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, head of naval forces in the Persian Gulf region, had to say.They waited a half-hour in rows of hundreds in the warehouse-like space and listened to anthems of the jilted and righteous: "Sweet Home Alabama," "Proud to Be an American," and Metallica's screaming, pounding "Sad But True." Around 8:30 a.m. yesterday, Keating flew in on a C-2A Greyhound and walked onto the stage in sand-colored fatigues to Queen's "We Will Rock You." He wore a black USS Constellation cap, which he took off and pointed in quasi-salute to the sailors before him, who cheered in response.

Whatever it takes, I guess....(although Hitchens calls the scene adolescent and implies that it merely supports an irresponsible practice of war. Maybe that's just British reticence talking. Or is it? )

And, of course, I can't help thinking of that old Cher video, you know..If I Could Turn Back Time, right?

Yet another view....

Peter Hitchens, the conservative brother of leftist Christopher, writes in the Spectator that this is a left-wing war and the Tories have no business supporting it.

The idea that naked force can create human freedom is itself a left-wing idea. Even more socialist are the war faction’s contempt for the sovereignty of nations and their unashamed belief that ends justify means. No wonder that the war’s hottest-eyed supporters on both sides of the Atlantic are ex-Marxists who have lost their faith but have yet to lose their Leninist tendency to worship worldly power. Yet ranged alongside them are Tories who are supposed to stand for the gentler and more modest cause of faith and nation, Church and King.

For more on the brothers Hitchens go here.

Nate Thayer of Slate was kicked out of Baghdad. Here's the story of his trip to the border.

Well, I don't have time to read it right this second, but it looks like a good one:

Just War and Humanitarian Intervention by Jean Bethke Elshtain. (It's a PDF document, BTW).

Thanks to Kevin Jones for leaving a comment with a link to his blog which links to what looks to be a very interesting article.

Lots of very good stuff at John Allen's Word from Rome today, including an account of what happened with those sexual abuse victims who went to see the Pope, two very different church events with two different perspectives on the war, his daily conversations with the Archbishop of the Latin Rite Church in Baghdad, and what people are saying really happened in regard to that Tony Blair/Communion row.

Non-war, and from a few days back, but instructive nonetheless.

From the Catholic League

“It is now crystal clear—New York State lawmakers are more interested in getting the priests than in protecting the kids. Here’s what happened. In June, 2002, a bill that would require all adults to report to the authorities cases of suspected child abuse was withdrawn from the New York State legislature after a protest mounted by Family Planning Advocates (the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood) and the New York Civil Liberties Union. They argued that only the clergy should be added to the list of professionals required by law to report instances of suspected child abuse. In no uncertain terms, they contended that if all adults were blanketed, it would mean that abortion providers would have to report cases of statutory rape. The bill was then put on hold. The bill that just passed explicitly targets clergy and ‘anyone in a position of trust.’ Senator Stephen Saland, bowing to pressure from the abortion industry, has admitted that his bill will exempt family planning counselors (a.k.a. abortion providers) from coverage. In other words, since Gloria Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood, is in a position of trust, she would have to report cases of suspected child abuse. But this is a ruse: it is her counselors on staff that learn of these cases—not her—and none of them will have to report instances of child rape to the cops.

In the fog of war...

claims and counterclaims, compiled by the Guardian

The importance of the supply line from the Weekly Standard, and a related bit from the BBC reporters' log

The Marines are now dug in here, they've not moved since the shelling overnight. Their supply lines seem severely stretched. Several infantry men told me they are now down to one meal a day. This is a high tech army which relies on logistics. It seems it needs to settle down for a couple of days while logistical demands are answered.

What do you think of this?

Saddam and his generals know that they have no chance in hell of winning any conflict with the United States MILITARILY. They know they are outgunned, outsupplied, out-technologied, etc. Therefore, their only prayer for surviving the onsluaght is to force a POLITICAL loss on the United States. That means driving up the casualty count, dragging the war out for months, and causing a massive humanitarian crisis. It also means getting images of dead and maimed Iraqis, particualrly children, on Al Jazeera and other networks.Given that, his use of chemical weapons against our forces would guarantee he loses the political battle.Not only that, the Iraqis have to know that the battlefield effectiveness of such weapons...especially agiainst a well-prepared foe like the United States, is minimal at best.Therefore, they gave every impression that they were going to use the force the United States to take that into serious consideration in their planning, and make us attack him before we were fully prepared.

Go to Nancy Nall's page to see two photos that give us a frightening vision of the present - and the future, God forbid.

Thursday, March 27

From the WSJ, a Guide to Shiite Iraq

The exotic names Karbala and Najaf, where coalition forces in Iraq are engaged in fierce combat, have little resonance for most Americans. But for Shiite Muslims they represent two of the holiest places on the face of the earth, about which we should probably know more.

The cities' shrines and sites of pilgrimage are equal in importance for Shiites to the pilgrimage to Mecca, their golden domes rising over a landscape of perennial sorrow and lamentation: Both Karbala and Najaf are indissolubly associated with the martyrdoms of Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, and of his son Husayn ibn Ali. The deaths of these men at the hands of those whom Shiites still remember with curses gave Shiism its foundational myth as well as its distinctive stamp.

At the WSJ, William McGurn looks at the Pope and the war

John Paul's unease over the state's use of force was perhaps first evident in his earlier treatment of the death penalty: that while it may be acceptable in principle, the state now has alternatives that make it all but impossible to justify in practice.

