Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Getting promoted

I found out earlier this week that I've been selected for promotion to captain. It was exciting to find out, even though the promotion from 1st Lieutenant to Captain is almost automatic. Nevertheless, it's a sign to me of my Army career progressing, and it was exciting since it will be my first promotion (chaplains enter the Army Reserve as 1st Lieutenants instead of 2nd Lieutenants; they give us credit, essentially, for our extra graduate school work).

I'm not sure when I will actually receive the promotion. Once you're selected, they put out orders for the actual promotion. Since this is my first promotion, I don't know if that is something that will take a couple of weeks or a few months.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

More on WMD

Ok, here is my second post for the day, but I'd like to include some quotes I just read while watching the NFL Draft. They are from retired Major General Anthony Zinni, one of the critics of Donald Rumsfeld and the administration. He said recently:

"There was no solid proof, that I ever saw, that Saddam had WMD."

It sounds bad, until you read what he said in 2000, serving under President Clinton:

"Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region." He also said that "Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, [and] retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions... Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks." (quotes taken from Human Events weekly)

Wow. Are you confused? Why the difference in these statements? Politics, maybe?!

It's amazing that we as a nation have developed mass memory loss...just a few years after leaders, both political and military, were united in understanding the threat of Iraq, we now have this chorus of criticism from so many people with political axes to grind.


One of the often heard critiques against the war in Iraq is the argument that we were lied to about the basic premise of the war: the presence of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq. Those who use this argument point out that we never found WMD in Iraq, hence, we went to war for the wrong reasons and we were lied to about it in order to justify the war.

There are two basic problems with this line of reasoning, however. First the idea that the lack of WMD negates the justification for the war, and, second, the idea that the administration lied about it. Both are false.

We need to go back to the reasons for the inspections and what had transpired. Everyone knows that Saddam HAD weapons of mass destruction. No one in their right mind disputes this. He used them. It is public knowledge.

After the first Gulf War, the treaty that was established demanded that Saddam give up all of his WMD programs and agree to inspections to verify this. Over the next decade, Saddam played a cat and mouse game of both agreeing to the inspections, and then either frustrating the efforts, or blocking the inspectors altogether.

During late 2002, early 2003, the argument was not so much about whether he had them, or how much he had; rather it was a question of how long we should continue to play Saddam's games. He was violating the treaty, as well as a plethora of UN Resolutions and was receiving mixed messages as to whether or not the UN and the US would enforce the resolutions. France, Germany and Russia played vital roles in sending mixed messages to Saddam. Indeed, had he actually believed we would launch a full scale invasion, it is hard to believe he would have acted the same.

The war, thus, was partially motivated by a need to enforce the inspections and the UN resolutions (along with stopping his blatant support of terror, oppression of his people, violations of human rights, etc.). The fact that he didn't have weapons doesn't mean the war was wrong, but it does show that his intricate web of deceit and double-speak had done its job: to convince those around him that he had WMD. Thus, the reason for his lying: he had to get rid of WMD to fulfill the UN resolutions, but had to also convince those around him (Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others), that he actually had them, as a deterrent. In other words, the fact that he was a good liar does not make us the wrong ones, but shows his instability, and the threat he posed.

It is important to note that at the time of the build up to the war, the voices against the war were not arguing that he had actually gotten rid of the WMD, but were instead arguing for yet another delay in order to try and convince him that he should allow the inspectors- something he was required to do. It was ridiculous to think that we should continue to cater to Saddam, over something he was legally required to do. It's kind of like a parent who refuses to discipline a child. As the child stands there and throws a fit, they try and innocently plead with the child, thus giving legitimacy to the fit as they try to negotiate over non-negotiables.

We did what the UN resolutions for 12 years had called for: we used force to implement the inspections. In the process we removed a brutal dictator and have opened the door for democracy.

Now, a short bit about the President Bush and the administration "lying" about the WMD: this is laughable. If Bush and company had actually trumped this up to justify the war, then they not only convinced the American people, but "fooled" the Democratic Party (which by and large supported the war), and fooled almost every nation in the world, who were convinced that Iraq still had WMD or the capacity to make them. It's amazing that people will never doubt the motives of Iraq, Al Qaeda, or doubt any of the nations which blocked inspections (France, Russia, Germany), but will automatically assume that we (the US) and our President must be in the wrong.

Why did all of the ranking Democrats and leaders of that party, looking at the same intelligence, come to the conclusion that a war was necessary? Maybe because the war was, in fact, necessary?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A distraction?

As I mentioned in my last post, there are some people who make the argument that Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is a distraction from the overall war on terror. They argue that if we had maintained the focus, and not gotten distracted in Iraq, we might be doing a better job of hunting down Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. The problem with this argument, however, if three fold: first, we have done an excellent job, since 9/11, of preventing terror attacks, second, we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, and, third, Saddam Hussein and his administration were strong sponsors of terrorism.

