Saturday, July 26, 2003

Naivete and Iraq

OK folks,

1. The previous post was not about whether our intervention in Iraq was just or justifiable.

2. This post was not about whether we are, after four months, "bogged down." I didn't say that and nothing in my post implies that. I have no doubt that our military can handle the situation there.

3. That means that all of the comment-box blathering about Vietnam vs. Iraq is simply irrelevant to my point. Utterly irrelevant.

Fr. Stanley's note regarding Christopher Hitchens' report is interesting and relevant:

Christopher Hitchens, the once-liberal writer/commentator, reports that in his recent [this month] tour of Iraq, he sees no great unrest aimed at the Allied forces, no hate protests against US forces.

Of course, our soldiers are still being killed on almost a daily basis (3 more today) so obviously some people over there want us out, and I don't think they're going to go quietly into the night.

Furthermore, the lack of hate protests or unrest could simply be the result of the "sullen resignation" I adduced earlier, and not evidence that our presence is welcomed.

Commentor Josh gets the Gold Star for the day for grasping the point of my post. My concern is that our aims and goals in Iraq are naive and unachievable. I think the idea that we can "democratize" Iraq is almost laughable. It is imposing our 21st century Western Christian mindset on a radically foreign culture. We naturally think that democracy and the guarantee of individual rights and freedoms, and belief in the intrinsic dignity and worth of the individual are all wonderful things. But these things are not prized in Arab culture, nor in Islam. Hence, the idea that Iraq could sustain a Western-style democratic government is unrealistic.

Another commentor conceded that the goal of instituting democracy in Iraq was "absurd". He said that our goal there was to "remove Hussein" and to "stand up to killers and thugs." Now, standing up to "killers and thugs" certainly seems like a laudable thing. And we've done so, having removed Hussein and his regime of killers and thugs. But any new "democratic" government we install there will collapse because the culture won't sustain it, and Islam won't tolerate it. If that happens and Iraq ends up with a despotic Sharia state, how can we say we've improved things there? If that happens then there will be more anti-Western feeling in the Arab world, there will be more radical Islamist ferment. Under those circumstances, I wouldn't give a nickel for the prospects of the Christian minorities in places like Iraq. Then the pre-war concerns voiced by people like Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Sodano won't look quite so "idiotic".

Friday, July 25, 2003

Many Iraqis Skeptical That Oudai and Qusai Are Dead

So says an article in today's Chicago Tribune. "For every believer, there seemed to be a non-believer," the story reports.

When the reports of the infamous brothers' deaths were confirmed a couple of days ago, many, including some in the Bush administration, predicted that this would be a major blow to the Fedayeen and Baath loyalists. Some voiced the belief that this turn of events would help our troops to more quickly roll up the remaining opposition in Iraq. But more American soldiers were ambushed and killed two days later, and the Fedayeen have vowed revenge for Saddam Hussein's sons. Indeed, it seems likely that more guerilla actions will be inspired by the brothers' deaths.

I haven't commented much on the war or subsequent events in Iraq, mainly because I, like many other Catholics, was genuinely ambivalent about the undertaking. But it seems increasingly clear to me that many Americans, including some in the Bush administration, have grossly underestimated the challenge in Iraq. Our presence is greeted with hostility and resentment by a large percentage of Iraqis, and they are inclined to disbelieve anything we say:

[O]n the streets of Baghdad, some Iraqis wondered why the Americans waited so long to let the public view the photos. Others had suspicions that the photos were doctored.

"I'm not sure it was them," said Ghaydan Yatooma, 33, a liquor merchant. "All the Iraqi people are not so sure."


We have succeeded in imposing peace (of a sort) on much of Iraq. But American soldiers are now cautioned to travel only while heavily armed and in groups. Many Iraquis "accept" our presence, but their attitude is that of sullen resignation. Our troops are not treated as liberators, but as occupiers granted varying degrees of toleration. I frankly see little evidence that we are winning the battle for the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people.

