I should like to repost an essay published in THE JAPAN MISSION JOURNAL, Winter 2003 under the title “An American Tragedy” adding some new comments in square brackets:
Our celebration of ‘peace on earth to people of goodwill’ will ring hollow this year, for the bitter aftertaste of the Iraq war gives to all talk of peace an elegiac or even despairing tone. The invasion in March 2003, dubbed an ‘illegal aggression’ in Le Monde diplomatique for April, has convulsed and obsessed world opinion throughout the year. There have been many other covert or overt interventions, invasions, massacres in recent decades, but none has had from the start the same breadth of exposure and sheer impact. This has been ‘a war too far’, a wake-up call to the affrighted conscience of the world.
Now the dust is settling, and America’s occupation has acquired a measure of legitimacy as the UN Security Council, silent since the invasion, gives its needed blessing to the reconstruction effort. The worst is over in terms of political fall-out for Bush and Blair. [That they went on to further electoral success will be remembered by both nations with shame.] The ideological debate has perhaps been won in the short term neither by peaceniks nor warniks, but by a new breed of liberals turned conservative who argue that Saddam’s demise gives the war respectability and that the important thing now is to focus on building peace and democracy in the region. [The neocon position has since morphed into the idea that the war was “noble” but ill-conceived and that withdrawal is now imperative.] The question of justification recedes behind the issue of who will pay the huge cost of the reconstruction, and worry that investments made while America is in charge are just money poured down the drain. Guerrilla or terrorist resistance will continue and perhaps escalate over the years ahead and America will probably yield increasingly to calls for Iraqi sovereignty and UN control, though hardly to a domestic demand for immediate withdrawal of troops. The situation will remain a messy one whatever policies are adopted. It is unlikely that local leadership can quickly establish a peaceful, unified nation, and as for the UN, which presided over twelve years of sanctions and bombardments, it is hardly more popular in Iraq than the US is. In any case the drama is over, and Iraq has gone back to being just another mundane trouble spot on the international agenda.
But the truly traumatic events of this year will have left their mark on the political and ethical thinking of the entire planet. Trust between Europe and the US will not be fully restored. The Arab and Islamic world are further entrenched in their hatred of the US and of Israel: one can gauge this from the decline in favorable opinion of the US in Indonesia from 61% in mid-2002 to 15% in June 2003, and from the rapturous reception accorded the anti-Semitic declarations of the Malaysian prime minister Mahathir by representatives of twenty Asian countries in October. The advocates of terrorism enjoy new levels of popularity and approval and a surge in recruitment.
In preparation for a Christmas likely to taste of ashes, I would like to think again on the tragedy we have witnessed, searching for some grains of Christian or humanistic insight.
CHRONICLE OF A WAR FORETOLD
Tragedy is not a word found on the lips of Bush or Blair, whose upbeat reports would persuade us that the Iraq war was effective management of a chronic problem. Yet that such a brutal war should have happened at all is in itself a tragedy. To many of us, Bush and Blair’s self-image as benign liberators is something that enhances the tragic dimension of the event. Hubris and blindness are the marks of a tragic protagonist, causing him to scorn the warning voices of the apprehensive chorus and of whatever far-seeing Cassandra or Tiresias dares to risk his displeasure. No anti-war representatives crossed the threshold of the White House in the months before the war, except the papal envoy Pio Laghi; he met a President whose mind was made up and who was unwilling to listen . The tragic protagonist advances toward his crime as if fate had overruled reason, despite the growing fear of all onlookers. [The Emperor Julian made the same mistake in 363 AD. People in the Middle East remember this and countless other imperialist misadventures; Americans appear to be ignorant of fatidic precedent.]
Tragedy is a public spectacle, lit up from every angle. This war was no hole-in-corner affair, but one that was announced long in advance. Every step in its preparation was followed by the world public. When hostilities began, the staging was worthy of Hollywood: the night of ‘shock and awe’; Bush’s stirring speech to the delirious soldiers at Fort Tampa, including the presentation of a baby for him to kiss; the meretricious saga of Private Jessica Lynch, and of course the ‘Top Gun’ victory speech of May 1st. Less convincing were the press briefings of the inarticulate General Tommy Franks, speedily replaced by General Vincent Brooks. Then General Jay Garner attempted to tackle the star role in a movie about the US postwar occupation of Germany or Japan; he flopped, and was quickly replaced by the more stately Paul Bremer III, a man bent on being Iraq’s Macarthur. [Germany and Japan had intact, cooperative infrastructures and the Occupation authorities had studied the culture and were masters of diplomacy; the Iraq invaders destroyed what infrastructure there was, alienated possible collaborators, and showed the crassest ignorance of culture and diplomacy. Eight of their rare Arabic specialists were fired as part of the constant effort to cleanse the US army of homosexuals!]
