Thursday, August 19, 2010

Doomed to Repeat

The last U.S. Combat Brigade has left Iraq and…well, it’s been a little anti-climatic. I think of the thousands of people who stopped traffic on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue here in Chicago to protest the war in Iraq and I wonder where all those people are now? You’d think they’d be…I dunno? Excited? Happy? Triumphant?

But no. Those people have mostly moved on to other causes I suppose. Or, maybe they wised up a bit when their hero the Super O told them what the previous administration did: That you just can’t pick up and leave—that the consequences to that would be worse than the consequences to our staying there.

Americans are a bit spoiled in that we’ve never had war brought to our shores aside from 9/11 and a few isolated incidents during WWII. War is a video game to us, or a movie. That’s our reference point. So, ending a war seems like a simple enough thing to do. Choose a few face saving words of bravery, save that last little child, board the waiting chopper and take off looking back at the war torn land you’re leaving as the credits roll. Done. Right?

Not so.

Back when people were lining the major streets of our cities and the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq was camping out just outside the Bush ranch in Texas all people could talk about was how this was a war for oil. And make no mistake, there were people in our president’s ear who had personal financial gain on their minds when they applauded his choice to take war to Iraq, but it was never a war for oil. It was a war for revenge.

The question is who had the revenge right of way? From the point of view of most Americans, we did. They flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon! Of course, they saw it differently. They felt like revenge was their right because 20 years earlier we used them to fight a war against the Russians—a war they won for us and then once it was over, we left them to rot in the war torn wasteland where they won. Sons grew up without fathers. Life was hard. Sure, they could have blamed the enemy—the Russians, but that’s the enemy! The bad guys! They are supposed to be evil!

So, it was their “friends” who they chose to blame. That would be us. And our evil is fact. We used them and left them to suffer the consequences. That didn’t give them the right to do what they did. Attacking civilians is wrong and cowardly, but even that distinction is open to interpretation. During the war in Afghanistan against the Russians, bombs were left that resembled toys so that children would pick them up and be killed. During that war, there was no such thing as a civilian.

In fact, Afghanistan was so thoroughly destroyed that 20 years later when the fatherless sons of that war struck out for vengeance, their country wasn’t recovered enough to fight back against. We needed a figurehead. We needed someone we could fight. Iraq was in up to their necks—but behind the scenes, like the CIA in the war between Afghanistan and Russia. We chose them as our target. They were a public relations target more than anything. Sadaam was someone we could bring down. Oedipus could be satisfied when Georgie Jr. proved to his mommy that he was a bigger man that daddy. There was an actual country there that we could liberate—and they did need liberating.

It was a win-win proposition. The American people, too ignorant of their own history, just wanted some blood. We wanted to believe in WMD’s and all the rest. Of course, the problem was that after Shocked and Awed the hell out of them, beat their army, took their evil leader prisoner and later executed him that our original enemy entered the vacuum to fill the space that the Iraqi government had previously occupied.

We found ourselves fighting the very people we trained to defeat the Russians, on their turf, the very same turf that the USSR couldn’t defeat them on—only it was worse. At least the USSR could leave bombs for kids to set off and target people—military or civilian—indiscriminately. We had to fight our war on television. We had to win hearts and minds. It was a no-win situation.

The political pressure that ensued led to our electing a president who promised to get our troops out of Iraq. It’s taken him a year and a half to do it. And here’s the rub: We’ve left a power vacuum once again. The fledgling Iraqi government is too corrupt and too weak and too divided to stand. It will fail. Power will fall into the hands of the most ruthless and evil. Fear will be their weapon. No American President will do anything about it, because the American people want no part of Iraq and to do so would be political suicide.

And so the fatherless sons of this war will rise up and strike out at our own children. Here’s hoping that before they act, before they take to the streets to protest, that they understand their history and they know the truth of what has transpired.


Maureen said...

Fantastic entry. And brave to admit. Most people are so pro-american they ignore the facts.

Malachi said...

Everyone said we had to retaliate after 9/11 or we would look weak. I don't think there was a win-win situation then either. If we retaliated we would have to continue so that it wasn't brought to our shore again. If we didn't, then we would have been letting them walk all over us. I didn't envy Bush's decision then or now.

I want us out of this war because it is one that is not winnable in ANY sense. Not that anyone ever wins in a war. But our troops are exhausted, our country is tired, and we are on the edge of a double dip recession. We can't take anymore without being extremely vulnerable.

Hell.. we already are. Is there a right answer in any of this? Is there a get-out-of-jail free card? We need one.