The linkage is not only mine. In recent interviews, Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, explicitly says that classic just-war teaching may now be headed the way of the death penalty. When the National Catholic Register asked the archbishop if he meant by this that "there is no such thing as a just war anymore," his answer was unequivocal: "Absolutely."

The pope has not gone this far. But neither has he repudiated the more fantastic claims by Vatican officials. And in fairness to Archbishop Martino, the catechism's argument against the death penalty does anticipate some arguments against modern war--e.g., that other avenues are available, or that the costs have become inherently disproportionate to whatever good end we hope to achieve.'re ticked off at Cardinal Martino, et al?

Good thing you don't live in the Philippines.

Then you'd be really mad:

The largest demonstrations here against the US-led war with Iraq have been marked by prayer more than protest. While the usual leftist crowds are certainly in attendance, toting familiar placards denouncing the war as "imperialist", their ranks are outnumbered by more unusual attendees: housewives.

Middle-class Filipinos have come out in force to protest the war, largely at the encouragement of Catholic Church leaders. Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin has deemed the war illegal under the United Nations Charter and, worse, immoral under the rubric of Christian principles. Sin's call for peace has been echoed in the homilies of many a parish priest. Small wonder, then, that in this majority-Catholic nation the largest anti-war demonstrations have been, in fact, prayer rallies.

The largest such rally in the Philippines to date billed itself as "The Nationwide Prayer Assembly for Peace". Held late last month at Luneta Park in Manila, the gathering boasted an attendance of 50,000 people (though police put the figure at 15,000). While various leftist factions turned out in large numbers, this was unmistakably a religious event.

Church groups made it an outing, Catholic schools made it a field trip, and housewives heeded the call of their parish priest. Sister Theresa Lorenzo accompanied students from Mary Help Christian School in Canlunbang, Laguna: "We came as a way of witnessing and proclaiming what we have in our hearts, and what these young people would like to tell our president."

Across the country, peace advocates continue to congregate in the hundreds and thousands. Like the Luneta Park rally but on a smaller scale, these pious demonstrations seem, foremost, an affirmative expression of religious faith. Only as a consequence of this do they represent a conscientious objection to the war in Iraq.

Liberation Theology and the Iraq War:

First, an article in the Irish Catholic newspaper by one Seamus Murphy, SJ on that very subject

While liberation theology does not encourage violence, it acknowledges the right of people to defend themselves against murderous repression. Uprisings by Kurds and Shi'ites in 1987-89 and in 1991 were put down in large-scale massacres, sometimes with chemical weapons. If they were to rise again, they would have the world's sympathy. Liberation theology would say that the Lord, who breaks the rod of the oppressor, was with them. But unaided rebellion would have no prospect of success, and our bystander sympathy, our distant indignation (if we even noticed) would not prevent it being crushed with great slaughter.

Yet amazingly, when their liberation rides on the probable success of US arms, much of the world is totally opposed. As the prophet Isaiah recognized in Cyrus the Persian Ð Israel's hope of liberation from Babylon Ð so today Iraqi exiles cannot wait for the US to overthrow Saddam's regime. But, sadly, Christian solidarity with them is overwhelmed by pacifism, neutralism, and anti-Americanism.

Pacifism absolutises peace at the expense of justice, and neutralism turns fence-sitting into moral superiority. Anti-Americanism, like Saddam's torturers, drowns the cries of the victims and silences the tongues of the exiles. To wonder whether there is sufficient justification for war is not unreasonable. But to claim, as have some senior clerics, that there is no justification at all is to close one's eyes to the historical record and one's ears to the victims. Liberation theology would say: God is with the victims, and failure to stand in solidarity with them is a betrayal of the Gospel.

The people of Iraq want peace and an end of oppression. They want neither Saddam nor war. But given Saddam's addiction to war (against Israel in 1973, Iran in 1974 and 1980, Kuwait in 1990, and near-misses with Syria in 1976 and Kuwait in 1994), he is likely, if left in power, to provoke more wars. That, coupled with the oppression and terror, far outweighs the burden of the US/UK invasion. At worst, the US/UK invasion is the lesser evil, at best a liberation. So say Iraqi exiles and those protected in the 'no-fly zones'. Liberation theology says: let their voices carry more weight in our moral discernment, for theirs is the voice of the voiceless, the voice of God.

And then, blogger Tony Adragna's response, in part:

There is certainly room for justifying our instant war along the lines of the church's theology on liberation. But, let's be careful to distnguish this from what the Latin American authors taught...

Go read both comments and come back and tell us what you think. But not before you consider all the nasty things you said about Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutierrez back in the day, okay?

Evangelicals poised to go into Iraq

Two leading evangelical Christian relief and missionary organizations say they have teams of workers poised to enter Iraq to address the physical and spiritual needs of its large Muslim population.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse said Tuesday that workers are near the Iraq border in Jordan and are ready to go in as soon as it is safe. The relief and missionary work is certain to be closely watched because both Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention have been at the heart of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam, the world's second-largest religion.

Both organizations said their priority will be to provide food, shelter, and other needs to Iraqis ravaged by recent war and years of neglect. But if the situation presents itself, they will also share their Christian faith in a country that's estimated to be 97 percent Muslim and about 1 percent Christian.