In the 1991 war, presented like this one as a merciful, precise, clinical operation, what we saw on television was a display of rockets and planes with no glimpse of the horror where the bombs landed. More confident in 2003, the US offered journalists the privilege of being ‘embedded’ in the invading tanks, a privilege they embraced with apparent naivety, ready to declare later that they had been cynically used. All this was only what America wanted the world to see. As in classical tragedy, the scenes of carnage happened offstage, tracked by Al-Jezeera rather than by Fox News. Here the Arab vision of the tragedy was forged, and though America complimented itself that the feared eruption of anger on the Arab street did not materialize, it may yet rue its unwisdom in forcing Arabs to drink deep once again of the cup of humiliation.
The rhythm of the war also had the dimensions of the tragic. The outcry had reached full pitch worldwide when the war began, yet the world was forced to follow, as trapped spectators, the unfolding of all they had foreseen. Up to the last minute we had reports, from the admirable Robert Fisk, of how the people of Baghdad were going about their business, oblivious of the impending axe. The declaration of war was a dashing of hope, a slap in the face of world opinion, a lesson in cynicism to the newly politicized young who shouted their protests on the streets of so many cities. Ex-premier Nakasone dismissed the anti-war sentiment in Japan as merely passive (and the experience of one-party rule for decades shows he is right). The youth of the world were pushed back into their apolitical passivity.
Bush had boasted to journalists months before that it was he, not they, who would get to decide. Now, like Macbeth, he could boast ‘I have done the deed’, a deed whose fateful quality was enhanced by the tense build-up. Then the tragedy continued with the implacable tread of fore-ordained destiny. The victory speech sought a false closure, but the plot of this tragedy was not being written by Bush: what followed was a long disenchantment, the daily attrition of the spurious dream, the unraveling of hidden motives in scenes of recognition, and a sense of pity and terror as hubris met its punishment. Still missing is any sense of catharsis or any final recognition by the protagonist of the depth of his crime. In real life, as opposed to stage drama, there is no guarantee that these will be provided. [And this is still the case in March 2006.]
Tragedy was deepened by the sense of déjà vu. The fact that this was the second time that the US would unleash the full horror of its weapons on the Iraqi people compounded the nightmare. Eugen Drewermann concludes his prophetic denunciation of the 1991 war with the following words:
It will all come back again, if we do not remember. That is why I wish this to be a Mene Tekel in your souls, buried there until the Last Day, and that you may tell it to your contemporaries and your children. A war like this must never happen again, in no place on earth. That is the lesson of the war for Kuwait. 
But a war like this did happen again, in the same corner of the earth, and after twelve years of starvation and bombardments that took more than a million lives ('the price, I think, is worth it’, Madeleine Albright, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0WDCYcUJ4o). Kenneth Adelman, former assistant to Donald Rumsfeld, told Washington Post readers: ‘I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) it was a cakewalk last time; (2) they’ve become much weaker; (3) we’ve become much stronger; (4) now we’re playing for keeps’  Responsible? The most powerful military force in history demolishes for the second time a third world country with tenth rate defences, having first sapped it systematically and forced it to disarm. All this for reasons that do not bear scrutiny. [Adelman forgot that liberating tiny Kuwait was on a different scale from taking over the huge territory of Iraq.]
Even in the details, there were uncanny repetitions, or rather the protagonists were acting out a scenario that was written long ago and had been implemented many times. US Vice President Dan Quayle spoke of nuclear bombs as a ‘real option’ in the 1991 war; the same sentiment was voiced in the 2003 war. The US spoke in 1991 of keeping open the option of war; Colin Powell in 2003 said that war is the last resort but it must be a resort. The rhetoric of absolute Good against absolute Evil and the comparisons of Saddam with Hitler were already in full spate in 1991. George Bush senior declared on January 27, 1991, that the war was no one between Jews, Christians and Muslims, but concerned what lies at the basis of all religion, the battle between Good and Evil; and the end of this war could only be the triumph of the Good . On both occasions blank lies about the enemy’s power and intent became common currency. ‘We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons’ (Vice President Cheney on NBC's ‘Meet the Press,’ March 16, 2003). The war machine is oiled by these hallowed ways of speaking. War without end is what these rituals of speech dictate, unless the entire American military machine somehow crashes – through lack of money or a hemorrhage of personnel who may retire in disgust from military service. Or unless America undergoes a change of heart.