The atmosphere in Iraq, like in much of the Arab world, is virulent mixture of religious fanaticism, ideology,and societal paranoia. I have always thought it a naive fantasy to believe that we could somehow impose a Pax Americana on the region and create, almost out of thin air, some sort of "democratic" government in Iraq. If one looks at the region, you will find there is no Arab state which has a truly democratic government. What could possibly lead one to believe that somehow Iraq will be different?

We have created the Iraqi Governing Council, and no doubt this will in some way, at some time, lead to an "elected" government in Iraq that has the US stamp of approval. But I fear, and predict, that such a government will quickly go the way of the Weimar Republic, and lead to yet another despotic regime there. The Fanaticism, Ideology and Paranoia which is characteristic of much of Islam will roll over such a government and establish the sort of Sharia state we see elsewhere. Indeed, Islam would tolerate no other kind of regime.

I think that President Bush and most Americans were sincere in believing our cause in Iraq to be just, and our intervention there justified. But I also think that we have entangled ourselves in situation from which we will not easily extricate ourselves. Good intentions and the conviction of our own rectitude are not enough.


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Pope Offering "Thought for The Day" to Cell Phone Users

Italian cell phone users (which seemed, in my last visit there, to be pretty much the whole population) have been able, since January, to receive a daily message of hope from the Pope.

The message is delivered daily to cell users whose phones have text-messaging capability.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the service is now being extended to Ireland as well:

The service in Ireland can be subscribed to by sending POPE ON as a text message to 53141. This will result in the Pope's daily thoughts being delivered at 12 noon to the subscriber on a daily basis.

In Ireland, the [messages] with Pope John Paul's "thought of the day," which are taken from his homilies, messages and other writings, is offered through all Irish cell phone operators.


The Irish service is the Vatican's first expansion into offering the Pope's daily message in English. There are plans to introduce service in Portuguese to Portugal and Brazil in the near future.

When will it come to the US, I wonder? It would be kind of cool to get a message from the Pope every day!

Monday, July 21, 2003

I Know it's been More Than a Couple of Days

...But I've been busy. I am gratified, though, to see by my counter that many of you have kept checking back here faithfully while I've been off doing other things.



"Gay Marriage? What, Me Worry?"

"I mean, if two people love each other and want to be with each other, so what? It doesn't hurt me."

If that's your attitude, then you need to read Saturday's
World Net Daily article by Linda Harvey.

Harvey writes:

"Same sex marriage? It doesn't bother me!" ...

There's just one problem with this angle: It doesn't take into account the impact on children. If same-sex relationships become the law of the land, then homosexual marriage will be presented to America's schoolchildren as the equivalent of heterosexual marriage.


Harvey then goes on to explain how, under the guise of "diversity", public schools will begin presenting homosexual marriage as one of many equally legitimate "options" young people can choose from. Some school districts will do this willingly: there are already some schools that come very close to it in their sex-ed classes. Some schools will have to be forced into it, but I think it's clear at this point that our courts are perfectly willing to do this.

Here's how the agenda could infiltrate the stories and novels your children are given to read:

Expect a whole new crop of young adult novels featuring same-sex romance leading to marriage to appear instantly and be adopted just as magically by middle-school and high-school language departments throughout the U.S. Your 13-year-old Kyle will be required to read and give a book report on a novel where Bruce and Jason meet, date and get married. What won't be covered is how Bruce and Jason split up a year later after cheating on each other dozens of times.

The instruments of culture are already being used to advance the anti-family agenda of sexual license. Expect the public schools to become willing agents.

I suppose I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks the consequences of the Lawrence decision will be disastrous. But some people, including some of my readers, are still unconvinced. I hope it doesn't take your third grader's teacher bringing his "husband" to school in drag, for "Show & Tell" followed by a heartfelt reading of Bobby's Two Daddies, to convince you.