The National Catholic Review
John F. Kavanaugh
The more thoroughly you lay waste a nationlevel its cities, slaughter its people, its noncombatant peoplethe more conclusive your victory will be.... If you want to turn a psychotic aggressor nation into a well-mannered commercial oneif you want to beat swords into plowshares, and infantry training manuals into business cardsyour best bet is to go for high levels of national destruction.

John Derbyshire, They the People
www.Newenglishreview.org, August 2006

I have to acknowledge that although I did not vote for him, my vote helped elect George W. Bush six years ago. If I had known or studied enough the kind of advisors Bush was gathering to himself, I would have voted for Gore. Now it’s too late.

A few years ago I wrote a column titled Goodbye Democrats. It was not the outset, but the end result of my alienation from the party. I was angered at the lock-step pro-abortion voting of many prominent Democrats.

As it turns out, even if I would concentrate exclusively on innocent life, I think the Democrats for Life made a better reading of things than I. While consistently promoting Democratic candidates who were in favor of the unborn, they also saw that the other life issues were crucial too. What fiscal policies help families? What education and health policies helped in the bearing of children and in raising them? But the real crunch was the issue of war. I just never suspected that there would be a party that would actually pursue war.

We are now into our second term of George Bush and Republican control of Congress, and little more has been done in the name of the unborn than getting Republicans elected. But much has been done to occasion the deaths of born humans.

Think of the war in Iraq. Any reader of this column knows I have been against it from the beginning, on just war principles and with worry about the forces of death we might unleash. At this stage, I am not saying we should get out of Iraq. We cannot, in decency. But I am saying we should have never gotten into it. And the only reason we are there is the election of President George W. Bush.

The invasion of Iraq has caused a terrible loss of life. I refer not only to our 3,000 soldiers lost or the many more thousands profoundly injured, but also to the multiple thousands of Iraqis. How many innocents have been killed? How many families have been torn apart, neighborhoods ruined, enemies created? To be sure, the president did not directly intend such things, but his reckless military policies led to them. This was a war of choice, an unnecessary war, a war entered under unsubstantiated claims of weapons of mass destruction.

A particularly distressing result of our policy of pre-emptive assault has been Israel’s attack on Lebanon, with our State Department’s green light. No matter what justifications Israel may have had and no matter how similar to our own justifications theirs were, this disproportionate response to the kidnapping of two soldiers resulted in the devastation of Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure, the displacement of almost a million civilians and the loss of 900 noncombatant lives, one-third of them under the age of 12. I cannot imagine that if Al Gore had been president, such pre-emptive destruction by our ally would have occurred.

What is most alarming to me now is the warmongering fixation on Iran as the next imminent threat to our civilization. Of course, Iran is a threat we must face. Its leader calls for Israel’s obliteration and seeks nuclear arms. But a perusal of articles like the one by John Derbyshire quoted at the beginning of this column suggests a mounting call for full-blown war. While Derbyshire claims that Israel is now engaged in a crisis war that requires high levels of national destruction, he deems that the United States is not quite at the edge. But as he acknowledges, many Americans think we are in such a crisis war with Iran.

What, after all, does Vice President Dick Cheney mean when he says, with respect to Iran, the United States is keeping all options on the table? Does he concur with Charles Krauthammer’s warning in Time magazine of a great conflagration? Krauthammer writes, If we fail to prevent an Iranian regime run by apocalyptic fanatics from going nuclear, we will have reached a point of no return. Does he attend to William Kristol’s recommendation of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities? Why wait? Kristol wrote in The Weekly Standard. Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained?

The fire of fear is being stoked. We hear of the growing and gathering threat and the mushroom cloud over an American city that we heard before invading Iraq. We are told that we are now in a third world war. Iran is likened to Nazi Germany or to the Japan of 1941. The comparisons are chilling. Will the result be as well? Will we have to do now what we did to end the Second World War? Will we push ourselves to the precipice and decide that we must devastate them totally?

With the stakes for human life so high, despite all rhetoric that is pro-life, I will vote for any Democrat or Republican who opposes pre-emptive wars against Iran, Syria or Korea. The reason why war is a last resort is that the cost of it is a bloodbath of the innocent. I will never, in idealism or ungrounded hope, throw away a vote again.

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

Thomas A. Shannon | 2/26/2007 - 10:28am
I generally read the columns by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., sometimes under duress and sometimes with agreement, but always with deep and critical interest. His recent column, “Realistic Politics” (9/25), was extremely significant and timely. And I assume it was written with a deep degree of disappointment and dismay. The feeling of betrayal by the Republican so-called pro-life crowd was profound and, I sense, perhaps a bit hard to acknowledge. What is important in this article is the recognition that pro-life cannot be simply or exhaustively defined by one’s position on abortion. While Father Kavanaugh correctly notes that the issue of war is critical to this question, he also indicates that the areas of health care, education and economic policies are also equally important in the Catholic social vision and cannot be dismissed in political discussions. I commend him for his essay and his integrity as well as his pledge not to waste another vote.