Bring the Troops Home

On the Feast of the Annunciation in 2003, Military Archbishop Edwin O’Brien wrote: “Long after the [Iraq] hostilities cease, the debate likely will continue as to the moral justification for the armed force recently initiated by the United States and its allies. It is to be hoped that all factors which have led to our intervention will eventually be made public . . . .”

The public now possesses compelling grounds for judgment. The war’s supporters promised a cakewalk that would prevent a nonexistent “looming threat.” Now Iraq is a “nightmare with no end in sight,” and the president’s strategy is one of “desperation,” according to Ricardo Sanchez, the former commanding general in Iraq.

The invasion’s advocates have been proven wrong, and emphatically so. They have changed their stated aims repeatedly. In lieu of arguments, they chant an appealing mantra: “Support the troops.”

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Archbishop O’Brien undoubtedly supports the troops. In 2003, he deemed it appropriate for Catholic soldiers “to assume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments.” But now, five years later, the “full picture” that he so ardently desired tells a different story.

As a Notre Dame ROTC student in the late 1960s, I defended the Viet Nam War in countless debates. Years later, I asked Sen. Eugene McCarthy why he had so strongly opposed that war. “Nobody would tell me the truth,” he replied. Well, I believed Lyndon Johnson then, even though, as we now know, he was lying through his teeth. Mea culpa.

Today, three fundamental reasons suggest withdrawal from Iraq. First, the war is immoral, justified by a kaleidoscope of private agendas, misinformation, deliberate deception, contradictions, and fear-mongering.

Second, it is unjust: I winced as my Catholic friends twisted beyond recognition the time-honored principles of the Christian Just War theory to contrive support for “preventive” war. Some argue that “9/11 changed everything” — nonsense. Did it change human nature? Truth? The Resurrection?

Third, the war is unconstitutional. That both major parties ignore the Constitution is just one more testimony to their bipartisan corruption.

As Americans have increasingly turned against the war, President Bush has reacted by shifting his gaze to future, more (alledgedly) intelligent generations who will vindicate him and secure his legacy. This thinly veiled contempt for “We the People” of today’s America is sheer evolutionary ideology, closer to Marx than it is to the Founders. Meanwhile, the war has torn the nation apart. Friendships have crumbled. The conservative and pro-life movements are shattered, and the two major parties are increasingly indistinguishable.

Where is Christian prudence and charity among Catholic Republicans? Why have they not echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s pleas for our Christian brethren in Iraq whom the war has killed, whose families it has destroyed? Why are they silent about the dispensationalist evangelicals, ardently longing for Armageddon, who support an ever-widening war so they can reign with Christ for 1,000 years? Is this rational?

And why have so many Catholics demeaned the entreaties of Pope John Paul II and Benedict against the war? Luke 4:1-13 and I John 2:16 warn us against temptations not only to material gain, but to power and superbia vitae, the “pride of life.” Did some Catholic Republican leaders lose their moral bearings when they heard the siren song of access, influence, and profit?

“If we leave Iraq, things will get even worse, so we must stay.” This mantra not only defies logic, it represents situational ethics at its worst. Instead of perpetuating the desperate nightmare, America must return to rational principles.

Consider: Is ours a self-indulgent, degenerate, materialist nation in decline? Or are we the West’s last bastion of Christendom? America must decide. Radical Islam hates both; it might defeat the former, but never the latter.

Then America must act. As Lenin asks, “What is to be done?”

Our wounded, divided nation can be healed only by a prayerful return to the Constitution. There the war’s supporters will find an alternative to their “nightmare without end.” First, for what, or whom, are we fighting? The United States has no security treaty with Israel or Iraq. Let them be drawn up, ratified, publicly and extensively debated, and passed by the Senate. No secrets. Full disclosure.

Second, against whom, or what, are we fighting? Let the president immediately ask the Congress for a Declaration of War. That requires naming the enemy, of course, and that will be progress. Let him declare an emergency two-month congressional recess so all the facts can be fully revealed and debated by our elected officials in their home states and districts. The military-industrial-lobbyist-media complex need not apply. To paraphrase Archbishop O’Brien, “All factors which have led to our intervention should be made public.” Tell the truth. Discuss. Debate.

And vote. If the president wins, then the war receives the imprimatur of the virtuous people of Federalist 57 (while still unjust and immoral, it would at least be legal). If the declaration fails, the war will too, and should then end immediately. If he follows the Constitution, the president will bequeath to his successor a legitimized policy as well as a stronger, united country. If the president fears giving the decision to the people and ignores the Constitution — as he has for five years — the country will continue to be ravaged by division and deceit.

We should swallow hard, wake up from this nightmare, and bring the troops home. Now, oremus.



  • Christopher Manion

    Christopher Manion served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College, and is the director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae™, a project of the Bellarmine Forum Foundation. He is a Knight of Malta.

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