The Liberation of Iraq




The Wrong War







As the reader will note, this page is no longer being updated. I've left it here in hopes it will remain of interest to some.


Butcher's Bill

It is always exhilarating to watch a tyrant fall, yet it remains to be seen whether the tree of liberty can prosper, watered with the blood of unwilling patriots. Civilian casualties of this war number in the tens of thousands at a minimum:

Body Count

The U.S. military never released a body count of Iraqi soldiers killed by our forces, though if battlefield estimates by American commanders were accurate, this toll also numbered in the tens of thousands.


  • "The morning of Wednesday, April 9, Franks gave the president and the NSC an update by secure video...At one point Franks said, 'There are 30,000 Iraqi casualties estimated.'...
  • "'In other words, we had just been mowing them down as we're coming in,' the president commented later in an interview...I mentioned that some generals estimated that 60,000 Iraqi military were killed, but no one knew because they didn't find the bodies."
  • ('Plan of Attack,' Bob Woodward, pp. 407-408).

These men, mostly conscripts, were 'mowed down' for not deserting their posts while their country faced foreign invasion. Still there is no official accounting. Since it is our public face to deplore Saddam's brutal willingness to snuff out human life in order to achieve political goals, perhaps publicizing our own willingness to do the same seems inopportune.

When the President asks whether the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power, followers of Jesus must riposte with, 'Is the world better off without the tens of thousands of human beings you've sent to their reward?' Those of us who remain have lost the companionship and contributions of these our fellow travelers; to the President they are ciphers, of null value in the computation, but they cannot be so to Christians who heed their Lord's call to "love thy neighbor".

Up

Right of Rebellion

This war has two faces. Its popular face is 'pay-back' for September the 11th. Its more benign face is as 'liberation' of an oppressed populace from a brutal Stalinist dictator. While the beneficent face of this war is not so brutally immoral as its 'pay-back even though you didn't do it' face, questions of legitimacy do nevertheless arise.

Citizens down-trodden by a tyrant have every right to rise in rebellion. The United States of America was born in this conviction. This the citizenry of Iraq did not do; our invasion was not launched in support of an popular insurrection already under way. We seem to take it for granted that a hostile foreign power enjoys the same right to overthrow a tyrant as does his oppressed citizenry. But how did a hostile foreign power acquire as its own a right which belongs to the oppressed citizenry? Perhaps we are assuming that the citizenry would choose, if granted the choice, for our tanks to roll, but which is the worst calamity that can befall a state: conquest by a foreign power, or misrule by a tyrant?

Mr. Bush's supporters propose this astounding level of internationalism: that not only Iraqi nationals, but even foreigners half a world away, are entitled to a vote on the future of Iraq. Yet should opposition politicians suggest the U.S. be concerned that our global reputation has plummeted on Mr. Bush's watch, we hear that these other nations ought to mind their own business. How is it possible that Americans hold equal rights to 'vote' with the natives in other nations' affairs, while nationals of no other nation dare express an opinion on American politics? It is impossible to reconcile these two perspectives without introducing racism.

The 'Religious Right' denounces one-world government as an evil, yet the Bush globalists propose that the United States should act as a de facto world government. They take it so far for granted that it is up to the United States, and no one else, to determine to which form of government other nations are entitled, that they assume those Americans who do not share their eagerness for unprovoked military aggression are in fact Baath party loyalists. What offends them in one-world government is, not the concept that one ruler determines which national governments rise and which ones fall, but the idea that these other nations should have a say in their fate by any form of democratic suffrage.

Where are the controls on this process of liberation by foreign conquest? When was the Iraqi electorate polled as to whether it counted foreign military occupation a worse evil than home-grown tyranny? Nor for that matter were they asked why life should present only a menu of evils. That foreign military occupation is an evil is beyond question; which of us would tolerate encountering, on the way to the supermarket, weapons pointed in our face at check-points manned by soldiers who do not speak our language?

We are not the first to conceive the bright idea of 'liberating' others, whether they like it or not. Blood drenched and sorrowing human history is a tale of 'liberation.' Unfortunately concepts of the ideal government differ. To some, an 'Islamic Republic' appears the ideal form of government. Do we appreciate the tender efforts of those of this tendency to 'liberate' our people? But where did they get the right to liberate us?

A dictator like Saddam Hussein, when in his glory, did not stint in references to 'the people' or 'the people's will.' What was lacking was any mechanism by which 'the people' could confirm what was indeed their will. Our military crusade suffered the same fatal flaw. We could not stop talking about the wants and needs of the 'Iraqi people;'... the silent 'Iraqi people.' Tyrants claim to speak for the people when the people are silenced.

If there is no electoral mechanism in place by which the people oppressed may exercise their sovereignty, then the only guarantee one can make for liberation by foreign conquest is that the life expectancy for regimes displeasing to the strongest nation will be shorter than for others. Observation of regional history will certainly bear out this expectation. Mohammed Mossadeq, democratically elected prime minister of Iran, was overthrown by a C.I.A. assisted coup in favor of Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, the non-elected tyrant known as the 'Shah.' When Saddam Hussein 'liberated' Kuwait from the altogether undemocratic governance of that nation's non-elected 'Emir,' we promptly rolled back this violation of sacred international boundaries...boundaries we insouciantly crossed this time, because, you see, the nation we were invading was not governed democratically. Saddam himself, at no time a democrat, had known the smiling face of American favor, when he invaded Iran without cause. And who ever voted for L. Paul Bremer III, our colonial viceroy in Iraq? Perhaps an observer seeking to make sense of the zigs and zags in American policy, now pro-democracy, now anti-democracy, might be excused for thinking the only constant in the equation is the price of oil.

Failed Policy of the Present

American support for unelected tyrants is sometimes called the failed policy of the past. It is in fact the failed policy of the present. That General Musharraf seized power in a military coup is no bar to our protecting him from his domestic enemies:

"After two recent assassination attempts that bear the markings of al Qaeda, the U.S. government is stepping up efforts aimed at protecting Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and urging him to crack down further on Islamic terrorism groups, U.S. officials said." (Washington Post, 'U.S. Aids Security of Musharraf,' Sat Jan 3,12:00 AM ET, washingtonpost.com, by Dana Priest, Washington Post Staff Writer.)

And how is it that we hold the Saudi royal family, who permit elections at no level, so close to our bosom, yet they are never scorched by our zeal for democracy, which burns now hot, now cold? Nor do they allow Christian communion within their domain. Our soldiers who once were stationed in this land were prohibited from practicing the Christian faith, by a U.S. government nominally bound by the free exercise clause. The domestic foes of these unelected tyrants, from whom we shield them, include not only Muslims disgusted at the royals' dissolute life-style, but also those citizens who would prefer to elect those who rule over them. The biggest boon imaginable for third world democracy would be for the United States to cease propping up autocrats. We show no tendency to do so.

The People Speak

They say in basketball, 'No harm, no foul.' Certainly Americans cannot be more punctilious for Iraqi rights than are the Iraqis themselves. If, as claimed by this war's advocates, the Iraqi people in fact wanted us to invade their country, then critics have little basis for complaint.

Though nobody asked them prior to the invasion, it has now become possible for the Iraqi public to speak. What they have to say is surprisingly kind to the U.S.:

U.S.-led invasion: All Arabs Kurds
Liberated Iraq 42% 33% 82%
Humiliated Iraq 41 48 11
("A Better Life, Poll: Most Iraqis Ambivalent About the War, But Not Its Results"
Analysis, By Gary Langer, ABC news, March 15, 2004).

It is a remarkable tribute to the civility and professionalism of the U.S. military,-- and a grim testament to the brutality of the prior regime,-- that as many as 42% of the populace (33% of Arab inhabitants) count their conquerors as liberators. It must, however, be noted that 42% is not a majority: recall that we portray ourselves as champions of democracy and majority rule. We have the majority of a minority, the Kurds, much as the Germans had the Croats in the Balkans.

During the Vietnam era, radical rhetoric professed concern for 'the people'...not the large number of 'people' who preferred to vote for candidates like Richard Nixon, but the much smaller group of 'people' who favored radical causes. In a similar vein, when the Bush administration talks about 'the Iraqi people,' they mean that minority who favor the U.S. invasion...not all those other 'people.' Those 41% who consider that we "humiliated" rather than "liberated" their homeland are people we are likely to hear from again: it is their sons and daughters who will be the suicide bombers of the future.

Update: As of October 19, 2006, the poll numbers stand as follows:

"A large majority of Iraqis—71%—say they would like the Iraqi government to ask for U.S.-led forces to be withdrawn from Iraq within a year or less. . .Support for attacks against U.S.-led forces has increased sharply to 61 percent (27% strongly, 34% somewhat)." (World Public Opinion).
Graph produced by World Public Opinion Graph produced by World Public Opinion

Pskov

One would think listening to this war's fan club that no people has ever freed itself from tyranny, nor ever could do so absent foreign invasion. Yet it was not Kaiser Wilhelm who toppled the last Tsar; Russians died by the millions rather than let foreign armies into their beloved homeland. As he sat marooned on a Pskov railroad siding, Tsar Nicholas II retained nominal command of millions of men under arms. What force could resist such power? Yet not one of them would listen to him; nor would the railway men, nor the telegraph operators. No one believed in him any more. In keeping with the general mood, he abdicated. If the people are united, the tyrant falls of his own weight, as did Nicolai Ceaucescu. But if they are not united...

