What’s wrong with Iraq this time around

Iraq was about all we talked about at work today, before the grisly incident of today became public. Actually I should say other people talked. I didn’t do much but listen.

This is about all I have to say.Last time around, I wouldn’t say we were above reproach, but there was something very different. Last time around we were liberators. George Bush went on the air and told the Iraqis we treated their prisoners with kindness. We stood in stark contrast to Saddam Hussein. We got in, did our work, then got out. We fought more like Israel than like the United States of the late 20th century.

Whether we were justified in going back in and going after Hussein isn’t an argument I want to broach. Someone asked me several months before we did it what I thought. I said I knew we were going to have this war. It was just a question of when, and how long.

It’s been a lot longer than the last go-round.

The stories of brutality to prisoners ignited controversy. Who’s responsible? Was it justifiable? As I listened to people arguing about it, I tried to place myself in the role of a soldier guarding these prisoners. Let’s say a superior told me to do something to them. If I’m the one doing the smacking around, it doesn’t matter if I was just following orders. The guys in the Nazi death camps were just following orders too. They have a conscience. They’re guilty.

But the Nazis worked in fear of retribution, you say.

Do you think our soldiers had no fear of retribution if they didn’t carry out orders? Doing the right thing might not get you killed on the spot in the U.S. military, but do you think it might keep you from getting promoted? Do you think you might be the one picked to go into harm’s way? There’s still plenty of room for retribution in today’s U.S. military.

Harry Truman had a sign on his desk. It read, "The buck stops here."

Today it’s not very clear where the buck stops. It’s pretty clear who those Islamic militants blame. All of us.

So what’s the right thing to do now?

Part of me wants to go back to George Washington. Washington warned against getting too tangled up in international affairs. World Wars I and II were different–we were dragged into those. Kicking and screaming all the way, in the case of World War I. We haven’t fought many good wars since those.

Part of me says it’s a different world today, and it’s not realistic to be the world’s only superpower and ignore international affairs.

Part of me asks what I would do if I were Donald Rumsfield or George W. Bush.

Well, I’m a Promise Keeper. One of the Promise Keepers’ mantras is that the man is responsible for what happens in his house. Even if someone else in the household does it, the man had something to do with it, so he has to bear some of the responsibility. That same attitude goes into the workplace, and any position of authority.

Frankly it keeps you honest.

If I were Secretary of Defense, I think I would have to step down. Not because I want to, and not necessarily because people were calling for me to. The reason? To send a message.

So, what of these militants who did this despicable and, frankly, disgusting act?

Some will call for a war on Islam. That’s not the way to show what freedom is all about. If I may go back to my childhood for a minute, when I was growing up, I was always told I was representing more than just myself. I was representing the orgainization I belonged to–be it the Boy Scouts, or the school I went to. So I needed to show people what those things were all about, through my actions. I didn’t always do it perfectly, and I still don’t. But I can honestly say that I did at least try.

Through our actions in the Middle East, we need to be showing these people what Freedom–yes, capital "f"–is all about.

We sure did a better job of that in 1991 than we’re doing now. Sometimes I wonder if we’re trying.

So what if we change our ways? Will we win them over? Not tomorrow we won’t. Freedom isn’t free. In this case, it’s starting to get really expensive. But I think it might have been cheaper if we’d done it right from the get-go. Don’t get me wrong: Either way, it would have been a long and painful process. But maybe it would have taken one century instead of twelve.

We got our man. We got his obvious successors. We didn’t find what we were looking for. We accomplished some worthwhile things, but we kind of look bad too.

I think we have to decide whether we are willing to pay the escalating cost, or go back to George Washington.

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4 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Iraq this time around

  • May 11, 2004 at 8:49 pm

    Fortress America!
    Pull back from the world, we’re safe here.
    We shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, then or now. Kuwait was part of Iraq. It was the Saudi’s problem. Involvement in foreign countries is the recipe for disaster. Maybe.
    To pacify a people, you must be willing to emulate Saddam. This country is not willing to do what must be done, witness the uproar over the prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison.
    Our military can not enter mosques that hold terrorists and their weapons. We’ve established another Yalu river boundary.
    This time, there is no Douglas MacArthur to point out the stupidity of giving your enemy a place to rest and regroup.
    Is it possible Bin Laden is trying to follow the teachings of the Koran, to convert the world at the point of a sword? Is this a religion that can tolerate no other?
    An Israeli woman emailed me that she believes we are in the beginning of World War III. She is an American that emigrated thirty years ago.
    I wonder, are we in the end of days?

    "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." — Albert Einstein

    • May 12, 2004 at 2:19 pm

      What’s wrong with Iraq is simple. Two points:

      1. The majority of Iraqi’s will not fight for their own freedom.

      2. We are, as usual, doing most of the damage here at home… to ourselves.

      A good portion of this country has no backbone, and no resolve. The attention span of a crack addled monkey doesn’t help matters either. Since the Sixties and beyond, it’s been "cool" to blame America for everything. This has reached a new level today… Nick Berg’s family has blamed the current administration for the death of their son. This is pure insanity, and is the baseline reason for why we are in the situation we have now found ourselves in.

