POSTSCRIPT / April 11, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Hubris, miscalculation worsen Iraqi situation

MOSQUE NOT SPARED: Intended or not, the American war of pacification in Iraq took a turn for the worse when US forces vented their vengeful anger and bombed a mosque in Fallujah where insurgents had mingled with worshippers.

Having seen kith and kin killed in a war that does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, Iraqis must have developed by now tolerance for much of the atrocities of war.

But when invading American forces bombarded a major mosque filled with the faithful in prayer, they were inviting violent reaction in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world.

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10:1 DEATH RATIO: Mosques and such religious sites are protected by international convention and, more importantly, by religious tradition. For a foreign occupation army to violate a native mosque is a serious provocation of the local faithful.

So now even the Shiites, who composed the majority in Iraq, have cast aside long-standing differences with the Sunni insurgents and joined the resistance. Their alliance has erupted in widespread attacks on US and allied forces.

The last dead count we saw had more than 460 Iraqis killed in the week-long fighting, with the US losing some 45 men in Fallujah alone. Roughly, that is one American to 10 Iraqi dead.

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CYCLOPS GONE MAD: With Olympian hubris, the US has announced that it will not back off. It will hunt down and destroy the enemy whatever the cost, whatever the world says. A US commander said the insurgents have only two options: surrender or die.

The danger here is that the US, like a blinded Cyclops gone mad, may swing erratically at its sometimes unseen foe. An overkill, or the use of disproportionate force to hit back, would escalate the conflict to unmanageable levels.

The US must not lose its temper. Not even after four American civilians were tortured and mutilated and dragged around by a mob in Fallujah. Not even after ragged militiamen, garbed in black reminiscent of the Viet Congs of Indochina, keep scoring embarrassing hits on US forces carrying the world’s most sophisticated weaponry. Not even after huge pictures of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose exhortations had aroused resistance and cries for jihad among his followers, started to appear where once stood the statues of the fallen Saddam Hussein.

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KIDNAP FOR LEVERAGE: A scary twist in the war is the resort by Iraqi insurgents to kidnapping as another form of leverage. Last we heard, they were holding three Japanese, and several other foreign civilians.

War has been irrational and very inhuman. That one side of the lopsided war has used tactical kidnapping of non-combatants is understandable in this context, but it cannot be condoned.

The Japanese being held at an undisclosed place are Soichiro Koriyama, 32, freelance journalist; Noriaki Imai, 18, member of a group opposed to uranium depleted weapons; and Nahoko Takato, 34, a volunteer aid worker.

Their kidnappers threatened to burn them to death if Japan does not withdraw in three days (by today!) its forces from Iraq.

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ILLOGICAL ACT: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda may have summarized the sentiment of the civilized world when he questioned last Thursday the logic of killing civilians who were in Iraq precisely to help Iraqis.

“They entered a dangerous area in the hope that they would be of some help,” he said. “Will the Iraqi people allow such people to be captured and their lives threatened? Will the international community allow that?”

(Late Saturday, the kidnappers identifying themselves as the “Muhahedeen Squadron,” said they had decided to release the Japanese after mediation by the Islamic Clerics Committee, a Sunni organization.)

Imai was working on the problem of depleted uranium shells left by the US forces. Takato was in Iraq as a relief worker, helping the poor and the children. Both of them are critical of the war. And Koriyama, a freelance journalist, was reporting through his photographs the realities of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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BASIC ERRORS: By this time, the US is supposed to have learned about the pitfalls of colonialism. Has it?

The US will continue to sink into the desert hole that is Iraq, because President Bush had marched to war on the wrong foot. Having started from some basic errors, his other acts resulting from the first act of invasion are likely to be similarly mired in error.

The errors are so obvious it is a wonder the White House still cannot see them:

  1. Wrong principle: Might is right — provided a country has the will and the capability, it has the right to invade another sovereign country when it deems it to be in its national interest to do so. (Wrong premise.)
  2. Wrong assumption: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to be used against its perceived enemies, including the US. (Not true.)
  3. Wrong excuse: Invading Iraq was an act of self-defense. (But it could not have been self-defense because [a] the invasion was not a case of hot pursuit and [b] there was no imminent danger, or even a threat, of an Iraqi attack.)

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ALLELUIA: Christ has risen! And us, with Him. Happy Easter to All!

To sum up the glorious rebirth of Easter, we reprint this text from the famous sermon of St. John Chrysostom:

“Let all then enter the joy of Our Lord!

Both the first and the last, and those who come after, enjoy your reward!

Rich and poor, dance with one another, sober and slothful, celebrate the day.

Those who have kept the fast and those who have not, rejoice today, for the table is richly spread.

Fare royally upon it — the calf is a fatted one.

Let no one go away hungry.

All of you, enjoy the banquet of faith!

All enjoy the riches of His goodness.

Let no one cry over his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has appeared!

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let none fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.

He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He spoiled the power of hell when he descended thereto.

Isaiah foretold this when he cried, ‘Death has been frustrated in meeting him below!’

It is frustrated, for it is destroyed.

It is frustrated, for it is annihilated.

It is frustrated, for now it is made captive.

For it grabbed a body and discovered God.

It took earth and behold! It encountered Heaven.

It took what was visible, and was overcome by what was invisible.

O Death, where is your sting?

O Death, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and the demons are cast down.

Christ is risen, and life is set free.

Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead.

For Christ, having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits for those who sleep.

To Him be glory and power forever and ever!

Amen. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 11, 2004)

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