The one thing ensured by toppling a tyrant via foreign invasion is that those who fall on the other side are not the tyrant's personal partisans, as would be the case intervening in an ongoing civil war, but soldiers defending their country. Saddam Hussein was so distrustful of the personal loyalty of his army that he formed the Republican Guards, then the Special Republican Guards. We killed thousands of these ordinary soldiers, whose loyalty Saddam distrusted, smearing them as 'Saddam loyalists' while rolling our tanks onward over them.

Up

Home to Roost

To employ the most trustworthy procedure in ethics we must ask ourselves: under what circumstances would the American public welcome an Iraqi Expeditionary Force landing on our shores? National sovereignty is not the sole good nor the supreme good; there are political catastrophes, such as the Rwandan genocide, during which even patriots would welcome foreign intervention. The enthusiasts for this war advance as such an occasion Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in his war with Iran and against Kurdish separatists. But at the time this was going on, not only did we fail to perceive it as a casus belli, we saw no cause to lessen our cooperation with Iraq's war effort:

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 — As a special envoy for the Reagan administration in 1984, Donald H. Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary, traveled to Iraq to persuade officials there that the United States was eager to improve ties with President Saddam Hussein despite his use of chemical weapons, newly declassified documents show...During that war, the United States secretly provided Iraq with combat planning assistance, even after Mr. Hussein's use of chemical weapons was widely known. The highly classified program involved more than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who shared intelligence on Iranian deployments, bomb-damage assessments and other crucial information with Iraq." (Rumsfeld Made Iraq Overture in '84 Despite Chemical Raids, By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS, Published: December 23, 2003, New York Times, NYTimes.com.)

In a strange case of 'delayed reaction,' not until fifteen years after the event did we realize Iraq's use of poison gas against Kurdish rebels in 1988 required us to invade that nation and depose its government. One can only hope no third world Rip van Winkles wake up and notice Hiroshima, or the fire-bombing of Dresden.

It is alleged that support for repressive regimes is the 'failed policy of the past.' To the contrary, it is the failed policy of the present. Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes in the world:

"Fahd and Abdullah rule by decree; there are no elections at any level...In Saudi Arabia, one must not criticize the royal family. Trials often are held in secret. Adultery and abandoning Islam are crimes punishable by beheading, and people given the death penalty often are not told their sentence until the execution itself....Saudi women may not drive. If they walk alone in the street, they risk being stopped, beaten or detained as suspected moral offenders." (Parade Magazine, The 10 Worst Living Dictators, February 16, 2003).

And these are our friends...



A New Birth of Colonialism


The flurry of misinformation at first thrown out by the Bush Administration prevented discussion of what kinds of war the people who carry the legacy of the American Revolution can prosecute. By persuading the American people that Saddam was behind 9/11, they made this war seem at first self-defense, like the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Then, by the pretense that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons, they excited public discussion of 'pre-emption.' In a war whose justifications shift daily, it is difficult to know what is basic, what after-the-fact improvisation. In the hearts of those to whom this war was most dear, these national security concerns were apparently for public show. This was a war for 'regime change.' Mr. Bush has made up his mind that the United States can only live at peace with states which are constituted just the same as we are, and is willing to send the U.S. military across international boundaries in order to make them so.

Republicans call this 'idealism,' but a survey of history turns up other leaders who were willing to invade sovereign nations in order to transform their social and political systems into duplicates of the aggressor nation's own. They have names like 'Hitler' and 'Mussolini.' This is not the American heritage.







L. Paul Bremer

Those of us old enough to recall colonialism's bloody death throes may be excused for thinking that system was gone for good. As its grown-up children told stories, not of all those lovely hospitals and clinics, but of humiliation and dispossession, the system had seemed discredited beyond revival. Yet in March of 2003, the United States invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, and proceeded to install, not an Iraqi client regime, but an American viceroy, L. Paul Bremer. How did this new birth of colonialism come into the world? By renaming colonialism 'freedom,' it would seem.

Mr. Bremer did not rule for long, but then neither did Caligula. On what basis did Mr. Bremer exercise authority at all, and why should the Iraqi people not put him on trial for usurpation? Did he rule by right of conquest?

The American Revolution

America itself has a revolutionary heritage. Though this material might be found subversive in George Bush's America, check it out:

If there ever was an emergency justifying the use of police state measures, it was the tenuous security situation faced by the Redcoats in the rebellious American colonies. Yet not only did patriots not believe the Redcoats had a right to employ these measures, they did not believe that anyone did. How times have changed!

Liberation of Iraq

Iraq, formerly under the boot of a socialist dictator, was liberated when U.S. tanks rolled through. So we were told. Not that repressive measures were a regrettable necessity at present but it was hoped someday the Iraqi people would be free; we were told that the Iraqi people had been freed. The very name of this military invasion was 'Iraqi Freedom.' What does the Bush administration understand 'freedom' and 'liberation' to mean? As seen above, 'freedom' as understood by the present administration bears a striking resemblance to those pre-Revolutionary conditions the Bill of Rights was written to correct.

Iraqis have not as yet been liberated from their vulnerability to unreasonable search and seizure, which continues unabated as American troops kick down their doors, searching for weapons. Though it's said that, no matter how humble a man's cottage, the King of England cannot enter without his permission, the same can never be said of the U.S. military.

As with the fourth, so with the first amendment. We have criminalized an otherwise popular political perspective, the secular socialism of the Baath party:

Clipping
Portland Press Herald, July 30, 2003

Throughout the Cold War, the Communist Party operated legally in the United States. There was no way consistent with the Bill of Rights of banning it. Popular or not, those Americans who preferred voting for Gus Hall enjoyed the right to do so. The same was not be the case for that segment of the Iraqi electorate which would have preferred to vote for a Baathist candidate. This disenfranchised group might be as high as ten percent: "Yet When L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American occupation authority, outlawed the party in May, some 2.5 million people, out of a total population of 25 million, were believed to be Baath Party members." (New York Times online, November 22, 2003). It could be even higher. Our early aversion to democratic elections reportedly stemmed from our fear that immediate elections would have been dominated by Baathists and Islamic militants. If these fears had any basis in reality, we 'liberated' Iraqis from the opportunity of voting for candidates who espouse their preferred political philosophies.

In this free land, Oliver Stone can make a movie implying that the C.I.A. did away with J.F.K. When I was a kid, the John Birch Society let it be known that fluoridating the water was a Communist conspiracy. Wild conspiracy scenarios go with the territory of a free society. But let al Hawsa conduct itself like the John Birch Society, and it gets padlocked. There is no freedom of the press if news outlets which publish reports deemed untrue by the government are padlocked.

Iraqis heard paeans to democracy long before they ever enjoyed democracy. Not only were Iraqis governed for more than a year by a man, L. Paul Bremer III, whom they never so much as elected dog-catcher, the man who governed them was not even a citizen of their country. He came to power riding upon the tank-treads of an invading army. Is there a less democratic way of coming to power? By what right did this man rule?

  • "The truth is the difficulty with Iraqis--their whining, their ethnic squabbling, their anti-Americanism--hasn't diverted Bremer from his relentless nation-building. He knows the Iraqi attitude problem can't be solved overnight."
  • (The Bumpy Road to Democracy in Iraq, April 5, 2004 issue, by Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard).

In a democracy, it is not the ruler's role to correct the people's "attitude problem," but rather to bow to the will of the people. The truth is the right wing simply does not share the conviction upon which this republic is founded, that the people are sovereign.

Nor have Iraqis yet been liberated from the cruel and unusual punishments favored by the prior regime. Our own soldiers have picked up some of the slack, humiliating suspects with blind-folds, sleep deprivation, and bizarre sexual torments not heretofore seen from occupying armies. The most odious aspect of Saddam's government was its practice of torture. The present Iraqi government continues the practice, televising public confessions, a ubiquitous feature of police states.

Nor is the 'liberated' Iraqi populace free to petition their government for redress of grievances:

"Tanks rolled out on to the streets of Tikrit Tuesday, as a message that the U.S. army would not tolerate shows of support for Saddam Hussein in the captured president's home town...'Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon,' Jaburi's voice said, according to an army interpreter. 'This is a fair warning.' Demonstrators risk a year in jail and, if they work for the state as civil servants or teachers, they will lose their jobs, the message said. All demonstrations are illegal in the U.S.-occupied province. 'They are not allowed to go around kissing pictures of Saddam in this city,' Russell said. 'It will not happen.'" ('Tanks Roll to Warn Tikritis Off Pro-Saddam Rallies,' December 16, 2003, by Robin Pomeroy, Reuters).

Our government exulted when the draft Iraqi constitution mentioned habeas corpus. Not that we felt bound to honor it, rather tossing suspects into Abu Ghraib prison and letting them rot there without being informed of the charges against them.

'Thought crimes' are one striking difference between totalitarian regimes and free societies. Our soldiers round up Iraqis based, not on overt acts, but on the content of reading material found in their homes, as this portly cleric discovered as he was arrested for possession of "anti-American propaganda":

"The living room, where another boy continued to sleep on the floor throughout the search, was lined with religious books and heaped with scores of cassette tapes, perhaps of the detained man's speeches. Marines boxed those up and took them away.

