Why the Peace Churches are Meeting in March


Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a Democrat and West Point grad, has an interesting theory about Iraq. Call it the Korea thesis.

“Consider South Korea,” said Reed in early December. “We have been there since the early 50’s. It was not until the 80’s that we began to see an irreversible commitment to the democratic process to complement an aggressive market economy.”

“If we are unwilling or unable to “stay the course” in Iraq,” continues Reed, “a premature departure by the United States or an ejection by a frustrated Iraqi government will lead to civil conflict and an explicit or implicit partition of the country that will force adjacent countries to exert their influence over events in Iraq. This situation will create a ‘Lebanon on steroids’ in the apt words of Tom Friedman.”

Reed’s Korea thesis of Iraq is fascinating to think about as we ponder the meaning of an upcoming assessment of the occupation to be undertaken by retired Army General Gary E. Luck. It’s not that I don’t believe the New York Times when they dwell on Luck’s character as a gentleman and a scholar. But I’m stuck on the General’s well-known experience as commander of the Korean theater.

Luck became a kind of underdog hero among Congressional hawks when his request for more missiles in Korea was ignored on Capitol Hill. In a 1995 letter to Georgia’s Democrat Senator Sam Nunn, Luck argued tersely for a missile system in Korea that would be “highly flexible, extremely mobile, capable of 360 degree coverage and able to counter the full threat spectrum.”

As luck would have it, before he was sent to Korea, the general in 1990 was the newly minted commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, shortly before they were dropped into Saudi Arabia as first boots down to Gulf War One, says Odessa.com.

In a terse timeline, Odessa reminds us how Daddy Bush planned that First Iraq Invasion in consultation with Texas oil buddies James Baker and Rob Mosbacher; Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney; Joint Chiefs Chair Colin Powell; and Texas-buddy-to-be Robert Gates, who now oversees the Bush campus otherwise known as Texas A&M University in College Station. (Rumsfeld at the time was just entering his service at General Instruments, the real name of a company which according to his official biography was a “leader in broadband transmission, distribution, and access control technologies.”) But the point of this guest list is simply to remind us that Luck has been point guard for a whole team of coaches who have not retired from the game.

So these are the questions: Is it likely that the same general who once ordered Airborne into Saudi, and who lectured Sam Nunn how to be a hawk, is going to come back from Iraq and say, aw shucks fellas, no way we can handle Iraq. Or will he more likely, based on past performance, return with a hard-core plan to secure Iraq for as many decades as it takes to get, in the words of Sen. Reed, “an irreversible commitment to the democratic process to complement an aggressive market economy.” As one of my students petulantly informed me, one does not place question marks after rhetorical questions.

Which brings us to the strange visit reported by the Brethren Service Center of New Windsor, MD this past October eighth. One Cassandra Costley (yes, like General Instruments, that is her real name) Director of the Alternative Service Division at Selective Service stopped in, “because I happened to be in the neighborhood.” But come to think of it, now that she was there, she did want to know if the famed peace church was geared up to handle the demands of alternative service for conscientious objectors just in case a draft were, you know, kinda needed hypothetically at some undetermined date in the possibly near future, although clearly the White House had said nothing to her personally that such a thing might be in the works, etc.

This chance meeting led to other meetings, because peace churches have been watching war states closely for about four hundred years, and on March 4 the peace churches of America will convene near Chicago to get their alternative service act worked out. One would have to wonder if they are not meeting a week too soon, seven weeks from today, after General Luck has returned with his professional assessment about what needs to be done in Iraq.

And let’s not forget the timely Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, who was quoted this week by Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Bowman, one of the reporters who found themselves in possession of a leaked memo from another general about the exhausted Army Reserves.

“By consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq, the administration has placed a tremendous burden on the Army Reserve and created this crisis,” said the very same West Point, Airborne, and Harvard man who thinks Iraq looks a lot like Korea to him.

So it looks to me, kids, like it’s time to get real about the draft. Either you can get your conscientious objector papers together and sign up with the peace churches, or you can prepare for employment in the newly restructured Army Reserves, which is going to be rotating folks into Korea, I mean Iraq, for the rest of your lives. They say it’s a free country you live in, boys, so they might even give you another whole month to decide.

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