Friday, June 20, 2008

What About Iraq?

In his NYT op-ed column on June 18th, Thomas Friedman writes:

"Iraq has become one of those subjects that so many people now come to with so much emotional scar tissue that it is very hard to have a sober discussion about the actual situation there today. So much is colored by how you feel about George Bush or whether you were for or against the war. As a result, what we do next in Iraq — how and why — is barely getting discussed in the presidential campaign."

According to a CNN report from late last month:

Notable progress" has been made in Iraq despite persistent problems, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday at an international summit to promote peace in the violence-wracked country.

"If we were asked to use just one word to describe the situation in Iraq today, I would choose the word 'hope,' " Ban said at the Stockholm, Sweden, conference. "Iraq is stepping back from the abyss that we feared most."

Yet Iraqis continue to suffer from terrorism, sectarian violence and criminality, he said, and "essential services are still sorely lacking.

Forced displacement and human-rights violations remain problems, particularly for women and minorities, he said, but the level of violence has declined from that of 2006 and part of 2007.

"There is new hope that the people and government of Iraq are overcoming daunting challenges and working together to rebuild their country after years of war, neglect and dictatorship," Ban said.

Confusing leadership in the United States has been a problem since the war began. American citizens were asked to sacrifice nothing. Life went on in this nation as if nothing was happening of any great significance on foreign soil. Public protests and critics of the Bush administration's rush to war were either ignored or buried in the back pages of American newspapers. There was enough guilt to go around. Factors involving mainstream media, certain bloggers willing to sacrifice truth and reality to score cheap political points, extreme partisanship and fear-mongering in the halls of Washington, D.C, the discouraging rubber-stamps and roadblocks from so many Republican Senators and House Representatives...each played a part in the emotional scarring that Mr. Friedman, whose own judgment disappointed me many times over the past few years, now humbly talks about.

None of it was a U.S. soldier's doing nor was any mistake a soldier's fault.

There has been a disturbing lack of leadership at the very top - from those in the U.S. Executive branch who were charged with solemn responcibilities to the American people and who failed miserably. For these past five excruciating years during which our soldiers have sacrificed life and limb in Iraq, the Bush administration - often adamantly - failed at every step to reasonably explain to the American public what victory might look like when it was achieved. Seeing them making excuses and moving the "victory" goalposts at every convenient political juncture for the sake of empowering one political party is, for me, unforgivable.

Why did the Bush administration take the American public for fools?
Didn't they realize that you can only fool the people for so long?

Bottom line, Mr. Friedman is right.

It's high time Americans got a glimpse of the reality on the ground in Iraq and it's high time our leaders trusted and respected the intelligence of each and every American and start talking about Iraq in a way that intelligent people can actually understand. President Bush has appealed to the pariotism in each of us in a disrespectful manner in that he's asked us citizens to take too much on faith alone. This isn't a church. It's a nation of people who, from the time of our nation's founding, has existed on the basis of each soul having an opportunity to make crucial and informed choices. As Robert McClure, Senior Associate Dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University said in 2001 about being an intelligent patriot:

"If democratic citizenship involves both rights and responsibilities, then patriotism is found on the responsibility side of the equation. Patriotism is a citizen’s duty—a debt owed—to the larger community, ….not an individual prerogative reserved for personal use. In a democracy, patriotism is part of our responsibility to protect and defend one another, because — if for no other reason than the most self-interested of reasons — it is the national community that bestows and protects our individual rights."

In my own activism, I've acted because I owe a debt to the soldiers who've taken and followed the command of their Commander-in-Chief on faith and in loyalty to the larger American community and the U.S. Constitution. A quote was on my blog's sidebar from the time the Iraq war began: "This blog, out of love and respect for our citizens who serve in the armed forces, supports the brave men and women who do their duty for this nation. This blog does not support the current policies of G.W. Bush. May Providence grant us all the wisdom to know the difference. "

AP photo from March, 2004 - Yes, that's our President George Bush mockingly looking for WMD under his desk. The old joke has gone rancid. He doesn't seem to know it yet.

Iraq is more than just a mess that our poor and deceptive leaders got us into. And it certainly isn't a joke.

I was floored to learn, thanks to Dan Froomkin, that, even after being criticized for other times he's done it, President Bush still considers the absence of WMD in Iraq as some kind of a joke:
" an interview [today] with Ned Temko of Britain's Observer, [President] Bush actually joked that he was "still looking" for the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were the main reason he gave to the public for going to war.

I believe that Barack Obama and John McCain are going to have to talk about the gains achieved because of the surge in Iraq. I want to hear no political posturing from either side because, after shock and awe in 2003, there was a four-year blunder of historic proportions and Obama's claim to having been against the war from Day One, although noble in its own light of judgment, doesn't really matter anymore, to be quite honest. We are where we are. John McCain should take no great pride in having championed this war, voting with the Republicans for the four years for which his party can only claim a wrong course of action in U.S. Foreign policy. Fast-forward to "the surge" and some gains can be claimed...but for how long? Is maintaining the few gains achieved in the past eight months considered to be what victory looks like as we amble toward an end game (still with no time-frames in legislation)? Are those gains enough? We know, from experience, that whenever we've left a city like Mosul or Basra or Fallujah, we've left a vacuum for militia groups and oil smugglers to fill. If we pull our soldiers out one brigade at a time, how long will it take for the vacuum caused by their leaving to be filled with those who would cause the Iraq government to lose a grip on their fragile situation?

How long do we keep this up?

I am expecting to see a meaningful and respectful debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. Anything less will surely disappoint.


GreenSmile said...

"None of it was a U.S. soldier's
doing nor was any mistake a
soldier's fault.

You said it, Jude! Say it often, say it loud...I do.