If I were Jewish — or Kurdish — right now I’d be at least a little bit angry.
As a ferocious international army known as the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) dislocates, starves or slaughters tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, the Roman Catholic Church has decided that military intervention by the United States to stop the massacre might finally be justified.
And that decision was reached some days before journalist and practicing Catholic James Foley was beheaded — an atrocity posted on the Internet.
Jews and Kurds would be justified in asking Rome, “Why now?”
Remember Daniel Pearl? Remember Nick Berg?
Daniel Pearl was the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by his al-Qaida captors on Feb. 1, 2002, in Pakistan, an act visible to all on YouTube a few weeks later.
The same fate befell Nick Berg, a high-tech information entrepreneur from Philadelphia, who was murdered in May 2004 in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself.
Both men were Jews. Note that Mr. Pearl was murdered before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Mr. Berg afterward, when things had not yet hit bottom.
But the Roman Catholic Church opposed both the first Gulf War and the Bush invasion of Iraq. So why now is military intervention finally OK? Because Christians are dying?
And long before these Jewish men died, Saddam Hussein’s regime was committing genocide against the Kurds — a rural people spread throughout Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, who are predominantly Muslim but encompass many religions, including Judaism and Christianity.
Hussein’s assaults against the Kurds were so lethal that, even prior to 2003, the late, sincerely lamented atheist Christopher Hitchens urged the U.S. to intervene. But his plea fell on deaf ears among his fellow leftists and secularists.
What should be perfectly clear by now is that Islamic radicals enthusiastically kill anyone who doesn’t agree with their extremely narrow religious and political agenda — whether those dissidents be Muslims, Jews, Christians or uncommitted.
And in truth, this reality was perfectly clear a full decade ago. A lot of time, energy and precious lives have been wasted while we citizens of the still-free Western world bicker bitterly among ourselves to assign blame while Mosul burns.
The precursor to our lethally petty argument is, sadly, Gen. Colin Powell’s much-touted admonition to the Bush administration as secretary of state: “If you break it, you buy it.”
The problem with speaking in metaphors is that the metaphor you choose might not fit the facts at hand. The metaphor then distorts comprehension and prevents finding a good solution.
Gen. Powell’s assessment implies, incorrectly, that the U.S. “broke” Iraq. But Iraq was broken before we got there. Ditto for the entire Middle East.
That’s not to say that George W. Bush or Barack Obama has made the Middle East situation better. We do have to own whichever part we have broken.
The worst decision of the Bush administration was not the invasion of Iraq but the post-invasion disbanding of its army — an action that created hundreds of thousands of suddenly unemployed men ready and willing to be radicalized.
The worst decisions of the Obama administration have been: announcing our military draw-downs, treating terrorists as mere criminals and returning those terrorists to a Middle East that’s fully ablaze.
The Middle East situation, in its entirety, harkens back to World War II. Years before America came to the rescue of Western Europe, our leaders knew that Adolf Hitler was butchering religious, ethnic and sexual minorities.
But it took Japan’s completely unrelated attack on our homeland before Franklin D. Roosevelt could rouse peace-preferring Americans to an international humanitarian cause.
Similarly, it should have been obvious to any American who followed events before and after Sept. 11, 2001, that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were using the attacks to justify intervention in a war already much larger than the immediate provocation. Though they had mocked the “nation-building” agenda of the Clinton administration, events on their watch led them on to that very path.
Which is not to say that they executed their mandate as well as Roosevelt did. That’s a tough call, in this faster-paced world. The fictional but all-too-real mother in “Saving Private Ryan” learned of her four sons’ deaths months after the fact, by telegram, while Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and James Foley’s parents have known the horror of their sons’ beheadings made public. This war is immediate.
So what do we do now? For the sake of the sons and daughters not yet slaughtered, it’s best that we acknowledge whatever we lacked this past decade — vision, competence or moral courage — and vow to move forward, together, against tyranny.
Ruth Ann Dailey: firstname.lastname@example.org