"We go where we have the opportunity to meet needs," said Ken Isaacs, international director of projects for Samaritan's Purse, located in Boone, N.C. "We do not deny the name of Christ. We believe in sharing him in deed and in word. We'll be who we are."

I'm obviously not providing event-by-event commentary on this war, first because I think my opinions are irrelevant, and secondly because it would be a huge waste of time, considering the "facts" of yesterday or even three hours ago frequently turn out to be the "oops" of today. Case in point:

All those thousands of surrenders the first couple of days? Er...maybe not.

Defence Department officials reported on Friday that they had won the surrender of the entire 51st Division, a regular Iraqi army unit deployed in southern Iraq to defend Basra, the nation's second largest city.On Saturday, officials backtracked, saying they had only taken a couple of commanders and the rest of the men had "melted away" - a term used for those who laid down their arms and returned home.On Monday there were reports that one of the "commanders" turned out to be a junior official who misrepresented his rank in hopes of getting better treatment.Then on Tuesday, British forces reported a tank battle with elements of the 51st outside of Basra. Asked about the confusion, the Pentagon said the division's equipment was taken over by the Fedayeen and possibly members of Saddam's Republican Guard, his best-trained troops.<"Some of their equipment may have been used by the Fedayeen perhaps, or other folks that Fedayeen brought with them," a Pentagon spokesman said

Another source of information from the ground in Baghdad:

The Iraq Peace Team, which is putting up diary entries from members in Baghdad, including an American doctor's report

And for the record, before the vituperative comments start coming, remember my philosophy: listen to everyone. Don't believe everyone, but do listen intelligently and critically. Listen to CentCom, listen to the soldiers on the field, listen to the mainstream press, the alternative press, and yes, even listen to peace activists who are visiting hospitals and being present to the people of Baghdad. Disregard most of the rhetoric, but don't dismiss the stories because you have a beef with the source. The war is made of many things. It is made of American leaders who say what they are really about is the liberation of the people of Iraq. It is about soldiers enduring hell on earth trudging up towards Baghdad battling sand, mud, wind and guerilla warfare. It is about fascist, inhuman thugs using human shields as they fire on Coalition troops and threatening civilians with death if they act in support of the invaders. It is about Missionaries of Charity staying in Baghdad with their orphans. It is about the consequences of a war started during the beginning of the growing season. And yes, it is about the big picture - weighing the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam against the suffering of a war waged to dislodge their tormenter and the untold consequences for the region and the world.

But it is also about the small picture - the facts of civilians harmed and killed. It is not an argument for or against war. It is just a fact. And those who say they are so interested in "realism" and truth, absorbing as much of the big and small picture as possible should not hesitate to read these narratives, again, with as much salt as you like.

Reuters, I know, but still. Raises important issues that we've discussed, and you can read it with however much salt you think appropriate:

US Action opens debate on war rationale:

Few nations have flouted the U.N. charter that lays out specific conditions for the use of pre-emptive force. Two extraordinary exceptions are Israel's 1981 strike on Iraq's OsIrak nuclear plant and the 1967 Six Day War, said Reus-Smidt."The major innovation of the Bush doctrine is the idea of prevention, and the war in Iraq can be seen as the first example of this," said Reus-Smidt.He said Washington, rebuffed in the U.N. Security Council in its quest for world backing to pre-empt Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons program, had opted to act preventively.That opens a Pandora's Box."It's not clear what the limits are," said Hilary Charlesworth, professor at the Center for International and Public Law at the ANU. "This leaves the perception of threat in the eye of the beholder."

It reinforces fears of the United States going it alone, snubbing the international community when it suits it, for example on the Kyoto treaty on global warming or the International Criminal Court.The United States has acted as other countries have throughout history, which is to look for the international law that suits them. And it was that free-for-all approach that the U.N. charter was aimed at halting."We could be going back to a pre-U.N. charter world and I find that worrying," said Charlesworth.Of course, what goes unspoken is that the United States regards itself as an exception, and knows that it can probably get away with a preventive war because it has more toys, and more powerful ones, than anyone else in the playground.

"The related political and diplomatic question is 'are we redefining sovereignty?"' said Bhaskar. "It's an Orwellian kind of sovereignty in which some are more sacred than others."Analysts believe that deterrence may work in this new world, and thus a nuclear-ambitious North Korea may not be next. But what, asked one, would stop China taking a swipe at Taiwan?"What will be the restraints?" said Charlesworth. "International law is enforced by a sense of reciprocity and this is doing away with the fabric of international law."Some say international law may have to change to ensure relevance in a world threatened by rogue states and suicide hijackers.

In the comment thread on Kopp below, several readers crisply dismissed the question by tossing out the argument that what Kopp didn't have was "legimate authority." Well, "legitimate authority" is context-dependent, isn't it? So, within a global context, who has "legitimate authority" to pre-empt another nation's perceived threat or violations of human rights?

Coalition Forces trying to avoid sacred sites.

But most sensitive to Muslims, historians say, is the city of Karbala, site of Shi'ite martyrdom during the 680 clash about who would rule world Islam. The rivalry was between the prophet Muhammad's family and the caliph in Syria, who was backed by a cadre of the prophet's followers.At Karbala, the Muslim caliph massacred the prophet's Muslim nephew, but the attack still is viewed as a sin by "unbelievers," said Sulayman Nyang, a Howard University historian of Islam.

