Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fr. Richard Neuhaus on "The Warrior Class"

... Of course there are Christians who don’t think Christians have any business being in the military to begin with. The thinking of two generations of Protestant clergy was formed by Roland Bainton’s 1979 book, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace. Bainton didn’t convert all of them to pacifism. Not by a long shot. But he entrenched the feeling that there is something deeply dubious about the morality of Christians in military service.

Bainton’s history has been sharply challenged. Of particular interest is Louis Swift’s The Early Fathers on War and Military Service. Oliver and Joan O’Donovan’s From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Source Book in Christian Political Thought also has instructive material. There is no doubt that in the first century, Christians were ambivalent, to say the least, about serving in the Roman military and, for that matter, about the empire itself. Whether this had to do primarily with the morality of warfare or with idolatry is much disputed. Soldiers were required to take an oath to the gods of the empire and to the emperor, and such oaths were forbidden for Christians. All that changed dramatically by the fourth century and the dawn of what came to be called Christendom. The argument over whether Christendom represented a triumph of the gospel or the fall of the Church continues to this day, and probably will continue until Our Lord returns in glory. Refracted through the twists and turns of history, it has everything to do with today’s debates over religion and the political order in our society.

The undeniable fact is that today hundreds of thousands of devout Christians serve in America’s armed forces. If, as some contend, pacifism is a mark of the Church, they are all guilty of mortal sin and are beyond the pale. With relatively few exceptions, and for good reasons both humanly natural and theological, Christians in America don’t believe that. This is not the place to engage all the arguments involved between pacifism and just-war doctrine. It is the place to note that what Kaplan and others call the “warrior class” is increasingly divorced not only from civilian society but from the society that ought to matter most, the Church.

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, The Warrior Class First Things "On the Square" Dec. 14, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reunion of Iraqi Christians and Muslims

Cardinal Emmanuel III DellyThis past Sunday, Christian worshippers in Baghdad celebrated Mass and welcomed Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, recently elevated by Pope Benedict XVI in a symbolic expression of his sympathy for, and solidarity with, the Christian community of Iraq. Sameer Yacoub (Associated Press) reports:

Under heavy guard and broadcast live on Iraqi state television, the service was capped by a handshake from a visiting Shiite imam—a symbolic show of unity between Iraq's majority Muslim sect and its tiny Christian community. . . .

Delly presided over other services this week in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, spreading his message of unity and forgiveness among Iraq's Christians.

"We are of one family, everyone should work for the progress of this country," he said during his sermon.

The frequent target of Islamic extremists, Iraq's Christians have been forced to flee by the tens of thousands or to isolate themselves in barricaded neighborhoods if they choose to remain.

"We pray today for the sake of each other and to forgive each other, as well to be directed to do good deeds," Delly said. "That is my demand for the Iraqis, moreover I urge the return home for displaced people and immigrants to their ancestral land."

Many people who filled the pews at the elegant brick Church of the Virgin Mary said they were taking advantage of a lull in violence to attend services and to congratulate Delly. The imam of a nearby Shiite mosque shook hands with him in the church's courtyard after the service.

"I came here to show the unity of the Iraqi people," said the black- turbaned imam, Jassim al-Jazairi. "We are happy with the cardinal. We are very proud of any person, whether Christian or Muslim, who raises the name of Iraq in the international arena."

This past November combat journalist Michael Yon released a truly epic photograph of Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John's Church in Baghdad ("Thanks and Praise" Against The Grain Nov. 8, 2007). In "Come Home", Michael Yon provides the background to the story and the momentous events that occurred after the taking of the photo.

On November 19, 2007, Most Reverend Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq officiated at a mass in St. John’s Church in Baghdad. He was welcomed home by a crowd of locals and American soldiers, who had fought hard to cleanse the streets of Al Qaeda. According to Michael Yon, "speaking in both Arabic and English, Bishop Warduni thanked those American soldiers sitting in the pews for their sacrifices":

. . . when al Qaeda came to Dora, they began harassing Christians first, charging them “rent.” It was the local Muslims, according to LTC Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. . . . the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from al Qaeda. Real Muslims here are quick to say that al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging “rent,” al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians, and also Muslims. Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war.
According to Michael Yon, the front pews of the Mass were filled with Muslims, to express their solidarity with their Christian neighbors and invite them back to Iraq. He concludes his post:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and forswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.
Let us pray that it's only the beginning -- and give thanks to the U.S. and Iraqi military efforts to make this possible.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Benedict Appoints Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio to Head of Archdiocese for the Military Services

Michael Iafrate (Vox Nova) expresses his disappointment in the appointment of the military's new "warrior shepherd":

When the news broke that Archbishop Edwin O’Brien was being moved from his position as head of the Archdiocese of United States Military Services to serve the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I was secretly hoping that the Church would use the opportunity to quietly get itself out of the business of serving as chaplain to the American war machine.

