Saturday, March 17, 2007

Anti-War Protests (Or Events I am Not Attending)

Throughout the nation (indeed, the world) this weekend, people are taking to the streets to protest the "Iraq War." And already, we have identified the problem. I am sorry to announce that there is no war in Iraq. There is an occupation, but not a war. This is not a new development. The anti-war ship has sailed. We cannot "end the war" - we can, and must, end the occupation, but there are right ways to end the occupation and wrong ways to end the occupation. (Indeed, there are many more WRONG ways to end it.)

One of the worst ways to end the occupation of Iraq? To borrow a phrase from today's protests, "U.S. Out of Iraq Now!"

One result of our invasion was to set the stage for a civil war and factional violence (and the factions are substantially more complicated than 'Sunni' and 'Shiite'); as such, we have a responsibility to provide for a stable Iraq as and after we leave. I think it is fair to say that an immediate withdrawal, without more, would lead to a less stable Iraq and result in more deaths than we're currently seeing. (You will note, I hope, that many of the attacks are not directed at U.S. troops.) I find this a morally unconscionable approach. Equally abysmal is an extended occupation - the goal of every occupation must be to end. But how? An easy starting point is rebuilding the infrastructure of the country - power, water, schools, etc. Peace is substantially less likely where people are deprived of life's necessities (desperate people will engage in desperate acts).

But how do we ensure, or at least make more likely, peace after the occupation? Training of the Iraqi military is necessary but not sufficient - a sustainable peace does not come at gunpoint. I see two potential models: a political model, as employed in North Ireland, and/or a truth and reconciliation model, as employed in South Africa. The political situation in Iraq appears to be failing abysmally at facilitating reconciliation. This is not to say a political solution is impossible, but to be effective, all parties must have a seat at the table and that can be a bitter pill to swallow. Even more bitter a pill is the truth a reconciliation approach and its success in South Africa has not been realized everywhere it has been implied (see, e.g., much of Latin America). The U.S. cannot impose such a solution; it must be a led by Iraqi leaders and adapted to the particular needs of the country. However, we can encourage such a solution, or, at the very least not stand in the way. Might that require that we forgo prosecution of or retaliation against individuals who have engaged is horrible practices? Who have taken the lives of U.S. troops? It is entirely possible.

At the end of the day, am I optimistic at the prospects of the U.S. leaving behind a sustainable Iraq at the end of the occupation? Sadly, no. Republicans insist on some undefined "victory" (which is clearly not attainable) while Democrats call for a withdrawal but without any apparent thought about ensuring we leave Iraq better than we found it. The overall message from this weekend's protest seem to favor the latter approach, and for that reason I cannot join them.

"An honest person, not a lawyer"

I'm at my parents' house cleaning out some old stuff. I came across a journal notebook from 8th grade Humanities and Social Studies. It was an assignment that we had to write a short essay in our journal every week on a topic of Mrs. Hainer's choosing. So what this means is that there's a literal treasure trove of material to share with whoever reads this thing.

So here we go.
Sept 14 1998

I think that President Clinton should be impeached if he doesn't resign first. As the leader of the free world, he should have the integrity and the moral values not to lie about sex and not to abuse his power. Even though he says that he really didn't have sex according to the definition of sex set by Paula Jones' lawyers, he needs to be an honest person, not a lawyer, as the leader of our country. He broke the law, and it's worse when a president breaks the law because the president is representing the United States by his actions. We need a leader who will have good moral judgement (sic) and the forethought to not do something that may damage the entire country. The president has demonstrated that he does not posess (sic) these qualities and that makes him unfit to continue to be the leader of this country. Although I'm sure that he learned from his mistakes and that this will not happen again if Clinton stays in office, a position as powerful as that of the President's has NO room for mistakes of this kind.

Well, there you have it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An alert and knowledgeable citizenry

I wasn't quite sure what it would take for me to post again here.

Turns out it was a movie.

Why We Fight is an indictment of American citizens for their (our) failure to arrest the militarization of our country. It's something that both my friend Karl and I have written about in the past here at A Civil Union.

It left me feeling bitter - not at George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz or Bill Kristol or Donald Rumsfeld or any of the other (puppet)eers - but at my own resignation. I suppose writing when it's raw is a first step for me in processing the message of this film.

The backbone of the movie was President Eisenhower's Farewell Address. Throughout the film, clips of the president's speech are played in juxtaposition to recent news footage that throws Eisenhower's warning back in his sad face.

I've excerpted here the parts of his address that spoke to me most profoundly. I encourage whoever still visits this remnant of a blog to click the link above and find the parts that speak most to you.


"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

"As we peer into society's future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage."

"Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect."

"Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."

"We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."