"Marines found some large colored stickers, with a distinctly insurgent montage: They showed a map of Iraq with a skull and crossbones inside, a masked insurgent with weapons on top, and below, caskets draped with American flags going up in flames.

"I got anti-American propaganda in there," an intelligence officer reported to his superiors, after stepping outside. No weapons were found." (Christian Science Monitor, October 6, 2004, 'Latest front for US forces: rural Iraq,' by Scott Peterson).

How long will American liberty survive after the repatriation of a generation of American soldiers who have been taught that this suite of measures, historically employed by repressive regimes to maintain their grip on power, is precisely what constitutes 'freedom'?

Come to think of it, the present administration is in the process of 'liberating' Americans from these very same constitutional restraints, via the misnamed 'Patriot Act.' Patrick Henry said 'Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.' Today's 'patriots' have upended this to 'Give me security and I'll happily trade you back my liberty, if only my sweet life may go on.' Though domestically their equation of dissent with treason has not yet been made to 'stick,' in Iraq they are already shutting down the free press:

"The U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Iraq announced on Monday it was taking legal action against Dubai-based Arabic news channel Al Arabiya, accusing it of inciting violence, and sent police to its Baghdad bureau to shut it down.

"The move was ordered by Jalal Talabani, the president of the Council, and comes days after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld complained that Arabiya and Qatar-based Al Jazeera were openly hostile to America and their bias should be countered." (Reuters, "Heavy U.S. Security in Iraq as Ramadan Ends," November 24, 2003.)

It's like the old Soviet "joke about the American tourist who boasted to a Russian, 'We have freedom of speech. I can go out on the street and criticize Nixon all I want.' Whereupon the Russian replied, 'We also have freedom of speech. I can go out on the street and criticize Nixon all I want, too.'" (Hedrick Smith, The Russians, p. 259). Iraqis have now been set free to criticize Saddam. They are not, however, at liberty to praise him, nor to criticize their liberators.

Parallels

Our government openly draws a parallel between Iraq under American occupation and occupied Japan and Germany in the aftermath of World War II. This parallel is apt. Those two nations were defeated, not liberated. Liberated nations like France require no lengthy occupation to regain control of their own affairs.

This analogy was followed through in detail: "On March 17, 2003, two days before the war began, ground force commanders asked the Army War College for a copy of the handbook that had governed the U.S. occupation of postwar Germany, which began in 1945." ('Post-war planning non-existent,' October 17, 2004, by Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Knight Ridder Newspapers.)

The Caucus

It is disheartening to realize that the best things which have happened in Iraq happened in spite of our best efforts, not because of them. Democratic elections for the national assembly were not our choice; we wanted caucuses. American readers hear this phrase and think of the 'Iowa Caucus;' but this is misleading, because the Iowa Caucuses are open to all comers, which was not the plan in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani put his foot down and forced us to hold elections, which were, as the event shows, by no means impossible. At the height of the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson held elections in South Vietnam. If the State of California can hold recall elections on short notice, why not Iraq? While one cannot bar repeat voters altogether either in Cook County or in the third world, certainly any elected government is preferable to unelected tyranny, whether the tyrant is named 'Saddam' or 'L. Paul.' So why did more than a year of American occupation elapse before Iraq was governed by an Iraqi national, and even longer before the people were permitted to vote? General Jay Garner reportedly wanted immediate elections:

"Jay Garner, the US general abruptly dismissed as Iraq's first occupation administrator after a month in the job, says he fell out with the Bush circle because he wanted free elections and rejected an imposed programme of privatization. In an interview to be broadcast on BBC Newsnight tonight, he says: "My preference was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can, and do it with some form of elections ... I just thought it was necessary to rapidly get the Iraqis in charge of their destiny."" ('General sacked by Bush says he wanted early elections,' David Leigh, Thursday March 18, 2004, The Guardian)

The U.S. invaded this sovereign nation in order to impose democracy, but then developed a strange allergy to democracy. Instead of holding prompt elections, Viceroy Bremer proposed a complex caucus scheme. This caucus, unlike the 'Iowa Caucus,' was not open to all comers. Rather, the intent of the plan was to disenfranchise huge swaths of the Iraqi public. The proposal was not democracy but rather oligarchy, restricted to participants many of whom were to be hand-picked by a foreign occupying power. But no one 'bought it,' and we ended up installing, without benefit of elections, caucuses, or any show of popular support, Iyad Allawi, whose principal qualification for the job was having been bankrolled by the C.I.A. for many years. This gentleman's list received 14 percent of the vote in the recent elections. No doubt the Bush administration spin doctors saw vindication in this proof that Mr. Allawi did have some popular support, just as they have claimed credit for an election they did not want.

If the United States had done as General Garner wanted and held immediate elections, I wonder if we would have 'gotten away' with this military adventure? Perhaps the insurgency could not have gathered steam. War, as a rule, seeks to achieve political goals; a war where the only intent is to hold elections is a new thing in the world. Unfortunately we will never know.

Twists and Turns

As Viceroy Bremer kept the lid on his restive native populace, the slide show began of ever-shifting justifications for the war. First we were told, and even given a bill of freight measuring tons and liters, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Then that was corrected to "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." Later it turned out Iraq has not possessed even chemical weapons since the early 1990's. Moreover the frightful allegation was levelled that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. No credible evidence was ever brought forward to substantiate this accusation. Later, in his debate with Senator Edwards, Mr. Cheney denied that the administration had even made the accusation, though they certainly had, and had even convinced the American people of it.

Without missing a beat they went on to the next rationale: that this war was a magnificent quest to bring democracy to Iraq. Except subsequently it turned out -- what a surprise -- that the Iraqis were not 'ready' for democracy; thus, the caucus.

This is a familiar refrain to those who remember when much of the third world was ruled by Britain and other colonial powers. This was their common complaint: 'Much as we would love to establish democracy, the locals are not quite ready for it.' To judge by published comments of our occupying authority officials, America 'caught' this aversion to democracy in the usual way: we feared that if immediate elections were held, we would not like the winners, whom we predicted would be either the same Baath party from whom we liberated the country, or Islamic extremists. . .like the ones who crashed planes into the World Trade Center. It would be difficult to explain to the American public why American blood was spilt to hand the nation over from a secular socialist dictator to Ayatollah al-Sistani, when neither viewpoint resonates with the American experience.

But at some point the child who puzzled over the Emperor's new clothes began to wonder why, if we invaded Iraq in order to establish democracy, the people were not allowed to vote. So vote they did. . .for Ayatollah al-Sistani, as predicted. What went unremarked is that actions that made sense under one rationale for the war made none under the other. If we had been attacked by Iraq as we pretended, imposing Viceroy Bremer upon them is naught but the fortunes of war. The Japanese had to put up with MacArthur, after all. But we were not attacked, we attacked. Never mind, the war was a crusade for democracy...but Viceroy Bremer was not elected!

Utilitarianism

"And why not say, 'Let us do evil that good may come'?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just." (Romans 3:8).

Administration supporter William Kristol employs the moral philosophy of utilitarianism to justify this invasion: "'Ultimately, events will matter most. . .' he said. 'If Iraq is pretty stable and democratic and things are improving noticeably in the Middle East, that will be the fundamental judgment of the war.'" (Dan Balz and Richard Morin, '2 Years After Invasion, Poll Data Mixed,' Washington Post, March 16, 2005). By the administration's moral calculus, the victor is always right: "'Everything will be measured by results,' [Karl] Rove had said. 'The victor is always right.'" (Bush at War, Bob Woodward, p. 338).

In other words, the end justifies the means. This moral philosophy is, however, forbidden to Christians. Those who advance this philosophy claim the ability to predict the consequences of their actions, an ability scripture explicitly denies to man: "...whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow." (James 4:14). Beyond that, the claim that we should do evil in order that good may come leaves God out of the equation. As the Bible teaches, God in His providential governance of the world punishes evil and rewards good. As Job noticed, God's justice does not work out on a one-to-one basis in this world, but even the pagans noticed a tendency in this life for the arrogant to fall. While they erred in ascribing plurality to the Godhead, experience does bear out the pagans' empirical observation: "You princes, mark well this punishment you also; for the deathless gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress their fellows with crooked judgments, and reck not the anger of the gods....He does mischief to himself who does mischief to another, and evil planned harms the plotter most." (Hesiod, Works and Days).

This is what is wrong with the utilitarian equation. When we propose to do something wrong in itself, namely unprovoked military aggression, in the expectation that something good, namely democracy in Iraq, will come of it, we omit to notice that there is a God in heaven who is working day and night to bring down the wicked and lift up the innocent. That the wicked do their injustice in hopes that good will come of it does not stay God's hand. If good does come of it, it will not come to us.

The good that was sought, and was imagined to justify the wrong, flees away. As of this writing, it is a criminal offense to insult or ridicule Mr. Maliki's government. And death squads operate out of the Interior Ministry, torturing and killing. Civil rights are suspended under a continuing state of emergency. Perhaps this is Iraqi-style democracy...or perhaps it is a police state. 

"It is the usual though inequitable method of the world, to pronounce an action to be either right or wrong, as it is attended with good or ill success; in consequence of which you shall hear the very same conduct attributed at different times to zeal or folly, to independence or insanity." (Pliny the Younger, Letters, Book Five, Letter 9).

