One Veteran's Voice

16 November 2005


I was reminded today that it is very easy to be critical of decisions made by others, but much harder to offer solutions to the problems that face us.

Whatever one thinks of the decision to invade Iraq, hindsight is always 20/20. Whatever one thinks of the foreign policy of the President and his administration, they were acting in what they felt was the national interest. It seems as though they often believed the national interest superseded both the rule of law and their obligation as elected officials to be truthful to the citizens they represent. This is unacceptable, and thankfully we live in an open society with a (mostly) free press that will uncover the truth, no matter how deeply it is buried.

But what to do about Iraq? There really aren't any simple answers. Cindy Sheehan wants every American soldier out of Iraq tomorrow. I support the sentiment, but it's just not going to happen like that. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of polarizing the debate on Iraq. President Bush has made it quite clear that there is no room for quibbling-- you're either with him or with the terrorists. This is a ridiculous and counterproductive assertion. And contrary to the opinions of many of my left-leaning friends, Bush is not the anti-Christ. He's just not a very competent official. To the average American, the debate on Iraq is a choice between two polar opposites, the warhawks and the peaceniks, and this stifles all the moderate and intelligent people out there who want a workable solution to the problem.

I am not a pacifist, although I respect pacifism. Violence should always be the last resort. A nation should never blindly follow its leader into war, nor should anyone be afraid to speak out against an unjust war for fear of feeling unpatriotic. Anti-war movements help to counterbalance the natural human urges towards violence and aggression, and they are necessary for the health of any democracy.

The goal is a democratic and less radical Middle East. The problem is that we are not dealing primarily with governments, but radical individuals spread around the world. These people truly are willing to sacrifice everything and kill anyone to advance their cause, and that makes them extremely dangerous, and a very real threat. Invading Iraq was an attempt to bring democratic change to the region, couched in the guise of "ridding the world of Saddam and the WMDs". The people who engineered the invasion (and it was well before September 11, 2001) rightly believe that a more prosperous, progressive, secular, and democratic Middle East is the only way to really prevent terrorism in the future. The invasion of Iraq, however, was a foolish and Machiavellian act, because genuine democracy cannot be imposed by an outside country through violence. If democracy is going to happen in Iraq it will be because the Iraqi people genuinely want it, and not because we want them to want it.

Violence begets violence. Islamic fascism is based on perpetuating the ideology that the west, and especially the United States, is the cause of the suffering of the Arab people. Make no mistake that they are suffering-- many Iraqis live in pretty horrid conditions. Most Arabs live under repressive regimes, and even the most liberal, such as Jordan or Kuwait, do not allow much dissent or free expression. The United States must account for its meddlesome actions in the region (funding Iraq during the war with Iran, our sometimes blind support of Israel, supporting countless repressive and corrupt regimes such as Saudi Arabia when it suits us financially, ect.) and realize that these are all legitimate points of contention and grievance. What is not legitimate is the response of the hardcore Islamic radicals, who are willing to kill innocent people to advance their cause.

The most encouraging thing to me is that in spite of all the violence, the average Iraqi is participating in his/her new democracy (at great personal risk). Iraq can become a model for democracy in the Middle East. The biggest stumbling block to this is the violence. Most of the terrorists, nationalist fighters, criminal gangs, militias, and others that are actively fighting US forces in Iraq are simply not capable of organizing or carrying out terrorist attacks on US soil. They are fighting us in Iraq because it's easy to get there, easy to get arms, easy to find like minded individuals to organize, and we are there waiting to fight, even saying "Bring it on!" One of the problems I had while stationed in Iraq was that I always felt like a target. It seemed as though we were securing ourselves more than the Iraqis. And when we got hit, like any good army, we hit back ten times as hard. Innocent people and property were inevitably caught in the middle of all of it, and now you have a widow, orphan, or pissed off business owner who sees the US as the cause of his/her pain, because it was a US bullet that caused it. It's not that they don't hold the terrorists culpable as well, they do. But all our high notions of building a democracy seem pretty empty when there's a fire fight going on in your backyard.

The best solution to the problem that I can come up is to let the more progressive heads of state in the region handle terrorism as an internal problem. We should most definitely exercise our right to self protection by going after known terrorists, as well as offering our partners in the Middle East more financial, military, and intelligence gathering assistance. We cannot continue to go it alone. Men like King Abdullah of Jordan realize that the average al-Queda terrorist hates him almost as much as the Jews or the Americans, and these heads of state have selfish reasons for wanting to hunt Islamic radicals down. Their intelligence operatives are infinitely more capable of rooting out these individuals, because their agents are rooted in the society. There simply aren't too many Arab CIA operatives capable of infiltrating an al-Queda cell. If Arab leaders are seen by the Arab people to be taking real action against the radicals in their midst, the conflict is no longer framed in an "us against them" mentality. That goes for the American people, as well. The benefit is that we no longer have to have a substantial military presence in the region if the Arab leaders start to clean house and democratize themselves. The progressive heads of state in the Middle East must be willing to take a firm stand against Islamic radicals, even if it means pissing off the clerics. Their people will support them, and the world will support them. That's really the only hope, as far as I see it.

