is what I don't understand: All of a sudden nothing
seems to matter.
First, they said they wanted Bin Laden "dead or
alive." But they didn't get him. So now they tell
us that it doesn't matter. Our mission is greater
than one man.
they said they wanted Saddam Hussein, "dead or
alive." He's apparently alive but we haven't got
him yet, either. However, President Bush told
reporters recently, "It doesn't matter. Our mission
is greater than one man."
Finally, they told us that we were invading Iraq
to destroy their weapons of mass destruction.
Now they say those weapons probably don't exist.
Maybe never existed. Apparently that doesn't matter
that it does matter.
I know we're not supposed to say that. I know
it's called "unpatriotic."
But it's also called honesty. And dishonesty matters.
It matters that the infrastructure of a foreign
nation that couldn't defend itself against us
has been destroyed on the grounds that it was
a military threat to the world.
It matters that it was destroyed by us under a
new doctrine of "pre-emptive war" when there was
apparently nothing worth pre-empting.
It surely matters to the families here whose sons
went to war to make the world safe from weapons
of mass destruction and will never come home.
It matters to families in the United States whose
life support programs were ended, whose medical
insurance ran out, whose food stamps were cut
off, whose day care programs were eliminated so
we could spend the money on sending an army to
do what did not need to be done.
It matters to the Iraqi girl whose face was burned
by a lamp that toppled over as a result of a U.S.
It matters to Ali, the Iraqi boy who lost his
family - and both his arms - in a U.S. air attack.
It matters to the people in Baghdad whose water
supply is now fetid, whose electricity is gone,
whose streets are unsafe, whose 158 government
ministries' buildings and all their records have
been destroyed, whose cultural heritage and social
system has been looted and whose cities teem with
matters that the people we say we "liberated"
do not feel liberated in the midst of the lawlessness,
destruction and wholesale social suffering that
so-called liberation created.
matters to the United Nations whose integrity
was impugned, whose authority was denied, whose
inspection teams are even now still being overlooked
in the process of technical evaluation and disarmament.
matters to the reputation of the United States
in the eyes of the world, both now and for decades
to come, perhaps.
surely it matters to the integrity of this nation
whether or not its intelligence gathering agencies
have any real intelligence or not before we launch
a military armada on its say-so.
And it should matter whether or not our government
is either incompetent and didn't know what they
were doing or were dishonest and refused to say.
The unspoken truth is that either as a people
we were misled, or we were lied to, about the
real reason for this war. Either we made a huge
- and unforgivable - mistake, an arrogant or ignorant
mistake, or we are swaggering around the world
like a blind giant, flailing in all directions
while the rest of the world watches in horror
or in ridicule.
If Bill Clinton's definition of "is" matters,
surely this matters. If a president's sex life
matters, surely a president's use of global force
against some of the weakest people in the world
a president's word in a court of law about a private
indiscretion matters, surely a president's word
to the community of nations and the security of
millions of people matters.
And if not, why not? If not, surely there is something
as wrong with us as citizens, as thinkers, as
Christians as there must be with some facet of
the government. If wars that the public says are
wrong yesterday - as over 70% of U.S. citizens
did before the attack on Iraq - suddenly become
"right" the minute the first bombs drop, what
kind of national morality is that? Of what are
we really capable as a nation if the considered
judgment of politicians and people around the
world means nothing to us as a people?
What is the depth of the American soul if we can
allow destruction to be done in our name and the
name of "liberation" and never even demand an
accounting of its costs, both personal and public,
when it is over?
We like to take comfort in the notion that people
make a distinction between our government and
ourselves. We like to say that the people of the
world love Americans, they simply mistrust our
government. But excoriating a distant and anonymous
"government" for wreaking rubble on a nation in
pretense of good requires very little of either
character or intelligence.
What may count most, however, is that we may well
be the ones Proverbs warns when it reminds us:
"Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value
the one who speaks the truth." 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.
From where I stand, that matters.
A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sister Joan is
a best-selling author and well- known international
lecturer. She is founder and executive director
of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center
for Contemporary Spirituality, and past president
of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses
and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Sister Joan has been recognized by universities
and national organizations for her work for justice,
peace and equality for women in the Church and
society. She is an active member of the International
Peace Council. http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0529-10.htm
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