No such luck. Meet the new warrior shepherd, Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio.

More on the newly-appointed head Archdiocese for the Military Services, courtesy of the Boston Pilot:
“I am indeed privileged to take the reins from Archbishop O’Brien,” said Archbishop Broglio at a Nov. 19 news conference at the military archdiocese’s headquarters in Washington.

The new archbishop, who has never been in the armed forces, said he has encountered members of the military in countries where he served in the diplomatic corps. He said his primary goal will be to find more chaplains. Currently there are about 300 Catholic military chaplains serving U.S. troops.

“The greatest resource of our [archdiocese] is our priests,” Archbishop Broglio said. “Chaplains are committed to letting the light of Christ shine.”

In the new post, he will be in charge of the spiritual, pastoral and sacramental care of the 375,000 Catholic active-duty U.S. military personnel and their 800,000 family members; 200,000 Catholics in the Reserves and National Guard; 30,000 Catholic patients in 172 Veterans Affairs hospitals; and 66,000 Catholics in government service overseas in 134 countries.

As the statistics indicate the overwhelming responsibility of the archdiocese is for the personnel of the military services, both at home and around the world. As well as those who are in the care of the Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Equally though the archbishop has the pastoral care of some 66,000 Catholics in United States’ government services across the globe, many of them in diplomatic postings for the United States.

Archbishop Broglio is to be installed as head of the military archdiocese Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of Paul, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Quite a job -- let's keep Archbishop Broglio in our prayers, that he will fulfill his duties to the best of his abilities.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Elevation of Chaldean patriarch highlights plight of Iraqi Christians Catholic News Service. Nov. 24, 2007:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Benedict XVI placed a red hat on Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad during a Nov. 24 consistory in St. Peter's Basilica, he was honoring not just the patriarch of the Chaldean church, but was elevating the plight of Iraqi Christians to the world's attention.

The pope "told me 'I hope this gesture will be a sign of reconciliation not only among the people, but especially among Sunnis, Shiites and Christians, because Iraq is a country dear to me,'" the patriarch told reporters during a Nov. 23 press conference after a meeting of cardinals and cardinals-designate with the pope.

During the Nov. 24 consistory, Pope Benedict said in his homily that elevating the Chaldean leader was a way of "concretely expressing my spiritual closeness and my affection" for Iraq's Christian minorities.

"They are experiencing in their own flesh the dramatic consequences of an enduring conflict and now live in a fragile and delicate political situation," the pope said.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something To Be Really Thankful For, Max Boot @ Commentary:

On Thanksgiving 2006 there were 126 enemy attacks across Iraq and 26 of them were “effective,” meaning they caused injuries or damaged buildings, vehicles, or other infrastructure. Six months later, attack levels were virtually unchanged: May 22 saw 122 attacks, 35 of them effective. And then came the big turn: On Thursday, there were 53 attacks and only 18 of them were effective—drops from a year ago of 58 percent and 31 perecent respectively.

Baghdad, which had been the primary center of violence on November 22, 2006, and May 22, 2007, no longer had that distinction on Thursday: It saw only 10 attacks (half of them effective), compared with 37 in northern Iraq (less than a third of them effective). It’s still cause for concern that the violence level remains so high in the north, but it is cause for celebration that Baghdad is becoming so peaceful. Given that it is the capital of the country, improvements are more significant politically if they occur there than in the provinces.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping result was the change that occurred not in Baghdad, however, but in Anbar Province, which saw 28 attacks (seven of them effective) a year ago and none—repeat none—yesterday.

Those are the kinds of results that should make us grateful to the hard work of the soldiers in Iraq, not only Americans but Iraqis and other coalition partners, and to their commanders in Baghdad and Washington who had the wisdom to implement a new strategy after it became apparent that the old one was failing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bill Roggio: Sunni clerics turn on Association of Muslim Scholars

Sunni clerics turn on Association of Muslim Scholars, by Bill Roggio. The Long War Journal November 17, 2007:

Wednesday's closure of the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars at the Umm al Quraa mosque marks a dramatic shift in the Sunni religious establishment. Prominent Sunni clerics, who once supported, justified, or remained silent about al Qaeda's terror tactics, have now turned on the leading Sunni religious establishment that supports al Qaeda in Iraq.

