Rumsfeld and American Morale 

     The week before Christmas saw the worst attack yet 
on an American base in Iraq: A suicide bomber killed 22 
people, including 15 U.S. soldiers, while wounding 60 

     As for those who were "only" wounded, some were 
literally deafened by the blast. That is, their eardrums 
were destroyed. The WASHINGTON POST described a woman 
soldier crying, "I can't hear! I can't hear!" as a friend 
hugged her.

     After two years, the deaths no longer shock us, but 
sometimes the details do: the mutilations, less than 
fatal, that the soldier will bear for a lifetime; images 
not summoned up by the mere word "wounds." We prefer to 
picture a "wound" as minor and superficial, something the 
soldier will recover from before getting back to normal. 
The word doesn't distinguish between those who will 
recover fully and those who will never be normal again.

     The least we can do is face the costs of war 
unflinchingly. This news comes at an especially bad time 
for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whom even many 
Republicans now want to see removed. His handling of the 
war leaves much to be desired even from the hawks' point 
of view. The occupation of Iraq was notoriously poorly 
planned, and the scandals of tortured prisoners continue.

     Just recently soldiers have been complaining that 
they are insufficiently armored -- a discontent Rumsfeld 
answered rather cavalierly -- and it transpired that his 
letters of condolence to relatives of the dead have been 
signed by a machine. This may not really matter much -- 
most signatures in Washington are automatic -- but it 
seemed a particularly unfeeling way to treat the 
bereaved, in keeping with what often seems Rumsfeld's 
peculiar callousness. How much time would it cost him to 
sign a few letters a day?

     President Bush is enjoying good press coverage now; 
TIME magazine has named him its Person of the Year. So 
it's natural that Rumsfeld should bear the brunt of 
rising disillusionment with the war. Most people now see 
it as a mistake at best, and even the hawks are more 
dogged than enthusiastic. Elections are still scheduled 
for January 30, but the idea that they will bring Iraq 
democracy and freedom is sounding pretty strained.

     So is the idea that the enemy is motivated by hatred 
of freedom. The enemy seems to equate freedom chiefly 
with driving the United States out of his country, which 
puts the U.S. in the awkward position of insisting that 
freedom depends on its staying in Iraq and crushing the 
native resistance.

     Bush's great weakness as a wartime president is that 
he has no skill at plausible propaganda. The terrible 
price of this war is obvious in every horrible headline, 
but the reward Bush keeps promising is abstract and 
remote. The elections won't change that.

Almost a Mathematical Certainty

     In addition, Saddam Hussein will soon go on trial, 
and we can expect his defense to underline the falsity of 
the pretexts for the "pre-emptive" war on Iraq. Barbarous 
as his rule was, many Iraqis, if not most, by now must 
remember it as the good old days, by comparison with the 
present. Not that they want him back, but under his 
regime they at least had food, water, electricity, and 
other things more urgent than honest elections.

     In a situation like this, when you kill an enemy you 
don't have fewer enemies; you have more. The more you 
kill, the more you make: families, friends, and neighbors 
who want revenge, even if it takes years. By contrast, 
American casualties don't strengthen the American will to 
fight; they only weaken it.

     Will the families of the deafened soldiers demand 
vengeance, or will they feel that the whole war is a 
waste? Americans harbor little anger against the enemy; 
the enemy is so angry that he will kill himself in order 
to kill Americans. In that respect, not just in weaponry, 
this war is truly "asymmetrical."

     So time isn't on Bush's side. As both Iraqi and 
American casualties increase, the invaders will lose 
heart, while the resistance will grow. It's almost a 
mathematical certainty. The demands for Rumsfeld's head 
show how low American morale already is. And it's not 
likely to get any better, no matter who succeeds him. 

War, Caesar, and Catholics

     One of the most disheartening facts about this war, 
to my mind, is how many Catholics have supported it. And 
I mean devout Catholics, who take their faith seriously, 
receive the sacraments, and would never dream of voting 
for a pro-abortion candidate.

     The Church has a long tradition of reflection on 
war, including the just war theorizing that goes back at 
least to St. Augustine. Criteria for a just war were 
developed when most wars were, by our standards, rather 
minor skirmishes, long before modern weapons of mass 
murder -- when even the crossbow seemed a monstrous 
innovation. It was possible, and practical, to stipulate 
that civilians should be spared.

     In modern warfare, it hardly need be said, it has 
become increasingly difficult to avoid harming the 
innocent. If you will warfare, you almost necessarily 
will indiscriminate mass destruction. And even that can 
be directly willed and efficiently executed, not only by 
direct violence, but also by, for example, the 1991 
sanctions against Iraq that killed countless people -- 
far more than either of the two shooting wars against 

     Yet American Catholics have generally ignored these 
things, though the Pope himself has vigorously protested 
them. We have too readily equated war with "defense," 
failing to ask in what possible sense such measures could 
possibly qualify as defensive.

     In the case of the latest Iraq war, some Catholics 
have argued that the decision to wage war belongs to 
"competent civil authorities," and -- by implication, at 
least -- that once they make the fatal decision, the rest 
of us must obey. And also refrain from opposing them, it 
seems. Apparently this falls under the expansive heading 
of "the things that are Caesar's."

     But do Christ's words mean we must always submit to 
the state? The early martyrs didn't think so. True, He 
Himself didn't engage in political activity; but He had a 
special mission that required Him to acquiesce. And we 
have the example of St. John the Baptist. If he could 
attack a king for an unholy marriage, surely we can, and 
should, speak out against an unholy war!

                 +          +          +                  

     Two great Catholic writers -- not Belloc or 
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