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Issue Date:  February 8, 2008

'The war is not over'

A couple of days after he had been sentenced to probation and a relatively small fine for a protest against the war in Iraq, Jesuit Fr. John Dear called the NCR offices. He had decided not to pay the fine and not to cooperate with the probation. He had been told he would likely be arrested in a day or two. He called because he was worried that he might miss deadlines for the weekly column he writes for NCRcafe.org, and he wanted to work out an arrangement to get his columns out of jail.

Why, John, he was asked, why do this? Why don’t you pay the fine, complete your community service and get on with your other work?

“I know it seems a bit over the top,” he said and then paused. “But the war is still going on, and nobody seems to notice. I’m just trying to draw a little attention to that.”

Listening to President Bush’s State of the Union address, it was hard to miss the triumphalism in his saying that last year’s troop buildup had “achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago.” He didn’t remind the American people that last year was also the most violent since he had ordered the invasion of Iraq. He said 20,000 troops will be coming home by summer. He didn’t say that the remaining 130,000 were likely to be in place long past his departure. He failed to mention the trillion dollars we have spent on the war and the billions we will continue to pay. Missing from his assessment, too, was the reality that the invasion and occupation has destroyed a civilization, increased tension in the region, essentially partitioned a country into warring enclaves, increased religious intolerance there and prepared a rich seedbed for a brand of terrorism that had not previously existed in Iraq.

But it isn’t just President Bush diverting our attention from the war. With the withdrawal of John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich, the presidential campaign is left with a single candidate -- Republican maverick Ron Paul -- who has a firm plan for swift disengagement from Iraq.

This lack of focus must worry the military. Assessing the situation in Iraq for The Washington Post, Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who oversees the training and equipping of the Iraqi army and police, said, “We say, ‘Violence is down, but’ -- and no one hears the ‘but.’ The war is not over.”

It is a shame that Fr. Dear has to go to jail. He can take heart in not being alone. In the last year and a half, a few dozen others have trespassed, occupied offices and made nuisances of themselves to shake the rest of us from our forgetfulness.

It is time to end this senseless war.

National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008

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