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Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War (the American Empire Project) [Hardcover]

James Carroll

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We're at war," President George W. Bush said in Sarasota, Florida, on the morning of September 11, 2001. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voice of wisdom 10 Aug 2004
By Michael. Lee - Published on
James Carroll brings a unique perspective to his views on American foreign policy, having lived it virtually all his life with an Air Force general for a father. Carroll's policy split with his father was brilliantly documented in his National Book Award winning "An American Requiem." And now, in "Crusade," a collection of his Iraq-related columns from the Boston Globe, Carroll gives us more of his wisdom, honed over the years. And yet, despite the grave (no pun intended) subject matter, Carroll still manages to imbue many of his columns with a distinctly human touch. This is an important collection and one that should be required reading for anyone interested or involved in world politics.
69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging questions about what we are doing... 30 Aug 2004
By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty - Published on
James Carroll is a best-selling author of both fiction and nonfiction books and a winner of the National Book Award. The son of an Air Force general with whom he had his own political disagreements, Carroll was ordained in the Catholic Church as a member of the Paulist order, a community of priests known for their public communication skills and media savvy, and became active in the antiwar movement. Eventually leaving the priesthood to become a full-time writer, he also lectures widely on the issues of war and peace and on religious topics, especially those involving Christian, Jewish, and Islamic relations. I mention these few important points about his background merely to show that the author of this critique of President Bush's current foreign policy is no lightweight and Carroll cannot easily be dismissed by those who may disagree with his analyses and interpretations.

"Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War" is a collection of Carroll's columns which appeared in The Boston Globe from September 2001 through March 2004 and, the title of the book notwithstanding, his writing goes far beyond the topic of war to include discussions of religious power and theology, domestic policy issues, capital punishment, the separation of church and state, and even a damning criticism of Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ." Although the author and I are not exactly at the same place on the political spectrum, I must admit that his analyses and criticisms are fair and well-reasoned and do not constitute just another noisy and mindless rant from a left-wing apologist. In fact, there are a number of his positions regarding contemporary issues with which I am in agreement.

Let's take the current "war on terror" and its most recent manifestation, the war on Iraq, which is, after all, the major focus of Carroll's book even though he covers other topics. When President Bush announced the beginning of the actual conflict, after stating all the alleged justifications for a preemptive attack against the Saddam Hussein regime, I, like so many of my fellow Americans, rallied to the "cause," at least morally and intellectually, and settled in front of the television to watch the overthrow of an extremely brutal and fundamentally inhumane individual and his cohorts. While I subscribe to the concept that any war is a terrible waste of necessary resources -- physical, financial, and human -- a war may nevertheless be "just," provided it is a defensive action against clear and present aggression and constitutes a last resort after other, more moderate, means to resolve the matter have been exhausted.

Carroll's position is that the war on Iraq was an "unjust" war. I may now have to agree with him on this specific point. It is obvious to me, as it has become to many others who initially supported the action, that the original officially-declared rationalizations for the war have not subsequently been shown to be justified. There were apparently intelligence failures all over the place with plenty of blame to go around. Furthermore, and this is especially disturbing to me now as it apparently is to the author of this book, I must question whether there were other motivations in play here than merely to remove a brutal dictator from his house of horrors. Carroll raises this issue, also, along with the whole matter of modern American "imperialism" and the potentially disastrous consequences of an American foreign policy which seems to have run amuck.

Another topic, unfortunately only briefly raised by Carroll, is the death penalty and America's seeming enthusiasm for this barbaric practice. The author, a modern liberal, and I, a classical liberal, would have no difficulty joining forces to criticize capital punishment as a policy and to seek its abolition. While my opposition is basically related to its contradiction of the principle of an "inalienable" right to life as expressed in America's founding document, Carroll proposes a more practical and immediate problem with the death penalty as it relates to the war on terrorism. He suggests that "the American death penalty is a serious obstacle to a fully effective war on terrorism" because other countries, such as Germany and England and possibly other members of the European Union (which prohibits capital punishment), may refuse to hand over terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, "without assurances that the death penalty will be waived." I agree with Carroll on this point. The Bush administration, as far as I know, has not responded to this issue in public.

