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Sunday, January 26, 2003

Chamberlain's Chaplain.

He's the Rev. Thomas K. Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

First the good: (1) He's absolutely, transparently sincere about pursuing peace. Second, despite his open devotion to Call to Action (click on "Biography"), he seems to generally, but not always, focus on peace issues. Third, he unloaded some fine old (pre-1962) Catholic biblical commentaries (his signature is on the inside covers) at a used bookstore, which I snapped up at a deep discount . He probably abandoned these books in favor of the latest in "the assured results of critical scholarship." Bluntly, I think the one "assured result[] of critical scholarship" is agnosticism, but his loss is my gain. Fourth, he came to our parish for confirmation, and was genuinely irritated by the fact that too many of the kids did not know the basics of the Catholic faith.

But, alas, he is emblematic of the problems with the "peace" movement: there is no moral compass. There is simply the vacuous chant of "peace, peace" when there is no peace. It is Christianity at its worst: playing the feeble chump for tyrants and making excuses for them, all the while spewing platitudes.

The January 24, 2003 issue of The Michigan Catholic is a case in point. The archdiocesan paper for Detroit, its cover story was the report of the bishop's trip to Iraq, continued on page 10. The trip was made with a group of family members of victims of 9/11 and assorted others.

You see where this is going, don't you? Moral equivalence lives:

The trip was also different than any other previous trips, Bishop Gumbleton said, because of the accompaniment of the Peaceful Tomorrows group, made up of those whose family members had been victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "Try and get a sense of what it meant to them...they suffered such grievous losses and then they went into the homes of families that had been bombed by U.S. planes," he said.

"There was a common weeping, and a profound sense of loss and grief," he added. "It was powerful to experience the loss between these four and the others who experienced their loss. It makes the suffering of the people in Iraq so real. It puts a human face on those we're about to destroy."

See Gumbleton's oh-so-subtle point? "We're no better! We're terrorists, too! We're terrorizing these people! We--huh? What? Saddam? Saddam who? Dictatorship? Multiple wars of aggression? Weapons of mass destruction? Huh? Why are you changing the subject?"

Astonishingly, for a two-page article dealing with Iraq, there is exactly one--ONE--mention of Saddam Hussein.

The question arises as we saw it would, 'Aren't you simply being naive? You're being used by the government of Saddam [Hussein] for his purposes,'" [Oakland County businessman Rudy] Simons said. "I turn that question around and say to those, 'Are we not being naive not to understand that if this war starts, then thousands will certainly die, not only innocent civilians but also our soldiers, young men and women?"

Way to not answer the valid question, Rudy. I'll do it for you: "YES" on both counts--being used by Mustache and his gangster regime, and for the mind-staggeringly simplistic naïveté. Unfortunately, the article doesn't indicate what product businessman Rudy sells, so I can't tell you how to boycott it.

But that's it for a discussion of Saddam. The article's disconnect from reality is hard to explain, but here is what is not addressed: No mention that Iraq is a police state which has committed and continues to commit horrific atrocities. Nada on the question of WMDs. Zilch on Saddam's sponsorship of terrorism. No mention that there's the very real possibility that these people they met were not "U.S. bombing victims" after all, but rather people put up to it by the police state. Ever heard of a Potemkin village, Rudy? Evidently not. It never even mentions the U.N. resolution which led us to this point. I thought the "peace" crowd was supposed to be big on the UN, too. Hmmm. It's like these twits travelled to Nazi Germany in 1938, but paid no attention to German rearmament, the re-occupation of the Rhineland or the bullying of Czechoslovakia. How adrift from reality are you when you can't make the barest mention of the nature of the regime? Never mind.

Well, at least the Bishop thinks something should be done, right? Like sanctions?

Oh, hell no:

Efforts to stop the sanctions must continue and must be done with an urgency, he [Gumbleton] said. "We must all tell each other that this war is wrong and can never be justified. Tell others that this war cannot be undertaken," he said. "Try to work and stop the sanctions and give the people of Iraq the chance to live!"

Just what precisely Bp. Gumbleton suggests should be done is never described in the article. Apparently, Saddam is to be gently reasoned with, cajoled, abjured and, if absolutely necessary, subjected to the mother of all tut-tuttings.

Returning to reality, the final insult is that the source of the problem can be verified by interviewing the right Iraqis. Say, one of the millions of people living there and doing quite well, even under sanctions. The catch is these people live in the North where Saddam can't get at them--under the watchful eyes of the USAF and RAF:

The Azad pharmacy in Sulaymaniyah is stocked with medicines. So is the Shara pharmacy next door. In the cool early evening hours, the street bustles with shoppers, some of whom drift inside. They hand over prescriptions, pay the equivalent of a few cents, and walk out with antibiotics for their wives or medicine for their children. Down the street, shops sell watermelons, cheese, vegetables, and meat. Even the liquor stores have large inventories. Mazdas and Mercedeses are becoming more common on the newly paved roads; in the wealthier areas, it is not uncommon to see BMWs. Sony PlayStation has become the latest craze, even among housewives. None of which would be particularly noteworthy, except that Sulaymaniyah is in Iraq.

* * *

Sulaymaniyah, a city in northern Iraq with approximately 500,000 inhabitants, tells a different story. Indeed, across a crescent-shaped slice of northern Iraq, the picture is the same: The shops are stocked, and the people are eating. Northern Iraq lives under exactly the same international sanctions as the rest of the country. The difference here is that local Kurdish authorities, in conjunction with the United Nations, spend the money they get from the sale of oil. Everywhere else in Iraq, Saddam does. And when local authorities are determined to get food and medicine to their people--instead of, say, reselling these supplies to finance military spending and palace construction--the current sanctions regime works just fine. Or, to put it more bluntly, the United Nations isn't starving Saddam's people. Saddam is.

* * *

That attitude applies to military operations, too. Some in the north do criticize American bombing in the south, but only because they think it does not go far enough: They want a sustained military campaign to remove Saddam from power. People here also vigorously support the American- and British-enforced no-fly zones that protect the north's independence. People in Dohuk, just five minutes from Iraqi government lines, visibly relax when they hear Allied sorties flying overhead. They understand that the real menace to their well-being--and to that of their fellow Iraqis--isn't international pressure. It's the dictator to the south.

Would that useful idiots in Roman collars could learn the same.

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