Sunday, March 30, 2003
@ Ruta Maya | 7:15 PM
I suppose it’s time I said my piece on the current military conflict in Iraq. Solie said she thought I’d have already written something up on it, and, astoundingly, I really haven’t. I’ve argued the subject quite a bit “in real life” and on the message boards of Lipstick and Cigarettes, but I haven’t really written any other substantial material on the subject, save in Comp. I last semester. I guess I expect that all my arguments can be found elsewhere in better form and by better informed persons than myself. Nonetheless, I suppose it is my duty to put down in words my feelings regarding this situation.
[I’d like to preface everything that follows, though, by making it understood that I fully support our troops in this (and whatever) endeavors and objectives they are ordered to confront and accomplish. More than my fear that the anti-war movement forget the history of Saddam’s ruthless rule in Iraq (and the need for him to be gotten rid of), I fear that a new anti-militarism will arise. I don’t mean anti-militarism in, you know, rejection of the use of force in world affairs terms. Hell, if that were the definition we’re using, I’d count myself a member. Rather, I don’t want the mainstream elements of the peace movement to turn against our military members who are merely performing their legal duty. American military members have as little influence in foreign policy as you and I. A servicemember’s dealings with nuts-and-bolts foreign policy (aside from being the person intimately involved with the result of diplomacy’s failure: war) extends only as far as his or her election-time vote.]
To be honest, I’m surprised President Bush went through with it. After the massive worldwide showings of discontent with his bellicose belligerence on February 15 and afterward, somewhere deep down and in the back of my mind, I expected he’d slowly back off the gas pedal of his war train and cooler heads might prevail. At the same time, though, I knew that, in a realpolitik sense, you don’t put 300,000 troops in-theater and not have a war. You have that goddamn war even if only as a face-saving gesture.
So that’s where we’re at. I almost wrote: “So that’s where we’re at: Involved in a war no one wants.” Then I remembered the recent poll findings that report that some majority of Americans support this preemptive attack on the sovereign nation of Iraq. Probably seventy percent of those Americans couldn’t find Iraq on a map prior to its being plastered all over Fox News over the last few weeks. (Someone once said that war is nature’s way of teaching geography. This assumes, of course, that you consider mass slaughter a natural phenomenon.) As a friend said earlier this week, “Maybe we should shock and educate the American populace rather than Shock and Awe the Iraqis.”
Each cruise missile we launch into Iraq costs some $1 million and we don’t have money to better fund our schools? Institute a national health care system? Send every American child to college for free? I agree with the Catholic Bishops when they say the United States needs to make constructive, sustainable employment and economic expenditures rather than so many focusing on death and destruction.
But going back to the beginning, I’d like to note that “Operation: Iraqi Freedom,” certainly the most blatant, incredibly presumptuous of marketing slogans so far employed by the Bush Administration, did not start as a movement to free the Iraqi people from the awful dictator Saddam Hussein. No, remember, it started as a means (demands backed up with military force) to an end (the disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)). With the entry of the weapons inspectors and some not insignificant amount of cooperation on the part of Hussein, I counted that end as reached and those means as, if not finished, then at least not needed in their previous weight. No one found any WMD, so the Administration changed their line of attack: Suddenly, Iraq had terrorist ties – specifically, to Al Qaeda. Of course, all of this information was unsubstantiated and, after Colin Powell made the trust-ending move of presenting the Administration’s “proof” to the United Nations, roundly laughed at and debunked by those much better in the know than myself. Though I did laugh at the flimsiness of their “proof” and nearly cry that Powell could so debase himself as to present that (mis)information rather than resign.
We’re involved in a war supported by a majority of Americans who, for the most part, can’t find the country we’re bombing on a map of the world (unless we leave the names on it, and then only after some brow-scrunching, finger-walking searching), and backed-up by evidence that was plagiarized and proven untrue. A war that has already brought the number of people out onto the streets in protest before it even started that took the anti-Vietnam war movement four years to achieve. So what, right?
Honestly, there are two ways that I could have either supported this conflict or at least respected Bush a bit more than I do now:
First, had he couched his argument for the war in the terms of humanitarianism from the very beginning. Had Bush said, “Look, my dad fucked-up when he didn’t get rid of Saddam in 1991. He’s been an awful dictator that has killed many of his own people and we’re going to fix that, we’re going to free them. We owe them that much after leaving them in the lurch during the uprising my father fomented but failed to militarily support.” Of course, this would have necessarily led to an obligation to depose those dictators oppressing so many people all over the world. It might even lead to the obvious questions as to why we support(ed) so many ruthless regimes (Saudi Arabia, anyone?) elsewhere.
Second, and much more crudely, had Bush just come out and said, “Look, they have oil. We want it. Geopolitically and economically, they are a strategically important country and we want to own it. By slowly tightening our grip on the Middle East, we’ll be able to command who gets oil and who doesn’t. We’re going in for no other reason than we feel like it.” Imperialism has a sort of sexy “fuck what everyone else thinks, we’re gonna kill people, break shit and plant our flag” kinda taste to it. While I couldn’t have supported a war based on that rhetoric, I could have at least respected Bush for his honesty (and misplaced attempt at strengthening and furthering American power).
Instead, Bush lied to me. Lied to all of us. And continues to: WMD. Ties to Al Qaeda. Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Though I’d like to believe we’re doing this for the right reasons, that our troops are fighting the good fight, that America remains righteous (okay, I just threw that in because it sounded good; we lost our claim to foreign policy innocence long ago), Bush’s actions force distrust of him and his intentions upon me.
History will deal with him accordingly, though. He won’t escape it. It will be recognized that he went against the will of the American people (or, at least, those dirty, pinko, Commie, college student, old hippy, intellectual, fags) and the world (or, at least, those damn Krauts, Frogs, and the rest of “Old Europe” — you know, all those industrialized countries in the Western part of the continent) to attack a sovereign nation unilaterally (really, Britain, Australia, and a number of Third World (sorry, developing) countries that we bought don’t count as a multilateral “coalition of the willing”).
I will continue to protest and attend candlelight vigils. I will continue to root for our troops. I will continue to hope we can get them home soon. I will continue to fight this Administration. I will continue to send care packages to friends and family members in-theater. I will continue to criticize this policy of war. I will continue to be a true American.