James Carroll - Crusade

"A nation that was trying to promote the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, would behave precisely as the Bush administration has behaved over the past three years." (p. 11)
Going into this book I thought I was going to be in for almost 300 pages of Bush criticisms. Which would be fine; Bush certainly deserves it. And there seems to be a glut of such books out there right now. I don't know if people are trying to cash in on the election or sway it. But, in any case, with titles like this one, Bush's War For Reelection, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Worse Than Watergate, and others people don't have to look far to find critiques of the current regime.

However, Carroll's words aren't just a critique of Bush. I'd say that less than half of this book is, in fact, such a critique. Instead, it is a call for peace, a call for thought before action, and a call for learning from history. Most of the book consists of reproductions of Carroll's columns that appeared in the Boston Globe. The columns didn't all deal with Bush or the unjust war in Iraq. Some deal with Israel-Palestine relations, the Pakistan-India conflict, religion, and other topics. Some are more interesting and thought provoking than others, to be sure. Sometimes it becomes too much, and you just have to put it down and give it a break for a while.

He makes points that I had thought of before (although my thoughts were not nearly as eloquent), but some were new for me. One such theme, that held elements of each, is that unlawful acts such as terrorism should be dealt with as any other unlawful act should. When someone commits a crime, even a more serious one like murder, we don't bomb their town. This should be more especially true for terrorism. Terrorists want a response and the bigger the better in their view. So giving them (and countless others, including civilians) a war for an unlawful act is rewarding their actions, not punishing them or eliminating them. Quite the contrary--it creates more terrorists. It is a hydra of sorts. Try and punish a terrorist by bombing or taking over their country and you will do little but generate more terrorists and anti-American feelings. As Carroll states on page 10, "the Bush administration is taking steps that, instead of meeting the danger, make it far worse."

The title of the book comes from Bush's own mouth. Again, feeding the terrorists who want a holy war, Bush said that the war on terrorism was a crusade, apparently not realizing that few people who know the history of the crusades, on either side, still view them as a good thing.

James Carroll is something of an expert on the relations between, and history of, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. He is a practicing Christian himself. If the above topics aren't interesting enough for you then reading a scathing critique of Ariel Sharon from someone who is fiercely anti-anti-Semitic may be just the thing to get you to read Crusade. Regardless of where you sit on the political or hawk-dove spectrum, Carroll is bound to give you something to think about. Perhaps he'll help to change your views and perhaps he won't. The exercise of at least considering his thoughts is worthwhile.

"The suicide-murderers of the World Trade Center, like the suicide-bombers from the West Bank and Gaza, exploit a perverse link between the willingness to die for a cause and the willingness to kill for it. Crusaders, thinking of heaven, honored that link, too." (p. 5)

from the publisher:
A devastating indictment of the Bush administration's war policies from the bestselling columnist and respected moral authority.

With the words "this Crusade, this war on terror," President George W. Bush defined the purpose of his presidency. And, just as promptly, James Carroll -- Boston Globe columnist, son of a general, former antiwar chaplain and activist, and recognized voice of ethical authority -- began a week-by-week argument with the administration over its actions. In powerful, passionate bulletins, Carroll dissected the president's exploitation of the nation's fears, his invocations of a Christian mission, and efforts to overturn America's traditional relations -- with other nations and with its own citizens.

Crusade, the first collection of Carroll's searing columns, offers a comprehensive and tough-minded critique of the war on terror. From Carroll's first rejection of "war" as the proper response to Osama bin Laden, to his prescient verdict of failure in Iraq, to his never-before-published analysis of the faith-based roots of current U.S. policies, this volume displays his rare insight and scope. Combining clear moral consciousness, an acute sense of history, and a real-world grasp of the unforgiving demands of politics, Crusade is a compelling call for the rescue of America's noblest traditions.

A cry from the heart, a record of protest, and a permanently relevant analysis, Carroll's work confronts the Bush era and measures it against what America was meant to be.

James Carroll is the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning memoir An American Requiem, Constantine's Sword (a history of Christian anti-Semitism), and ten novels. He lectures widely on war and peace and on Jewish-Christian-Muslim reconciliation. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Devastating and deeply humanistic . . . James Carroll's critiques of our foreign policy offer a unique combination of historical knowledge and moral perspective. For people concerned about the mixture of religion, politics, and terrorism (ours and theirs) in today's world, Carroll is the ultimate guide." --Chalmers Johnson, author of The Sorrows of Empire