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Sunday, March 25, 2007

on war and peace in iraq

Last weekend, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war, peace groups held vigils in many cities throughout the United States. In Kansas City the vigil was cosponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the KC Iraq Task Force.

There were several gifted speakers, but the one who made the biggest impression on me was Tomas Young, who fought in this war before being paralyzed from the chest down due to injuries sustained in combat. He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair and started to speak. After only a few sentences he looked down at what appeared to be notes, then said something that was completely unrelated to what he had been saying. He looked down at the notes again, then looked up and apologized. Because of the side effects of his pain medication, he said, he couldn't continue. He rolled off the stage.

This is what war does to young, idealistic people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause. Before we ask them to make these sacrifices, we'd better be sure the cause is worth the cost. George W. Bush's failure to count the cost has destroyed far more lives than the 9/11 attacks did.

I've been attending peace vigils since before the war began, but at this one there seemed to be a general sense of hopefulness that I haven't perceived in previous years. Perhaps one factor is that I've moved from Wichita to Kansas City, where people seem to be a little more positive about life in general, but the biggest factor has to be the 2006 Congressional elections and the troop withdrawal bill now going through Congress.

Nonetheless, I can't bring myself to feel any more hopeful about the prospects for peace than I did four years ago. In fact, I'm probably less hopeful, for two reasons.

First, I really believed, prior to the war, that something might possibly be done to prevent the invasion. If our leaders -- and other world leaders -- could see the level of opposition, they might be persuaded to change their strategy. The very fact of this war has left me jaded about the prospects of ever turning leaders' opinion through protest.

Second, I don't see a possibility for a successful Iraqi nation. Many factors are contributing to the ongoing difficulties there, and numerous pundits have given a far more thorough analysis than I ever could, but the underlying reality is that the Iraqi people are not prepared to run their own government -- especially while facing insurgents intent on ripping the nation to shreds.

The United States could certainly cut its own losses by withdrawing its troops, just as most of its coalition partners already have. But at what cost to Iraq? Already more than 60,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of this war (and that's the most conservative estimate -- some have suggested that the true number is more than ten times that). If the U.S. were to pull out, do we have any reason to think the insurgents would lay their weapons down? Or would a U.S. withdrawal simply abandon Iraq to chaos?

I don't have any answers, just questions.

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At 4/23/2007 2:28 PM, Anonymous OnOfMany said...

When the peace movement develops a backbone someone might just begin to listen to them. Vigils and whatever have had and will continue to have no more results than the Million Man March on Washington. It may produce a little bit of “feelgoodism” but it will produce no practical results.

I have nothing but profound respect for Young and value his opinion because he has some credibility to speak. I have none for those who use him for a prop. He deserves our respect and thanks for his service to our nation. I am not sure he wants our pity.

Contrary to the babble of conspiracy theorist ala Rosie, when our nation went to war it was based on the best information available. Given what was known by the previous administration as well as the administration of President Bush and those who were serving in the Congress and Senate (remember this included Hillary and company), going to war in Iraq was exactly the right thing for our nation to do. The weakness of the UN was the direct cause of the train wreak of circumstances that every reasonable rational thinking man and woman knew to be the cause of our going to war.

Had President Bush continued engaging in negotiations with Saddam, the very same people who today criticize his handling of the war would be the very same people who would be criticizing him for his failure to act. I realize there are some whose criticism of President Bush is driven by sincere Christian conviction. They are few. While one can respect their point of view it does not change the fact that they are wrong. For the most part they are being used as foils by those whose criticism of President Bush is rooted in a profound hatred. This is obvious from the vocabulary they use and the venom with which they express themselves.

No amount of “discussion” will change these facts. If Saddam had had even an ounce of good sense he would not have endangered his nation by political posturing when he lacked the means to backup that posturing. Neither the United States nor President Bush are at fault for the destruction of life that was the result of the attack by Islamic terrorist on 9/11 nor the consequence of the Iraq war.

I find it odd that the "peace community" had no problem with a US/NATO joint action in Yugoslavia to bring a war criminal to justice. Why now are so many troubled by exactly the same action conducted in Iraq. One can not seriously assert that opposition to the Iraq war is really rooted in concern about the justice of national self-determination, the cruel injustice of war or even if war is just. Such concerns were not voiced when the prior administration joined in the Yugoslavia action. The prior administration was not blamed for combatant and non-combatant injuries and death nor the subsequent civil war and ethnic cleansing that followed. The prior administration did not face demands for a timetable to clearly state when our forces would be withdrawn. At no time was our nation daily subjected to the chorus of a biased media presenting only a one sided view of what was going on.

To think that the composition of the new congress is reason to hope for a positive conclusion to the war in Iraq is a pipe dream. The leaders of this new congress are unqualified and simply incapable of making the decisions necessary for a positive end to the war. As regards any concern about the Iraq war, their conduct is no more then photo op sound bite posturing. They are only trying to use the war as a tool of political advancement. It is no different than their response to the crime at VT as they sought to politicize a tragedy. For them to say otherwise is to ask that one believe them incapable of reflective thinking.
The reason why anti-war protest are so ineffective is because they are not persuasive. The protestors lack credibility. For the most part they are not unlike those who once chanted “Hell no, we won’t go!” while their self-appointed leaders and media personalities sat for photo opportunities on enemy anti-aircraft guns, ignored the pleas of United States prisoners of war or participated in clandestine talks with the enemy in Paris and then returned home to make statements before Congress that were patently untrue.

To say that the Iraqi people are unprepared to run their government is arrogance of the most extreme sort. It is the exact same view of which England had to be dissuaded when 13 colonies had the effrontery to declare themselves independent of the “Empire” in which they did not want to be included. As we moved from a Confederacy to a Federal Republic, so Iraq will learn and develop. They may not adopt a pure western style democratic government, but they will adopt a form that suits them and it will be their decision, ever how inconvenient that truth may be for the world community. They may well go through a civil war. Our nation went through a War between the States before we could come to terms with what it meant for us to be a democratic republic. Europe repeatedly fought catastrophic numerous wars before reaching first a common market and now a European Union which is still rejected by many continental nation. The people of Iraq are not ignorant. They are perfectly capable of making decisions and developing a independent national identity. That is exactly what they will do. The United States is not trying to prevent such development. The only ones trying to prevent that development are those surrounding nation states that are threatened by a free pluralistic non-sectarian society structure.

Call them insurgents if you want to, but in Ireland everyone called them terrorist. Call them insurgents if you want to, but in New York they are called mobsters, gangsters, gang bangers, etc. In Iraq they have only filled the vacuum left by the removal of Saddams’ death squads. While thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed, the overwhelming majority are being killed by these “insurgents” who not surprisingly use the same methods of terror to try to control and exploit a population. Such has already been more than amply demonstrated in Afghanistan where the Talaban enforced with extreme vigor a most peculiar understanding of Isalm. If they gain control of Iraq, the bloodbath that will result will add to Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran and Rwanda a new map reference for the term “Killing Fields.” Sincerely. OOM.


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