Thu Nov 20, 5:33 PM ET WASHINGTON, D.C.
Retailers confirm that the pre-Saddam-execution shopping frenzy has started, as bargain-hunters camp out before Toys’R’Us to beat the last minute-rush. Bon vivants have been stockpiling delectables for the parties which will mark the event, and grocers report that “Butcher-of-Baghdad Farms” turkeys have been selling like hotcakes.
Yet in all this consumer-fervor, one figure steps forward, reminding us gently of the real reason for the season: Neoconservative theologian Michael Novak.
“I remember being a boy, I remember when we celebrated the execution of our enemies by going to church rather than to the mall,” Novak told a group of Notre Dame religion students this week, in an intimate gathering at the university coffee-shop.
“An event like this calls for people of faith to express gratitude for the wonderful achievements in Iraq. It makes me envious, really, of all the Guardsmen and Reservists who have been sent over there, while I’m stuck in a bleak old D.C. think-tank,” he sighed.
“In any case… anyone who needs proof of flourishing democracy in Iraq need only consider Saddam’s trial – a civilized, proper trial in which only three of the defense lawyers have been assassinated, ” Novak went on.
“Um, thus far,” he added, glancing furtively at a CNN-attuned TV monitor in the back corner of the room.
“This execution will mark the end of an era,” he continued, “the end of a grim era which began when the United St – er, somebody – gave Hussein a boost up on his ascent to tyrannical power in 1979.
That same nefarious unknown party – clandestine Islamocommunists, I wouldn’t doubt, the very gang that equipped & trained bin Laden in Afghanistan – armed Hussein with weapons technology, both conventional and biological. And they sponsored him financially and militarily throughout the 1980’s.”
Novak explained to the students that by finally stepping onto the scene and breaking that terrible Ba’athist Era – replacing it with a democratic Sh’ia Era – the U.S. has earned some much deserved self-kudos, and has yet again proven its uniquely moral election by Providence.
“It’s Miller Time,” he said, looking back on all the hard work that has gone into plowing up the Crescent formerly known as “Fertile."
“The Iraqi future’s so bright, they have got to wear shades. Congratulations, Iraq! And congratulations to all our brave men and women of the Armed Services.
Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Now it is time for the Munchkins to frolic and dance in their quaint, ethnic manner.”
“But what does executing Saddam have to do with the reasons you gave for going to war?” asked one senior. “I thought back in 2003 you said we had to invade Iraq because Hussein was a threat to the United States? That he had a deadly arsenal of weapons-of-mass destruction? An arsenal he was going to share with his bosom-buddies in Al Q’aida?
I don’t remember any columns back then about ‘the incarnational significance of Judge Roy Bean’.”
She blushed at the boos this comment elicited from her fellow-students.
With a gesture Novak calmed the angry waters, and smiled benevolently upon her.
“Well… dead men build no bombs,” he quipped. “OK, so what I’m celebrating today as ‘mission-accomplished’ is something I never even hinted at 3 years ago as a causis belli.
But now, what are you trying to hint at, young lady?” he chuckled.
“That I’m not one of those gloomy people who dwell on details – such as the actual reason employed over and over again by our neoconservative movement, to rally the public behind the war?
Or are you hinting that I’m an optimist?
Well – guilty, and double-guilty as charged.
Like Monty Python, I believe that we should always look on the bright side of life.”
One student began humming enthusiastically to himself while tapping out a beat on his “College Republicans” coat-pin.
“OK. So there were no nukes, true.
And representative government in the Middle East amounts to ‘one shot, one kill,’ rather than ‘one man, one vote’, and occasionally empowers people who would like to see America’s chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” Novak conceded.
“But all that means is that we should focus on this execution as something straightforward, something tangible, something real – we’ve finally found a morale-boosting rallying-sign of vindicating-victory so simple that it can't be screwed up,” he said.
He paused, to glance once again at the flickering news-feed at the back of the room.
“No, it can’t be screwed up,” he repeated, more firmly.
Returning to his central theme, Novak did express reservations about the commercialization of Saddam’s Execution-Day. He also criticized liberals’ efforts to change the traditional greeting-card messages – such as “May All Unholy Enemies of Jacobin Liberty Die Miserably” – into the secularized, more-generic “Happy Kill-idays!”
“Lynching carols, you know, used to be common melodies during this time of year,” Novak reminisced. “Now they are drowned out by advertising and political-correctness. But even now there’s no school like the old school, and you don’t need to run up your credit-card in order to make merry this Death-Row Season.”
He leaned forward toward his youthful listeners.
“I don’t know about you all, but personally, I intend to spend Saddam’s execution with my family and some dear friends. And I recommend each one of you do the same.
When you hear the countdown, you should be gathered with your loved ones around a piano, warming up the vocal chords for a rousing chorus of ‘Old Hang Syne’.”
With a slight puckering of his lips, he mused aloud: “I myself intend to be standing next to my fellow-NRO columnist Andrew Sullivan, at the moment Saddam drops.”
Another student asked Novak, who is Catholic, to talk about the disagreements he has had with Benedict XVI regarding the Iraq War.
“Ah, that little quibble,” lamented Novak.
From the very beginning the Pope has adamantly opposed “Operation: Iraqi Freedom”, making the controversial assertion that pre-emptive invasions based on flawed evidence are forbidden by “Just War” philosophy. In spite of this peacemongering stance, the Roman pontiff has stuck by his claim that he does indeed love both Iraqis and freedom.
“Of course the Pope has every right to disagree with me on non-dogmatic matters,” Novak replied. “Still, I wish he had considered my arguments a little more carefully before making wild, ethically-dubious statements.
After all, the day that America forswears pre-emptive strikes will be a day that lives in infamy.”
The theologian became somewhat melancholy for a moment: “It’s understandable, though – Benedict’s belief about what pre-emptive policies lead to. His perspective is tainted by experience.”
Novak was optimistic, however, that he would eventually bring the Vatican’s outlook in line with first-strike military strategy – American foreign policy, he explained, should take its cues from “that marvelous PreCrime Unit depicted in the film Minority Report.”
As for Just War?
“Well, nothing substantive will change with the coming of ‘Neojust War’. There was Justice back then, and there’s Just-us now,” Novak reflected.
“I mean, what if we had twiddled our thumbs during the Cold War – waiting until the Soviet Union launched their ICBMs at us, before launching our own at them?” he pointed out. “Think about it.”
The students nodded. Here at Notre Dame, it would seem that the bright future leaders of America possess a keen respect for history.
“Verily, verily, trust but verify. And if the UN inspectors you send in to verify come up with the wrong answers – well, nothing says ‘verification’ like 2,800 American lives placed upon the altar of regime-change. We must do unto others before they can do unto us.”
The room fell silent for a moment. One could have heard a pin drop.
“And that’s what Saddam’s execution is all about, Charlie Brown,” concluded Novak softly, and walked out.
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November 20, 2006