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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
"Is it too early to adopt a revisionist view of the US war in Iraq and for this column to admit its mistake in having vehemently opposed it from the outset?

At issue here is whether the Iraqi people have benefited from the overthrow of the Baathist regime and whether the American occupation will eventually benefit their country even more. I’m convinced — and berate me here from your patriotic bleachers, if you must — that what we have seen in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates in recent months may turn out to be the most serendipitous event in its modern history.

One need offer no apology for saying that the supreme virtue of this war is that Saddam Hussein was gotten rid of. Period. The very man who had established arguably the closest approximation of a genuine fascist state in the Arab world, that sustained itself on fear, repression, genocide, cult of personality and wanton murder — a state whose law was that those who rule are the law.

One doesn’t become a revisionist in a vacuum. I pore over material from various media sources about the mass graves unearthed all over Iraq, particularly those discovered in uncounted pits in the south, where Saddam had crushed a rebellion there in 1991 with genocidal ferocity, and I turn away in nauseated disbelief. Then there’s the UN Special Rapporteur’s September 2001 report about the execution of 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib’s prison in 1984, and 3,000 others at the Mahjar prison between 1993 and 1998. And you ask how a regime could become so monstrous, so whisked clean of human decency.

Last Saturday, the Washington Post’s Peter Finn filed a gut-wrenching report about Baghdad’s Kadimiyah High School, where during the 1990s kids were being dragged off for questioning by members of the Mokhabarat for writing boyish anti-Saddam graffiti on their walls, such as “Down with Saddam” — and never returned home. Only now are their families, like other families of the “disappeared” speaking up, asking questions and demanding to know how and why their children were killed and where they are buried. One of the ancillary byproducts of the US invasion of Iraq was the ouster of Saddam and the obliteration, clearly forever, of the totalitarian dungeon that he had turned his country into.

That, in my book, is enough to warrant extending my support for that invasion and for Washington’s projected plans to rebuild the country.

Washington may not succeed in turning Iraq into a “beacon of democracy” but it will succeed, after all is said and done, in turning it into a society of laws and institutions where citizens, along with high-school kids, are protected against arbitrary arrest, incarceration, torture and execution.

Look, I have no illusions about the shenanigans and hypocrisies of a big power like the US, including its neocon ideologues, who are more cons than neos. Lest we forget, at the height of Saddam’s bloody reach in the 1980s, which saw the Halabja atrocities, Washington not only uttered nary a word of criticism of the Iraqi leader, let alone called for his overthrow, but provided him with political, military and economic assistance that, in effect, underwrote his survival and made possible the very repression that American officials now claim they want to banish forever from the land.

All true. Yet, the US may, just may, end up doing in Iraq what it did in war-ravaged European countries under the Marshall Plan. And if it doesn’t, well, what would Iraqis have lost other than the ritual terror of life under a dictator who had splintered their society into raw fragments of fear, hysteria and self-denial — a man who insisted that third graders learn songs whose lyrics lauded him with lines such as “when he passes near, the roses celebrate.”

No, I don’t believe that by going to war, America had dark designs on Iraq’s oil or pursued an equally dark conspiracy to “help Israel.” I believe that the US, perhaps willy-nilly, will end up helping Iraqis regain their human sanity, their social composure and the national will to rebuild their devastated nation.

And no, it’s not too early to adopt a revisionist view of the US war in Iraq, or too late for a columnist to say he was wrong all along."

And this is a Saudi state-funded news outlet! (I'm posting the whole article in case it "disappears".)

posted by Rachel 11/05/2003
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Again. The response is good but the fact that this stuff is happening more and more frequently is not.

posted by Rachel 11/05/2003
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"A powerful faction of religious and political conservatives is waging a latter-day counterreformation, battling widespread efforts to liberalize the American Catholic Church. And it has the clout and the connections to succeed.

By Charles P. Pierce, Globe Staff, 11/2/2003

There is a glow to the priest when he talks. Something lights him up inside, and its intensity is increased by the mild way he says what he's saying. The words, harsh and unyielding, seem not so much a departure from the mainstream as they do a living refutation that there is any mainstream at all, not one to which the priest has to pay any mind, anyway.

He is talking about a futuristic essay he wrote that rosily describes the aftermath of a "relatively bloodless" civil war that resulted in a Catholic Church purified of all dissent and the religious dismemberment of the United States of America.

"There's two questions there," says the Rev. C. John McCloskey 3d, smiling. He's something of a ringer for Howard Dean -- a comparison he resists, also with a smile -- a little more slender than the presidential candidate, perhaps, but no less fervent. "One is, Do I think it would be better that way? No. Do I think it's possible? Do I think it's possible for someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, over a period of time to choose to survive with people who think it's OK to kill women and children or for -- quote -- homosexual couples to exist and be recognized?