On November 14, Iraqi soldiers surrounded the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars after Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al Samarrai, the leader of the Sunni Religious Endowments, or Waqf, ordered the mosque's closure. "The association has always justified killing and assassinations carried out by al Qaeda," Samarrai said the day the troops shut down the Umm al Quraa mosque.

Samarrai's criticism of the Association of Muslim Scholars was pointed. He accused the Association of collusion with al Qaeda in Iraq and held the group responsible for the murder of Iraqi Sunni and Shia alike. . . .

Sunday, November 04, 2007

  • Iraqi Islamic Party: “Al Qaeda is Defeated” Michael Yon. November 1, 2007:
    “Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated,” according to Sheik Omar Jabouri, spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party and a member of the widespread and influential Jabouri Tribe. Speaking through an interpreter at a 31 October meeting at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters in downtown Baghdad, Sheik Omar said that al Qaeda had been “defeated mentally, and therefore is defeated physically,” referring to how clear it has become that the terrorist group’s tactics have backfired. Operatives who could once disappear back into the crowd after committing an increasingly atrocious attack no longer find safe haven among the Iraqis who live in the southern part of Baghdad. They are being hunted down and killed. Or, if they are lucky, captured by Americans.

    Colonel Ricky Gibbs, the American brigade commander with responsibility for the Rashid District in south Baghdad today told me, “So goes South Baghdad goes Baghdad.” General Petraeus had told me similar things about the importance of South Baghdad. In fact, Rashid is quickly developing into what might be one of the final serious battlegrounds of the war.

    During the meeting, another member of the Iraqi Islamic Party said that al Qaeda has changed its strategy now that fomenting civil war between Sunni and Shia has backfired. Al Qaeda has shifted targets, now trying to generate friction between tribes. This time, however, the tribes are onto the game early, and they are not playing.

  • Concerned Citizens fend off attack, Iraqi Army Mechanized Company Slams the Door MultiNationalForce-Iraq:
    Coalition forces saw a possible glimpse of the future in Hawr Rajab recently, when they observed Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) at a checkpoint come under attack from insurgents, defend themselves, and then receive reinforcements from Iraqi Army troops, Oct. 31.
  • The Real Iraqi Miracle: Opting for tolerance, by Dean Barnett. Weekly Standard October 31, 2007:
    ... the greatest progress hasn't been on the military front, impressive as those strides have been. The real breakthrough has been with the Iraqi people. Throughout Iraq, Iraqi citizens have decided that the fighting must end. They have tired of the sectarian strife that made swaths of their country a killing field. Having sampled something that could be called a civil war, they have collectively decided that they would rather live in a peaceful society. This means that each sect will have to tolerate the other sects' presence.

    Throughout Iraq, ordinary citizens have tipped off American troops to the presence of not only al Qaeda forces but members of their own sect bent on violence. They have also tipped off American troops to the presence of hundreds of IEDs, saving countless American lives. And they have done all of this knowing that they were risking death by doing so.

    Although grassroots politics in America is of a less perilous sort, this too is a form of grassroots politics. Ordinary people have involved themselves with the fate of their nation, and made an enormous difference. While the Iraqi government remains mostly dysfunctional and enmeshed in squabbling, the Iraqi people have chosen the course their country will take.

  • Inconvenient Civilians IraqPundit. Nov. 4, 2007:
    Recently, I've been puzzled by the reactions of friends or colleagues who ask after my family in Baghdad. When I reply that the relatives say things are getting better, I hear: "Better than what?" I also get strange looks and laughter. So, I remain quiet.

    In a way, I can't blame them. Most friends and colleagues get their information from rented experts (whether American or Arab) who know nothing about Iraq. And stories such as this get little play in the media.

    The Associated Press reports: "In a dramatic turnaround, more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months as sectarian violence has dropped, the government said Saturday." . . .

Friday, October 26, 2007

  • The Surge is Only the First Step, by Jeff Emanuel. American Thinker October 22, 2007.
  • Sharp Drop Seen in US Deaths in Iraq Associated Press. October 23, 2007:
    BAGHDAD (AP) — October is on course to record the second consecutive decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths and Americans commanders say they know why: the U.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al-Qaida and Shiite militia extremists.

    Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch points to what the military calls "Concerned Citizens" — both Shiites and Sunnis who have joined the American fight. He says he's signed up 20,000 of them in the past four months.

