Fear and Loathing in Baghdad

The idea of going to war is, for this American, a gut-wrenching thing. First, I am a follower of the Man of peace, One whose mission was to bring peace between men and God, and then between men and men. Now, I have never been one who has taken the position that Jesus taught pacifism; it seems to me not only to be inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible, but logically unsustainable as well, especially when carried to its logical end.

But that doesn’t mean that all war, even most war, is justified; it doesn’t mean that we rush headlong into such conflict without long and hard soul-searching. A “just war” theorist such as myself would insist that any potential war meet the criteria laid down by Augustine some 1500 years ago. He stipulated four such criterion: proper authority, proper cause, a reasonable chance for success in accomplishing that cause, and proportionality, the idea that the effects of war be as limited to military objectives as is possible, that the sparing of innocent life be a paramount consideration. The point I’ve struggled with is the “proper cause” clause. Now, before I’m written off as some bleeding-heart (well, if you’ve ever read this column before, I guess that’s unlikely!), let me assure you that I consider this “it’s about oil” or “Bush has a hankerin’ to start a rumble” tripe as so much nonsense. Michael Moron and his Hollywood buddies have zero credibility on this subject. I’ve been critical of this president on domestic issues, but I believe he is acting very deliberately and thoughtfully, and that he is deeply troubled by having to put our troops in harm’s way.

The things I’ve wondered about have turned more on questions of “is this really the next step in the war on terrorism?” or “might this incite ‘moderate’ Arab/Muslims (those who might could be won to our side) against us?” or “has the link between Saddam and terrorism been well-enough established?” I suppose that some of those questions linger in my mind yet, but I have become, if not enthusiastic about war, a stronger supporter of it over the course of the last couple of weeks.

What has propelled my thinking? If you can believe it, I’ve been most helped along by liberals—honest liberals (and no, that is not an oxymoron—at least not totally!). Daniel Pepper is one such person. A young American photographer, he had gone to Iraq to act as a “human shield”. Credit him with having the guts to take his beliefs to Iraq; we’ll think you’re really serious, Misters Moore, Penn, Sheen and Baldwin, when you lie down on Main Street, Baghdad, instead of taking your cheap shots from the comfort of American soil.

But I digress. Mr. Pepper and friends went to Baghdad, and actually began to talk to some common Iraqi folk, not the propaganda machine with whom Sean Penn schmoozed. As Chuck Colson put it in his BreakPoint commentary, “After five weeks in Baghdad, Pepper concluded, ‘Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom.’” Thomas Sowell quotes a young minister, similarly a war protestor who went to Iraq, as reporting that Iraqis told him that, if the U.S. didn’t proceed to remove Saddam, some would commit suicide rather than live under conditions such as this madman had caused. The Iraqi people—well, those who haven’t been bought Mercedes-Benz by Saddam—fear the man and hate him. If we make good on our stated intentions to remove this tyrant from power—and then assist in the peaceful transition to some more stable, peace-friendly form of government in that nation, the Iraqi people will thank us.

Daniel Pepper candidly admits that his group, upon going to Iraq, was more interested in criticizing American and British policy than in taking the time to actually find out what the people of Iraq thought about things. When they did, it changed their thinking.

And it has more fully crystallized mine

Leave a Comment