Bloodshed is of the essence of tragedy, and the US has never been sparing in this effect. No obscenity was lacking: depleted uranium was dumped in five times the quantity as in 1991, bombing sorties were again numbered in tens of thousands, cluster-bombing was inflicted even on residential areas by both the US and UK , leaving hundreds of thousands of bomblets liable to blind or mutilate children for years ahead; the ragged conscript army was fire-bombed from the skies, burned alive with a substance equivalent to napalm; ‘daisy cutters’ created instant helicopter pads; stray missiles twice massacred people in a market place; casual shooting of civilians occurred again and again  and is still continuing.
Americans celebrated the ‘humanitarian’ character of a war that had taken so few civilian casualties, less than three times the number killed on September 11. No effort was made to count the wounded, maimed, blinded, or those who would die from disease and violence as a result of the chaos the war created. No effort was made to count the military casualties, numbering tens of thousands in all probability. The Hollywood dream factory has spun a virtual world in which armchair jingoists can go ‘bang bang’ and in which pilots high in the sky can rain death on unseen, unreal millions in the grand tradition of the Enola Gay. In this Sadean scenario the Masters live in a cloud of delusion while the Victims fall by the millions, as unreal as the denizens of Auschwitz were to the Nazis.
Christ may hold all times in his hand, but for many people the time is always Passiontide. The people of Iraq have been crucified again and again, and are now mocked by the shallow promises of their ‘liberators.’ Released from the curse of Saddam, so long sustained by the USA, a window of hope has opened for them. But it is a hope that seems purely notional as their daily lives continue to be more miserable than ever. A people pushed to the utmost limits of despair, they have made the world understand at last why one would dream of being a suicide bomber. ‘It is the sheerest disorder to get up in arms against misery, against the aggression that comes from misery, against the hatred that stems from despair, and always to act as if we were in the right’. Warring on the despairing and the helpless, the US has made for itself the most dangerous of foes, the one with nothing to lose.
THE SHAME OF MOTIVES LATE REVEALED
What explains this cruelty, and the lack of planning that left the country a prey to looters and criminals after the invasion? The explanation lies in the mixed motives of the war, and in the fact that it was a war at the service of a broader plan, a Great Game, in which the Iraqi people figured as mere pawns. The USA has never had the least concern for the freedom, welfare or human rights of the people of Iraq. Its policy is to establish a global armed peace, which does not translate into welfare and security for the local people everywhere, since like all jealous empires it regards the locals potential rebels against its hegemony.
The motives and justification of the war occasioned ferocious debate, not in Congress, whose main contribution to debate was a resolution on ‘freedom fries,’ not in Parliament, not even in the media, but on the internet. It was the first internet war. Marathon debates on the New York Times, Financial Times, and Independent websites (and many others) degenerated immediately into shouting matches, but with valuable pellets of information shuttling back and forth as the belligerents cast links to other sites at one another. The peaceniks sunk weeks of valuable time into this war of words, venting their helpless anger, and knowing in the end the quiet satisfaction of seeing the pro-war forces diminish and retreat into sullen defensiveness. [The war has few defenders now, and the temptation to smugness must be resisted.]
Revenge for September 11, 2001 was the galvanizing motive of the average American, a motive frequently expressed by GIs interviewed in Iraq. ‘With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.’ (Bush’s victory speech). After September 11, 2001 a narrow ideological reading of the terrorist attacks was quickly imposed and any questioning of it was dubbed unpatriotic. There was no wide-ranging, free, probing discussion among the politicians, but rather a rash of jingoistic gestures which were mandatory for those who did not wish to alienate their constituency. A rational and responsible interpretation of September 11 would have weighed all the political implications of the event, in terms of its causes and consequences as well as with regard to the question of what policy to adopt in response. The policy of a war of Good against Evil, smoking the terrorists from their lairs, showing them the meaning of American justice, etc. was grossly simplistic. The American press did not contribute to a political reflection in the months after the terrorist attack. Even the International Herald Tribune, became almost unreadable, as a heavy propagandist party line set the limits of what could be thought and said.