Atheist Sam Harris has written a book reviving the nineteenth-century ethical system of Utilitarianism. This is the ethical philosophy which undergirds all the killing fields of the twentieth century:




The War on Terror


We are currently engaged in a war against terror, we are told. This is grammatically more of the nature of a war against 'inefficiency,' say, than a war against 'Spain,' because 'terror' is not a nation state against which war can be waged, nor a network of organizations which cooperate or acknowledge one another's causes. Decimating the Irish Republican Army would not cripple the Basque separatists nor inconvenience the Shining Path, who may have never so much as heard of other, more obscure groups who employ the same tactic.

In fact both sides in a conflict may employ terror. Shlomo ben Yosef of the Irgun shoots at an Arab bus hoping to secure gains for Jewish nationalists in Israel, and Hamas blows up buses to roll them back. Baruch Goldstein slaughtered Muslims praying in a mosque, Muslim fanatics return the favor. Meir Kahane's Kach party is labelled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, and so is Hamas; one fights for Zionism, the other against. The 'war on terror' enters the fray on which side?

The War on Iraq has been categorized as a front in the War on Terror in order to harness public outrage at the mass murder of September 11th. The Bush Administration did not shrink from publishing the blood libel that Iraq was behind this crime, though they knew it wasn't so. In a case of poetic justice, the war they started soon began to shade into the War on Terror, albeit as a defeat, not a victory. As we destabilized Iraq, terrorist groups began to emerge, much as they had in the failed state of Afghanistan under similar circumstances of anarchy and governmental impotence. The Geneva Convention commands an occupying power to ensure law and order; this we never did, nor evidently ever intended to do. But the anarchy that ensued proved a fertile breeding ground for terror, just as before. Moreover, the triumph of this invasion,-- the elections just held,-- have removed Iraq from the column of nations governed under secular principles and placed it under the column of nations, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, governed under Islamist principles. This was a great victory for Islamic fundamentalism, of the same tendency though of a different sect than that which brought down the towers.









Aid and Comfort

During the elder Bush's presidency, the U.S. fought its first war against Iraq. Saddam Hussein was not at that time any threat to the United States; rather, he was a threat to our great friend and ally, Saudi Arabia. The rabble-rousing Saddam stirred up the Arab masses to resentment that Arabia's vast oil wealth was in the hands of one corrupt, pleasure-loving family; albeit a very sizeable family, sizeable as only a polygamous clan can be. It's commonly felt among Arabs that the Arabic-speaking peoples are one nation; why, then, should this immense wealth belong, unearned, to one small clan? Having rolled over the unelected, undemocratic Emir of Kuwait, few could doubt the unelected, undemocratic Saudi royals were next in his gun-sights.

Some, such as Osama bin Laden, suggested that the Saudis should defend themselves. It is, after all, not unheard of for a nation to defend itself. But men in that culture do not care to dirty their hands with manual labor; so in stepped the first Bush administration, and grandly offered the services of the U.S. military. . . for a fee. They volunteered the services of this world-class mercenary force under the most extraordinary conditions: realizing it offended Saudi sensibilities to see Christianity being practiced, U.S. soldiers were forbidden to practice this religion while stationed on Saudi soil. The 'alliance' between a token, symbolic Saudi force and an immense American force beat Iraq back, and all was well.

Or was it? Wedding guests might be excused for wondering how long this unlikely marriage between such incompatible spouses could be expected to last. The U.S. is a democracy whose majority Christian population respects the free exercise of minority religions, while the Saudis tolerate neither political dissent nor the practice of religions other than Islam. Neighbors overhead dish-smashing incidents, such as that in which Osama bin Laden, scion of a wealthy and politically connected Saudi family, inspired a number of his compatriots to smash airplanes into the World Trade Center. Neighbors may have wondered, Can this marriage be saved?

What was the American response to this attack by native sons of the world's largest financial sponsor of Islamic fundamentalism? Why, we fired up our engines and...fought the first Gulf War all over again. We could see that our Saudi husband was mad at us. Maybe he would take us back if we finished Saddam off this time. Saddam was, after all, their principal enemy in the world. Not only did Saddam never impose sharia on his people (the system of Islamic law under which subjects of Islamic fundamentalist states like Saudi Arabia are punished for theft by amputation), he even permitted the free exercise of religions other than Islam!

So we put that bad guy in jail, but our Saudi spouse still sulked. We bowed to Osama bin Laden's principal demand and withdrew our troops from sacred Saudi soil. Did we hope they'd like us better if we did as we were told?

It's strange to run into Bush supporters in the supermarket and hear them explain that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States because he is an Islamic fundamentalist. In fact the secular socialist Saddam Hussein became an adversary to the United States because he threatened America's Islamic fundamentalist ally, Saudi Arabia. While the royals themselves live the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the legitimacy of their rule rests upon their support of a particularly fanatical brand of Islamic fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism, as 9/11 demonstrated, is a standing threat to the safety and security of the American public. Although President Reagan and the first President Bush believed we could befriend the Islamic fundamentalists, even funding their efforts in Afghanistan, events have shown this perspective to be naive.

So why did we respond to 9/11 by fighting the first Gulf War all over again? Looking for a rational answer assumes that our president is motivated by rational concerns. But our president is a deeply irrational man who differentiates between right and wrong not by adhering to abstract moral principles, such as 'it is wrong to start a war,' but by hating particular individuals whom he deems 'evil.' In the 'permissive' environment provided by a 200-million plus lynch mob, personal hatred on the part of one individual has led to the loss of tens of thousands of human lives...along with a new Iraq in which Ayatollah al-Sistani is king-maker.

In His Image

Saddam Hussein was always a cruel man. He crushed two rebellions against his rule: one by Kurdish separatists, one by Shiite theocrats, with such wanton disregard for human life as to shock the conscience of the world. And his regime was well-known to practice torture.

It used to be that the United States did not practice torture. In fact, we once were the leading champion of human rights in the world. Then Mr. Bush came to power. His then-legal advisor, now Attorney-General, drafted a memo explaining that the U.S. President, in his pursuit of national security, is not bound by treaty, statute, nor indeed by the U.S. Constitution,-- a legal argument that would have fully justified the Latin American commandantes' 'Dirty War.' U.S. troops were instructed to deprive untalkative detainees of food, water, light, clothing, sleep. Mr. Bush legalized 'water-boarding,' a form of simulated drowning favored by Torquemada. With mind-boggling hypocrisy, Mr. Bush professed concern for Saddam's torture victims, even as he instructed U.S. forces to produce their own. After Mr. Bush's remaking of our country into Saddam's image, no doubt the response the next time we speak out against torture will be peals of laughter. A light in this world has been extinguished.

Pedagogy

"At that time [September 11th] I thought the American people would understand that people were angry against them and they would change their policy. But it was the opposite, they started fighting people in Afghanistan and Iraq." (Ahmed Khalid, near eastern student, quoted in Portland Press Herald of September 9th, 2003.)

See? Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle are not alone in perceiving violence as an instructional tool. Yet for all its persistence, violence remains a pedagogue haranguing a classroom of sulky, inattentive scholars. Violence excites atavistic urges to defend the hearth, the young. It breeds undying animosities. It sets up a cycle of atrocity and revenge. Foreign troops in the public square are the patriot's call to arms. In the third world, technologically advanced Western armies surging across the border re-opens the raw and festering wound of colonialism; the humiliating paternalism of that newly popular retro world order rubs salt into the wounded pride of ancient civilizations. As the Lord said,

"Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26:52).

For all its spectacular failures: did we, after all, learn the lesson from September 11th that we should not support Israel? -- the delusion that violence is an effective pedagogical tool continues to drive U.S. policy.

Deja Vu

In the weeks and months following 9/11, President Bush was careful to explain that our enemy was not Islam, but evil. Readers from abroad might thus be surprised to discover the frankness with which supporters of this still very popular war are willing to finger the enemy as...Islam. Not a particular politico-religious movement, namely Islamic fundamentalism, but rather just...Islam. To its supporters, our invasion of Iraq bears the same relation to 9/11 as did our war in the Pacific to Pearl Harbor:

"Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were similar, both involving dastardly sneak attacks with comparable casualties. We went to war after Pearl Harbor and, after 9/11, we had in office a red-blooded all-American president who did likewise.

"Let's get behind our president, show a united front and win this war the enemy started..." (Letters to the Editor, Portland Press Herald, Tuesday, November 18, 2003).

Given that no Iraqi nationals were numbered among the hijackers that fateful day, who is "the enemy" referenced? Many Americans will tell you with no hesitation that "the enemy" is Islam, including this Christian 'minister':

==================== begin quote =====================
> > "So what is new, Islam justifies its war on
> > the USA and praised those that
> > flew planes into the WTC, then they of Isalm
> > [sic] started this war, so why do you
> > act like it is not a justified war, it sure is
> > against Christians and
> > Americans...The Muslism [sic] have long ago
> > decaired [sic] a "holy war"
> > on the USA, so tell them to STOP!"

===================== end quote =====================

(quoted from Usenet post 3/9/2003. This has happened before:

"It is the imminent peril threatening you and all the faithful which has brought us hither. From the confines of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth...an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God...has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire."
[...] As Urban ended, a roar rose from the multitude: 'Deus vult! Deus vult!' (God wills it!)." (Age of Faith, pp. 54-55).

