The Wisdom of the Church

by Camille Eid

Who knows if in a new edition of his famous “www” (what went wrong?), General Wesley Clark, former Commander of
the Nato troops and current Democratic candidate for the White House, will replace the items on the list of the military and political mistakes in Iraq with just one: that it was not a war to fight, because wars do not solve the problems of the planet.
What is happening witnesses to the dramatic punctuality and realism of the Holy See’s position. It had long been working in various ways to resolve the conflict and to re-launch the (increasingly obscure) role of a recognized international authority like that of the UN. John Paul II’s realism is only confirmed by the difficulty in building peace in Iraq , and it invites people not to transform the legitimate and just opposition to Islamic terrorism into a clash between civilizations–precisely what Bin Laden and his followers, raised in the school of nihilism, would like to happen.
They call it the “post-war” period but in the Iraqi cities it is a continuous massacre: suicide attacks against American and allied soldiers, attacks on international organizations, the killing of agents of the new Iraqi police force, sabotage of the infrastructures so as to sabotage the rebirth of the State at its roots. The modest resistance of Saddam Hussein’s army and the contained cost in human lives had at first induced those opposed to the use of force to believe they had made a political mistake. No longer, now that the “liberation of Iraq at zero cost” shows that it is far from being over and that, on the contrary, it is becoming a swamp. The difficulty in controlling the borders has drawn many volunteers for the jihad, unable to reach Afghanistan, to choose Iraq as their destination. From a country oppressed by dictatorial rule, Iraq has been thus transformed into a new base for Islamic terrorism, where–and here lies the real danger–it is no longer easy to draw the line between terrorist action and that of an assortment of “Iraqi resistance.” This latter is conceived by many as an indirect resistance legitimated by the absence of a mandate by the UN for the allied offensive and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, one of the fundamental motives for the Anglo-American attack. “Who did it?” is the first question after every attack. People nostalgic for the regime, Al Qaeda militants, Iranian bases Shiites, Kurdish Muslims? Who attacked the Red Cross? Who reduced the UN HQ at Baghdad to a mound of rubble? And, more recently, who brought down American planes and helicopters with high precision missiles, and who is behind the attack on the Italian contingent at Nassiriya?
Having given Al Qaeda’s international terrorism the chance to connect with a (very dubious) national cause is no help for the strenuous international solidarity in the fight against terrorism that matured after September 11th. Quite the contrary, that Al Qaeda claims it is acting against the occupation of Iraq (the Americans themselves define their presence there as “occupation”) is reason for more concern since Bin Laden’s organization broadened the scope of its threats. For the first time, in the Sheik’s proclamations appear countries previously presumed not at risk of attacks: Japan, Poland, Spain and others. Those who have been in the eye of the storm for some time, like Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Kuwait and Egypt, to mention just a few, fear new challenges. The attack on a residential quarter of Riyad and those against the synagogues and British interests in Istanbul may have motivations linked with internal dissent against the Saudi monarchy and, for Turkey, a pay-off between Islamists and the champions of the secular state. All the same, motivations connected with the war in Iraq are not lacking. Saudi Arabia, while not having taken direct part in the military intervention, is in fact accused of condescending to the occupation of an Islamic State. Turkey, for its part, took Washington by surprise when it refused American troops permission to cross its territory. It was not, however, spared by the terrorists who wanted in this way to abandon their plan–cultivated over time–to enter into north Iraq.