Several months ago Carl Strock, a columnist who writes for the
Schenectady Gazette in upstate New York, did a piece about why
he continued to concentrate on local issues rather than join the
national debate about invading Iraq. Paraphrasing, he basically
acknowledged doubts about the policy, but also acknowledged
doubts about his own knowledge of foreign policy and military
matters. His area of expertise lay closer to home and therefore
he chose not to gas off. Whatever was the man thinking?
Thank God our laptop bombardiers, with their inch deep grasp of
military strategy and of the history, politics and cultures of
the myriad countries that fall under the loose category "Muslim",
have felt no such restraint. Islamo Fascists here we come! Or
more accurately, there other people go. Kudos also to those on
the left who are dead cert that "it's all about oil". And who,
after a visit to Iraq, opine "the people of Iraq are among the
friendliest in the world and have no hatred for the American
people, just their insane government". Not only am I awed by this
ability to read the hearts and minds of millions of individuals
in a foreign country where freedom of speech is not encouraged,
but I'm humbled by the graciousness of the Iraqis. I mean,
considering that the "average" American is a "gun toting White
Conservative". The above quotes, complete with capitals, aren't
taken from a comic book but a local alternative newspaper. No
need to read it-- if you picked up a copy of the genre circa
1972, you already have. Just change a few names and nations.
But though I lack the knowledge possessed by both right and left,
I believe invading Iraq is a bad idea. Not because I think the
United States is the scourge of the earth. Nor am I a pacifist.
I believe that war, unfortunately, sometimes IS the answer. But
one which inevitably produces more questions and plenty of
unforeseen consequences. Hence, it should rarely be launched and
only with great convincing reason. The fact that various mass
conflagrations of the 20th century started small gives me pause.
As does the knowledge of what awful changes war rings on the oft
characterized, average person's life. Aka the majority of people
on all sides, who care most about their individual lives and
immediate family. My father, thanks to bad timing, ended up
serving in both World Wars. Aside from that anomaly, he was
pretty average. At least by alternative newspaper standards.
Though definitely not Conservative, he was White and when in
combat toted a gun. He had the average war experiences of
starving in trenches, being wounded and seeing friends killed.
Since he was an immigrant he also had the average experience of
having family members back in the old country firebombed into
oblivion by the side he was fighting on. After his last military
stint my father heaved a sigh of relief and returned to an
average life where all he toted was a paycheck home to my mother.
A paycheck that managed to support his family. Which leads to
the money thing.
Being a self centered American of the sort British playwright
Harold Pinter recently castigated in his own contribution to the
Great Gas Off, I worry first about the people in this country.
In this, I know I fall short of those in other nations who feel
the pain of everyone in the world as fully as they do their own.
But like Popeye, that average American spinach toting sailor,
I yam what I yam. The financial cost of exercises in empire
building concern me. Even with Afghanistan, I figured we'd raze
the place, then stay around for the next millennium revitalizing
the wreckage and propping up some corrupt, unreliable puppet
government. And as dreams of multi regime changes grow, so does
the roster of potential client states. First we conquer at
immense cost, then we cough up ad infinitum. Some call it nation
building-- I call it maze. The taxpayer is already paying for
much they shouldn't be. Such as corporate welfare and HUD bucked
real estate speculation. How many more locations locations
locations can they carry? Even with the now de rigueur two
paychecks, families commonly have heavy debt loads and little
if any savings. The economy is not in good shape. Is this any
time to launch a Crusade?
Risks would have to be born if the case for war with Iraq were
great and convincing. I, personally, have not found that to be
so. And the way the case has been presented also makes me doubt.
One small example: a few months back the Bush administration
implied Osama Bin Laden was ultimately unimportant. But recently,
a supposed relationship between Osama and Saddam was posited as
rationale for war. Osama is the clearly identifiable cause behind
mass murder yet his importance has waxed and waned as expedience
demanded. Some say cynically that if he were caught and executed,
public support for conventional war would lessen. Maybe. Maybe
not. Because I also think it possible that part of the drive for
war, even within the Bush administration, grows out of the
inability to acknowledge that so much damage and pain could be
caused by relatively small groups of people. Ones who function
in a landscape of globalism and whose motives, transnational
connections and methods were not well understood prior to 9/11
and which still seem insufficient and inexplicable in relation
to that tragedy. Those who hammer home oil as the sole reason for
war are tone deaf to how 9/11 remains, unassimilated and stark,
in the hearts of many. Yes, oil is part of the equation. But
it is not the total picture of why some Americans want
a conventional, understandable war.
The national Iraq debate has not been our finest discussion as
citizens. As war uncertainty dragged on, post 9/11 togetherness
collapsed into "which side are you on" truculence. Each side
almost immediately characterized the other as not just mistaken,
but evil. The social atmosphere amongst those who talk ideas
became highly politicized. Words are sniffed suspiciously for
hints of Wrong Thought. Friendships go on the rocks as previously
tolerated political differences become beams in the eye. Both
sides tell wild tales about the other. Such as: the entire anti
war movement, nationwide, is being mind controlled by a small
Marxist cult who worship dear dead Uncle Joe and take marching
orders from North Korea. The Bush family has Hitler's brain in
their linen closet and is following a long term Nazi agenda.
Colin Powell is being blackmailed by Bush to support a pro war
stance. Scott Ritter was blackmailed by Saddam to oppose it.
And then there are the fevered dreams. While some on the right
believe now is the time to conquer the entire Islamic world, some
on the left hear the old siren song of world revolution. Both
know the god of history is on their side. Meanwhile Saddam, the
man in the middle, is planning to slip out the back Jack and move
to New Jersey. This according to the Weekly World News which is
right at home in the current climate, confidant that Nostradamus
whispers in their ear. Actually, the idea of Saddam moving to
Jersey makes some sense. I can think of a few political circles
where he'd fit right in. And mustaches have never gone out with
crooked pols. Perhaps a nostalgic fashion nod to the 70's, the
decade when most of the current crop cut their teeth on that
But seriously folks, not since the halcyon days of hot damn
Vietnam have the cliché's and dehumanizing impulses flowed so
fast and furious. Many on both sides are in hog heaven as the
world returns to comfortable equations. Conventional war and
conventional enemies. Over There-- the noble/evil dark skinned
paragons/infidels must live in communal peace/be liberated into
consumer heaven. On the home front, it's average gun toting
Conservative White Americans vs. brainwashed Commie Effete
Zombies. Pardon me if I find both left and right scary when they
cast people as symbols in a political passion play. Which doesn't
mean I don't think there's a right side vis a vis the question of
war with Iraq. I just wish the atmosphere of the national debate
were less poisonous and less predictable. Like the Pope says,
pray for peace. But afterwards, pass the Beano.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"deepqt" is online at:
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