"That [memory] is one reason the [coalition] forces have apparently bypassed Karbala," Mr. Nyang said. "You don't want to re-create any mythical revivification of that martyrdom of the past."He said that even if the coalition avoids all conflict in Karbala, or two other Shi'ite shrines nearby, a Shi'ite rebellion against the oppressive regime may arise on its own from that "historically sacred territory."

The Sunni-backed regime has persecuted Shi'ites since the founding of Iraq in 1932, but Mr. Nyang said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would even use conflict about Shi'ite holy sites to arouse world Islam against the coalition forces. "We don't want to play into his hands. Also, you don't want to prompt any emotionalism among the Hezbollah in Lebanon," he added, referring to a Shi'ite terrorist group.

Wednesday, March 26

Caption Contest:

From Slate:

What the African newspapers are saying about this war

Someone sent this to me - it's from the French press. Sorry, I don't have a link:

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Baghdad has vowed that the city's churches will remain open to allow Christians and Muslims to take refuge there during the US-led war, according to a newspaper article published Tuesday in Switzerland. "This people (the Iraqis) has had to suffer awful things over the past two decades," Archbishop Jean Benjamin Steiman wrote in an article published in the mass-circulation Blick daily. "We will not leave them alone at this time," he wrote. "I will do what is needed to keep the (Catholic) churches of Baghdad open for both Christian and Muslim civilians to take refuge there during the war," he wrote.

He also said he would be staying in the city in case Christians there were attacked as a result of the war, but stressed that he saw no sign of that for the moment. "As Christians, we are in a minority, and we could be used as scapegoats for this war," he wrote. "Order still reigns for the moment, but there could be attacks on Christians. And that is why we will not leave," he wrote. "Whether we like it or not, the West is assimilated here to Christianity. We want to show that that is false, and that we Christians are not like Western politicians, who talk about war as if it was a simplei ssue." Only an estimated 800,000 of Iraq's total population of 25 million areC hristians, who are divided among several churches.

Catholic teacher quits rather than remove anti-war button

Before the war in Iraq started, teacher Gary Tankard let his students at Bergen Catholic High School know where he stood, wearing a button that read, ''War is not the answer.'' Several of his colleagues did the same. Although Pope John Paul II was preaching a similar message, school authorities objected and said the red, white and blue buttons had to go. The other teachers relented, but Tankard resigned. ''This was a matter of conscience,'' Tankard, 63, told The Record of Bergen County for Wednesday's editions.

A most fascinating page dedicated to Christian monasteries (some still in use, others not, it seems) in Iraq

I would be very interested if anyone runs across any current news related to these monasteries.

Military feels priest shortage

With American soldiers facing more danger than they have in years, the Army's chief chaplain is asking bishops and cardinals across the country to help fill a critical need for Roman Catholic chaplains.About 25 percent of the Army is composed of Roman Catholics, with only about 107 priests on active duty, Chaplain Maj. Gen.G aylord Gunhus said during a visit Monday with Chicago's Cardinal FrancisG eorge. "Some of the Roman Catholic soldiers are being deployed without the opportunity for confession or thes acrament [of communion]," Gunhus said.The Army is not the only military branch that doesn't have enough priests, but the need in the other branches is not as acute, in part because of the difference in the size of the forces and the hardship of the service, officials with the Army and Navy said."We're kind of holding our own. ... They are really, really hurting," said Rev. Michael Dory, a chaplain commander assigned to the Marines. All sea services, including the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, draw chaplains from one pool. Roman Catholics comprise 28 percent of thoses ervices, and there are 170 priests to serve them, Dory said.

Ad Orientem declares his blog a "Dorothy-Day Free Zone."

Josh Marshall has interesteing stuff today.

From the Weekly Standard:

Why is there fighting in southern Iraq?

Caleb Carr at the NY Observer:

On the one hand, stories of battlefield excitement could be illustrated as never before; on the other, televised images more often than not revealed that war was a terrifying, dangerous and often psychologically shattering experience. The power of the camera made most modern military commanders shun war correspondents even more assiduously than had General Sherman, and not simply to conceal their own sins: Three centuries of hard experience taught that a little information carefully distributed could encourage public support for an army, while too much information liberally distributed-remember Vietnam-could help frustrate a nation's (or at least a Presidential administration's) interests. The relationship between television and the military became singularly ambiguous-an unresolved situation seemingly beyond resolution. But for their new war in Iraq, Mr. Bush and his advisers jettisoned all the old qualms about allowing cameras to show too much. Convinced of the absolute moral rectitude of his struggle against Saddam, Mr. Bush apparently believed that embedded correspondents would only add to the campaign's glory by allowing the public to see the two undertakings-military and journalistic-as one great and just national mission. Instead, before the first week was out, the administration's new media policy became the factor most likely to complicate, frustrate and perhaps endanger the success of a military campaign whose brilliance cannot disguise the fact that it is, after all, a military campaign, and as such loaded with death, bloodshed, blunders and acts of betrayal as well as bravery.

Like other nations, we prepare soldiers for weeks, months and sometimes years before they're exposed to the visual and emotional horrors of combat; evidently, we now expect untrained civilians to make instant sense of these sights and sounds, and to continue to support faithfully both their troops and their government, while at the same time tempering their desire for vengeance against a cruel enemy. This is an enormous amount to expect from anyone, let alone concerned families and mystified children-even when our nation's cause is just and our methods among the most ethically admirable ever displayed by any armed force.

