A few weeks ago, outside my office window, a group of war protesters thundered by on their way toward the center of town. With drums pounding and horns blowing, they chanted in unison for “peace.” I wondered who these people were, disrupting the calm in the middle of the workday before the war had even started.

It turns out they were school kids. There were hundreds of them, children from about 12 to 18, taken from class and placed, like human shields, between the sovereign decision of a nation to engage in war and the unchecked threat posed by one of the world’s cruelest and bloodiest dictators.

As I watched, I wondered who put these little ones up to this. Did the kids decide on their own to take an afternoon off? Did a teacher make the call? Was it a principal? A superintendent? Or perhaps someone further up the chain of command? That they were Catholic school kids makes me think the latter.

It’s no secret that Pope John Paul II supports the antiwar (i.e., anti-American) protests taking place around the world. In a news release from Vatican City, the Pope voiced his approval saying that the “vast contemporary movement in favor of peace” shows that a “large part of humanity” has rejected the idea of war.

Now it would be unfair to say that in rejecting war, the Pope and other peaceloving people are endorsing the Iraqi regime. By now, they’ve all read the gory details. They know, for example, about the misguided American, Kenneth Joseph, who went to Iraq as a human shield. Joseph, a pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, said of his adventure, “it shocked me back to reality.”

He tells of Iraqis who were about to commit suicide if the Americans didn’t show up. “They convinced me that Saddam was a monster, the likes of which the world has not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. The tales of slow torture and killing made me ill; people put in plastic shredders feet first, so they could be heard screaming as their bodies were chewed up from foot to head.”

No one, not even the most anti- American protester, and certainly not the Pope, could want this sort of thing to continue. On that there’s no dissent; the world is unified. What the world will never agree on, however, is who will stop Saddam and, in the aftermath, reintegrate the region. The notion of America having the upper hand in all this is what’s really at issue, globally anyway.

The world apparently knows that if America doesn’t fail, it may be wildly successful. “The United States is on the verge of creating a new opportunity for the Middle East,” says one former Jordanian prime minister. “If the U.S. can get a new Iraq to recognize Israel as a quid pro quo for a final Palestinian settlement, others will fall into place — Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States. Iran then would have to pull back its military support for Hezbollah.” The result: peace, an American-led peace, which is why so many are upset.

The truth is every global interest has its own remedy for peace in the Middle East. And these interests have proven that they will resort to anything, including throwing their children out into the streets or into the deserts, to achieve it.