On September 11, like everyone else I was concerned and hurt by all the people that lost their lives. My first reaction, however was pretty skeptical. I guess you could say that I took a pessimistic stance. I didn't think that the event would pull us together as a country, yet on the contrary I was afraid that the reactionary people in power and the masses were going to call for a mass retaliation and that anger would overpower rational thinking. I was afraid that Muslims and those from Middle-Eastern countries would suffer a backlash of racial profiling and discrimination unnecessarily. For the most part I was fairly pleased to see that, in the first months after the attacks Americans responded with reasonable and united actions at those who appeared to truly be the responsible ones. I had been hearing of the atrocities committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan for sometime and was happy to see that the American government was going to do something about it, even though it took the loss of 3000 Americans to get them to pay attention.
I was shocked then, to find out in the early part of 2003 that the Bush administration had set it's sites on Iraq of all countries. It was such an about face in terms of focus that began wondering if we were even pursuing Bin Laden anymore. I still kind of wonder that. I didn't understand the fascination with taking down Saddam Hussein. Sure, he was a horrible dictator. Sure, he had committed atrocities against his own people and had invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s. This was a horrible leader who we could certainly do without. What I didn't understand was why, now when we were still trying to bring the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, were we all of a sudden turning our attention to Saddam. Well, apparently they had Weapons of Mass Destruction. This term has become so incredibly mundane that it doesn't really mean anything anymore. Basically, Iraq had nukes and or biological weapons. But you know that. You know that because Colin Powell showed the whole world at the U.N. in those aerial photos indicating the mobile weapons labs. Rumsfeld told us he knew where they were. He told us exactly their location (a fact he has recently denied.) I never saw it, but who am I? My whole opinion at this time was I hope they know what they're doing, because I don't get it. I didn't feel threatened by Hussein, I didn't feel like we had a strong case for war, and I didn't see why we were all of a sudden bringing out this old issue of Iraq. It's as if we were the jock at the 10 year high school reunion that decided we needed to beat up on the nerd one last time. And this time he was really going to it. This time, he would never get to do science experiments ever again. Of course, this time he was weaker and less prepared and we were stronger and fortified with even better arms. Am I still talking about the Jock/Nerd scenario?
Anyway, the point was that I didn't get it. I even remarked to a co-worker once that I hoped they found WMDs because then we wouldn't seem like idiots to the rest of the world and ruin our good relationships with the countries that opposed our being there. Even if we really thought that Iraq was a threat, which I doubt, why would we risk international good will. If we truly believed what we were trying to spin I think we could have eventually convinced the rest of the world. I also didn't get the American's blind lemming-like behavior during this time. I sort of expected the Republicans to be excited about a regime takeover. Oil, a new market to inundate with Coca-cola and McDonald's restaurants, contracts, contracts, contracts. Couldn't we all see Dick Cheney's mouth watering. I was mostly disappointed, as I often am, with the Democrats, as well as the general public who consider themselves independent thinkers. This was really an example of the Emperor showing off his new clothes. Where was the child? Where was the innocent voice to cry out, "The Emperor's naked!" "There are no Weapons!" It never happened. Of course, what I'm leaving out here is that Bush and his boys were taking full advantage of the goodwill they'd been given over the course of rebuilding and recovering from New York. Our country was still on a unification binder and we like it. Who wanted to rock the boat by opposing the president. As for politicians, who wanted to lose re-election because they were "soft of terrorism," or "an America hater." Anyone against the war was automatically one of these. (Sean Hannity likes to use the phrase, "the Blame America First Crowd." I think this is a great way to describe people who are willing to look inside the U.S. first and evaluate what we did wrong, taking responsibility and not simply being blinded by "Patriotism" which is a misnomer anyway. The kind of "patriotism" these people practice is really "nationalism.")
Now, we have a situation where time has passed and the political left has found an opportunity to pounce on the shortcomings of the right, who was only doing everything they ever wanted but with full consent of the left. I never really bought into the whole "you duped us" routine, mainly because I, myself, was not duped. To anyone who was not willing to accept Bush's weak explanations for war and a sly "just trust us on this one" it seems pretty obvious that the administration just wanted a war, whether it be for revenge or oil. But, with the complete failure of the current operation to show any sign of a justifiable outcome we are now completely polarized. Did we do more harm than good? Should we get out as soon as possible? What is our mission there now, anyway? My opinions on this matter are this, respectively.
Of course we did more harm than good. The idea that we can force democracy down the throats of people is what has gotten us the reputation overseas as arrogant bullies. That and the tendency of Americans that their beer is warm in Germany and that the pizza is no good in Italy. Americanization may be great for businesses and may have gotten us all the envy of the country with the greatest wealth, but it's also given distinction of "infidel." That's a term used by Radical Islam, of course, but my loose understanding of the term can be applied to just about any anti-American sentiment. Europeans, Asians, and even Canadians consider our recent problems all a case of karma. We've overstayed our welcome, in other words, and it's time to reevaluate what makes a country great. Our presence in Iraq has only strengthened the resolve of those who were opposed to us because it is another example of why they were opposed to us in the first place. We can't overthrow any government who's leaders are unjust and oppressive. We'd never be finished. There's too many of them. Plus, many of our own political and economic allies are oppressive governments. For too long we've acted as if we are the only one's on this planet that matter and soon it's going to bite us in butt. Will Iraq ever become a bastion of freedom and democracy and peace for the Middle East. I hope so, but that's beside the point. There's no way to quantify whether it was worth it in terms of lives lost versus years of oppression and what the Iraqi government might have done. The fact of the matter is that we weren't asked to overturn the regime and we didn't have the right. As a country we should follow the golden rule.
Republican's like to call it "Cut and Run" because that emphasizes the impression that Democrats are cowards, which is, of course, bull. I think that Republicans want people to believe that Democrats would have us out of Iraq tomorrow. Some Democrats might, but my impression is that most Democrats want the goal to be to leave Iraq. That doesn't mean we leave today or next week. It means that we set a time table to truly allow the Iraqi government to lead and that we allow them to call the shots as to our presence there. Make it known that we plan to help them stabilize their government, but the ultimate goal is for us to leave it to them. Our continued presence there is only hurting the already shattered American image around the world.
The Bush Administration keeps saying that we can't leave until the job is finished. This is all I've ever heard from them. I don't think I've actually ever heard what "finished" would be. Maybe they have and I missed it, but it seems that Bush has an open ended mindset for our presence in Iraq. This makes absolutely no sense to me. We were there to find WMDs. Okay, not there. Well, no what we are really there to do is liberate the people there. Well, we got them liberated and they were happy until they realized that they were in greater danger than ever. Okay what now? No, I'm asking? What the hell are we doing now?
And I think that sums up my impression of the whole deal. That last sentence in the previous paragraph. There's no plan, there's no accountability, and there's no purpose anymore.
The cynic in me thinks that there is purpose and it is the same as it's always been. Oil. But, we haven't been able to really do anything about that yet, so Bush keeps telling us, "Stay the course." Something inside me tells me that when he says that what he's really saying is, "Don't worry. As soon as this thing blows over oil prices will go back down. Rummy and me got this one covered. Hee, hee, hee!"