Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rant from the Left Side of Town

Recently I saw the blog of a someone I roomed with almost 20 years ago and who is a friend, though we've lost touch except through a mutual friend. Partly the loss is due to just loss of contact, partly my discomfort with her increasingly conservative views.... which makes me a coward, something she is not. I'm not a person comfortable with conflict, and yet I get uncomfortable with either letting views I disagree with pass by, or speaking out and getting into an argument. I'm aware that's a failing in me, that I haven't learned to speak my convictions with passion yet without anger. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who share this failing, and it means we don't have a sufficient dialog in this country between those on the right and the left. We each listen to people who share our views and reinforce them, rather than have a dialog where we might learn from each other and at least acknowledge the other side has legitimate concerns.

Anyway, recently our mutual friend sent me a site about her on a con web page (she is now a published SF Author- Mazel Tov -) and the page pointed me to her blog. So I read several posts, mostly fun, and then of course read a politically-oriented one that, also of course, I highly disagree with. It has bothered me for a few days, and I have to respond to it. The blog post is on this page. Click on "blog" then scroll down to An Open Letter to Anyone Who Views Killing in War, by Actual Soldiers in Their Nation's Armed Forces, as "Murder" post.

Oh, a note on sources: most of the sources I will list here are books I have reviewed on Library Thing. Look at my reannon account if you are interested in the complete citation and review of any of those sources.

Begin reply:

There's so much to say I'm not sure where to begin. I think first with your comment "spare me your equivocations about the nuances of your position." Sorry, no can do. The issue is complex, and nuances are a part of that complexity. Way too much political comment, including from the media, is too simple and doesn't give a full picture of reality.

Secondly, I'm not exactly your target audience. I don't call the death of legitimate military targets in a legitimate war murder. But (oh, those damned nuances) I suspect we differ quite a bit in what we consider legitimate targets in a legitimate war. I'm aware that in the current state of war it isn't possible to avoid civilian casualties, if for no other reason than a cowardly enemy uses civilians as shields.

BUT I INSIST WE HAVE A REALLY GOOD REASON FOR KILLING CIVILIANS AND FOR PUTTING OUR SOLDIERS IN DANGER OF DEATH AND INJURY (yes, I'm shouting). The war in Afghanistan is legitimate, in my opinion, and should have as its goal taking out Al Quaeda.

It is a view shared by many of the populace that Iraq was a distraction from the mission in Afghanistan and caused it to fail because it diverted so many resources. Many Americans, including me, do not view the war in Iraq as legitimate. There is absolutely no doubt now that there were no WMD in Iraq, and no connection between Iraq and Al Quaeda, and that the intelligence that said otherwise was faulty at best, and often disputed by the professional intelligence services (see, among other sources, Hubris, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn). It is also clear from multiple sources that Bush was determined to go into Iraq before 9/11 (see, for example, the footnote on p. 91 of Takeover, by Charlie Savage, and Richard Clark's assertions that Bush asked him, as counter-terrorism director, to find a connection beteeen 9/11 and Iraq, despite Clark's repeated assurances that there was no such connection). Many of the Iraqi people see the war as a pretext to gain control of their oil, and there are strong reasons for agreeing with them. For example, when the US military first went into Baghdad, the only government building that was protected was the oil ministry, which held the maps of the oil fields. The military stood by while the priceless history of all humanity was destroyed in the national museum and archives, and didn't even protect a huge armory... many of weapons stolen there are believed to have killed or maimed many U.S. soldiers. (I can't remember specific sources for these, but I've read a fair amount on the topic and the sources sort of blur into each other. A major source is Ali Allawi's The Occupation of Iraq, also see William R. Polk, Understanding Iraq).

Naomi Klein, in The Shock Doctrine adds another reason for Bush to invade Iraq - his vision of a free market economy with democracy, remaking the country into a blueprint for the Middle East. A major problem with this was that Bush and his team went into the war profoundly ignorant of the history and culture of the region (see Allawi and Peter Galbraith, The End of Iraq, in which he tells that Bush, in a meeting with three Iraqi VIPs two months before the invasion, didn't understand the terms "Sunni" and "Shia").

Is the world better off without Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator? Again the answer is complex. Mostly I want to leave that answer up to the Iraqis, who have seen hundreds of thousands of their citizens killed, near starvation conditions, the destruction of their infrastructure, no-bid contracts awarded to companies that built buildings where shit drips from the ceilings, built by laborers brought in from elsewhere though Iraqis desperately need jobs, etc (see William R. Polk and George McGovern, Out of Iraq). Another part of the answer is that it would be understandable to be confused by US policy. We supported Saddam duing the Iran-Iraq war (actually we went back and forth, arming first Iraq, then Iran, then Iraq again). From where do you think the chemical weapons came from that Saddam used on his civilian population? (see Galbraith and others). Moreover, the US has a history of supporting dictators as long as they do what we want. Sometimes we then overthrow them if they stop doing what we want (Saddam, Noriega), and sometimes we overthrow legitimately elected regimes that we don't like. You mention that the problems we have with Iran now could have been avoided if we dealt harshly with Iran in 1979, and blame us liberals for the failure to do so. But that Iranian revolution was in part blowback for the CIA coup against Mossedegh in 1953 and US support for the Shah, also a brutal dictator (see Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah's Men).

My point is that war should be the last resort, and for the defense of the United States. Isaac Asimov said violence is the last resort of the incompetent. The American public needs to know that its leaders are spending the blood of our soldiers and the lives of civilians, as well as billions of dollars, for reasons vital to security. Bush is not the first US president to go to war for unjust reasons (see Norman Soloman, War Made Easy, and Robin Andersen, Century of Media, Century of War).

Another point is that Americans, bewildered by "why do they hate us", are not exposed to how other peoples do see us. They don't know that citizens in other countries have seen photos of the bodies of civilians burned by white phosphorus (see Allawi and Andersen). They don't remember the number of coups we've created, the support we've given to utterly brutal dictators (see Anderson, Klein, Kinzer, and Galbraith, among others) They don't see the thousands of bodies burned in Panama when we overthrew Noriega. And Grenada? What WAS that about? The medical students were not in danger.

I love this country. I love the ideals it was founded upon. And I do consider myself a patriot because I want this country to live up to those ideals, and to be the "shining city on the hill" that we could be. Have we ever wholly lived up to our ideals? Not really... there was slavery, and the genocide against the Native Americans, equality for only a few. But over time we have developed brilliant new concepts of what equality is, and what the ideals we aspire to are. I hold us to high standards, but I don't believe they are out of our reach. To make these dreams real we must hold our leaders accountable, we must be aware of what is done in the name of the American people, and we must get back to a clear vision of what American ideals and interests are.

1 comment:

Mark Gravitt said...

Congratulations, Mary -- you've been comment-spammed! I hope Blogger has the ability for you to delete this turkey's cruft.