Monday, March 24, 2003

Update On The War

Although it isn't unsual for this blog, Integrity has been quite for some time now. I'm sure a few of you -- maybe -- are wondering about my thoughts on the war. Well, it's what I think about most these days, so I figured I would offer an update.

As many of you are aware, I was not convinced by the available evidence that this invasion met the just war criteria. I still haven't been convinced. But that's a bit of a moot point now. I am satisfied, though, that the U.S. and the other members of the coalition have been conducting this war properly: avoiding civilian casualties and using only as much force as is necessary. The fact that the majority of Marines lost in combat so far were lost because Iraqi forces faked that they were surrendering to the Marines, only to ambush them, speaks volumes about the differences in how our two countries approach war. As disgusting as it was, it came as no surprise that Iraq would violate the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war less then twenty-four hours after having pledged to abide by it.

This is a time for prayer. I must admit being too riveted at times to pray as much as I should. My brother is a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps. I am thankful beyond belief that he is not in the Middle East and is unlikely to be deployed. Because my brother is a Marine, I feel a certain kinship to all Marines and cannot turn away when I hear news of them or, in this surreal world that we live in, see with the rest of the world a live feed of one of their battles.

A few words need to be said about a lot of the news coverage. First, I have seen some pro-war types talk about how anti-war folks should admit that they were wrong given how the war has proceeded. Well, some anti-war folks should admit they don't have a brain, but the rest of us never doubted our military superiority and ability to win victory on the battlefield. Our concerns are more long-term than that. And I hate to remind people, but I must: we've only had about 100 hours of war and seen the "easy" part.

The other item that needs mentioning is the silly expectations of the news media. After reports of casualties started coming in, numerous members of the news media began to ask military strategists if we were too optimistic and overconfident about how the war would go and whether we were experiencing significant setbacks. Why, oh, why are we tortured by having to listen to these highly-paid teleprompter readers? Although the loss of any life is to be mourned, casualties have been incredibly low, at least in terms of killed in action and probably also in terms of wounded in action. And the only people who seemed to have the false expectations about what war would be like is the media! I just wish they would have the guts to admit that the media reported things as if this was a video game and not shift the blame for being too optimistic on to others when they were wrong. The media also doesn't have any sense of scale. They call small skirmishes battles. They react to news of 10 dead as if that ripped the heart out of a column of some tens of thousands of troops.

At least the media is doing one thing right: foregoing (for the most part) the political talking heads. These people have no expertise whatsoever, but they feel free to give wild and speculative answers on anything. Give me a good military man's "I don't know, Sir," anyday to that garbage. Last thing I need is Bill Kristol or others like him giving me analysis of military battles.

Update: Bleh. The Fox News celebrities must have been complaining about the preemption of their shows. So now we get the regular lineup, such as Hannity and Colmes -- has there ever been a show format that was so devoid of content? --, and the talking heads giving us war coverage. What garbage. Not to mention talking heads speculating and prognosticating on what they read in the latest Reuters newsire. Congrats, Fox News! Just lost me as a viewer.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Coming to Chicago? Stay With Monks

An interesting story from today's Sun-Times about the Benedictine monastery in the city of Chicago and the bed and breakfast that they run.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

What This Average Citizen Wanted To Hear The President Say

For the past several months I have felt like a fish out of water. I'm conservative in my philosophy, Republican in my voting. But when it comes to the question of whether war against Iraq is justified, I find myself on the same side -- if not for the same reasons -- as mostly liberal Democrats. Based on what I know to date, I remain skeptical that Saddam Hussein currently poses an imminent threat of grave, lasting and certain damage to the United States.

President Bush will get no argument from me that Saddam is a terror and that the world would be better off if he was not in power. Similarly, I see little likelihood that Saddam will wake up tomorrow and decide to comply with the U.N. resolutions. I hope that war and regime change bring about all the positives that the administration and war advocates cite: democracy and liberation for the Iraqi people, stability in the Middle East, elimination of a funding source for terrorism, and prevention of future attacks. However, I can't avoid the conclusion that this is not much more than a string of optimistic assertions. I pray to God military action will be that successful, but I don't see yet actual plans to realize those benefits.

In the end, though, my troubles return to the question of whether preemptive military action is the correct response to the threat Saddam poses. When I read that the President was going to hold an unscheduled news conference on the subject of Iraq, I naively hoped the President might take this question on. President Bush told us that the cost of inaction is too high; we must not wait until Saddam uses weapons of mass destruction against us. As much as I agree with that view, I struggle to understand what principle the President is relying on to prevent his case for war from being just a first-strike argument.

No reporter really pressed him on this point. Yes, we heard questions of why so many other countries don't see the threat as the President does. What we didn't hear were questions that drill down to how the President sees the threat. So here's what I would have asked if given the opportunity (with due credit to Tom Kreitzberg for the concept for the hypothetical). I would have said, "Mr. President, many people in the United States and around the world doubt that Saddam poses an imminent threat to us and they are unclear as to how you have reached the opposite conclusion. To help people understand your evaluation of the situation, would you address two questions in the context of the following hypothetical?" The hypothetical I would raise is a simple one: an encounter on the street with a stranger who has a knife.

In true reporter fashion, I would then proceed to ask a multi-part question. "First, Mr. President, when is the stranger a sufficient threat to justify shooting him? For example, is it when the knife is in his pocket? When it is in his hand, but at his side? When he holds the knife out pointed at you? Or is it when the stranger raises his arm over his head ready to swing the knife in attack?" An honest response would help everyone evaluate how grave of a harm the President believes is necessary to justify violence. To date, the administration has given me no significant clues.

"Second, Mr. President, many people, if asked, would say that our situation with Saddam is akin to the stranger with the knife in his pocket. Do you disagree with that view? If so, what can you say that would dissuade them?" An honest response might reveal some additional facts or connect the dots in a new fashion that more cogently makes the case for why we must act now.

It is only in addressing these questions and concerns does the President stand a chance in increasing public support for the probable war with Iraq. Here's one average citizen who hopes he takes on the challenge.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Therese

I promised that I would post this a few days ago, but got delayed. If you find yourself often complaining how there are no good movies out there, check out this website for the upcoming movie, Therese, a feature-length film about St. Therese of Lisieux by Luke Films that is scheduled for theatrical release in October 2003. Say a prayer for their efforts to bring this movie to theaters, and if you can help them in other ways, consider it.