‘And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people’ (President Bush's Radio Address to the Nation for March 22, 2003). Luminous motives, but close examination reveals a deep murkiness in them. The WMDs were that diabolical detail, like Othello’s handkerchief, that serves to confirm the protagonist in his blindness. What a surprise! Desdemona never gave Cassio the handkerchief after all! A surprise to none but the protagonist, for anyone could have told that Iago was lying. Colin Powell’s sound and light show before the UN Security Council on February 5th was quickly diagnosed as a tissue of lies (for instance by Alexander Cockburn in The Nation), yet even at this late stage $900,000,000 is being spent in a desperate bid to prove the existence of the WMDs, so that Bush and Blair shall have been the protagonists of a righteous victory and not of a tragedy. If the threat of WMDs could be proven real, then the war would be a war of defence. Even if a potential future threat from Iraqi weapons could be identified, the war would meet America’s new criterion for a just war – preventive strikes against a future, hypothetical threat (a criterion that conflicts with the basics of international law). But even by that lax standard, the justification has not been forthcoming. The sands of the desert refused to yield a single item to verify the fears stoked by the leaders in the pre-war build-up. Nor can this possibly have been a surprise to American intelligence services. The arms inspector Scott Ritter had pointed it out loud and clear in the months preceding the war.
Neither Bush nor Blair has as yet admitted to making a single false step. They still hold that the threat of WMDs, even if they were but a twinkle in Saddam’s eye, and the alleged terrorist connections, to which the war itself has actually given substance, were enough to justify the violence. But what really casts a glow of moral rectitude over it is the toppling of a hated dictator and the promise that democracy will now flourish throughout the region. As to the legality of the war, its defenders still cling to the fig-leaf of the claim that it was merely enacting the UN’s own Resolution 1441 threatening ‘serious consequences’ – a diplomatic fudge meant to avoid the code word for war, which is ‘all necessary means’ – if Saddam did not comply with their demands. The flimsiness of these justifications has been exposed countless times: what Blair called the ‘unprecedented and growing’ threat was hyped; Resolution 1441 needed at least one subsequent resolution to be implemented; Saddam was an American creation (helped to power by the CIA who knew him to be a sadistic killer ) who could have been unseated by other means if the US were willing to allow Iraqis to have their own revolution. America seats and unseats dictators at will, following one fixed principle: America first! 
Those who claimed before the war that its true, undeclared motive was American dominance through control of Iraq’s oil were dismissed as adolescent fantasists. Yet the thinking of the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century, founded in 1997, best explains the determination of Washington to go to war, a war for which September 11 provided the welcome pretext. (The Iraq Liberation Act promulgated by President Clinton in October 1998 had already laid the ground.) The grandiose idea of the PNAC is that world peace can only be secured if America enjoys undisputed military hegemony and is prepared to exercise military constraint on any local enemy of American interests and principles. This Pax Americana is to be the major achievement of the 21st century. By its fruits will it be known.
The people of Britain and America, facing the huge bill that has been handed to them, are experiencing a severe bout of buyer’s remorse. Bush confidently predicted that the war would be self-justifying. This seems to have been his greatest miscalculation. Now the multitude does not want to be saddled with guilt and casts the blame back on those who misled it. Iraq has proved a graveyard of reputations in Westminster and Washington. It has often seemed that politicians cared more about their reputations and their re-election than about the lives of innocents, and the embarrassing death of Dr Kelly caused Blair to pale where the massacre in Baghdad dinted his aplomb not a whit. Only when it became clear that the aftermath of the war would demand a high price in soldiers’ lives and taxpayers’ money did the Democratic party begin serious discussion of the question that should have been debated before the war: ‘Was this war necessary?’ To which they may subjoin a more popular question: ‘If it was not necessary, can we now somehow get out of paying for it?’
But who is the protagonist in this tragedy? Just the President, the Prime Minister, and their advisers? Or the entire citizenry of America and Britain? If we casually concede that all are guilty, we can comfortably conclude that none are really guilty. The churches pray and hymn their way through the war and its aftermath just as they did in 1991, in tones that amount to self-excusation. If a scapegoat must be found, we can just sack a few politicians who are past their prime anyway. The question is not urgent because the accuser is powerless and incapable of inflicting defeat.
