A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Sunday, May 23, 2004 :::
One advantage of being lazy and going to the 4:30 Mass at the National Shrine is that one tends to see all the "housekeeping" services, the ones where the ushers are blessed or new shrines are. The early morning Masses tend to be well attended, and so any thing that might bring in extra people, such as a special pilgrimage, is pushed to 4:30. And the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend is given over to a special pilgrimage for chaplains and armed services personnell, and it was a special privilege to be there this morning. Catholicism, by its very "universal" nature, tends to be free to both extoll the virtues of the soldiers, pray for the country, and remind the faithful that the universal laws of morals apply to all nations, all people, and all actions. That seems an especially advantageous perspective right now.

That does not mean that silliness could not issue forth from very high ranking Catholics. This morning brought to the e-mail inbox a lengthy interview with the highest ranking American in the Vatican. On first read, the thinking on peace, justice, and war appears to be a complete, self-contradictory muddle, but respect demands a second reading before consigning it to the forget-about-it pile. There are prominent Catholic thinkers in this country who would suggest that the shreaking of certain prelates in the run-up to the war has resulted in their being removed from any position where their outbursts can be taken as official Vatican positions. On this thinking, once the war had started, the Pope took stock and said, "You guys would do better over here." That it is hard to know what to do in Iraq surely prompted him to move aside people who speak in an authoritative voice on issues about which they know very little.

But it is not the silliness of the occasional curial pronouncement that has had such tragic consequences. It is the silliness of certain thoughts underpinning our strategy. The one that exercised this mind over the last week was the recurrent theme in Administration pronouncements from the fall of 2002 that the Iraqi people would rise up as one and greet us as liberators. They were certainly grateful, and until recently most of them wanted us to stay. We will see how they feel after the last few weeks. But they did not spontaneously form democratic parties, and quits a few of them began working immediately to build the kind of Iraq they themselves want, not the one we want. Real conservatives would not find that surprising. It is their country, after all.

And as the colors were presented and the Star-Spangled Banner filled the Shrine, a great feeling of sorrow grew up in at least one breast for what has been done to the honor of that flag, and the greatest country the world has ever known.

The Post's outstanding foreign policy analyst Robert Kaiser this morning delivered a thoughtful and thoroughgoing attack on the Administration. Little of it is new, and some of it arguable. It does not appear to me that the "books were cooked" on WMD; it appears the CIA was seriously wrong. And there is certainly nothing wrong with the idea of pre-emption in the face of imminent danger or of wiggling free of the UN. But all of those depend on merciless and cold-eyed attention to facts, a nearly complete freedom from ideology about how things will go, and painstaking attention to detail in the execution.

All of which has been missing to one degree or another, granted, but the doctrines eschewed by Mr. Kaiser, a moderate, are not at fault.

Those very serious quibbles aside, Mr. Kaiser's piece repays careful reading.

And standing in the cavernous, echoing Shrine surrounded by those who give so much to keep us free, such as the young man in uniform across the aisle from me who could sing America the Beautiful by heart, one's thoughts turned very sombre, and the realization grew that patience is wearing very thin with those who cannot bring themselves to admit that this has all been a preventable disaster, and even more with those in the Fourth Estate who viewed their role as promoting a cause instead of seeking the truth. If those commentators who had the Administration's ear had admitted in May 2003 what they are nearly all scribbling now in May 2004, we might not be where we are today.

America, America,
God mend thine ev'ry flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

Those are conservative sentiments, which anyone who calls himself a conservative should attend to.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 6:12 PM



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