Sunday, March 19


I was looking over some random postings I wrote around the time of the first anniversary of the Iraq war. It's discouraging that three years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, how little has changed in our policy or its results. We're still retaking territory we've taken two, three, four, five times before. There's still no trained Iraqi national army or police that can operate independently of the U.S. -- that is, unfiltrated by competing militias and loyal to the central government rather than religious sects, and in sufficient numbers to claim any significant progress in that effort.

Bush is still set on "staying the course" and thinks this pre-emptive war was such a good idea we ought to think about applying it to Iran, Syria, and anyone else that strikes our fancy.

The world has been shocked at the disintegration of the United States as a nation that has historically championed human rights, the rule of law, and international cooperation. From the sentiment "We're all Americans now!" post-9/11, we've descended in global world opinion to the likes of the saber-rattling Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev. As for awe, I think it's more the kind of "Aw!!" you cry when your favorite team fumbles the ball or your quarterback is sacked.

DOESN'T ANYONE REMEMBER what it was like in the later years of the VietNam War? Very similar to the current conflict in Iraq in these respects:

(1) politicians were running the war instead of the generals;
(2) politicians were lying to the nation about the progress of the war;
(3) our fighting men were mostly boys drafted because they couldn't afford or gain entry to college, National Guard duty and other deferments that saved the hides of the more affluent;
(4) these young men were ordered or encouraged to exhibit animalistic behavior;
(5) lower-echelon officers such as Calley and Medina were crucified for such behavior while their masters went unpunished;
(6) these young men died for nothing. VietNam today is a united country, and communism has been pretty much discredited in most of the world.
(7) we didn't take much better care of our wounded than we're doing today -- soldiers just don't seem to count to some people unless they're on the front line -- and judging by how poorly equipped our men and women are in this conflict, not even then. When I was a teen, the best surfer in our town came back from Nam with no legs -- and the military wouldn't provide prosthetic ones for some reason that escapes me now. Our city threw a fit and eventually he got those prosthetics, but I penned a poem at the time that included the line, "The surfer man returned to town but with a certain lack; the government took his legs from him and wouldn't give them back."

Where John Kerrey is going wrong is in not remembering what he felt when he said, "How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?" The invasion of Iraq was a criminal mistake, and I don't want one more American soldier to die for that mistake -- Bush's mistake, Cheney's mistake, Rumsfeld's mistake, Rice's mistake -- and yes, Colin Powell's mistake. Say what you will, Colin, about "good soldiering" -- that's the same excuse the Nuremberg defendants used.

Here's another:

Take it from a Dallas gal, the group supporting Bush 43 is just a group of intellectually deficit cowboys. They really think you can deliver democracy at the point of a gun. Brooks, for example, thinks that "It was U.S. inaction against Al Qaeda that got us into this mess in the first place. It was our tolerance of Arab autocracies that contributed to the madness in the Middle East." What got us into this mess, if you go back, was a fundamental refusal on the part of our brave leaders to understand the root causes of Islamic anger -- the huge gaps in economic opportunity between Arab countries and those of the West; the fear that Western values would corrupt their own women and diminish the power of their men; the belief that an American [infidel] presence in Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) was an insult to Islam; the perception that the US is unfair in its heavy support for Israel vs. our seemingly contemptuous attitude toward the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, and yes, our tolerance of Arab autocracies.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. Nonetheless, it points us to some of the solutions (and there must be multiple efforts, multiple fronts): massive humanitarian aid to countries with significant Islamic populations (i.e., not just Arab countries; Malaysis and the Philippines are breeding grounds for Islamic terrorists); a pledge that we will only use our military in their world for strategic strikes against terrorists or as a part of NATO or UN forces; a more even-handed approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues; a visible withdrawal of support to tyrants and autocrats. There's nothing much we can do about their attitudes towards women at the moment -- while I'm sure many right-wing Repugs (the true American Taliban) would be delighted to see American women sporting veils and walking behind their men by three paces, it isn't likely to happen (God help us).

But the truest solution to the problem is the same solution that REALLY brought down the Iron Curtain. I've never believed that the fall of Eastern European communism was solely the result of Reagan's arms race, though it did come close to bankrupting the Soviet Union. On the contrary, it began with the grass-roots Polish Solidarity movement and was significantly enhanced by the example of a living, breathing, prosperous and free American democratic republic. BushCo thinks that the way you win wars is by doing back to the enemy what you THINK he has done to you (or "to his own people"). As a Christian and a rational thinking human being, I'm assured that the way to win a war (spiritual or physical) is to heap kindness ("like coals upon their heads") upon the enemy. That kindness in this case can be defined as the steps I've just outlined.

Bringing representative government to the countries of the world sounds like a lofty and noble goal. But this administration can't seem to understand that it can't be delivered like a gift. If the indigenous people don't support that goal and if they don't LEAD the movement themselves (sure we can help if asked), it is not likely to "take."

Brooks is right about one thing: we must "embody democrative ideals" -- and the actions at Abu Ghraib and similar ones elsewhere, the Patriot Act and Guantanamo, the move in the USA to blur lines between church and state, etc. are not reassuring anyone that the US the Bushies envision for the future will embody democratic ideals.

Bush panders to the Christian right in his rhetoric, but he just comes off sounding like any other religiously fundamentalist fanatic -- and between that and the CR's move to create our own madrassas, backtrack on women's rights, and extend autocratic power to our current (and hopefully soon, former) administration, we look more like we're adopting Islamic values than encouraging them to adopt our own.

That was in early 2004. Two years later, unbelievably, we still have a mess of journalists, pundits, politicos and plain voters who don't get it. Dumb as paint. We have three more years to go with this administration. Any bets that we'll be out of Iraq before Bush is out of the White House?

I have better things to do with my money.

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