There's no reason to disbelieve the Turks of the day committed atrocities against their subject civilian populace. The gruesome tale of rape, mutilation and torture Urban related recalls well-documented events which unfold even today, nobody's fantasy. But as today, the opportunity existed to define "the enemy" narrowly and judiciously. Al Qaeda is, after all, a criminal gang unable to operate in the light of day in most Muslim lands; why is it any more representative of 'Islam' than Jim Jones or David Koresh of Christianity? On Urban's watch that opportunity was passed by, as Christendom entered into a state of total war with Islam.

America's initial response to 9/11 was rational, measured and just, as we went after al Qaeda, the perpetrators of that crime against humanity, and those who gave them sanctuary. But then we rolled our tanks across the borders of a sovereign nation, Iraq, which bore no responsibility for 9/11, and announced it as another front in the same war. What is the common thread? Many in the Muslim world have come to the same conclusion as the Bush supporters quoted above: that the United States has defined our enemy as the Muslim world and intend our blitzkrieg against an uninvolved 9/11 bystander as exemplary punishment so that 'they' will not try it again.

The Terror

'Terrorism' is a term that goes back to the French Revolution. Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology; contrary to rhetoric, there is not nor ever has been an armed band that fights in the 'cause' of terror, any more than the brave airmen who dropped firebombs on the German city of Dresden fought for fire. Rather, it is perceived as a means to an end. Contrary to rhetoric, attacks by inhabitants of occupied lands against invading armies do not constitute 'terrorism,' because,

"The State Department defines terrorism as 'premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.'" (Terrorism, Questions and Answers, Council on Foreign Relations).

Categorizing nations, not by the traditional criteria of alliance, ideology, or common interest, but rather by their supposed employment of this tactic, results in illogical and incoherent policy, such as responding to an attack on America by Islamic fundamentalists with a "counter-attack" against a secular, socialist state uninvolved in the attack.

While there have been many acts of terror committed in occupied Iraq, attacks upon military personnel do not fall into that category. Because the immunity of non-combatants is a hard-fought gain on the long crawl up from barbarism, those who value civilization must do all in their power to ensure that terrorism is not a successful tactic.

Herein lies the Bush administration's most dangerous failure. Osama bin Laden's primary demand was the withdrawal of American troops from Saudi Arabia's 'sacred' soil, and this demand has already been crowned with success:


  Sayyid Qutb

  Is Killing Non-Combatants Islamic?

  Democracy and Islam

  Brother Muslim

  Legitimacy

  War of All Against All

  The Devil's Due

  What Do They Want?

  Appeasement

  The Moral Landscape

  Geneva Convention

  A Christian Terrorist?




Up the Ante

The 'war on terror' as prosecuted by the present administration might be more accurately labelled as the 'war to up the ante on terror.' It is a tenet of Islam that all Muslims must answer the call to arms if Islam itself is under attack. It is unclear why we found it in our interest to transform a fight against a private army numbering in the thousands into a war against one billion Muslims. We had the opportunity, after September the 11th yielded an outpouring of sympathy and indignation in the Muslim world, to stigmatize this tactic and marginalize those groups which practice it. Instead we invaded a country which had nothing to do with 9/11 but happens to be somewhere in the general vicinity. Our nation faces a very real threat from ruthless zealots who would destroy us. Instead of meeting this threat, we churn out photo-ops of U.S. soldiers kicking in people's doors as mom, dad and the kids cower in the corner. Much as these photos delight Mr. Bush's constituency, they are tailor-made terrorist recruitment posters. The result as shown in public opinion polls:

"While most Arabs speak favorably on such topics as America's democratic and educational systems, they're virtually united in condemnation of the US invasion of Iraq. The Zogby poll found no more than 4 percent support for the war." (Christian Science Monitor, September 02, 2004, Dan Murphy, 'US standing with Arabs hits a low.')

One might say you can't pay for public relations like this, except you can pay: billions and billions, enough to bankrupt generations to come...

The War Against Dive Bombing

Imagine what would have happened had this crew been in office for Pearl Harbor. If we had targeted our counter-attack against the means employed by the Japanese in their attack, we would have proclaimed a 'War Against Dive Bombing,' and proceeded to invade England, which also employed dive-bombing. We would then have agonized over the lack of progress in our 'War Against Dive Bombing,' as the tactic of fighting simultaneously two mortal enemies failed to achieve victory. But in those days we were governed rationally, so we counter-attacked against the people who attacked us, their allies and ideological partners, an approach by which it is possible to achieve victory.

In fact this approach,-- to fight against the tactic, whoever employs it and for whatever ends,-- is so irrational that I don't believe it has been entertained for other than public consumption. After 9/11, the public demanded a war against those who had brought down the twin towers. Mr. Bush wanted a war, not against those who had brought down the twin towers, but against his father's old adversary, Saddam Hussein. The remedy found by this administration was bait-and-switch, by means of the 'War Against Terror.' Iraq was not allied with the Islamic fundamentalists who brought down the twin towers nor was it in sympathy with their program; Iraq was, however, listed on the State Department's terrorism list. This was how the public was induced to accept the war Mr. Bush wanted in place of the war they wanted.

Germany in the 30's

The present epoch in American history is reminiscent of the 1930's in Germany. A public disgusted and appalled at the blood left on the pavement by terrorist atrocities adopts as the course of safety a roll-back of domestic liberties and a program of military aggression abroad. There is no safety down this road, but that part of the story has yet to unfold.

Like contemporary Americans, the Germans of the 1930's saw themselves as a virtuous people because they remembered a virtuous past for their country. Any who drew back from the criminal course upon which the nation's leaders proposed to embark were accused of dishonoring these ancestors...who had not been criminals. If these same virtuous ancestors, in horror at the crimes committed in their name, struggled with might and main to lift themselves out of the grave, they fell helplessly and lifelessly back, as the criminals went right on committing crimes in the name of honest men.

The Germans of the 1930's were not green-eyed monsters, but people like us. Like George W. Bush, Adolf Hitler charted a new course for his country. One cannot cloak oneself in the virtues of one's ancestors if one does not do as they did. America never used to be a military aggressor nor a colonial master; but that was then, this is now.

Like most nations, Germany never enjoyed the luxury of oceans on either side. If America's oceans have ceased their long service as moats, this only places our country in the same situation as other nations of the world. On Germany's borders were perched hostile or potentially hostile neighbors. Were Germany to invade Poland and install a friendly client regime, this would undoubtedly enhance German national security, because an invader from the east would need to traverse Poland. This is 'pre-emption.' But how can Germany's national security needs possibly trump the legitimate national aspirations of the Polish people? Don't the Poles have rights, too?

The terrorists who bedeviled Germany in the 30's were Bolsheviks and anarchists, not Islamic fundamentalists. By transforming their democracy into a police state, the Germans did reduce this threat. It's strange that while, domestically, the Bush administration makes America less of a democracy and more of a police state to combat terrorism, their anti-terror prescription for the Middle East is to tear down police states in favor of democracy. Establishing democracy by force is a contradiction in terms; it remains to be seen whether a fatal contradiction. Combating terrorism is an arena in which police states shine. Eye-balled by an informer on every street-corner, terrorists cannot operate, but in an open society, a Ted Kaczynski or a Timothy McVeigh can go about their business, purchasing what they need without anyone noticing. The Bush administration also prescribes prosperity as cure for terror, though the fabulously wealthy Osama bin Laden encountered no difficulty in recruiting the 9/11 hijackers from affluent Saudi Arabia.

Sons of liberty, who know that liberty is worth dying for, also know that it is worth enduring risks for. Craven disloyalty seeks to purchase security by trading away freedom. Freedom and democracy are goods in themselves, not good because they stop terror, which they seem not to do. The European democracies endure domestic terror problems. Democratic Japan suffered a nerve gas attack by a home-grown religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Forced democratization cannot be the answer to mideast terror.

Again, the Germans did not know what they were capable of until they tried the experiment. Atrocities happen when soldiers operate in the midst of a hostile populace, such as at My Lai, South Vietnam. The soldiers see their friends die and know the locals could stop it if they cared. The Bush administration tells us that evil people like Saddam do such things and good people do not. In Mr. Bush's ethics, the good people are then set free to do the very same things which the evil people did to earn themselves the label 'evil,' because, you see, they are good and not evil.

But people are people, and we have placed our soldiers on the street where only about a third of the Arab populace supports them. The result: "'Day by day I dislike these people more and more.'" (Testimony by U.S. soldier, quoted in 'Soldiers' Testimony Raises Questions Over U.S. Report,' Thursday, March 25, 2004 7:26 a.m. ET, by Andrew Marshall.) Already U.S. troops in Iraq have reportedly fired upon unarmed demonstrators, though a public callused into brutality by 9/11 does not care. How long will it take before such an incident is caught on videotape, with the whole world watching?

The best prevention is to forego military aggression. Foreign troops policing a sullen local populace is a combustible mix. The Germans found this out the hard way, why can we not learn from their experience instead of replicating it?

Update: the inevitable has happened, with the lurid photo-show from Abu Ghraib finally catching the eye of a jaded American public. This is a new low: to my knowledge, not even the Nazis sexually humiliated helpless prisoners. How did it happen? Anyone with a passing awareness of popular culture cannot be unaware that a sizeable market share of American youth have the personal morals of farm animals; TV shows like 'Friends' depict this behavior as natural and fun. Take young people steeped in such a culture and put them in a position of absolute power over other human beings, in a lawless environment where their President jokes about the extra-judicial murder of 'terrorists,' and the results set a new low standard for occupying armies.

