Thursday, May 29, 2008
The horrors of war…and atrocities on all sides
As we continue to debate and evaluate our “war” in Iraq against the “terrorists and radical killers” in this electoral season, I think it important to listen to the voices…and read views outside of the mainstream press…that have been over there or had more involvement than we average, non-military Americans. There has been quite a bit of debate and activity lately regarding the new GI bill that President Bush vetoed and which action John McCain has supported. It is amazing how we have so much money devoted to fighting the war, but not for taking care and providing adequately for our veterans. I don’t pretend to have exhaustive information or a fully educated view on this matter…but to me many aspects of this non-declared war have stunk for quite a long time now. I would imagine some people view my views as “unpatriotic”… much like this tag they have been putting on candidate Obama for not being supportive of the Iraq war. So be it if somehow we find reasons and ways to get out of this quagmire of lost lives and limbs, and NOT winning the war. It now appears to me that we ARE caught up in a civil war in Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shia (two versions of Islam), the religious versus secular Arabs, and all sorts of other factions that seem to be thrown into the mix in Iraq and elsewhere. And of course, there continues to be the “oil factor”.
Backtracking to the beginning of this conflict, I originally gave the benefit of the doubt to our leaders that Saddam needed to be taken out based on the many years of United Nations supported efforts to control the madman. Of course, our own government put Saddam in place to begin with. But like most children we spoil, they start demanding their own demagoguery ways. At some point in time when anyone, including governments, draw a line in the sand and make threats…they are going to have to back up the threats with action. That’s what I think happened 5+ years ago when we fairly single handedly took Saddam out militarily. What we obviously didn’t take into account was the lack of ready domestic leaders to step in the breach and provide any united leadership in Iraq. The reports of corruption and self-indulgence by the “puppet government” we have supported in Iraq are sickening to me. And the stress on and lack of support for our GIs has been appalling. It seems obvious to me our military was not ready for this commitment and this war continues to add a huge drag to our bleeding and breaking economy.
There is no doubt that our civilization faces a serious threat to our freedom from fundamentalist factions that want to see the world bowing down to “Allah”. Philosophically, most fundamentalist religions in the world would also like this kind of totalitarianism over the rest of the world. I believe the same mindset lies in those of our country who would have the government dictate and legislate morality according to their particular religion. This was never the intent of our forefathers or the constitution. But history, even recent history, is full of devastation left in the wake of cultures destroyed based on religious viewpoints and imperialism. In today’s world you have religious battles backed or confronted by government forces in many regions of the world…Israelis and Palestinians, monks in Myramar (Burma) against totalitarian government, Sunni governments versus Shia governments…the list goes on. And of course, many Americans now feel quite committed to fighting against Muslims everywhere even though our country has almost 3 million Muslim residents. If you are going to make this a religious war, then you find yourself sharing the same country where one out of every hundred neighbors are your enemy. I don’t think we want to go there.
Personally I think fanaticism has taken over our world. People are trying to simplify down to the lowest common denominator to make their world more rational and to feel more confident about their place in the universe. Unfortunately this carries over to government leaders who no doubt truly believe some of their own hyperbole, but come up short in understanding the total of global issues before meandering into international conflicts without a sustainable strategy. I believe that is where our American government is today.
What does all that have to do with “atrocities of war” and dealing with this generation of American GIs? I have met a number of young soldiers in recent years, running into many of them down here in Central America. Their stories and viewpoints in many cases support some of the critique the video of this blog represents. They are obeying orders to the extent they can. They are still proud Americans in many ways. BUT, they are starting to see the same crap happen again that some of us older Americans remember from the Viet Nam era. The constant politicizing of the war, the media twists and unbalanced coverage of what is really happening, and worse yet…a lack of real understanding or belief in the true reasons we are over there. This then causes us to turn away from those GIs who are over there fighting for “us”. We can’t bear dealing with the failure and shame of a system that is breaking down morally and financially. Army suicides are at an all time high in Iraq and Afghanistan in the history of our country. I would think that points to a morale issue based on unrealistic demands on too few forces…and a sense that they are losing buddies for no good reasons at all. I do not believe we will be able to sustain a presence and occupation over there like we have in Korea and like we have in various parts of the former European theatre. And by our lack of success, yet continued brash attitude about our role in the world, we are igniting a lot MORE anti-American sentiment…and even stirring up the old bear of Soviet Russia sentiments against us again. What is our end game? Are we playing right into the hands of those who would destroy us by spending all our resources fighting these battles abroad while imploding culturally and financially at home? Some are arguing that we are doing just that.
As for our up and coming leader’s spin on things…it is hard for me to stomach simple patriotic rhetoric related to this war. It does seem a majority of regular Americans are in support of the soldiers, but not the battle they are fighting. McCain is running on a platform where war and fighting is the only solution he can think of. Obama is labeled a “wimp” and inexperienced because he never served in the military and was not old enough to be involved in Viet Nam. He is heavily chided for wanting to “talk” to our enemies. Personally, I think dialogue and communication is a good thing…especially if it is not in front of the cameras, press and used purely for propagandizing everyone’s positions or beliefs. We have been doing most of our talking for a couple decades with guns and trade embargos. I don’t see where that has really helped push our cause forward in the global arena. Maybe it makes us feel better to push the world around based on our (former) wealth and sense of cultural superiority, but I don’t see that it has made us safer or freer in the process.
Finally, if our government IS going to commit us to wars, declared or non, they damn well better support their soldiers, the soldiers families, and find ways to gain the true support of the extended family behind them. Because for all the flag-waving and Bible thumping you can do, it will not overcome the stench of failure in committing our own atrocities in an unwelcome and intenible war that is once again dividing our country at the worst possible time.