Worse, the practice of embedding journalists provides our enemy with images that he can prostitute as he likes. Men such as those who currently control Iraq, along with other enemies elsewhere, are unlikely to let the opportunity pass. Already they have made the most, for example, of the sight of a careless Marine hoisting an American flag over Iraqi territory-an image that cannot be erased from the minds of even friendly Muslims. How much greater, then, will the effect of such an image be on a mind already filled with hate? And when an unbalanced member of the 101st Airborne Division attempts to kill his superior officers, what does it matter how we explain his motives? Whatever we say, the pendulum of psychological advantage swings back in favor of our enemy.

Don't forget the BBC Reporters' Log

The Pope today:

Pope John Paul on Wednesday made a fresh appeal for peace in Iraq and said his heart was "oppressed" by the news of battles. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square, the pope asked Catholics around the world to continue praying for peace. The 82-year-old pope, who headed the Vatican's diplomatic campaign to avert war, said that when he prayed he did so "with a heart that is oppressed by news that reaches us from an Iraq in war." The pope, who appeared in relatively good health, said the world should not forget the other conflicts "that are bloodying the Earth." He prayed that the Madonna "obtain justice and peace for the whole world."

Geez. What a crazy old peacenik. He really should stick to topics he knows something about,don't you think?

From Slate's continuing "Kurd Sellout Watch:

....Chatterbox guesses that Powell told the Turks some sort of Turkish presence might be all right if the troops were under U.S. command, but that he'd rather they stay out altogether. President Bush has been firmer in stating that "we're making it very clear to the Turks that we expect them not to come into Northern Iraq." But even Bush's statement allowed for a possible Turkish invasion later on ("we're working with the Kurds to make sure there's not an incident that would cause there to be an excuse [for the Turks] to go into Northern Iraq"). And Bush has yet to utter in this context his favorite I-ain't-foolin' word, "consequences." Bush's new proposed war budget, out of hiding now that his massive tax cut has cleared the House and Senate, includes a $1 billion grant to Turkey and allows for an additional $8.5 billion in loans and loan guarantees. That'll show 'em!

Bush could use a lesson in toughness from weak-kneed "Old Europe." The Germans told Turkey that Turkish entry into northern Iraq "would lead to the withdrawal of the German soldiers from NATO AWACS aircraft." And plucky little Belgium said, "It is unthinkable Turkey should join [the European Union] if it goes into Kurdistan," though the Turkish daily Zaman reports that the Belgians backed off somewhat today.

From the embedded Michael Kelly:

The planners of this war considered a range of scenarios. At the most optimistic, they hoped that the imminent threat of invasion would trigger the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. At the next rosiest level, they thought a regime collapse would follow an invasion in a matter of days. On the next rung was the idea that the American advance would be met by little armed resistance, which would allow for a swift advance and a possibly hard but brief battle with the Republican Guard's Medina Division south of Baghdad.

What actually happened in the first five days was a surprise and made the American advance significantly more difficult and dangerous. In large terms the plan has worked and the attack to date is an overwhelming success. The 3rd Infantry, which leads the assault, advanced more than 185 miles into Iraq in three days. It defeated the Iraqi 11th Division in one day with no American casualties. It established a supply line over forbidding terrain back into Kuwait that is supplying a fast-moving force of more than 20,000 soldiers and 10,000 vehicles.

But something else transpired. While Hussein's regular army has scarcely fought at all, an irregular force controlled by the Baath Party of militia, elements of special units and Fedayeen guerrilla fighters has conducted a campaign of small-arms hit-and-run warfare. These forces have essentially taken control of the southern cities of Samawah and Najaf, where they have established themselves in schools and hospitals and where they are reportedly forcing local men to arm and fight by executing the unwilling.

How are residents of Baghdad seeing the present weather conditions over there?

You shouldn't be surprised.

To Mohammed, the relentless sandstorm was foreboding, a portent of divine will.

"The storm is from God," he said, looking out his trembling window. "Until the aggression started, never in my life did I see a storm like this. We all believe in God, we all have faith in God. And God is setting obstacles against the Americans."

During six days of war, Baghdadis looking to the heavens for omens have had much to contemplate. A terrifying cascade of U.S. bombs has been followed by the apocalyptic smoke of oil fires lit by Iraqi forces, so dense that cars almost collided. The smoke was joined by today's storm, which abruptly ended Baghdad's struggle to reclaim ordinary life. Shops again were shuttered and streets were deserted as a sickly yellow cloaked the sun.

Weary residents spoke of divine intervention, and in the storm they saw God's determination to aid Iraq. But beneath the surface were churning impulses -- of fear and flight, of fatalism and bravado, of grief and dread. With few exceptions, Iraqis still consider political discussions taboo, especially with a foreign journalist shadowed by an official escort. But the storm seemed to draw out anxieties about a future that no one seems willing to predict.

Michael comments on this here, and has an excellent, wise passage from the Bruderhof community posted as well.

From ShiaPundit, another perspective.


Iran's complex views about the war

Tuesday, March 25

Not from the Onion


Moroccan publication accused the government Monday of providing unusual assistance to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq by offering them 2,000 monkeys trained in detonating land mines.The weekly al-Usbu' al-Siyassi reported that Morocco offered the U.S. forces a large number of monkeys, some from Morocco's Atlas Mountains and others imported, to use them for detonating land mines planted by the Iraqis.The publication quoted a highly-informed source as saying, "that is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic."