"No, I don't think that's possible," he says. "I don't know how it's going to work itself out, but I know it's not possible, and my hope and prayer is that it does not end in violence. But, unfortunately, in the past, these types of things have tended to end this way.

"If American Catholics feel that's troubling, let them. I don't feel it's troubling at all."

If it sounds like a call from an Old Testament desert, that's not where the 49-year-old McCloskey operates. He's the priest of the power corridor, right there on K Street in Washington, where you can look out the windows of his Catholic Information Center and see the sharpies flocking on the sidewalk, organizing the complicated subleasing of various parts of the national treasure.

In keeping with his surroundings, McCloskey has lobbied for his vision. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and until the late 1970s was a successful trader with Merrill Lynch. However, in 1981, he joined the priesthood through the ultraconservative Opus Dei Society. He was ordained by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, an influential Vatican troubleshooter.

Ironically, while he defends traditional prerogatives of the institutional church, McCloskey has discomfited parts of it, including conservative Catholics, as surely as has any renegade Dutch theologian. In 1990, for example, after a stormy five-year tenure at Princeton University, McCloskey was dismissed as an associate chaplain after students and faculty petitioned for his removal. They claimed that McCloskey violated academic freedom by counseling against taking courses taught by professors whom McCloskey deemed "anti-Christian," which McCloskey argued was part of his pastoral role. Advising Catholic parents shopping for a college for their children, he later wrote, "If you encounter words and phrases like 'values,' 'openness,' 'just society,' 'search,' 'diversity,' and 'professional preparation,' move on."

Since returning to Washington to run the Catholic Information Center for Opus Dei, McCloskey has taken his mission onto Meet the Press and to CNN. He's preached it in USA Today and in The New York Times. More famously, he has brought into Catholicism several members of the conservative elite. McCloskey personally baptized Judge Robert Bork, political pundits Robert Novak and Lawrence Kudlow, publisher Alfred Regnery, financier Lewis Lehrman, and US Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, whose baptismal sponsor was another senator, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. In 2000, McCloskey baptized Mark Belnick, the embattled top lawyer at Tyco International, who responded by donating $2 million to a Catholic college and to an antiabortion group.

McCloskey makes no apologies for his role as the apostle to the punditocracy. (One of the volunteers at the Catholic Information Center is Linda Poindexter, a former Episcopal priest and the wife of Iran-contra figure and Bush administration official John Poindexter.) He has written that the Gospel was most successfully preached not to the poor but rather to the educated middle and upper classes.

"I don't talk politics with them," he says. "It just so happens that they're Catholics, and I have to be informed about key issues in order to talk to them, because they're not just issues to these people -- they're a matter of natural law; they're a matter of divine revelation and things of that sort. I don't tell them how to vote on this issue or that issue. Ever. But if it seemed to me to be a moral question as to what the material cooperation with evil is on this bill or the other, I might be able to give them some guidance."

On so many of these issues, McCloskey seems already to have lost. In a March 2002 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Catholics in the United States favored the possibility of married priests and of women priests. Since 1970, polls of US Catholic women have consistently shown that more than 60 percent reject the Vatican's teachings on artificial birth control. More recently, a Harris Poll found that only 24 percent of American Catholics were opposed to embryonic stem-cell research. Other recent polls indicate that support for legalized abortion among US Catholics tracks closely with that found in the general population. McCloskey has no use for the borrowed language of political polling: He thinks that 52 percent or that 80 percent or that 70 percent should just leave the church, because they've left already.

"There's a name for Catholics who dissent from church teachings," he says. "They're called Protestants.

"As someone who's really a Catholic -- and if you asked me, I'd say I consider myself a Catholic -- it's something that you hope doesn't interfere with your citizenship, but that's reality. What I'm saying is, a lot of Catholics who were totally faithful to the church started to assimilate, but the assimilation was not simply in terms of 'I'm a Catholic, and I'm also an American.' It was also giving in to the Protestant secular ethos of the United States of America."

McCloskey says he speaks to a dwindling band of "the faithful" -- a "righteous remnant," as the theologians call it. If some of that remnant happen to be judges and newspaper columnists and senators and corporate lawyers, McCloskey doesn't judge them for that, not even when he discusses a famous 1996 issue of the conservative Catholic magazine First Things -- one to which Bork, among others, contributed his thoughts. That issue examined, as it said, "possible responses to laws that cannot be obeyed by conscientious citizens ranging from non-compliance . . . to morally justified revolution."
Opus Dei is a scary force within the Catholic church and it'll be even scarier if the next pope is a member.

posted by Rachel 11/05/2003
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That's what I'm saying! Seriously, if the republicans would just get on this gay marriage thing they could mop up.

posted by Rachel 11/05/2003
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