Thursday, March 20

The new Word from Rome is up:

John Paul II is not a man who goes off script much these days. In the vast majority of his public appearances, the pope limits himself to reading a prepared text, keeping the crowd hooked with a wave, a smile, at most a small quip, perhaps a refrain or two from a favorite Polish folk song.

Thus last Sunday’s Angelus address, when the pope spoke in ad-lib fashion from his own biography about the danger of war in Iraq, is yet another measure of his deep personal anxiety about the U.S. assault. The pope’s voice boomed, and his right hand chopped the air, reflecting a level of vigor that had not been seen in years.

From a certain point of view, one could say that the papal appeal fell on deaf ears. Yet John Paul has always been addressing multiple audiences, one of which is the Islamic street. His last-ditch appeals have been, in part, designed to hammer home the point that this war is being waged by George Bush and Tony Blair, not by Western Christianity. A less overt, but equally compelling, aim is to protect Christians scattered across the Islamic world.

Some Catholics, especially those sympathetic to the Bush administration on the war, wish the pope would premise his opposition more straightforwardly on the fate of Christian minorities......

And then on another matter....

In the wake of the American sex abuse crisis, the canonical issues surrounding involuntary laicization of priests have become a matter of unusually broad public interest. Some Catholics have forgotten, however, that these are not the only offenses for which the pope imposes the canonical equivalent of the death penalty. A reminder of the point came March 13with the forced laicization of an Italian priest named Franco Barbero....

Someone explain this seizure of Iraqi assets thing to me.

Is it about property we'll be "seizing" in the war over there? Or is it about assets that are in banks, etc. here? And if the latter, explain to me (nicely, please) why these assets weren't seized and frozen at some point over the past decade as a way to put pressure on the Hussein regime.

Instapundit links to bloggers and others exploring the question of whether the Iraqi blogger in Baghdad is for real. Most conclude that he probably is.

More on that question here. (3/21)

Rod's going to Texas!

Josh Marshall says that Iraq will turn out the way we want it to after the war only if...

We kill lots and lots of them.

Not only did millions of Japanese and Germans die in World War II, but U.S. and British aerial bombing of major Japanese and German cities alone killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in what is now delicately termed “collateral damage.” And that’s not even counting the carnage caused by the atomic bombs we. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final days of the war against Japan.

Violence, death and destruction on such a massive scale have a profound conditioning effect on the psyches of individuals. And the same applies to whole nations. Japan and Germany weren’t just ‘defeated’ or ‘occupied,’ they were crushed — not just their armies, but their civilian populations too. This led to a sort of national humiliation and a transformative willingness to embrace defeat and change.

True defeat changes people and nations too. The fact that our subsequent occupation turned out to be so benign was extremely important. But part of that importance was the contrast between how much these populations had suffered during the war and how much better things got for them after we took over.

And thus our problem. If everything goes according to plan, the loss of civilian life in Iraq will be minimal. Certainly, we all hope so. We’d be even happier if most of the Iraqi army simply laid down its arms when our ground troops march on Baghdad. In addition to our humanitarian interest in shedding as little blood as possible, a low death toll is key to convincing Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world that we are liberators, not conquerors or destroyers. In short, it’s key to making our invasion seem like a good thing.

But that’s the catch. Occupying armies will always keep things under control in the short-term. But the sort of transformation we engineered in the former Axis powers required a far greater pliancy, one which allowed us not only to disarm these countries but rewrite their textbooks, reorient their politics, and do much more.

Doing that in a foreign country may require a mauling of the civilian population that we are rightly unwilling to undertake.

You are invited to use this space to discuss the war.

..Particularly from a moral perspective.

There is no shortage of bloggage out there, and there is a lot of discussion, naturally, about the war. Most of the blogs that are hosting the more intelligent Catholic-based discussions don't have comment capacity. Others have comment capacity, but are basically screaming one way or the other and not the most welcoming places for those of different views, and don't have the traffic that I have been privileged to have.

So, for the moment, I'll come out of hiatus, but more in the capacity of Yer Blog Hostess. I'll post something once in a while - probably not war news, but more likely war commentary with a moral resonance, and you are welcome to discuss.

Just keep it focused - no repetitive homilies, please, and you know who you are.

Start with this:

Vatican, other churches, deplore war.

"The Vatican is deeply pained by the latest developments in Iraq," Vatican chief spokesman Jaoquin Navarro-Valls, one of Pope John Paul's closest aides, said in a statement."On the one hand it laments the fact that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal by the pope himself, which asked for the country to disarm."On the other hand, it deplores the interruption of the path of negotiations, according to international law, for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi drama."


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