Only Noticed When …


In the spectrum of belief on the Iraq War, there are the obvious hawks and doves plus critters in between. Then there is the spectrum of people willing to do something about their beliefs, ranging from those who sacrifice safety and even life to back up their views to those who are content to wage battles from their personal comfort zone.

I have a high regard for soldiers. Partly because many of my family members have served in the military. Most soldiers, like most peace activists, are principled individuals. I might disagree with a person’s opinions, but virtues like honor, commitment, sacrifice: these I can respect. I happen to believe war is a substantially misguided operation, probably mortally sinful for those who make the ultimate choice, be they bloodthirsty fanatics or oil executives turned politicos. But getting caught up in their misadventures? These days we all share it.

The real heroes of struggle are such as these, who sadly, and perhaps like their military brothers and sisters, are conveniently ignored unless victims of violence themselves. It was probably news to a few hundred million Americans that people actually were in Iraq doing this kind of work.

In all the rhetoric about who is a “patriot,” who is “putting troops in harm’s way,” the real work of building the future is being done quietly, thanklessly, by many thousands of people. In my country these days, that work is not being started at the top.

My beef with Bush is not necessarily with his argument it’s not the right time to “cut and run.” But I do note that for pacifists such as Jim Loney, it’s not even an option on the table. And regardless of how the Bush adventures in the Gulf turn out long term, Iraq will still be visited by people wanting to make a small difference one day at a time.

My complaint with the president is the seeming lack of virtue in any approach he takes to Iraq. The constant need to spin decisions and policies might be politically expedient, but it lacks any sort of virtue: there is no sense of sacrifice, patience, or anything good. The fingers-crossed hope that Iraqi elections will fare well and violence trickle down seems more like the student who didn’t study for a test, then heads into the exam room with a vain hope that the questions will magically hit brain content or the power will fail. Not up to the Biblical standard of hope. Not by a long shot.

My hope–which I pray is not a vain one–is that my country will realize the limits of brute power. We cannot hope to win a war in Iraq or any other country by an exercise in Colonialism 6.0. What can gain for us is a return to a sense of virtue. In that sense Loney, and his pacifist companions, not to mention military people with their sense of honor, are all of a different stripe than Karl Rove’s political minions. Way, way different.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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