Twenty years after the fall of Hitler, Jews were able to pose the question of guilt to the world’s conscience. The ‘banality of evil’ diagnosed by Hannah Arendt at the time of the Eichmann trial linked us all to the perpetrators of Auschwitz, bringing the Nazi monsters within the ambit or moral if not legal forgiveness. The Buddhist thinker Masao Abe drowns the singular evil of Auschwitz within a general theory of the deludedness of human beings. Vladimir Jankélévitch fiercely rejected such thinking: ‘If everyone is guilty, no one is guilty’ . ‘To the bombardment of Dresden, in its chilling ghastliness, Auschwitz adds a dimension of unprecedented horror : I mean its oriented, methodical and selective character’ , and its preparation in a systematic literature based on the principles of Anti-Semitism. He urged that we invert the prayer of Jesus: ‘Lord, forgive them not, for they know what they do’. His refusal to forgive was directed at the German people as a whole: ‘Did they ever ask for forgiveness? It is the distress and dereliction of the culprit that alone would give a meaning and a raison d’être to forgiveness. When the culprit is fat, well-fed, prosperous, enriched by the “economic miracle”, forgiveness is a sinister joke. No, forgiveness is not make for pigs and their sows’. ‘We, the survivors, cannot forgive on behalf of the victims – of the children you tortured, without betraying their memory’ . Jacques Madaule replied: ‘The more I reflect, the more I think that peoples are almost always guiltless of the crimes committed in their name, and even of those they have been made to acclaim’ . A humane and merciful thought, but one that may not wash with the Islamic world.
The American conscience is spared by being muffled in a myth of innocent gung-ho enthusiasm for freedom motivating all American wars. This myth is scarcely dinted by figures like Noam Chomsky or Susan Sontag, who see these wars as a series of callous massacres prompted by ignoble motives and always using extremely disproportionate firepower. The myth is so powerful and now so systematically reinforced by a subservient media that it would seem to absolve those who believe in it from all moral culpability. American innocence knows no bounds: ‘We thank all of the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country. When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our service men and women, they saw strength and kindness and good will’ (Bush victory speech). On January 26, 2003 Colin Powell expressed the noble selflessness of the American cause in response to a question from George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them’. Yet the US does ask for something. As Powell said on March 26: ‘We didn't take this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant dominating control over how it unfolds in the future... We have picked on a greater obligation – to make sure there is a functioning Iraqi government that is supported by the coalition, the center of gravity remaining with the coalition, military and civilian.’ And the fight for freedom means the fight for American security and hegemony. A well-placed administration official who requested anonymity declared: ‘We intend to sit on the “Arab States” and have them get used to the idea that we'll be coming at them regularly’.
The poet Kleist characterized the French press of his day as follows: ‘If you tell the people something three times, they'll believe it is true.’ In 2003 as in 1933-45 the lie worked its magic, and had the war been a success the lie would have gone unquestioned. Joan Chittister OSB has raised the question of collective guilt: ‘The point is clear: If the people speak and the king doesn't listen, there is something wrong with the king. If the king acts precipitously and the people say nothing, something is wrong with the people. It may be time for us to realize that in a country that prides itself on being democratic, we are our government. And the rest of the world is figuring that out very quickly’ (National Catholic Reporter, May 7, 2003).
Is it surprising that anti-American sentiment has acquired for many people an unprecedented, almost mystical intensity? But while there is a place for prophetic rage, we must avoid falling into the black and white thinking that pits America against the Arab world and Muslims and Jews against one another. People find it difficult to hate the sin and love the sinner, for the sinner continues to swagger and scoff, and cannot be brought to see anything wrong with his behavior. Yet if we look long enough at a tragic protagonist, rage at his crimes will yield to pity and terror. America may be hardened in crime, but it is so only because it is a victim of false principles, a capitalist and mediatic manipulation that is pauperiziong its culture.
America’s burden of guilt is shared by the countries of the Coalition of the Willing, all of whom subscribed as readily as Eichmann to the unwritten rule of international diplomacy: One does not say No to the United States. The named members of the Coalition were: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan. Significantly absent were Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Russia and the little nations on the UNSC who did not yield to American bribery and bullying: Guinea, Angola, Cameroon, Mexico, Chile, Syria, Pakistan. My own country, the Republic of Ireland, though not a named member of the coalition, cravenly serviced American warplanes, as in the Vietnam War. [This has involved collusion in extraordinary rendition and torture. The phrase ‘Coalition of the Willing’ is no longer in official use, for obvious reasons.]