    "I've never been more optimistic than I am right now with the progress we've made in Iraq. The only people who are going to win this counterinsurgency project are the people of Iraq. We've said that all along. And now they're coming forward in masses."

  • Resistance is futile: You will be (mis)informed, by Michael Yon. October 22, 2007:
    I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeus’ testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (I’m told) unusually concentrated, it’s a wonder my eardrums didn’t burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States, Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.

    No thinking person would look at last year’s weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Oil for Food Exposé, by Claudia Rossett. Wall Street Journal October 3, 2007:

Messrs. Khudair and Yacoub described a system corrupt to the core. Their duties inside Saddam Hussein's bureaucracy consisted largely, and officially, of handling and keeping track of kickbacks. That included who had paid and how much, and via which front companies. When Saddam's regime systematized its Oil for Food kickback demands across the board in 2000, keeping track of the graft flowing into Saddam's secret coffers became a job so extensive that the marketing arm of Iraq's Ministry of Oil, known as SOMO (State Oil Marketing Organization) developed an electronic database to track the flow of the "surcharges," as they were called. . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bloggers Meet President Bush in White House

Mudville Gazette on the Milblogger's Sit-down with the Commander in Chief.

Tribute: Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha and Army Capt. Travis Patriquin

  • Obituary: Abdul Sattar Abu Risha Sept. 13, 2007:
    Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was a key Sunni Arab ally of the US and Iraqi governments in Iraq's western Anbar province.

    The 37-year-old leader of the Al Bu Risha tribe was killed in a bomb attack near his home in the provincial capital, Ramadi, on Thursday.

    He was reportedly a top target for assassination by al-Qaeda in Iraq, whom he is widely credited with having defeated in much of western Iraq.

    Abu Risha, who also ran a construction and import-export business with offices in Jordan and Dubai, was among a group of tribal leaders who met President George W Bush during his visit to Iraq last week.

    Abu Risha was part of a group of young tribal sheikhs whose power grew after more senior leaders fled Anbar or were killed in the insurgency that gripped the province.

    In September 2006, angered by the killings of both his father and two brothers by al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Risha approached the US military about forming an alliance to fight the Sunni extremist group. . . .

  • Sunni Tribal Chiefs vow revenge against al-Qaeda Sept. 15, 2007:
    Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The funeral of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, leader of an Iraqi Sunni alliance against Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organisation was transformed into an anti al Qaeda protest. The leader had been collaborating with US forces against the terror group, when a car bomb in Ramadi, chief town in Anbar province, killed him. Today in an internet message al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

    More than 1,500 mourners attended the funeral in Ramadi. Iraq's national security adviser, interior minister and defence minister all attended the funeral under heavy security, along with the second-in-command of US forces in Iraq, Lt-Gen Raymond Odierno. Mourners chanted "We will take our revenge" and "There is no God but Allah and al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah" as the procession continued to the family cemetery.

    Sheikh Rashid Majid, a leader of the al-Bufahad tribe in Ramadi, said: "The killing will give us more energy... to continue confronting al-Qaeda members and to dispose of them”.

  • With U.S. backing, abu Risha rose from young clan leader to head of Sunni fight against al-Qaida International Herald-Tribune Sept. 13, 2007:
    Smoking profusely, Abu Risha — sporting a pistol at his waist — took endless calls on his cell phone.

    "We fought with our own weapons. I myself fought al-Qaida with my own funds," Abu Risha, who runs a construction and import-export family business with offices in Jordan and Dubai, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying this week.

    He was usually mobbed by crowds and greeted with chants of support every time he shows up on the streets of Ramadi, the war-ravaged provincial capital 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad.

    "We owe Abu Risha and his people for giving us back our lives," said Saad Ibrahim, who runs a falafel eatery in the Malaab district of Ramadi where he says bands of al-Qaida fighters ruled supreme until driven out by fighters of Abu Risha's Anbar Awakening Council.

  • Iraqis name police station for slain soldier, by Brian Gartlan. Daily Southtown Sept. 17, 2007:
    During his time in Ramadi, Army Capt. Travis Patriquin grew close to the Iraqis.

    He spoke their language. He understood their culture.

    Now some there have honored the slain officer by naming their new police station after him.

    Patriquin, 32, formerly of Lockport, was killed by a roadside bomb in December.

    Before he died, Patriquin built a relationship with Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha . . .

    The police station in Tameen, a district in Ramadi, was dedicated in Patriquin's name last month.