Best Laid Plans

After invading Iraq, the Bush Administration succeeded in creating a public climate in which any discussion of the morality of invading other nations was portrayed as an attack upon the personal integrity of our soldier boys. In consequence there sprang up a public debate which focused not on the right or wrong of invading other people's countries, but on...planning. It is as though after invading Poland, the Germans had pondered whether, if they'd nailed down the details more precisely, the Poles would have looked happier. Cortes himself could scarcely have plotted our blitzkrieg through Iraq any more rapidly; the glum faces on the inhabitants of occupied lands are a sad fact of life to which aggressors must resign themselves. They cannot be eliminated by 'planning.' One hopes the administration does not launch a 'war on crime' next, or they'll be explaining how, by better planning, muggers can ensure happier and more contented victims.

One must concede wishful thinking: "But part of our plans said, you know, they'll surrender like they did in the first Gulf War." (Jay Garner, quoted p. 2A, Portland Press Herald, November 27, 2003). But in the first Gulf War the Iraqis played the American role this time; they were invading foreign soil, not defending home and hearth. And this is what soldiers fight for: not Bush, not Clinton, not Roosevelt, not a hated dictator, but their country. Is it possible that we pay as much as we do in taxes to accept delivery on this war 'plan'?: 'The other side will just give up.'

As the twentieth century amply demonstrated, colonialism is unpopular. Plan it never so well, with British precision even, and it will still be unpopular. Suggestions made by the Proper Planning Contingent include: more soldiers. Certainly had the U.S. ever taken seriously its obligation, as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention, to provide law and order to its subject populace, it would have committed more troops at the outset. But remember, they were supposed to greet us by dancing in the streets. How many troops do you need to police a street party? Committing more troops would have stuffed a sock in the mouths of the 'dancing in the street' voices, politically needed to win the acquiescence of that portion of the American public which still wants to do the right thing. Another suggestion: don't disband Saddam's army. But our present, hand-picked, Iraqi army displays doubtful loyalty; would Saddam's army have been any other than a hot-bed of subversion?

After the first Gulf War, the conventional wisdom took hold amongst the Rush Limbaugh crowd that we should have gone on to Baghdad and 'taken out' Saddam. Had we done so in real life, we'd have landed in much the same quagmire as we now find ourselves; but an imaginary war costs nothing. No doubt this consensus facilitated the younger Bush's transforming his personal hatred into an American war. One cannot fail to notice this hatred, in the unholy glee with which Mr. Bush describes Saddam's submission to an examination for head lice, evidently the depths of humiliation in this prissy little person's eyes. This hatred is so blinding that the human life he must expend to satiate it counts for nothing in his eyes.

  • "'F___ Saddam. we're taking him out.' Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice...The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile."
  • (First Stop, Iraq, by Michael Elliott and James Carney, March 24, 2003, CNN.com).

Contrast Mr. Bush's obvious hatred for Saddam with his unfeigned indifference toward Osama bin Laden -- at one point he even said he was not concerned about him, even though Mr. bin Laden murdered three thousand of Mr. Bush's fellow citizens. Whether this personal hatred arose from an Oedipal agenda of showing he's tougher than his Dad, or loyalty to his Dad who was once targeted by Saddam's assassins, or by the bigot's inability to get through life without a scape-goat on whom to project all evil, the dangerous illusions of the arm-chair generals facilitated its expression, at the cost so far of one thousand American lives. It would be a shame if a similar illusion took hold this time, with the American public left believing that we really can get away with invading a hostile third world country and installing an American governing proconsul, provided only that we a.) do not disband the army, or b.) commit an extra 100,000 troops, or whatever bright idea comes to mind. It's intrinsic in the nature of military aggression that its victims resent it.

Weakness Invites Aggression

History reveals that weakness invites aggression. The murderer who brought down the World Trade Center is Osama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein. This man still enjoys his liberty. His number one stated concern was the presence of American troops on 'sacred' Saudi soil. Under what shocking conditions were those troops sent to serve by Bush Sr., a man who himself claims to be a Christian?:

"Saudi Arabia does not permit the worship of any faith except Islam on its own soil. The prohibition was not officially suspended even during the Gulf war. Although Americans were preparing to fight, and perhaps die, for Saudi Arabia, they were not permitted to post pictures of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, or, for some reason, Adam and Eve. According to instructions from the U.S. Army distributed over Christmas shortly before the war, American soldiers were not allowed to display crosses, Jewish stars, or any other non-Islamic religious symbols. They were not permitted to hold Christian or Jewish services on Saudi soil. They were even ordered not to play Christmas carols unless they were instrumental. 'Jingle Bells' was 'acceptable,' the leaflet said." (Judith Miller, God has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 491)

One cannot help but be struck at the message this sends to a religiously-motivated adversary. While Christianity is a religion of the heart, there are many overt actions that go along with its practice, such as communion, ordered by the Lord Himself: "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19). But this was forbidden to our soldiers serving in Saudi Arabia. Unlike Muslims, Christians are not permitted to dissemble in the face of persecution: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33).

While the Koran also tells the Christmas story, the forbidden Christmas carols uphold the deity of Jesus Christ:

Christmas Carols

Christian martyrs in the past have died rather than renounce their faith. No tyrant could stop their singing praises to the incarnate Lord. A religiously-motivated adversary like the Saudi bin Laden cannot have concluded any other from this disgraceful chapter in American history than that those Americans who identify themselves as 'Christian' are no more than nominal adherents who will cheerfully deny their faith if instructed to do so by their Commander in Chief. It is unclear, incidentally, how this state of affairs co-existed with a Bill of Rights that requires the U.S. government to respect the free exercise of religion on the part of its citizenry.

Rational Expectations

The Bush Administration's incisive analysis of world affairs revolves around identifying other world leaders as 'madmen.' Should further clarification be desired, it is explained that they are 'evil.' Meanwhile these same 'madmen' cannot understand why the United States consistently supports those who would destroy it:

"The bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, he said, was a bad omen for American. The Islamists' militancy 'is coming home to destroy the country that adopted them.'...'But what did you expect? You funded Islamic militants in Afghanistan and all over the world and then were surprised when they turned on you,' he [Muammar Qaddafi] said, shaking his head sadly. 'You brought it on yourselves.' (Judith Miller, God has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 239)

Qaddafi's claim is, not madness, but the astonishing truth: the Reagan administration did indeed fund the same Islamic extremists who, having brought down one superpower, have now turned their attention to the other. Another 'madman' who doesn't 'get it':

"In Hussein's view, the U.S. priority in the region was to ensure that Iran's Islamic Revolution did not spread to other nations and give radical Shiite clerics a chokehold on global oil supplies." (Through Hussein's Looking Glass, LA Times, Bob Drogin, Tuesday, October 12, 2004).

Saddam, a secular leftist, must be bewildered that the United States "counter-attacked" against his nation after an assault on the American homeland by Islamic fundamentalists. The Baath party, one of whose founders was a Greek Orthodox Christian, is not an Islamic party but determinedly secular. While leftists like Qaddafi and Hussein may once have represented a threat to America as part of the Soviet bloc, the collapse of their patron leaves them as feeble threats indeed. During his decades as tyrant, Saddam could have imposed Sharia at any time, had he believed in it. The 'madman' Saddam must wonder why his secular nation was made to pay the toll for acts committed by Islamic extremists. Why was Saddam demonized as a butcher for having killed Moqtada al-Sadr's father, while we do all in our power to kill the son? One cannot expect a 'madman' to understand such things...or perhaps only a 'madman' can.

Great Robberies

"Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, 'What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet are styled emperor.'" (Augustine, City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4).

Gazing over the whole canvas of U.S. relations with the Middle East, from our active support of tyrants like the Shah of Iran and the Saudi royal family over and against their pro-democracy domestic opponents, to our latest proclamation of a pro-democracy crusade propelled by armed invasion, one searches for a common thread. Why have we promoted both autocracy and democracy, two forms of government at opposite ends of the spectrum? One cannot help but notice our insatiable thirst for oil. It is not our oil.

This war began with grandiose neoconservative plans to 'privatize' Iraq's socialist economy. Socialism failed, and it fell because it failed; other socialist economies have voluntarily undergone privatization. Our brave new world dawns upon the first socialist economy privatized via foreign conquest. Depending on who sets the rules, the privatization of a socialist economy can mean windfall profits for those politically well-connected. Like Vikings planning a raid, those who first proposed this war meant it as a bonanza for the U.S. oil industry. Had this war gone according to plan, it would have brought in its train a return to the pre-1970's oil economy, with American corporations controlling a stake in the pool of oil that sits under the mideast. The Geneva Convention outlaws an occupying power's sale of state assets; but to judge from published reports, the law was no hindrance to this crew. However, continuing violence rendered the assets unsaleable.

If we invade another nation in order to maintain our 'standard of living,' how do we differ from any common mugger or bank robber, who kills in order to maintain his standard of living? God has spoken on this matter: "Thou shalt not steal." (Exodus 20:15).