A commenter asks:

Point of interest. Do people in non-Christian religions, or even atheists, struggle as hard as we do about whether or not any particular war is just? Is there a Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Islamic etc. theory of just war? Since we are so interested in finding and appreciating the truth in other religions, maybe we could get some enlightenment from them on this subject.

Well, wonderful readers?

More on the Pope's words, from Zenit:

After mentioning the "difficult hour of history, when the world finds itself once again hearing the clash of arms," John Paul II said: "thinking of the victims, the destruction, and the suffering caused by armed conflicts always causes great concern and pain." "It should be clear by now that war used as an instrument of resolution of conflicts between states was rejected, even before the Charter of the United Nations, by the conscience of the majority of humanity, except in the case of defense against an aggressor," the Pope stressed. "The vast contemporary movement in favor of peace -- which, according to Vatican Council II, is not reduced to a 'simple absence of war' -- demonstrated this conviction of men of every continent and culture," he added. In this connection, the Holy Father said that "the strength of different religions in sustaining the search for peace is a reason for comfort and hope." "In our view of faith, peace, even if it is the result of political accords and understanding among individuals and peoples, is a gift from God that we must constantly invoke with prayer and penance," he said. "Without a conversion of heart, there is no peace! Peace is only achieved through love!" "Right now we are all asked to work and pray so that war disappears from the horizon of humanity," he concluded.

And the letter sent by Head Military Chaplain Honcho Archbishop O'Brien

Long after the hostilities cease the debate likely will continue as to the moral justification for the armed force recently initiated by the United States and its allies. It is to be hoped that all factors which have led to our intervention will eventually be made public and that the full picture of the Iraqi regime's weaponry and brutality will shed helpful light upon our President's decision.

Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience. Meanwhile, we encourage our military leadership in its scrupulous efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties and to use no more force than necessary to attain stated goals. Now, more than ever, our prayers are with our President and all those associated with him in decision-making.

Today from Pope John Paul II:

The vast antiwar movement in the world shows that a "large part of humanity" has repudiated the idea of war as a means of resolving conflicts between nations, Pope John Paul II said in a message released Tuesday. The pope, a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq , sent his message to Roman Catholic military chaplains attending a Vatican-organized course on humanitarian law.

He said the course was being held "at a difficult moment in history, when the world once again is listening to the din of arms" and that thoughts about the victims, the destruction and the suffering produce "deep worry and pain." By now, he said, "it should be clear" that except for self-defense against an aggressor a "large part of humanity" has repudiated war as an instrument of resolving conflicts between nations.

The angel and the girl are met
Earth was the only meeting place.
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.
The eternal spirits in freedom go.

See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other's face
Till heaven in hers and the earth in his
Shine steady there. He's come to her
From beyond the farthest star,
Feathered through time. Immediacy
Of strangest strangeness is the bliss
That from their limbs all movement takes.
Yet the increasing rapture brings
So great a wonder that it makes
Each feather tremble on his wings.

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way.
Sound's perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their grace would never break.

The Annunciation

by Edwin Muir (1887-1958)

Inflammatory Question of the Day:

For those who have decided that the Just War Theory has or should be expanded to included the elimination of repressive regimes as a justification for war (because charity demands that we do what we can to protect the innocent), answer me this question, posed in a spirit of honest inquiry - which means I appreciate serious, rather than flip, responses:

What is the difference between that as a justification of war and James Kopp's justification of his murder of an abortionist?

Kos is wondering why the Iraqis haven't blown up the bridges over the Euphrates

(Be sure to read the comments for more theories)

Priest's words spark walkout

Rev. Gary Mercure told the congregation at four Masses Saturday and Sunday that the war in Iraq was evil, immoral and contradictory to Christian doctrine. According to those who attended any of the services, Mercure called for parishioners to not support President Bush, and said the U.S. should work closer with the rest of the world.
As many as 60 congregants responded by leaving the church at one of the masses, several yelling comments in the priest's direction and heckling him on the way out.

Clem LaPietra, a Troy resident attending a mass for his father, was stunned when Mercure began the homily."Father Gary, I think he went a little bit over the edge," LaPietra said. "He said how morally wrong the U.S. was. He told us to remember the Germans, and the English, and the Roman Empire. A lot of the older gentlemen got up and left. Someone stood up and told him he was out of line. There was some heckling."Rose Romano, a Wynantskill resident, attended the 8 a.m. mass on Sunday, the third time the homily was given. She claimed that Mercure called Americans bullies, and said the people shouldn't support the president.
Romano said the comments were so shocking she had to catch her breath. Three people directly in front of her left the mass immediately. "I was stunned. After a few minutes I was numb," she said. "I'm going to church for my own welfare and a place to pray. That's no place for a political platform."

Mercure said about three people walked out of that service, and said between 50 and 60 walked out of the following mass at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Mercure said he was talking about the Ten Commandments, particularly, "Thou shalt not kill," and knew that some of his parishioners might not be of the same opinion. At that point, Mercure said, he offered everyone a chance to leave. He said he also prefaced the homily by saying that, "we love those serving and want them out of harm's way."
While the war is a political matter, Mercure said it is a moral issue as well. He insists he was not using the pulpit as a platform for his own views, but as a servant of God. "They don't have to think the way I think," he said. "But as a preacher of God, it is my role to enhance life, to bring more life, and God's life, to people."
He also dismissed the idea that he preached anti-American sentiments or judged the morality of the president. He said he used the phrase "our government" several times, but stopped short of making moral judgments on anyone. He said it was also his privilege as a patriot to speak out against the war, and his duty as a priest to do so. Mercure said he received many calls Monday, most of them positive, thanking him for the sermon.