CAN GOOD COME FROM EVIL?
Emmanuel Todd opined in Der Spiegel March 17, that ‘the moment war is declared, the power of the Empire will be broken’. To the ears of Europeans, who have begun to realize the that the boundless extensionism of the American drive for power threatens the liberties not only of third world nations but of their own, Todd’s prophecy was thrilling, and gained some plausibility from his earlier success in predicting the fall of the Soviet empire. Has his prophecy begun to come true in months since the declaration of war? The imperial project of the neo-conservatives has failed the test of an encounter with recalcitrant reality – but has by no means been abandoned. America has suffered a hemorrhage of its legitimacy in the eyes of the world. The financial consequences of the war may also prove grave. (Bush has raised the military budget from 220 to 400 billion dollars; Iraq has so far cost an extra 162 billion.) [Recent estimates of the total war cost speak of trillions. America’s own infrastructure is suffering from the deployment of personnel and machinery in Iraq, as the Katrina fiasco showed.] Europe is stumbling toward military autonomy and toward making the Euro the reserve currency to replace a weakened dollar. Maybe Hegel’s ‘ruse of reason’ will come into play – the slow advance of progress, writing straight with the crooked lines of human stupidity, and able to take the worst tragedies in its stride. But even that grim form of optimism may be too sanguine. Maybe the war is sheer waste, with no redeeming aspects whatever.
‘Whoever believes that evil actions cannot produce good results, nor good actions evil results, is an infant in politics’ (Max Weber). The whole world wishes that Bush and Co. will succeed in their aims of creating peace and democracy in the Middle East. [NOT in their aims of assuring hegemony through military bases and control of oil; the whole world devoutly wishes America’s abject failure there. As to the “noble” aims of creating peace and democracy, few believe that American had any serious or sincere devotion to these aims to begin with.] Some take grim satisfaction in American casualties, on the theory that America needs to be taught a lesson. [Leftists like Slavoj Zizek seem to gloat over any tragedy in Iraq that puts sand in the wheels of America’s military machine. It seems that the whole world is now rooting for America’s decline – a situation that has no precedent in the Cold War period.] But America has already been taught the lesson as clearly as is required. [Polls track the long, slow disillusionment, even among the most arrogantly impervious.] What is important now is that the Western world atone to the Iraqis for the hell inflicted on them. The tragedy cannot be undone, but at least it can be followed by something better.
The Christian voices raised against the war had one good effect: they ensured that the war was seen in the Arab world as an American aggression, not as a Christian one. But was the Christian voice sufficiently loud? Had the Pope gone to Baghdad as a human shield, might the war have been averted? Naturally, the Vatican would not allow such a prophetic gesture, so far from the rules of diplomacy. Meanwhile, US Catholic Bishops, weakened by scandals, could not make their influence strongly felt, and US Catholics produced essays squaring loyalty to the President with loyalty to the Pope. But one or two bishops had themselves arrested, and perhaps for once the Church came through a war with its honor relatively intact. One is left wondering if the lack of resonance in the Church’s voice is due to the indifference of the world or to the Church’s own systematic self-silencing.
Is there a Christian perspective on a tragedy as terrible as this? Better seek to learn from the Iraqi people what religious response there is – rather than those bumptious evangelists who rushed to bring Christ to the Iraqis in the wake of the massacre. Their faith in God has survived their decades of martyrdom, even if it is a faith that takes the bitter tinges of the cursing Psalms. The dolorism of the Shiites, with their festivals of lamentation for the ancient defeat of Imam Husain, perhaps helps them deal with grief and defeat . But had America sought to give a demonstration of the non-existence of God, it could hardly have done a better job. A film about American-occupied Afghanistan, ‘Five in the Afternoon’ (the title of a Lorca poem about a bullfight), shows simple people wrestling with a sense of being abandoned by God. Since the ‘liberators’ used Christian language so much, it is difficult for Christians to preach hope to the people of Iraq, to tell them that Christ is with them in their sufferings. Here is a case where one must allow them to find salvation through the channel of their own religion.