      "World Wars I and II were different–we were dragged into those. Kicking and screaming all the way, in the case of World War I. We haven’t fought many good wars since those. "

      Good wars? You mean untelevised wars. Those two wars were MAGNITUDES more brutal and heinous than this relative squabble in the middle east. But Joe Civilian and family didn’t get to see the hell that was war. They didn’t get the political games and spin that is being put on this abortion of a conflict today.

      People are trying to lose this war for us just like caused Vietnam to be a failure by getting us to abandon the South Vietnamese. The difference is, the hate WILL continue to spread, and we WILL be attacked again and again. We simply cannot afford to fail here.

      I believe it is up to the Bush administration to forget about the election, and to continue to do what they have done for the last 3 1/2 years: the right thing. It may not be what everyone considers the right thing, but the important thing is that they are doing what they feel is right. In this case, it is to go in there, and win this thing with complete disregard for how "pretty" it looks. Crush the opposition, and start the new Iraq off on most sturdy footing possible.

      We need to stop the self-flagellation, and start trusting in our country, our own people, and our individual selves. We are the remaining super power in the world for a reason; we didn’t just arrive here by chance. We have a responsibility to all people, most of all ourselves, to make the world a safe place once and for all. We can’t fix the evil that resides in man, but we can damn sure make governments that are run on this evil a thing of the past.

      All opinions aside, thank the Lord for the selflessness and determination exhibited by our men and women in the armed services. Pray that the sacrifice they make daily is not tainted, but is seen through to completion for the good of all.

  • May 12, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    The killing and torture aren’t going to stop if we leave; We’ll just be able to ignore it. It sounds naive, but we really do have an obligation to make the world safe for democracy. We’re not doing too much overseas, but too little.

    I don’t think the first world war was a success. It was a short-term patch that made the second world war inevitable. Not that the (mostly) well meaning people at Versailles knew that. They thought they had made Europe, and the world, safe. The parallel isn’t exact, but it reminds me a lot of the first gulf war. The way it ended, and the world’s subsequent behavior, finally made the second gulf war the least bad option.

    I think at this point all we can do is proceed with the transfer of sovereignty, and maintain a large force in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Maybe it’ll technically be a U.N. force, but we know who’ll make up the bulk of it. Suppose we throw Bush out, and elect Kerry. What’s his plan, after you strip away all the rhetoric? Maybe I’ve misunderstood, and it really is different. Maybe we’ll get a clear articulation of his plan before the election, so we can choose. I’m willing to listen.

    I’m just glad I’m not like those wicked Pharisees…

  • May 20, 2004 at 6:40 am

    I must admit my own feelings are quite mixed regards Iraq. As a retired military, and someone who experienced first hand a terrorist bombing while stationed in Saudi, I have unqualified support for the military men and women serving in the Mid East. I also sometimes have great apprehension that their loyalty and dedication will be mis-used. I am disgusted by the soldiers at all levels who allowed abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Their actions have greatly undercut American legitimacy and greatly increased the danger to every American in the Arab world. They have also given a level of believability to every horror story involving US Forces that pops up in the future.

    The US is under no obligation to make the world safe for Democracy. Our obligation is to demonstrate the virtues of democracy by example, by adhereing to our principles and ideals. In truth not every nation is well served by democracy because they are not ready for it. The best government is the one that most effectively meets the current needs of the governed and effectively plans for future development.

    I think killing and torture will continue in Iraq if the US pulls out because the country is devolving into civil war. I think Iraq may eventually balkanize into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish secters, and we may then see a real Arab war.

    That the US continues to fight when so few Iraqis seem willing to, makes it appear the war is more about US interests than Iraqi freedom anyway. Those interests being, stopping terrorism against the US, regional stability, and oil. Getting rid of Saddam and Iraqi freedom are nice hooks to hang the war on. The US may want democracy but will settle for stability. You could be missing both arms and count the number of Arab democracies, allies or otherwise. I suspect an Iraqi democracy is a pipe dream because outside maybe the Kurds (who nobody seems to like) there is not a faction or nation in the region whose interests are served by an Arab democracy, As for oil, The ruling House of Saud is old and due for a change – probably not for the better. The US needs alternatives. Honestly, If not for terrorists and oil the only time most of us would think about the third world Mid-East is Christmas and Easter. Really, how much of your day is spent wondering about Somalia?

    I certainly think US interests are legimate and I certainly think we (the US) in our own minds try to behave more honorably than most nations. But I don’t think we are saints and I don’t think we should fool ourselves expecting Arab people to not be suspicious of our motives. I don’t think we should expect anything like gratitude either. I think the danger of a very long, very costly involvement in Iraq is very real.

    One of the issues facing the allies after WWII, was what role former Nazis should play in the rebuilding of Germany since they were the primary people who understood all the infrastructure. I suspect in Iraq we will see a few deals with the devil before we’rte through.

    Some things you must love because they’re impossible to like

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