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Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War Hardcover – August 3, 2004
"Children of Blood and Bone"
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"The war in Iraq has been a victory of moral fervor over moral clarity. The first without the second is a curse on itself and others. James Carroll brings to bear-I hope not too late-the moral clarity we so badly need." --Garry Wills
"This is the most compelling report and analysis that we've had yet of the Middle East conflict, specifically Iraq, and all in wonderfully readable style...Those who are uncomfortable about our commitment in Iraq as well as those who have made up their minds against it will find here both literate and compelling support." --John Kenneth Galbraith
"In his remarkable memoir, An American Requiem, James Carroll established himself as an eloquent critic of the immorality and madness of the Vietnam War. In Crusade, he has wedded this moral clarity to a keen sense of both history and the enormous complexity of peacemaking. These passionate essays constitute a devastating critique of the folly fobbed off as 'realism' by the Bush administration in its ill-conceived 'War on Terror.'" --John Dower, author of Embracing Defeat, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"At a time when political writing seems like a food fight between left and right, Jim Carroll writes from a vivid moral center. He questions power and warns of the folly of conflict. This collection offers a rare and courageous voice."--Ellen Goodman
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Carroll realizes immediately that a calamitous result will occur from shifting the focus away from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden following 9/11 to Iraq and the objective of toppling Saddam Hussein. He sees problems occurring from a reaction totally out of concert with international law as well as reason. Carroll, who has studied international religions closely, cites a major error on the part of the Bush Administration as occurring from his statement that its anti-terrorist initiative was part of a great crusade. Carroll notes that the word crusade sends a chill throughout the Muslim world. It stems from the bloody crusades in which so many Muslims were killed by Christians, culminating in slaughter of all of Arab occupants of Jerusalem.
At a time when a major international problem exists in Israel pitting Israelis and Palestinians that is marked by conflicts over settlement construction and occupation as well as suicide bombers, Carroll observes that the emphasis has been shifted away from this trouble spot, along with others such as North Korea and Iran, as American forces occupy Iraq. He notes that this precipitous move plays into the hands of international terrorists by giving Osama bin Laden and others like him a rallying cry. Muslims are warned that by occupying Iraq the Bush Administration is establishing designs on the entire Arab world.
Carroll recognizes that there is a fundamental problem with George W. Bush. "When the president speaks, unscripted, from his own moral center," Carroll writes, "what shows itself is a bottomless void. To address concerns about the savage violence engulfing `postwar' Iraq with a cocksure `Bring `em on!' (as he did last week) is to display an absence of imagination shocking in a man of such authority. It showed a lack of capacity to identify either with enraged Iraqis who must rise to such a taunt, or with young GIs who must now answer for it. Even in relationships to his own soldiers, there is nothing at the core of this man but visceral meanness." He goes on to describe Bush as a "selfless president," which he sees "not a compliment" but "a warning."
One area where Carroll sharply criticizes the Bush Administration is in the misuse of intelligence. Rather than seeking answers by following the facts wherever they may lead and formulating policy based on those hardheaded, realistic conclusions, he sees the Bush Administration as tailoring circumstances to fit its own desires. Under such circumstances policies are motivated by propaganda rather than intelligence assessments. The classic illustration was the rush to war to protect Americans from a perceived attack in which Saddam Hussein would release "weapons of mass destruction" that never existed. A UN inspection team's work was precluded in the rush to war.
As a perceptive student of history, Carroll decries lost diplomatic opportunities that were lost at the conclusion of World War Two. Rather than take the lead in seeking to put an end to the creation of nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Soviet Union instead entered into a protracted Cold War. This brought the world to the precipice of destruction through a nuclear exchange. A balance of terror was substituted for creative diplomacy and an objective of world disarmament.
With the ability of terrorists to make small nuclear weapons that can be carried in a suitcase, and the corresponding capability of unleashing widespread destruction, Carroll sees the futility of the Bush Administration pursuing Star Wars technology. The strategy of the Bush Administration to abrogate international treaties pertaining to arms control and polluting the atmosphere is viewed in the context of the potential disaster that could result for the entire planet from such selfish policies. At a time when well-reasoned diplomacy is essential a lone cowboy "bring `em on" foolhardy policy with potential cataclysmic results has instead been invoked as primitive emotion supplants reason.
Carrol most certainly has a left-wing take on the war on terror, the war in Iraq, and the Bush admin.'s conduct in general. I would not though, as a disgruntled reviewr below has, dismiss him as a leftover 'hippie.' He is far from that. His critiques are prescient and his rhetoric effective. While sometimes overly-rhetorical and emotionally charged, Carrol tends to be quite calm and tempered in his critiques.
His main critiques of the wars on terror and Iraq (and as Carrol seldom tires of asking, "I wonder where next?") are that (a) rather that going to war in retalliation for Sept. 11th, it would have been more effective and humane, to treat the event as a breach of international law and pursue al Quaeda and the perpetrators as criminals, rather than combatants. (2) What in the hell did Iraq have to do with terrorism as it relates to al Queada and is this a weapon of mass distraction? (3) As international leaders, we should be setting an example to follow. Instead, we have shown the international community that preemptive attacks are acceptable and, by effect, have sent nations like North Korea clamouring to get nuclear weapons so they can do it too.
There are certainly objections that can be noted to these arguments but all in all, Carrol presents his case well. The only thing I did not like about the book is that being a collection of short essays, it never allowed Carrol to pursue a compelling line of argument for more than three pages at a shot. Other than that, the book is a good one.
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Seeing James Carroll on C-Span 2, Book TV, talking about his newest book, House of War, gave me a clue that I was missing an important American writer.Read more