 See James Atlas, ‘The neocons from Vietnam to Iraq’, International Herald Tribune, October 22, 2003, p. 8. Former prime minister Laurent Fabius responds to one of these intellectuals, André Glucksmann, as follows: ‘It’s true that the American intervention has had as a consequence the fall of Saddam Hussein, and I imagine that no one here will regret that. But without wishing to indulge in sophisms, this was not the reason that the Americans intervened, not the motive they advanced. The fact that an action has a consequence that one can judge to be positive doesn’t make that action legitimate when it was undertaken on an illegitimate basis. This is an absolutely fundamental point of law’ (Le Monde, 23 October,, 2003, p. 21). Foreign minister Dominique de Villepin agrees with Glucksmann that legitimate sovereignty is contingent on respect for human rights, but argues that the overturning of a dictator needs to be planned and approved collectively and on the surest bases of international law; otherwise it becomes a free-for-all giving a pretext that Russia or China could invoke as easily as the USA in order to acquire control over smaller countries. The US administration turned a deaf ear to France’s reasonable objections and encouraged a popular anti-French backlash that viewed the French as wimpish appeasers motivated solely by self-interest.
 Cardinal Laghi’s March 5th report on the meeting stated: ‘The Holy See maintains that there are still peaceful avenues within the context of the vast patrimony of international law and institutions which exist for that purpose. A decision regarding the use of military force can only be taken within the framework of the United Nations, but always taking into account the grave consequences of such an armed conflict: the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, a further instability in the region and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity.’ In a press conference he added that a U.S. military attack on Iraq would be "illegal" and "unjust." On October 4th he told the whole story: ‘The president began expounding the reasons for war at length, until the cardinal interrupted to say: "I did not come here only to listen, but also to ask you to listen." Bush listened to the cardinal, but raised objections to the Vatican's moral arguments against use of force, its rejection of "preventive war" and its warnings about the practical consequences for Iraqis and others. When Bush said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was training members of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, Cardinal Laghi said he asked him: "Are you sure? Where is the evidence?" Cardinal Laghi also questioned the administration's conviction that Iraq possessed and was ready to use weapons of mass destruction. But Bush had no doubt that he was right, the cardinal said. The president acted almost as if he were divinely inspired and "seemed to truly believe in a war of good against evil," Cardinal Laghi said. "We spoke a long time about the consequences of a war. I asked: 'Do you realize what you'll unleash inside Iraq by occupying it?' The disorder, the conflicts between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds -- everything that has in fact happened," the cardinal said. Bush insisted that democracy would be the main result.. On his way out of the White House, Cardinal Laghi said his sense that Bush and his aides had already made up their minds to attack Iraq was confirmed when a Marine general came up to him, shook his hand and said: "Your eminence, don't worry. What we're going to do, we will do quickly and well.”’ (NCCatholic Oct. 7, 2003). that there are still peaceful
 Eugen Drewermann, Reden gegen den Krieg (Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1991), p. 128.
 Washington Post, February 13, 2002; Page A27. In an Op-Ed contribution to the same paper on April 10, 2003, Adelman wrote: ‘I intended nothing but the most serious treatment of a serious matter… I'm an incurable optimist, but even I could never have envisioned the coalition controlling the enemy capital within three weeks -- less than half the time, with less than half the U.S. casualties, of the first Gulf War.’ He admits some minor oversights, such as ‘how a totalitarian regime could so pulverize its people and military as to intimidate them, at least for a time, out of celebrating even their own liberation.’ Reading them more than six months later, these words do suggest incurable optimism.
 Drewermann, p. 81.
 After initial denials, the US and UK authorities admitted the use of cluster bombs in residential areas. See reports in The Guardian, March 29, 2003; The Financial Times, April 4, 2003.
 Soldiers confess this: see The Observer, June 22, 2003.
 Drewermann, p. 91.
 See Monica Papazu, ‘La guerre par générosité,’ Catholica 81 (autumn 2003), pp. 44-59
 See Le Monde diplomatique, May 2003.
 See Éric Werner, ‘ La politique américaine, incohérente ou opportuniste?’ Catholica 81:39-43.
 Vladimir Jankélévitch, Pardonner? (Paris: Le Pavillon, 1971), p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 37.
 Ibid. p. 39.
 Ibid. pp. 46-7.
 Ibid., p. 52.
 Ibid., p. 95.
 Husayn (626-680), defeated at the battle of Karbala, is regarded as a martyr by Shi’ites, a rebel by Sunnites. His ‘passion’ is celebrated annually in scenes of great emotional intensity (see the film, ‘Iran: Under the Veil of Appearances’). The first major event of post-invasion Iraq was a convergence of Shi’ites on Karbala for the long-forbidden festival.