This is a book not to be read in one sitting, but to be read in fits and spurts. Publications of this type, reprintings of essays without a logical common thread binding them all together, can be difficult to handle all at one time. Regardless of the structure of the text, Carroll stands by his opinions and beliefs and presents some pretty persuasive arguments. He raises some important questions and problems and we are forced to pause and think about answers and solutions. The author writes with the passion of a committed believer and pragmatic activist. While there are many issues about which Carroll and I would argue, particularly with regard to his analysis and interpretation, I would suggest that even the most pro-war or hawkish political partisan will be challenged by some of Carroll's analyses and opinions. Certainly, the author is one of the most important voices in today's world speaking out about the direction that America is taking in world affairs. He should be heard and his opinions debated. This book should be read by the largest possible audience. Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, there is much to learn in this book and much to think about. Highly recommended to those on the Left and the Right and, of course, to the majority of Americans who consider themselves to be independent thinkers without definitive ties to either side.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dangers of Empire Exposed 4 July 2005
By William Hare - Published on
James Carroll is a veteran columnist with the Boston Globe. He specializes in foreign affairs with a particular focus on issues relating to war and peace. His insightful volume "Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War" takes the reader from the tragedy of 9/11 to the launching of the Iraq War as well as shrewdly monitoring its continuing impact.

Carroll realizes immediately that a calamitous result will occur from shifting the focus away from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden following 9/11 to Iraq and the objective of toppling Saddam Hussein. He sees problems occurring from a reaction totally out of concert with international law as well as reason. Carroll, who has studied international religions closely, cites a major error on the part of the Bush Administration as occurring from his statement that its anti-terrorist initiative was part of a great crusade. Carroll notes that the word crusade sends a chill throughout the Muslim world. It stems from the bloody crusades in which so many Muslims were killed by Christians, culminating in slaughter of all of Arab occupants of Jerusalem.

At a time when a major international problem exists in Israel pitting Israelis and Palestinians that is marked by conflicts over settlement construction and occupation as well as suicide bombers, Carroll observes that the emphasis has been shifted away from this trouble spot, along with others such as North Korea and Iran, as American forces occupy Iraq. He notes that this precipitous move plays into the hands of international terrorists by giving Osama bin Laden and others like him a rallying cry. Muslims are warned that by occupying Iraq the Bush Administration is establishing designs on the entire Arab world.

Carroll recognizes that there is a fundamental problem with George W. Bush. "When the president speaks, unscripted, from his own moral center," Carroll writes, "what shows itself is a bottomless void. To address concerns about the savage violence engulfing `postwar' Iraq with a cocksure `Bring `em on!' (as he did last week) is to display an absence of imagination shocking in a man of such authority. It showed a lack of capacity to identify either with enraged Iraqis who must rise to such a taunt, or with young GIs who must now answer for it. Even in relationships to his own soldiers, there is nothing at the core of this man but visceral meanness." He goes on to describe Bush as a "selfless president," which he sees "not a compliment" but "a warning."

One area where Carroll sharply criticizes the Bush Administration is in the misuse of intelligence. Rather than seeking answers by following the facts wherever they may lead and formulating policy based on those hardheaded, realistic conclusions, he sees the Bush Administration as tailoring circumstances to fit its own desires. Under such circumstances policies are motivated by propaganda rather than intelligence assessments. The classic illustration was the rush to war to protect Americans from a perceived attack in which Saddam Hussein would release "weapons of mass destruction" that never existed. A UN inspection team's work was precluded in the rush to war.

As a perceptive student of history, Carroll decries lost diplomatic opportunities that were lost at the conclusion of World War Two. Rather than take the lead in seeking to put an end to the creation of nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Soviet Union instead entered into a protracted Cold War. This brought the world to the precipice of destruction through a nuclear exchange. A balance of terror was substituted for creative diplomacy and an objective of world disarmament.

With the ability of terrorists to make small nuclear weapons that can be carried in a suitcase, and the corresponding capability of unleashing widespread destruction, Carroll sees the futility of the Bush Administration pursuing Star Wars technology. The strategy of the Bush Administration to abrogate international treaties pertaining to arms control and polluting the atmosphere is viewed in the context of the potential disaster that could result for the entire planet from such selfish policies. At a time when well-reasoned diplomacy is essential a lone cowboy "bring `em on" foolhardy policy with potential cataclysmic results has instead been invoked as primitive emotion supplants reason.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book 31 Aug 2004
By Dr. R. W. Butcher - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book containing James Carroll's essays published in the Boston Globe from September 11, 2001 through March 18, 2004. Carroll addresses the actions of the Bush administration, with particular emphasis on the ethical and moral shortcomings that have killed thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, mauled thousands more, have killed a thousand American young people and mauled an unknown number. The preemptive wars started by Bush have succeeded only in costing us the friendship of most of our former allies and have multiplied the number of enemies who hate us.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unjust War 28 July 2005
By James H. Johnson - Published on
This is a series of essays commenting on President Bush and his determination to go to war in Iraq. Carroll starts in 2001 just after 9/11 and records the sequence of events that led to the invasion of Iraq. Told by an obviously moral man who exposes the immorality and blind determination of an administration that used lies, half-truths, and P.R. to justify this dreadful mistake. Carroll knows that going to war is such an extreme step that it requires the most rigorous thought and moral examination. We deserve that.
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