Saturday, March 08, 2003

There is something that I really, truly, don't understand about people who are opposed to war with Iraq. To say we should not start a war requires one to accept the palpably false pretense that we have not been engaged in a war for the past 12 years. In March of 1991 we signed an armistice--not, mind you a peace treaty, which as a matter of law is an entirely different thing--that has been violated more or less every day since by the Iraqi armed forces. Not a week has gone by, but that we have been forced by aggressive Iraqi action to drop bombs or shoot missiles or even occassionally use cannons at some target. No one, not one single person that I have heard or read who opposes the war has acknowledged the fact that we have never in fact stopped being at war with Iraq, owing entirely to that nation's actions.

Tom quoted from the DC cardinal the other day, talking about the Cardinal's metaphor of a man with a knife in his pocket. Now, forgetting the dramatic oversimplification of this metaphor (since we cannot know even if the knife is in his pocket, let alone aimed at our throats, until we are in fact bleeding from a severed carotid artery), it denies absolutely the very critical fact that, as both a legal and a moral matter, WE HAVE BEEN AT WAR FOR 12 YEARS, and it was not a war of our starting or our choosing. But we have certainly, if we continue at the status quo pace, been at an unjust war, for we have manifestly not been fighting to win, which is a requirement of just war teachings. The paradox is, now that we are prepared to fight to a just victory, the naysayers have come out to decry that action, where they have largely been silent until very recently.

The other major problem I have with Cardinal McCarrick's comments is that he uttered another statement that is untrue on its face. "War is always a disaster." History does not support that statement, and every sinew in my body rejects it. In the 1930s, when the Germans were considering the remilitarization of the Rhineland, there was much discussion of what to do if the French opposed this by military force. The Germans in command actually had orders to turn around and go home if so much as a single armed Frenchman blocked the road. But the French supposed that war is always a disaster, and allowed the Germans to violate international law and their express obligations under the Versailles treaty. The history of Europe would be very different had someone stood up to the Germans. But war is always a disaster.

The Kurds in 1991 heeded our call to rid Iraq of its dictator, but we decided that war is always a disaster. The Rwandans needed American and European help a few years after that, but war is always a disaster. In October of 2001, the people of Afghanistan stood in need of our help, and we of theirs. For once, we fought, and war did not indeed prove to be a disaster. There are innocent people in Afghanistan dead today who might be alive but for that war, but many more would be so without it.

Pardon me (for this violates my Lenten attempt to reform my language) but it is manifest BULLSHIT that war is always a disaster. That is the sort of thing that only cowards and wimps can believe, and it is precisely the sort of thing that Satan wants us in our comfortable suburbs and our nice cars and our 401k plans to believe. FAILING TO FIGHT has been every bit as disastrous as fighting at many identifiable points in history. "War is always a disaster" is exactly the sort of thing Orwell had in mind when he lumped the pacifists in with the fascists in 1940. War is sometimes a disaster; but cowardice: always.


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