    "I consider it an honor," said his father, Gary Patriquin. "(Sattar) thought highly enough of my son to make him a part of his tribe."

  • Captain Travis Patriquin - "An American Martyr" Sept. 6, 2007.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Petraeus Report

  • Gen. Petraeus reports to Congress, by Bill Roggio. The Long War Journal Sept. 10, 2007:
    Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, has released the much anticipated report to Congress. . . . Petraeus stated the military aspect of the surge has succeeded in reducing violence and has "generated momentum," the Iraqi Security Forces are growing while taking on a greater role in securing the country, and political progress at the local level will allow US forces to draw down the surge brigades. He predicted the force levels can be drawn down from 20 to 15 combat brigades starting in December and ending by July 2008, given that progress in the security situation continues. Ultimately, Petraeus advised against drawing down forces to conduct a strictly counterinsurgency and support role.

    Petraeus also focused a significant amount of time to Iran's involvement with the Special Groups and the rogue Mahdi Army. The threat of Iran's involvement was not fully understood until just this year. "None of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern," said Petraeus.

  • Listening to Petraeus: The president had the courage to change course on Iraq. Does Congress?, by John McCain and Joe Leiberman. Wall Street Journal Sept. 10, 2007.

  • Trashing Petraeus: and the new standards of Democratic debate Wall Street Journal September 11, 2007:
    Important as was yesterday's appearance before Congress by General David Petraeus, the events leading up to his testimony may have been more significant. Members of the Democratic leadership and their supporters have now normalized the practice of accusing their opponents of lying. If other members of the Democratic Party don't move quickly to repudiate this turn, the ability of the U.S. political system to function will be impaired in a way no one would wish for.
  • Petraeus’s Success, by Charles Krauthammer. National Review Sept. 14, 2007.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Is The "Surge" Working?

  • How life returned to the streets in a showpiece city that drove out al-Qaeda - An American ‘martyr’ is being hailed in the Sunni Triangle for restoring peace to a town where soldiers now fight only water leaks. Times Online August 31, 2007:
    Captain Patriquin may have offered more than mere words. His main interlocutor, Sheikh Abdul Sittar Bezea al-Rishawi, told The Times that he gave them guns and ammunition too. The sheikhs did rise up. They formed a movement called the Anbar Awakening, led by Sheikh Sittar. They persuaded thousands of their tribesmen to join the Iraqi police, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats, and to work with the reviled US troops. The US military built a string of combat outposts (COPs) throughout a city that had previously been a no-go area, and through a combination of Iraqi local knowledge and American firepower they gradually regained control of Ramadi, district by district, until the last al-Qaeda fighters were expelled in three pitched battles in March. What happened in Ramadi was later replicated throughout much of Anbar province.

    Ramadi’s transformation is breathtaking. Shortly before I arrived last November masked al-Qaeda fighters had brazenly marched through the city centre, pronouncing it the capital of a new Islamic caliphate. The US military was still having to fight its way into the city through a gauntlet of snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide car bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Fifty US soldiers had been killed in the previous five months alone. I spent 24 hours huddled inside Eagles Nest, a tiny COP overlooking the derelict football stadium, listening to gunfire, explosions and the thump of mortars. The city was a ruin, with no water, electricity or functioning government. Those of its 400,000 terrified inhabitants who had not fled cowered indoors as fighting raged around them.

    Today Ramadi is scarcely recognisable. Scores of shattered buildings testify to the fury of past battles, but those who fled the violence are now returning. Pedestrians, cars and motorbike rickshaws throng the streets. More than 700 shops and businesses have reopened. Restaurants stay open late into the evening. People sit outside smoking hookahs, listening to music, wearing shorts – practices that al-Qaeda banned. Women walk around with uncovered faces. Children wave at US Humvees. Eagles’ Nest, a heavily fortified warren of commandeered houses, is abandoned and the stadium hosts football matches.

    “Al-Qaeda is gone. Everybody is happy,” said Mohammed Ramadan, 38, a stallholder in the souk who witnessed four executions. “It was fear, pure fear. Nobody wanted to help them but you had to do what they told you.”

  • Back from Hell: Baghdad's Haifa Street Story, by Ralph Peters. New York Post August 31, 2007:
    IF you saw any news clips of intense combat last January, you were probably watching the fighting unfolding on Baghdad's Haifa Street: 10 days of grim sectarian violence. Until we put a stop to it.
  • Surge Working": Top US General, by Dennis Shanahan. The Australian August 31, 2007:
    David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, said the build-up of American forces in Baghdad since late January had produced positive outcomes. These included the killing or capture of al-Qa'ida fighters, causing the terrorist group to lose influence with local Sunnis.