Troy resident John Browne was one of those who thanked him."I'm a veteran of the Philippines and was a prisoner of war for three-and-a-half years in Japan," Browne said. "The reason we fought over there is so people could do what they did in church yesterday."I went up to him afterward and said, 'I'm proud of you father."

(This happened in Troy, NY)

Monday, March 24

Reid Collins says:

When it's over, somebody ought to leave a note in the drawer for the next administration: "Let's not do it this way again."

Advertising that you plan to drop 3,000 bombs on Baghdad in an opening salvo designed to produce "Shock and Awe" comes perilously close to the arrogant braggadocio so much of the world associates with Uncle Sam. Changing the mission at the last moment and opting for a more selective attack offered the media the opportunity to chide you for failure to deliver. You are diddled either way. ....

Peter Vere has interesting words on Christian-Muslim relations at Catholic Light.

Idle observations

Drudge is over. So 1999. He is doing nothing during this time of constant news except going for cheap and immoral notoriety by posting that horrible POW photo without so much as a warning or a simple link to another page on his site, put Oscar ratings on the top all this morning, and is probably just relaxing down there in Florida. Good for him and what he achieved in the past about resting on your laurels.

Fox News is pointless or worse. Inflammatory would be my word. All Sunday night they were going with this chemical plant story, and granted there may still be a story there, but at that moment, nothing was known and they were reporting it and interviewing experts as if it was a done deal.

The warbloggers who came to fame and acclaim post 9/11 did so partly on the rallying cry "We can fact check your ass." Meaning that with their eyes, ears, sources and keyboards, they could do an end-run around establishment media and get inconvenient and politcally incorrect facts out there in the light of day where they belong.

I've only been reading a few of them - Instapundit, Blair, etc.. - in the rush of the day, but I have to say, there's precious little fact-checking of asses going on there these days. For the most part, they're linking stories that only fully support their opinions of this war and their expectations of it, with hardly a dissenting voice or - more importantly - fact. They have become as firmly committed to the cheerleading squad as FoxNews or NRO.

It's too bad, but you know, a vacuum doesn't stay that way for long. Along come Warbloggers: The Next Generation - linked below and here again: Command Post (supportive of the war, but works at covering it broadly), The Agonist (works very hard at objectivity, and successfully), and Daily Kos (against the war, but works at covering it broadly)

You might also check out Nate Thayer's dispatches from Iraq at Slate

And do you know what else? It's 11:05 pm on Monday and I still don't know who won the Oscar for Best Picture or if Scorsese got his. Seriously. No one at the dinner table (including movie fanatic son) knew either. Guess I'll go check that out now.

Update - Oh, okay. Hollywood honored the child rapist. Got it.

Sorry to get all conspiratorial on you and all...

..but when I heard that Blair and Bush were meeting on Wednesday and Thursday at Camp David, the first thing that popped into my head was...away from DC...away from London...on the days that the heavy siege of Baghdad is to begin.

What are they expecting?

From David Pryce-Jones:

For Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turks, when war stops, the trouble starts

A further danger is that Iraqis will seek revenge - not on the West but on each other. Saddam's Ba'ath Party was composed of Sunni Muslims, mostly from Tikrit, the region where he was born. Sunnis from the Ba'ath Party have imprisoned, tortured, raped or murdered scores of thousands of Iraqis.

Opponents of the war in Britain, France and Germany may have forgotton the gassing at Halabja, the destruction of the Marsh Arabs, the bulldozing of villages, the mass arrests and arbitrary executions - but the Iraqis haven't. The thousands of people who have lost relatives in Saddam's blood-purges have a score to settle with the officials who did the dirty work. The Iraqis even have a word for it: farhud.

If allowed to proceed unchecked, the farhud could turn into a general massacre. That is what happened when the British imposed the Sunni King Faisal, Lawrence of Arabia's favourite desert Arab, on Iraq after the First World War. The Shias warned that they would revolt if a Sunni ruler were to be imposed. They were not listened to, and did revolt. A farhud resulted, which was only put down with great bloodshed by the British. In due course, Iraq became a military dictatorship - which it has remained ever since.

Sunday, March 23

Many thanks to an anonymous commenter below who points us to this 1999 article from America examining the Pope's teaching on war

The key international developments of Pope John Paul's pontificate came with the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe. It is therefore useful to reconsider his observations on nonviolence and the use of force in that context. Reflecting on those events in Centesimus Annus, the Pope proclaimed his belief that non-violence led to the fall of Communist governments in eastern Europe. "It seemed," he wrote in the 1991 encyclical, "that the European order resulting from the Second World War and sanctioned by the Yalta Agreement could only be overturned by another war." He continued, "Instead, it has been overcome by the nonviolent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth."

In Evangelium Vitae (1995), the Pope claimed, "Among the signs of hope we should also count the spread, at many levels of public opinion, of a new sensitivity ever more opposed to war as an instrument for the resolution of conflicts between peoples, and increasingly oriented to finding effective but 'nonviolent' means to counter the armed aggressor" (emphasis in original). Beneath the Pope's expressed trust in nonviolence, one finds an esteem for those who show a willingness to suffer for the sake of justice rooted in the Christian faith. "It is by uniting his own sufferings for the sake of truth and freedom to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross," Pope John Paul wrote, "that man is able to accomplish the miracle of peace and is in a position to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil and the violence, which under the illusion of fighting evil, only makes it worse."