Is it greed which motivates Mr. Bush personally? Although he rose to public prominence on a tide of Enron cash, he seems not to remember his old friends. Does he remember the Saudi patrons who have been so lavishly generous to his family? To be truly corrupt, one must also be grateful; is the amoral Mr. Bush capable of gratitude? Nevertheless, no objective history of U.S. policy in the region can account for our embrace of the Saudi royal family without mentioning 'oil,' and it was our embrace of the Saudi royal family which set us at enmity with Iraq in the first place. Christian voters should understand, even if others do not, that killing people to take their stuff is not right.



Destroy the Village


The news nowadays has a familiar ring to those of us old enough to recall the long and agonizing U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Let me be clear that in no way do I wish to besmirch the honor of those brave men who served in Vietnam; alongside the parallels, there is one monumental difference between that conflict and the present one: we never invaded Vietnam. The war in Vietnam did not begin with unprovoked military aggression on our part; rather, our troops entered by invitation of the government of the Republic of South Vietnam, a then-sovereign nation. But the striking difference at the start begins to fade into a sense of deja vu all over again:







Destroy the Village

Vietnam:

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Iraq:

"The November offensive had to root out terrorists who hid in homes and ambushed American-led forces as they searched darkened houses. Several dozen Americans died, and the Americans turned to overwhelming firepower to end the battle. Hardly a street or home was spared damage, and some blocks were obliterated.

"Lt. Sven Jensen had little sympathy. 'I walk by every day where a friend of mine died,' Jensen said. 'Everybody here is a collaborator with the mujahedeen. They were either living in their homes or next door. Nobody here is innocent.'" ('Fallujah begins rising from the ashes,' by Mark Mooney, New York Daily News, KRT Wire, February 21, 2005)

The First Casualty

Vietnam: 'Credibility Gap.'

Iraq: One expects truth to be the first casualty in war; it's sad, though, when it expires even before the shooting starts. It is a citizen's duty in a democracy to examine and discuss public policy, including war and peace. The people do not rule if dissent is labelled treason. That's how it's done in a police state, where the authorities lay down policy, and the public's role in the process is to say, 'Yes, sir.' An issue that came up during the Vietnam war is the need for truthful information if the citizenry is to do their job in a functioning democracy. People found themselves weighing our involvement in Vietnam unaware of how many soldiers we had in the field. Troop strength is of interest to the enemy; but if deceiving the enemy means deceiving the electorate as well, self-government has been taken from the people.

This present war has out-done Vietnam in the volume of false information that's been fed to the people:

Saddam was said to possess weapons of mass destruction...but none was ever produced. One detail, the purported purchase of yellow-cake from Niger, relied upon documents which were outright forgeries. Now that it's clear there were no such weapons, administration apologists explain it's all Saddam's fault. How so? Because he said there were no weapons! Have you never heard the old joke, 'Two merchants run into each other at the train station. One asks, "Where are you going?" "To Minsk," is the reply. "You clever deceiver! You say you are going to Minsk, because you want me to believe you are really going to Pinsk. But I happen to know you really are going to Minsk!"

The administration advertised links between al Qaeda and Iraq: a "sinister nexus" (New York Times, 1/9/04). This "sinister nexus" turns out to consist of an unanswered letter.

Just prior to the invasion, the papers were filled with articles wondering how our troops could ever move, encumbered as they would surely be by the masses of Iraqi deserters they would be obliged to welcome. Administration spokesmen gave the public to understand our troops would waltz into Baghdad upon the flowers tossed by the cheering populace. One wonders, when in history has that happened? No doubt Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, widely hated. Hitler made the same calculation when he invaded the Soviet Union; Stalin was a brutal dictator, widely hated; and the Russian people fought bravely, just as did the Iraqi army. They did not fight for Stalin, but for Russia. Why were these fantasies broadcast as if they were plausible?

Though there was every reason to believe that the Iraqi military, observing that standing and fighting the U.S. left them as exploding blips in a video game, would ultimately resort to guerrilla tactics, this war was not sold to the public as a guerrilla war of attrition like Vietnam, but as a quickie.

Those who recall the long and bloody death throes of the colonialist system realize that colonialism cannot be the remedy for terrorism, because dying colonialism generates terrorism. Yet this war was advertised as the remedy for terrorism. How long would it take the F.D.A. to yank a drug off the market with a comparable cure rate?

We are told we are fighting 'bitter-enders,' remnants of the prior regime. Is this what they'll still be telling us five years from now?

When the resolution authorizing this war was before the U.S. Congress, I, like many others, contacted my elected representative, pointing out that Saddam was justly vilified for having invaded other nations, and that if we did what he had done,-- launch unprovoked military aggression against a nation which had not attacked us,-- we would be as deserving of censure as he. She assured me in response that the resolution was intended, not to start a war, but to prevent one, by giving the President bargaining leverage. This was in fact the administration's public line at the time. But the remarkable concessions Iraq offered both publicly and privately were ignored, as the administration refused to settle for anything less than war. Now the administration has dropped or forgotten its own sales pitch, accusing candidates who voted for a resolution advertised as ensuring the peace of...having voted for war.
Realizing a prior war, in which Iraq was the aggressor, ended with a paper blizzard of U.N. resolutions tying Iraq's hands, the Bush administration thought they saw day-light to a quasi-legal war. But when the U.N. refused to believe in weapons they could not see, it turned out the United States does not need a "permission slip" to wage war. If the Bush administration thought they do not need a "permission slip," why did they ask for one? Sadly the bright hope in which the U.N. was born,-- of saving the world from these little boys who like to start wars,-- has dimmed as the years bring in their harvest of corruption and inefficiency, but surely after having been denied a "permission slip" is not the time to discover you do not really want one anyway.

Counted among Mr. Bush's many shifting rationalizations for this war was his assertion that he went to war in order to bolster the U.N.'s credibility. Since the U.N. Charter does not envision vigilante action by member states as its preferred enforcement mechanism, this argument sways few. But ought not those skeptical of the U.N. to be alarmed at this marriage between America's military might and an institution they distrust, whose power has just undergone a quantum leap with the U.S. military joining the staff as 'enforcer?' Yet Mr. Cheney campaigns by appealing to these skeptics. Even this President's own supporters do not take him seriously!

In the Vietnam era they used to call this the 'Credibility Gap.' Everything old is new again...

Anarchy

The nineteenth century saw the rise of a programmatic political philosophy known as anarchism. This school of thought, perceiving the evils government brings, including war, concluded that humankind would be better off without government.

One does not expect to see this political philosophy represented in the U.S. Government. Yet it seems to have its adherents in the Defense Department. While those previously responsible for maintaining law and order in Iraq, their supervisors' photos printed up on playing cards, were on the run, no thought was given to filling their function. The gentle throngs dancing in the streets were expected to require no policing. Certainly no number of American troops adequate to police this sizeable country were ever dispatched.

International law requires an occupying power to maintain law and order. Yet in my conversations with war supporters, I hear no excuses for why the U.S. failed to meet its obligations, but only bewilderment that anyone could expect the U.S. to do any such thing. After all, Iraq is a foreign country.

When I was an art student in New York City, that red, white and blue city was struck with a power outage. Noticing the alarms no longer functioned, the patriotic citizenry began looting. They did the same in Iraq. The breakdown of civil order that then commenced has not since ceased, as Iraq has descended into a 'Wild West' of banditry, kidnapping, and bombs.

War fans respond wide-eyed, these are Iraqis preying upon Iraqis. American police departments deal daily with Americans preying upon Americans. How much of our crime problem is owing to foreign tourists? If the police in this country, learning that their supervisors' faces were turning up on 'playing cards,' were to stay home, conditions would deteriorate. People do need governance, which is why the Geneva Convention ordained that occupiers must provide governmental services. Every day of chaos is another day we have failed to meet our obligations.

This is not the first time the experiment has been tried. Prior conquerors have destroyed existing civil order without replacing it. The result is not utopia, but a jungle where the strong prey upon the weak. The 'vandals' were an ethnic group who gave their name to the behavior pattern. Their target populations noted that the 'vandals' knew how to break things, but not to build them. Perhaps in the future 'vandal' can be retired from the dictionary, as 'american' takes its place.

What historically has arisen when invaders have overthrown existing order unreplaced is feudalism or warlordism, as people wade to islands of security under the wings of local bandit chieftains. Even this 'Dark Age' order has not been able to dawn in Iraq. When a group springs up that shows itself willing to provide governmental services, like the 'Mahdi Army' in Sadr City, we shoot 'em down. We will neither govern Iraq ourselves, nor allow anyone else to do so.

To judge by published administration comments, this is just what they wanted: "The reason I bring this up is we'll work hard to bring the thugs and terrorists to justice in Baghdad. We would rather fight them there than our own streets." (President George W. Bush, October 3, 2003, President Bush Discusses Economy, Small Business in Wisconsin). This is actually offered as a rationale for this war by its defenders. Of course, had the 'dancing in the streets' promise held true, no terrorists would have been shot in Baghdad, nor anyone else. What is the truth: the pie-in-the-sky promises, or the scarcely human cynicism of this new defense? By their own testimony, they intentionally engineered a 'failed state' like Afghanistan in the 90's, expecting that the world's surplus jihadi population would flow into Iraq, just as it had into other 'failed states.' Iraq was to be a free-fire zone, a shooting gallery where soldiers could knock down terrorists without hitting anyone.