    The strategic gains against insurgents would lead to a changed and possibly longer-term role for Australian troops, shifting from security operations to a focus on training Iraqi soldiers and police.

    General Petraeus told The Australian during a face-to-face interview at his Baghdad headquarters there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year, a doubling in the seizure of insurgents' weapons caches between January and August, a rise in the number of al-Qa'ida "kills and captures" and a fall in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombings.

  • Behind the Numbers In from the Cold August 31, 2007:
    Ahead of General Petraeus's report on the troop surge (due in a couple of weeks), the monthly casualty stories provide an opportunity for the MSM to prepare their "backdrop" for his assessment. It's a safe bet the press reporting will highlight the "failures" of Iraq's government, despite significant progress by coalition security forces. In a similar vein, the most casualty totals can be used to paint the "high cost" at which that progress was achieved.

    With the end of the month just a few hours away in Baghdad, the U.S. fatality total for August stands at 79--the same number recorded last month. That will likely generate such headlines as "American deaths hold steady in August," or "Combat deaths inch upward," (assuming that there are additional fatalities that have not yet been reported by DoD). In either case, the implication is the same: We're still losing 80 soldiers a month, so our "progress" is clearly limited.

    But that analysis is wrong on multiple levels. . . .

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The pope next takes up pacifism, which can have its witnesses, but which can also be a mask for not doing what is necessary to protect freedom and justice. Here, he remarks, we have demonstrated "on the basis of a historical event that absolute pacifism is unsustainable." Notice the careful use of these words. The grounds for war are to be demonstrated by what is actually going on in this or that country, in this or that time. It is not an abstraction but a concrete realization of the power and nature of a regime that seems to extend its force and limits. This is why the pope says, as I cited above, "there is no such thing as an a-historical State based on abstract reasoning."

The pope is careful to retain the "just war" context of these considerations. The just war theory was developed in Christian and classical thought precisely to explain why honorable regimes must at times defend themselves or others in the very name of justice. We still must ask if "just war" is possible and a duty in every occasion where use of force arises. The answer cannot ever be an "unequivocal" never. It depends on judgment and prudence. This is how the pope defines a just war: "a military intervention conducted in the interests of peace and according to moral criteria against unjust regimes." This means that "peace and law" and "peace and justice" are connected. "When law is trampled on and injustice comes to power, peace is always threatened and is already to some extent broken. In this sense a commitment to peace is above all a commitment to a form of law that guarantees justice for the individual and for the entire community." Clearly this means that a military and police component to the very possibility of law and justice is presupposed. The allowing of law to be "trampled" on and of "injustice" to come to power is clearly a sign of civic blindness and moral irresponsibility. This position was also the gist of C. S. Lewis' famous essay "Why I Am Not a Pacifist," found in his Weight of Glory.

. . . Referring back to the logic of the cold war, the pope granted that it still retained some intelligible rationale. "As long as this potential for destruction (nuclear and biological weapons) remained exclusively in the hands of the major powers, one could always hope that reason and the awareness of the dangers weighing upon the people and the State could rule out the use of the type of weaponry. Indeed, despite all the tensions between East and West, we were spared a full-scale war, thanks be to God." This passage, I would say, is a belated acknowledgement (though John Paul II said the same thing) that deterrence did work and the fact that increased accuracy of technology and weaponry finally convinced the Soviets that they could not keep up achieved its purpose.

However, the terrorist situation is different. "We can no longer count on such reasoning (mutual deterrence and rational comprehension), because the readiness to engage in self-destruction is one of the basic components of terrorism—a kind of self-destruction that is exalted as martyrdom and transformed into a promise" (91). Presumably, the pope does not equate Muslim terrorists with organized crime in this sense. The gangster or dope runner is not seeking martyrdom whereas the Muslim terrorist, in his own rationale, is. The gangster is in it for power and money, not for religion.

The pope still thinks that this terrorism itself can be met but by careful means. "One cannot put an end to terrorism—a force that is opposed to the law and cut off from morality—solely by means of force. It is certain that, in defending the law against a force that aims to destroy law, one can and in certain circumstances must make use of proportionate force in order to protect it." This is clearly the reasonable, common-sense position. Again the pope adds, "An absolute pacifism that denies the law any and all coercive measures would be capitulation to injustice, would sanction its seizure of power, and would abandon the world to the dictates of violence." Again, these are memorable words much in need of recollection and emphasis.

