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The New Children’s Crusade

“Attack, attack, we must attack Iraq!”- White House chant

by Robert Manis, Ph.D, The Manis Report, October  10, 2002

Back in the Thirteenth Century, a “visionary” peasant boy named Stephen of Cloyes led thousands of young and very young people to their deaths or capture in an ill-fated mission to capture Jerusalem that came to be known as “The Children’s Crusade.”

Nearly a thousand years later, technology and the balance of power has shifted between the Muslim and Western worlds, but we find ourselves on the verge of launching a new Children’s Crusade to capture Bagdad and depose Saddam Hussein.  It is not so much that our troops could be defeated, but that the consequences could spin out of control in so many ways -- including a Vietnam –style quagmire, a desperation biological attack by Saddam, an attack against Kuwaiti oil fields, an Iranian takeover and more.

Using terms that would have been comfortable to Stephen of Cloyes or the earlier crusader, the mad monk Peter the Hermit, the Bush Administration couches its explanations with words like “moral clarity” and “evil doers.” But the unambiguity of these words should not obscure the implications  of  the fact that justifications for the war  have changed already a number of times.  Many commentators have pointed out that originally we were to attack Iraq because links to Al-Qaida (since disproved), because of non-acceptance of UN inspections (since accepted), and now because Iraq might have nuclear weapons (never proven), or Saddam is a madman.

Curiously, for a madman, Saddam has been quite quiet for a number of years. Among the reasons repeatedly cited for attacking him: He gassed his “own people” (actually the Kurds and Iranians) (1980’s), he invaded Kuwait (1990) and he plotted to assassinate Bush’s father (1993). Apparently for the last nine years, he’s just been on vacation.

In any case, the shifting justifications should give rise to suspicions that none of these are the real reasons, or perhaps there is simply no reason at all.

Real reasons could include: distracting the public from the economy in an election year, revenge for Bush’s Dad, grabbing Iraqi oil or whatever.  But the non-reason could be the real reason as well.  Saddam, like Al-Qaida, is evil and therefore we should destroy him. Why? Because we say so (and we are good, so trust us).  Childlike though this is, this is part of the Bush Modus Operandi. Remember last year’s tax cut, which was first justified as remedy for the surplus and then for the recession. Remember Bush as a “uniter not a divider”. Why? - because we say so.  Let’s just call it a “faith-based weapon of mass distraction.”

The simple truth is that the Bush Administration has demonstrated the logic and the simplistic “moral clarity” that children are known for. And that is why I call the upcoming Iraq war a new Children’s Crusade.