Wednesday, March 19, 2008

War No More

To some extent, I live a life that is very far removed from the Iraq War. I don't know anyone who has served and it has not directly affected me or my family personally. But the reality is that is not correct, because this War Without End has impacted us all. We are fast approaching the 4,000th death (with the current count at 3982 deaths) of US Service members serving in Iraq, and 30,000 injuries, with untold (and uncounted) deaths and injuries of Iraq citizens. In truth, the price (human, financial and otherwise) is enormous, as was recently detailed by the American Friends Service Committee, Cost of War: Priceless.

This blog, moreover, is an outgrowth of my anti-War views as the Bush Administration began its campaign to war with Iraq. Because of my skepticism of the media portrayal of the facts supporting the Administration's claims surrounding Iraq, I began to look elsewhere for information in an attempt to discover the truth. I began to read the international press and alternative media sources and then discovered blogs, which analyzed the Administrations claims about Iraq. Eventually, I began to record my own views on the War and politics in general.

In reflecting on this 5th Anniversary, I look back at other times in our history to find guidance. I realize that what we have wroth in Iraq is devastating to the country and its people, however, we cannot undo what is done. Nor can we fix it. We are still there today because we don't know how to go. But go we must.

As Walter Cronkite and David Krieger wrote at the close of 2007, Our Troops Must Leave Iraq:

The American people no longer support the war in Iraq. The war is being carried on by a stubborn president who, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, does not want to lose. But from the beginning this has been an ill-considered and poorly prosecuted war that, like the Vietnam War, has diminished respect for America. We believe Mr. Bush would like to drag the war on long enough to hand it off to another president.

The war in Iraq reminds us of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Both wars began with false assertions by the president to the American people and the Congress. Like Vietnam, the Iraq War has introduced a new vocabulary: “shock and awe,” “mission accomplished,” “the surge.” Like Vietnam, we have destroyed cities in order to save them. It is not a strategy for success.

The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.
Those words echo Cronkite's earlier words on the Vietnam War in 1968:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
See Firedoglake.

Barack Obama's speech on race yesterday here in Philly has been compared to the words of Martin Luther King. But it is King's address before the Riverside Church in Harlem that should be heeded today. King understood the difficulties in leaving when confronted with a war like Iraq when he preached, A Time to Break Silence (Declaration Against the Vietnam War):
'A time comes when silence is betrayal.' And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
And finally, consider the words of Mark Twain, as he addressed the American conquest of the Philippines at the turn of the last century, Immorality & Idiocy, which ring just as true today:
I pray you to pause and consider. Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object--robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick--a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: "Our Country, right or wrong!" An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor--none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant--merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the Country"? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: "Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor." Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid raid because to grant peace to those little people on their terms--independence--would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam's phrase--you should take it up and examine it again. He said, "An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war."
And so another anniversary is marked. Four (No More) Years.

I looked back at our past, but Tom Engelhardt has imagined what the year ahead holds, looking ahead to next year's anniversary, The First Sixth-Anniversary-of-the-Iraq-War Article.

For thoughts and reflections of others, visit March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm.

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