"No Weighing, No Disputing, No Such Thing": Ratzinger and Europe , by Fr. James V. Schall. Ignatius Insight (Review of Europe: Today and Tomorrow by Benedict XVI. (Ignatius Press, March 2007).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

U.S. must honestly assess what is achievable in Iraq, says archbishop, by Julie Asher. Catholic News Service. May 30, 2007

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- At this stage in the Iraq War, the United States "must honestly assess what is achievable in Iraq using the traditional just-war principle of 'probability of success,' including the probability of contributing to a responsible transition," said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien.

The U.S. and its allies "also have a grave responsibility, even at a high cost, to help Iraqis secure and rebuild their nation," unless the conclusion is reached that "a responsible transition is not achievable," he said.

The archbishop, who heads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, made the comments in a Memorial Day pastoral message to Catholic men and women in the U.S. armed forces. He delivered the same message at a packed session May 25 during the 2007 Catholic Media Convention in Brooklyn. [...]

Unfortunately, what many Catholic leaders and others predicted would happen in Iraq -- the chaos and the difficulties of consolidating peace -- has come true, he said.

What was missing at the outset of the war was a comprehensive blueprint to administer and restore Iraq after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was deposed, Archbishop O'Brien said. "There was not sufficient foresight about what we might do after our seeming victory."

The archbishop argued against pulling out of Iraq now, and said the U.S. must look at what is achievable. He added that military personnel feel that Americans at the grass-roots level still support them.

He thinks there is still a chance to have a free Iraq and see democracy spread through the region.

Archbishop O'Brien compared the Iraq situation to the Vietnam War. He was an Army chaplain in the early 1970s and served a year in Vietnam. The U.S. was gaining the upper hand there, he said, until the Tet offensive conducted by the North Vietnamese. Technically, it was a failed military action but it was a turning point in the war.

Political sentiment turned against U.S. involvement and the U.S. pulled out, but the archbishop said he thinks the U.S. still could have gotten the upper hand had it stayed.

During a question-and-answer session after the archbishop's address, one member of the audience argued that the American people were conned into getting into the war. Another said many opponents of the war feel the decision to invade Iraq was advanced by a small group of neoconservatives who wanted to get their hands on Iraq's vast oil supplies.

Archbishop O'Brien disagreed with both notions.

He said that "reasonable people can disagree" about the war. He said he could see why some might feel the nation was conned because there is a great deal of skepticism about the war, but added, "I don't think there was bad will on the part of the government" in deciding to go to war.

He also said, "I don't agree this was the invention of a small group that wanted oil."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Encouraging News from the Front

  • From Bill Roggio's Iraq Report: Attacking Mahdi, al Qaeda prison camp in Diyala May 27, 2007:
    This morning, U.S. and Iraq forces struck yet again against the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. The joint force captured yet another member of a network "known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training." This is the third such raid in Sadr City in 48 hours. Seventeen members of this network have been killed and 32 captured during numerous raids over the past three weeks. . . .

    In Diyala province, where al Qaeda has established a stronghold, Iraqi and U.S. security forces have broke up an al Qaeda "prison camp" and captured 7 al Qaeda during two separate raids. Today, a joint U.S. and Iraqi Army raid rescued 41 Iraqi civilians "showing signs of having been tortured or mistreated" from an al Qaeda run prison camp just south of the city of Baqubah. "Many of them showing signs of mistreatment ranging from broken bones and bruises to heat injuries caused by being held with insufficient water," AFP noted.

  • Memorial Day Message from Michael Yon, milblogger and combat photographer Michael Yon has good news from Mosul:
    Long-time readers know that I deliver bad news with the good. I was first to write that parts of Iraq were in civil war back in February 2005, well over a year before mainstream outlets started reporting the same. I was also the first to report, back in 2005, that Mosul was making a turn for the better. Mainstream outlets hardly picked up on that story, however, although the turn was easy to see for anyone who was there. When I returned from Afghanistan in the spring of 2006, after writing about the growing threat of a resurgent Taliban, bankrolled with profits from the heroin trade, I wrote that parts of our own military were censoring media in Iraq. The recent skirmishing over blogging from Iraq supports that contention. These reminders are for new readers who do not believe that a province that most media outlets had put at the top of the “hopelessly lost” column is actually turning a corner for the better. . . .