The threat of Islamic radicalism is real. Over two thousand voices silenced on September 11, 2001 would attest to it, if they still could. The war was declared, but it was not declared by Saddam, or Iran, or any one nation or man. It was a war declared by those truly evil and maniacal men who believe they can further a political end by any means necessary. We as a nation can not fall into the same trap, or we are doomed to fail, just as they are.

4 Other Voices:

One Salient Oversight said...

My solution is simple.

The UN should step in and provide the peace keeping troops.

Imagine troops from France, Germany, China, India, Turkey - all wearing their blue helmets taking over from US forces. Imagine that there is at least 4 times as many UN troops as there are US troops now.

The plan for Iraq is simple:

1. Peace - enforcing the rule of law. Protecting people and property. Defusing militants.
2. Prosperity - Economic growth, infrastructure rebuilt.
3. Freedom - a democratic system is introduced and refined.

Although there is overlap between each plan, each must be completed before the other. Peace must come before prosperity, peace and prosperity must come before freedom.

So the UN in, the US out, and the bill for reconstruction sent to George Bush c/o The White House.

11/17/2005 02:03:25 AM  
CrbianFool said...

With regards to the overall tone and tenor of the last post - I agree completely. I am not a veteran, nor would I ever be able to serve in the Army/Navy/Marines/etc. I am a pacifist (not why I don't serve) but as a pacifist, I don't want to see anybody being killed for what are ostensibly bullshit reasoning given to me by leaders who (as 1VV pointed out earlier) have never served or fought. The bottom line is no matter what logic or plan that is conceived to end this ridiculous situation, every American soldier, every Iraqui citizen, every unlucky fucker caught on the wrong end of an M16 or perhaps white phosphorous and killed is a travesty and a waste. Iraqui's have had a culture and civilization ten times as long as America. They don't need us. They don't want us there. The only people benefitting from these needless engagements are the terrorists and the political leadership of the the USA, able to cloak a tremendous load of bullshit and conjecture under the words Patriotism and honor. 1VV, thanks for the blog, it is excellant to be reading more about the attitudes and philosophies of the veterans on the front lines of this mistake. Keep up the good work!

11/17/2005 12:44:20 PM  
Dave's Corner said...

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up freedom for security, deserve neither freedom nor security." The idea that an outside force cannot cause permanent and lasting change is simply untrue. Look to history, most recently WWII. We took a feudal war like nation, Japan, and helped shape, educate, and mold it into a thriving Democratic government of today.

Many of the same issues that we deal with today in Iraq, we dealt with in Germany and Japan after WWII. With Japan it was educating the public to what Democracy was. In Germany we were dealing with extremist that didn't want to let the war end, endless bombings and sabotage.

We may have incomplete information as to the true threat Saddam posed. But don’t be fooled. Based on his track record he would have helped al-Queda as long as it was to his advantage. Also al-Queda would have taken anything that he would give them in order to further their cause. The enemy of the enemy is my friend.

As a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I know that the people of Iraq, especially the Shi’ite, were looking for help in making a new nation out of Iraq. The Kurds in the north took advantage of the situation and it cost them, Chemical Ali’. The Shi’ite’s in the south attempted the same thing. The UN refused to help and they were pummeled by Saddam’s war machine.

Saddam never gave up his quest for WMD’s. He sought out yellow cake in Niger, although he never acquired any. No one said that he had bought any, not even the British. They did say that he was seeking it. When we went into Iraq in 1991 we thought he was 5 years away from developing a functional Nuclear weapon. Only to find out the he was 5 months away. Remember, small amounts of yellow cake was found in Iraq, as well as the bacterial cultures needed to produce bio-weapons.

Saddam was definitely a threat to stability in the Middle-East. And in the post 9/11 world we can no longer stand-by an allow such threats to go unchecked.

For over 8 years, before George W Bush, terrorist attacks had gone unanswered. I watched terrorist become bolder in their attacks and their anti-American and Western sentiment.

We may not have asked for this responsibility, but as the Free Worlds strongest Nation we have it. The UN is impotent when it comes to dealing with such situations. Many of the member States are dictatorship or suedo-democracies. We cannot rely on them to be decisive in dealing with world wide terror and the Nations that sponsor it. Take a look at every major event headed by the UN. Korea is their best moment, and it was a tie. And North Korea is still a threat. That is the UN Legacy. Oil-For-Food scandal. French and Russia profiting from Saddam, any wonder why they opposed us.

No my friend we have to stand up and do what is right. We should have finished the job in ‘91.

11/17/2005 01:19:14 PM  
OneVeteran'sVoice said...

I don't think Ben Franklin had Iraq in mind-- more like American citizens should never accept a loss of personal liberty for more personal security (i.e Patriot Act).

11/17/2005 02:47:45 PM  

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