This last point, namely, that there are forms of fighting evil that only worsen the evils suffered, is one that Pope John Paul II makes often. In his view, however, the avoidance of greater harm is more than a simple question of proportionality. Rather, the Pope affirms that those who are themselves willing to accept suffering acquire a heightened ability to discern properly how to fight against evil, whether with nonviolence or by the legitimate use of force. There is an implicit rejection of the notion that just-war thinking is simply an abstract "calculus" that can be applied independent of certain restrained, not to say pacific, moral dispositions. The Pope's antipathy to the use of force and his constant call for negotiation disclose a religious leader who is as much concerned about the means employed to overcome evil as he is committed to struggle against it.

Finally, Centesimus Annus, with echoes of earlier 20th-century popes, presents John Paul II's negative judgment about war as an instrument of policy:

"No, never again war, which destroys lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war."

This passage has become almost a leitmotiv in the Vatican's response to the use of force, repeated again and again in papal statements and other Vatican declarations.

As a rule of thumb, I would suggest that here as elsewhere the Pope should be taken at his word. While the form is rhetorical, the substance is serious. The point is that the consequences of war are beyond calculation. We should consider soberly whether the use of force does, in fact, do what the Pope says. Above all, does it take the life of innocent people? Does it leave behind a trail of resentment and hatred? Does it make finding a just solution more difficult? These objections do not rule out resorting to force, especially in case of humanitarian intervention. They do imply that every effort must be taken to avoid the vastly unpredictable consequences of taking up arms.

I strongly recommend that you take the time to read this entire article. It is thorough, fair and realistic.

How a walkover turned into a 3-day battle

Someone's being honest.

I've been doing some mega-posting on Mondays, but not this week. The war has me pretty well absorbed, so I've not been doing my usual daily bookmarking of Catholic Greatness and Stupidity in the liitle folder I like to call "Bloggable." Plus, I have that April 1 deadline for not just one, but two projects approaching, so I need to be giving my time to that this week and over the weekend. I'll continue to post one or two links to thought-type pieces every day for your discussion pleasure, and if you see more than that, feel free to email and scold.

Over the past few days, I've settled on the following for war news. They are simply the sites that, taken together, give the most comprehensive and focused links. The ideological perspectives vary.

The Command Post

Daily Kos

The Agonist

As I've said many times before in various contexts, I was raised to consider all points of view, all the facts from all perspectives. It wasn't only the way I was raised, it was the way I was trained as an historian. Whenever I read anything it's automatic for me to check who wrote it and what their angle is. So it is with war news. The barrage is constant, but much of it is packaged and framed to support a particular view. "Conservatives" who have spent years railing against the major media for packaging news in ways favorable to their own interests, whether those interests be ideological or financial (i.e. keep the drama coming because drama=viewers), should not forget their formerly adamantly held convictions during this time.

The American news channels - broadcast and cable both are so caught up with video that even with their wealth of resources, they are neglecting to report on the many stories developing or to adquately follow up on events that even happened yesterday. Before we went to Mass this morning, for example, all the cable news networks were fixated on this fire in the weeds on the banks of the river in Baghdad. I mean fixated. For hours. As if the sight of the citizens of Baghdad jumping around a river bank were in any way more newsworthy than the skirmishes that were occurring throughout Iraq, than the apparent fragging (for an explanation see Michael's blog), or whatever is going on with the Turks...

So we turn to the internet, hoping to find relief, and to some extent we do. But again, even the better warbloggers are coming at it from the perspective of full, unquestioning support for the Bush administration, which is fine, but there are other angles worth checking out, if not for the perspective, which you can take or leave, but for the articles they link, which you won't find linked on the warbloggers' sites. Here are two:

Nowarblog links to stories about the State Department's stated doubts about the future of democracy in Iraq

Counterspin links to stories about Red Cross accounts of casualty figures and frankly ambiguous responses of some Iraqi citizens to American action and presence.

Of course - not the whole story. But if you can ignore some of the blather surrounding it and focus on the information offered (linked from reputable news sources), you get more of that whole story than you would if you just stuck with the voices that you want to hear, voices that sound just like yours.

And if your cable or satellite system carries Newsworld International, by all means, watch that as much as possible.

From the Times (not ours, of course), an excellent piece by Theodore Dalrymple on Lent:

We fast not for God, but for our egos:

Our modern self-denial, then, is different from its previous, religious forms. It does not look beyond the here-and-now, because we don’t believe any longer that there is anything beyond the here-and-now. The purpose of our self-denial is thus to indulge ourselves for longer and longer, amen. We do not deny ourselves anything that we may be pleasing in the sight of God: we deny ourselves things that we may be pleasing when we look at ourselves in the glass. Our self-denial is just another manifestation of our egotism.

Saturday, March 22

Pope deplores war

Pope John Paul, in his first public comment on the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, said on Saturday the war threatened the whole of humanity, and that weapons could never solve mankind's problems."When war, like the one now in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is even more urgent for us to proclaim, with a firm and decisive voice, that only peace is the way of building a more just and caring society," he said.The Pope, in a speech to employees of Catholic television station Telepace, added: "Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of man."


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