    Although there is sharp fighting in Diyala Province, and Baghdad remains a battleground, and the enemy is trying to undermine security in areas they’d lost interest in, the fact is that the security plan, or so-called “surge,” is showing clear signs of progress.

    Note If I had to recommend two blogs for daily reporting on Iraq and the WOT, it would be Michael Yon and Bill Roggio.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Vatican signals support for international meeting on Iraq, by Cindy Wooden. Catholic News Service. May 4, 2007:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican signaled its support for the international meeting on Iraq that took place in Egypt in early May, and Iraq's Chaldean bishops asked participating countries to do more to end violence and protect Christians in the country.

After former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met Pope Benedict XVI May 4, the Vatican published a statement saying the two leaders reaffirmed "the need for strong initiatives by the international community, like that occurring in these days at the meeting in Sharm el Sheikh," Egypt, to bring peace to the Middle East.

More than 50 nations sent representatives to the May 3-4 meeting in Egypt to discuss debt relief, aid and security in Iraq. The participants included the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council, the world's richest countries and nations bordering Iraq, including Iran.

Friday, April 20, 2007


  • WMD's and the Iraq War, by Deal Hudson. April 17, 2007:
    During the period leading up to the Iraq War, I was in regular conversation with the White House as part of what is called the Catholic Working Group. Karl Rove asked me to create this group after the 2000 election.

    We had many discussions with White House and Defense Department personnel about just war theory and the proposed invasion of Iraq. They were all well-versed in the basic principles.

    Our central concern . . . was not the issue of whether all other means had been exhausted -- we thought they had -- but whether there was a an immediate danger to the United States.

    That's where WMDs came in.

    On one call with the White House we were all assured by a senior administration official that he had "absolute and certain proof" of WMDs. I asked if he could share the evidence with us. He said "no" but that we should "trust" him.

    Since this was someone I had known for a number of years in other circumstances, I had no reason not to believe him. (He, perhaps, had no reason not to believe the person who told him he had "absolute and certain proof" and so on.)

    We believed him.

  • ‘I found Saddam’s WMD bunkers’, by Melanie Phillips. The Spectator (UK) No. 21 April 2007:
    It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

    Dave Gaubatz, however, says that you could not be more wrong. Saddam’s WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don’t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, ‘lost’ his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam’s WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Recommended Reading

  • Vindicating Douglas Feith New York Sun February 12, 2007.

  • Tough Questions We Were Right to Ask, by Douglas J. Feith. Washington Post Wednesday, February 14, 2007.

  • A conversation with Douglas J. Feith: "When is it appropriate to scrub the consensus?" February 16, 2007.

  • Iraq in Books, by Michael Rubin. Middle East Quarterly Spring 2007:
    The Iraq war has pumped adrenaline into the publishing industry. Whereas five years ago, few bookstores included any selections on Iraq, today dozens of Iraq books line the shelves. There have been three waves of Iraq-related publishing: First came the embed accounts that described the military campaign; second were examinations of prewar planning and, third, studies of the occupation. Quantity does not equal quality, though, nor does popularity correlate to accuracy. Many of the most popular books have been deeply flawed. Many authors use their Iraq narrative to promote other agendas, be they related to U.S. domestic politics, U.N. empowerment, or independence for Kurdistan. Other authors have substituted theory for fact or tried to propel their experience into the center of the Iraq policy debate. While time has already relegated much Iraq-related writing to the secondhand shelf or dustbin, several authors have produced works that will make lasting contributions, be they to future generations of war and post-conflict reconstruction planners, or scholars looking more deeply into the fabric of Iraq.

  • The Evidence On Iran PowerLine February 17, 2007. (See also The Smoking Gun, Redux

  • The war in the shadows against Iran & Sadr, by Bill Roggio. February 14, 2007. The Fourth Rail :
    While the U.S. military and intelligence proceeds cautiously on exposing Iran's involvement in Iraq's insurgency, and treads carefully on exposing Muqtada al-Sadr's backing of the Shia death squads, a war is being fought in the shadows - a war which we only see glimpses of. The war has escalated enough that Muqtada al-Sadr has left Iraq for safe environs in Iran. . . .

  • The Battle for Baghdad Begins February 15, 2007:
    How are the bad guys doing in Iraq? The Iraqi media is full of information on what the various Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions are up to. Lots of the reporting is speculation, but a lot of it is not. If you've been following the action long enough, you can pick out the accurate stories. And the talk on the street and in the shops is also pretty dependable. That said, most people believe al Qaeda in Iraq is finished. . . .