Without hitting anyone who counts, that is to say. Of course the civilian populace of Iraq,--millions of innocent men, women and children,--were locked into this shark tank with no way of escape. No problem, they're 'there,' not 'here.'





Pre-Emption


Of the ever-shifting justifications offered for this war, this was one of the earlier: do unto others before they do unto you. It seems to have been quietly dropped. It may, however, regain its importance as the pretext for future wars. At present Mr. Bush is making the same threats against Iran as preceded his assault upon Iraq. Because Iran's leaders are popularly elected, albeit subject to vetting by the mullahs, it would be awkward to describe the upcoming War against Iran as liberation. More likely 'pre-emption' will be the rationale.







Self-Defense

Pre-emption has a traditional place in international law, though its 'trigger' is not placed so far back as Mr. Bush would like it. The original standard of legal pre-emption specifies that, when an assailant lunges at you with an axe in his hands, you may lawfully shoot him before his axe bites into your flesh; that's self-defense. Mr. Bush then lowered the standard: if the 'assailant' is quietly sitting there watching TV, but you happen to know he has an axe out in the shed, then you may shoot him. This was subsequently revised downward again: if your 'assailant' is sitting there watching TV, and he does not own an axe, but you happen to know he has sufficient funds in the bank to purchase one, then you may shoot him. At last we hit an all-time low: if your 'assailant' is sitting there watching TV, and has sent his axe to the scrap heap, but you believe he retains the 'desire' for one, you may shoot him. Detection of this 'desire' is facilitated by White House policy analysis which focuses on identifying world leaders as 'madmen' who are 'evil.' This standard of 'pre-emption' would have suited Genghis Khan; what nation could we not invade should we happen to feel like it?

Casus Belli

The first Gulf war closed with Iraq's voluntary undertaking to disarm under U.N. supervision. It would appear this administration also reserves the right forcibly to disarm other nations which have not so pledged. At what point does possessing weapons of mass destruction become a casus belli? Would the world community be legally justified in attacking the U.S. because we possess, and have used, such weapons? There is a right to 'pre-emption' recognized in law, though not Mr. Bush's sweeping claim of the right to attack possible, conceivable, or imagined threats. The old standard, antiquated by the Bush administration, was that of 'imminent threat.' As far as one can determine from Mr. Bush's efforts to express himself, the new standard is 'ability to make':

  • "Saddam Hussein was dangerous with weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with the ability to make weapons." (President George W. Bush, February 8, 2004).
  • Meet the Press Transcript for Feb. 8th
    Guest: President George W. Bush
    NBC News Copyrightę 2004, National Broadcasting Company, Inc.

This new standard opens wide the field of military conquest, because no nation in the world lacks the ability to make those World War I vintage chemical agents employed in the Iran-Iraq war. Many a cleaning lady has inadvertently manufactured World War I vintage chemical agents by pouring an unlucky sequence of household chemicals down the drain. Unlike nuclear weapons, where daunting technological barriers once kept Third World countries off the playing field, chemical weapons present no technical barrier to proliferation. Even Bangladesh has "the ability" to manufacture such weapons if its population can stomach the pictures the American public could not, of dead sheep at the Dugway Proving Grounds. World War II vintage chemical agents demand more skill, but even these were successfully manufactured by a Japanese religious cult with no ties to any nation-state, Aum Shinrikyo.

Terrorists would find it more efficient to 'buy in bulk,' given that the American landscape is already dotted with industrial storage tanks more than ample to produce another Bhopal. Instead of defending against this very real threat, we 'connect the dots,' committing hundreds of thousands of troops and billions of dollars to squelching the possibility that a secular socialist regime which does not possess nuclear weapons and is hostile to Islamic fundamentalism will give nuclear weapons to Islamic fundamentalists. The world is watching, of course, and this sets up an endless cycle, a new arms race stretching out to the horizon. Now that the precedent has been established that the U.S. means to invade 'rogue' nations, then 'rogue' nations feel they must acquire weapons of mass destruction. . .in order to deter U.S. invasion!

The release of the Duelfer Report compelled Mr. Bush to hone his new standard. Not only did Iraq not possess the weapons when we invaded, it also lacked organized capability to produce them, having voluntarily dismantled the industry. So the new standard is 'desire.' Not only overt acts, but even bad thoughts in the heart of a third world dictator, will summon the U.S. military for a dose of 'shock and awe' to cure those bad thoughts.

Treadmill

Here is a prescription for an endless cycle: Third World nations believe they must obtain nuclear weapons in order to deter an American invasion, while we demand they renounce such weapons, backing up our demands with. . .threats to invade.

  • “A peaceful Iraq and a free Iraq is part of our campaign to rid the world of terror. And that's why the thugs in Iraq still resist us, because they can't stand the thought of free societies. They understand what freedom means. See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.”
  • (George W. Bush, October 3, 2003, Remarks by the President on the Economy, Midwest Airlines Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

(I'll leave it to the reader to ponder how Mr. Bush categorizes the U.S.A., with its immense arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.)

Disarmament has traditionally been pursued as a worthy goal because it was believed helpful to keep the peace. Neighboring states bristling with weapons puts a hair-trigger on conflict. The Bush Administration has brought a novel perspective to disarmament. Inverting the traditional view that disarmament is good because it reduces the risk of war, they hold that war is good because it makes disarmament possible. This amounts to eliminating weapons by ensuring they are used.

Nations have an inherent right to defend themselves against foreign invasion. No Bible reader can doubt that doing wrong is never the prudent course, because there is a God in heaven who squares the accounts. But in this case, even pagans can see how doing wrong has brought down its own punishment, the wheel of Ixion.

Law and Order

"International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

"In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."...Mr Perle, a key member of the defense policy board, which advises the US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone"..." ('War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal,' Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in Washington, Thursday November 20, 2003, The Guardian.)

Which neighborhood is safer: the one living under the rule of law, or the one where the law of the jungle prevails?

International law frowns upon military aggression. It allows nations to defend themselves, as the United States did against Afghanistan after an attack had been launched upon American soil by a private army given sanctuary by that country. It permits nations to defend friends and allies who have been attacked, as when the Republic of South Vietnam, a then-sovereign nation, invited the United States to come to its assistance. But starting a war, rolling your tanks across another nation's boundaries, as we did against Iraq, is not legal. It was rolling his tanks across a national boundary to depose the unelected, undemocratic Emir of Kuwait, that made Saddam Hussein into an international villain.

There is a 'loop-hole' which permits attacking first: if there is an imminent threat, if a hostile nation's tanks are massed upon your borders and you can gain a military advantage by striking first. In that case the nation which initiates hostilities is not counted as the aggressor. Some defenders of this war, especially in Great Britain, but also including persons employed by Mr. Bush, attempted to cram this full-scale military invasion of a sovereign state through that loop-hole, by claiming that Iraq represented an 'imminent threat.' Not only has Mr. Bush abandoned that claim, his partisans now indignantly deny he ever made it in the first place. That is all to the good because the claim is false.

If this country wants to thumb its nose at international law under the banner of 'might makes right,' how can we know that we will always be the strongest nation? Given the rate at which Mr. Bush is bankrupting us, perhaps the day we long for the protection of law will come sooner than we think. When some mightier nation proposes to 'liberate' us, will it not be a hollow complaint for us to say, 'but that's against international law'?

Categorical Imperative

"There is therefore only a single categorical imperative and it is this: 'Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.'" (Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Chapter II).

Let us inquire what are the consequences of willing that the 'Bush doctrine' of pre-emptive war "should become a universal law." The maxim thus holds that, 'If Country A finds Country B's political system unsuitable, Country A is entitled to visit Country B with all the death and destruction in its power to effect.' Also, 'If Country A imagines that Country B may, under some hypothetical set of circumstances not yet known to obtain, someday come to be a threat to Country A, Country A is entitled to visit Country B with all the death and destruction in its power, etc.'

It is difficult to imagine what wars of the past are not justified under these maxims; surely Hitler's invasion of Poland, than which one can imagine no more egregiously criminal act, would have been fully justified under the 'Bush doctrine.' Mr. Bush and his supporters do not, however, intend their 'doctrine' to become "a universal law." Rather, their approach to ethics is, it would appear, best summarized like so, 'Good people are entitled to do whatever they please to bad people, even murder and mayhem, because good people are good and bad people are evil.' This is not, however, the way ethics works. Saddam is a 'bad person' because he did bad things: such as, for instance, launching unprovoked military aggression against other nations, viz. Iran and Kuwait. We cannot do the same things Saddam did: namely, launch unprovoked military aggression against other nations, viz. Iraq, and continue to be 'good people.'



Reflections on the Fourth of July








Furthering the Islamic Revolution








What is to be Done?

What is to be Done?

There is a long-standing business relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family, as detailed in "House of Bush, House of Saud," by Craig Unger. Our former President used to be in the undignified business of selling access to the Saudi royal family via the Carlyle Group. As the Bible notes, money makes friends: "...And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts." (Proverbs 19:6). The younger Bush's failing oil business was bailed out by Saudi investors. After the U.S. homeland was attacked by a gang predominantly composed of young Saudis, young Mr. Bush leaped to the 'counter-attack'...invading Iraq, Saudi Arabia's principal enemy in the world, which had been uninvolved in the attack on America. In spite of this perplexing history, evangelical voters remain convinced that Mr. Bush is on our side:






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