First, the idea that we have gotten distracted. While it is true that we have not found Bin Laden, it should be noted that there has not been a single Al Qaeda terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. I don't think we can underestimate the importance of this. We have NOT been attacked! We need to give credit where credit is due: to the military, the CIA and FBI, local law enforcement, and others involved in the fight on terror.

After noting that we have not been attacked in almost five years, we need to look at the people we are fighting in Iraq: Al Qaeda and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime. Granted, this is an oversimplification. Some of the insurgents are Shia Muslims, some are opportunistic thugs, and others have various motives. But the main group with whom we are grappling is called: Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Zarqawi, leading Al Qaeda in Iraq, is working with and under Bin Laden and has publicly tied himself to Al Qaeda. I simply do not understand how this can be a distraction from the war on terror.

Finally, some argue that Saddam Hussein was a distraction from the war on terror, but fail to note his own strong and public ties to terror. While it is true that Saddam did not organize 9/11, it is more than fair to point out his own terrorist connections. For example, under Hussein, Iraq would give large sums of money (I believe around $25,000) to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been one of the biggest issues between Muslim extremists and the West, and I can't understand how one of the biggest instigators of that conflict, Saddam Hussein, can be seen as a distraction from the overall war on terror. In the minds of the Muslim extremists, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait are all conflicts that are seen as tied together and part of a greater struggle. If we fail to understand this, we will lose on every count.

If Iraq and Afghanistan can establish stable democracies under the protection and encouragement of the US military, then we will be taking a large step in bringing peace and order to the Middle East.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Is the War right or not?

It's been both interesting and discouraging to see the way Americans have changed their feelings about the War on Terror over the last few years. In a lot of ways, I think it speaks to the short attention spans we have, as well as the ability of the media to shape perceptions and views. Most people are aware that support for the war, as well as support for President Bush and his administration, have fallen dramatically.

What amazes me is how quickly the perceptions have changed, as well as the double standard in how the war is reported. I would like to spend a few posts talking about why that is, and why i believe the war is a just and needed war.

To do that, I would like to address some of the objections to the war, one at a time, over the next days and weeks. Here are some of the common objections I have heard, which I will address: the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror; Saddam didn't have WMD- we were lied to; we have been there too long, when will the troops come home; and democracy will never work in Iraq.

One of the other trends I have noticed is a constant and brewing hatred of President Bush. I honestly just don't get it. Leaving the war along for a second: the economy is incredibly strong...unemployment is very low, lower than during much of the Clinton presidency. This is in light of the huge hit the economy took on September 11th, as well as the fact that the economy was already in recession when Bush took office. Bush is also attacked as being dishonest, yet no one can honestly come up with anything tangible that he had lied about! (there are allegations that he lied about the war, which I will address in a later post) In fact, one of his hallmarks is that he is up front and brutally honest, sometimes saying things people don't want to hear, but saying it because he believes it.

I lament the attitude in our nation that we should demonize those with whom we have a disagreement. I understand that many people disagree with the war in Iraq, but why do we have to make those in the administration out to be utterly evil in order to do so. What I hope to do in my postings over the next days and weeks is to have a sensible conversation about what is happening in Iraq, and the war on terror, by wading through a lot of the negative propaganda.

I'll be interested in comments from others!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Preparations Continue

A lot of people at church have been asking me about how the preparation for deployment is going. The answer, in short, is well. There are really a few different aspects to how I have been preparing for deployment. The first is on the family side. Mary Ann and I have known for a while that this would be very likely to happen. I think she and I are as well prepared as you can be; that doesn't mean it won't be difficult, but the reality is that we know that this is part of being in the Army Reserve, and we are trying to spend as much quality family time together as possible before I leave.

I also have logistical preparation that is necessary for my unit. At this point, I still don't know much about our mission in terms of which unit we will come under over there, and what we will be tasked to do. But general preparation includes making our wish list of equipment, preparing and packing Bible study material and general chaplain supplies, scheduling training for our home station (the time before we head to mobilization station), and getting all of the required paperwork completed. I met with a JAG last week and had my will and power of attorney drawn up. Not exactly exciting stuff.

It looks like we will be stationed at LSA Anaconda (Logistical Support Area), near Balad, Iraq. This is the largest and most developed American base in Iraq, as I understand it. There are movie theaters, a swimming pool, and a large PX (Post Exchange, i.e., a store). Balad is located about 40 miles north of Baghdad and south of Tikrit, roughly speaking.

My other form of preparation is just in terms of thinking about what I want to bring along personally, for creature comfort and for my own devotional time, etc. I've been advised not to pack much, because the PX has almost anything I would need. I'll be bringing an iPod and I'm packing some books to read while over there. I don't anticipate having a lot of free time!