A friend who is a reservist writes:

As one who could get whisked away to locations at home and abroad to take part in Iraq-related military efforts, I thought you might be interested in my take on all of this. I see the Iraq issue as one that contains a primary and a secondary component. The primary component is that Hussein has chemical and biological weapons, is sponsoring within Iraq’s borders training camps in the use of these weapons (and is supplying the weapons) for terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, has displayed the willingness and the means to use them on his internal and external enemies, and will certainly participate in or otherwise sponsor attacks on US targets — overseas or on US shores — if left unchecked.

I know that my assertions are not proven in the open-source press, but I’m convinced that all of this is nonetheless true. I therefore am convinced that in order to thwart — or at least severely minimize — any such attacks on us by Iraqi-supplied or trained terrorists, Saddam and his ruling Baath party simply have to go. This is certainly not to say that eliminating Saddam by definition removes any terrorist threat. I’m not naïve enough to think that. If by removing the Baaths we do remove terrorist threats/attacks to our people, I will be greatly surprised and relieved. I think other terrorist cells may try to pick up where Saddam and Co. leaves off. We’ll obviously have to deal with those future scenarios as we learn about them.

The secondary component is the issue of Saddam himself: the brutal repression of his people by himself, his own family, and other members of the ruling Baath party. If left unchecked, he’ll absolutely continue his practices of executing opposition and the opposition’s family members. He’ll pay no regard for age (young or old, all dissenters and their families are wiped out), for severity of the dissent (e.g. one nine year old during the Iran-Iraq War, after asking why Iran was so bad, was murdered with her family), or anything else that he sees as posing a threat to his own power base. While I’m acutely sympathetic to the arguments against an Iraqi invasion — innocents may be killed (or slaughtered by Saddam and his loyal followers themselves at the time the invasion happens) — I know that innocent slaughter will continue unabated in that land if Saddam does stay in power.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not calling this ‘secondary’ because I somehow am not concerned about the plight of the Iraqi people. I’m bothered by this sort of thing where ever it occurs in the world. It would be great to do a thorough housecleaning of all such regimes. I know, however, that such an effort would require enormous sacrifices in our own blood, our national financial resources, and is probably at such a scale that for these and many more reasons we couldn’t do it. Since all such efforts inevitably require some occupying force to either maintain or assist in the transition to a better form of government, I’m not willing to sign myself or others on for such a commitment. I also don’t relish the thought of being known as the latest in a line of history’s imperial nations regardless of our good intentions.

The reason I consider this component to be ‘secondary’ is because, while the liberation of Iraq’s people will be a huge benefit in the long run for itself and its neighbors and will be extraordinarily great to see, the primary reason as I said above is to protect ourselves.

As far as the Vatican’s negotiation efforts go, as a Catholic I really do wish there was some way that these efforts could succeed — success being that Saddam and the Baaths are out, the Iraqis have their country back, and the terrorist-sponsorship of training camps and related activities cease. Sadly, since Saddam doesn’t appear at this point to be agreeable to success on these terms (i.e. over his cold, dead body will he ever relinquish the reigns of power), I can’t see any possible way that the various papal delegates could pull something like this off.

Since we cannot fathom the depths of God’s workings, He may well have a phenomenal way to make this very thing happen that none of us will have forseen/expected. I like everyone else on both sides (or some point in between) of this issue pray regularly for it to be resolved properly.

If the shooting does start, for the part of the US and Coalition forces involved, prayer is EXACTLY what is needed to do this most unpleasant task properly — remove Saddam and save as many of the people there who have so languised under his heavy burden for far too long. From my time over there during Desert Shield/Storm the last time, I’ve seen first-hand the destruction we wrought and some of the Iraqi (war) dead we produced. I was convinced then as now that we did the right thing, but I didn’t enjoy having to be part of it if another way to resolve it existed.

I’m sure many places exist to poke this full of holes, but as I’ve thought through this, I believe that I can stand before God at my own particular judgement confident that I’ve reached a right position in this issue.

I’ve no particular arguments I want to offer, just gratitude that there are men like you in the world. What staggers me at the moment is the stark contrast between this man I am honored to call a friend and the sheer putrid littleness, the unbelievably cramped mind and soul of the pathetic creature who infested my comments box this weekend. It is creatures such as him that my friend is willing to lay his life on the line to defend. It’s a picture for me of the mystery of the cross. Thanks for your courage, guy!