What Will It Take?

 

by "Time and Circumstance"

 

Lies have been told - they say exaggeration. Innocent lives have been lost - they say ’collateral damage. Long held alliances and the rule of law have been severely compromised - they say “with us or against us”.

Flags wave from the antennas of gas guzzling SUV’s, perhaps in homage to the ability of our superior firepower to wrest precious resources from weaker Nations for our convenience. Similar flags hug the contours of the coffins of our sons and daughters - those who volunteered for ‘this’, whatever ‘this’ has become and may become due to the arrogance and hubris of our nominal leadership. Do ‘stop-loss’ orders change the equation? Just how voluntary is “voluntary service” when you cannot leave on your appointed date of departure? Is this situation the model for “supporting the troops” that our Executive branch and their supporters in the Legislative branch constantly refer when describing what is right and tolerable for debate in this America - land of the free and home of the brave and virtuous? Explicitly by this President and only slightly less so by the Congress, we are told that this invasion and occupation of Iraq is a ‘just cause’, but to what end? Perhaps it is ‘just ‘cause we can’…

The charges of imminent danger, possession of weapons of mass destruction (although what gives us the right to decide what Nation may or may not possess the very things that we possess in abundance is beyond my feeble mind), ties to Al-Qeada have been thoroughly refuted and should have been enough for men of a more sober disposition and a Nation possessing a fraction of the virtue that we claim as ours alone to change course…alas, it was not. Our government moved on without missing a beat: ‘we are there to remove a terrible dictator who oppresses his people with torture and rape rooms’ they told us. ‘We are there to share the gift of democracy with this most misguided of Middle Eastern Nations‘ they intoned.

 

These claims bring to light an interesting situation if one examines the claims on their face: Imagine, if you will, that you have discovered something so wonderful that you are overjoyed and willing to pay almost any price for its possession. The wondrous thing that you now possess in abundance is everything and more that you hoped that it would be. You wish to share it. Who would you share it with? Would you share this wondrous gift with your most hated enemy; someone that you hold in such low accord that you are willing to make the members of that enemies’ family, which have done you no harm, suffer grievously- who have, in fact, suffered great harm at the hands of this very same enemy; so your actions only compound their misfortune. Truly, would you share a gift with a family who you have with your every action tried to destroy, or would you share this wondrous gift with a friend.

 

The gift of which I speak is ‘democracy’ and like any gift it is only a gift if it is received willingly. If democracy is something that is to be bestowed upon the Middle East, then I would daresay that we should plant that seed in the garden of our friends. If I may be so bold as to suggest it: perhaps Israel would do well to sup upon the fruits of true democracy, for the system which they employ now is not that of a democracy - nor has it ever been - but a system of apartheid the likes of which was finally overturned in South Africa by the indomitable will of the people of the World whose voices were raised in denunciation of that crime.

 

But those claims of establishing democracy in Iraq were merely a feint to quiet the churning masses after our search for the evidence with which we pre-emptively convicted Saddam of the crime could not be found. To our shame, how quickly we latched on to our governments rhetorical arguments while real metal ripped and shredded real flesh half a world away. As we debated the efficacy of invasion, our soldiers - backs against the wall in every sense of the word - fought, not for democracy, but bare survival in a chaotic land created by the arrogant theories of neoconservatives who have pined for this war for long years. It speaks ill of a man who yearns for war. It condemns a man who yearns for war who has never suffered its degradations.

 

We find ourselves today in a wonderland that Alice would be hard put to maneuver: civilians with no combat experience and thus no true appreciation of the gravity of engagement rule our formidable war machine while men of war bestride the halls of diplomacy begging, in vain, for diplomatic solutions. An administration which claims moral clarity as its mantle bears no responsibility for poor decisions or, to be generous, outright scandals which it presides over. Our so-called representatives in the halls of Congress bask in no better light. When hard questions needed to be asked in the aftermath of our national tragedy, they were too overwhelmed by events and too mindful of political calculus to ask hard questions of an administration which failed miserably in its prime responsibility - the safeguarding of the United States. When debate about the reliability of questionable intelligence and an executive branch over-eager to wage war stood before the Congress, they shirked their responsibility and handed these clumsy warmongers a virtual blank check to wage war. They abdicated responsibility for the most important matter to come before them - some because they stood in blind support of their party, others because they lacked the strength of their convictions to oppose our nationalistic bloodlust. We are all complicit.

Terrorists among us and against us, mushroom clouds, anthrax: that is what got us to this insane point. Yes, there are people who hate America. There always have been. There always will be. Why the inordinate fear? Do the smart things that we know will safeguard this nation: secure the ports, make the hijacking of an airliner as difficult as possible, safeguard our chemical and nuclear plants and a host of other measures which were recommended well before 9/11. Words of bravado from our government will not safeguard us, nor will stifling free speech from the rest of us. An interesting dichotomy: “Bring ’em on!” by the supposed leader of this country is applauded, but let a private citizen point out civilian Iraqi casualties or the lack of armor for our troops or prison abuses by our soldiers and we are castigated for endangering our soldiers mission. Strange.

Weapons of mass destruction, ties to terrorists, removing an evil dictator. The deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis - and although you may disagree (feel free to do so - it means that you are at least exploring the subject) the Iraqi soldiers themselves are innocents in an unjust war - have not been enough to fan the flames of our collective outrage. Perhaps we are, as a Nation, still overly engaged in simmering in the heat of our collective victim-hood. Perhaps our making victims of the world will serve to quench our bloodlust.

 

It is well established now that a war of “if’s, maybe’s and could’s” is palatable to this land of ‘law and liberty‘, for where has there ever been presented a concrete justification of the singular need to invade this Nation of Iraq? Saddam bad? Surely one cannot be so naïve to believe that Saddam was the only poor or sadistic leader of a Nation. That is a problem - short of the most extreme actions of a government or other internal agents to foment destruction and death - for the people of that nation to rectify. Besides, this government of our makes heroes or villains of the rest of the world to advance its own agenda.

 

That is a reality that we as citizens need to be aware of and, most importantly, need to hold our leadership responsible for. The published intent of our government to disrupt the line of succession of a sovereign Nation is against the very principle of self-determination that the United States of America was founded upon. That is our government’s plan for Cuba. The hypocrisy is nova-intensity glaring for the rest of the World. Do we refuse to see? There exists a thousand examples of our government giving short shrift to the notions and values which they tell us define us: flouting International Law, disrespecting long held alliances, demonizing legitimate differences. ‘We are special’ they tell us like a beguiling suitor eager to win our approval. To our shame, we are far too eager to believe their empty rhetoric. Where are the actions that follow what the words would claim for us? What makes us so special? Perhaps what truly sets us apart in this world is a singular ability to remain blissfully ignorant of the pain and upheaval that our government perpetrates under cover of our good name. That ‘good name’, that reputation as the pre-eminent Country the World over is being severely compromised by the actions of our government. I begin to wonder just what will it take for the citizens of America to decide to defend our standing in the world against the sins of our leaders?

5/8/2004