Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Iraq War

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Iraq War. I was against it as we were going to wage it, and I participated in demonstrations against the war before it even started. In St. Louis I made signs and brought other people to an anti-war demonstration, and in Urbana (Illinois) I joined with hundreds of other students and faculty in a noisy march around campus.

I remember at that demonstration one of the signs I made said, “terrorist bombs and American bombs both kill innocent people. Intentional or unintentional, does it matter to the victims?” I was trying to recognize that there was a moral difference between the monsters like the Taliban and the Iraqi Baath Party versus the American-led coalition, but that our invasion of Iraq was likely to kill far more innocent people than the approximately 3,000 innocent people killed on September 11th.

In fact, American bombs and bullets may have killed or terribly wounded tens of thousands of people in Iraq, many of them innocent. The best scientific estimates I’ve seen lead me to believe something like half-a-million extra deaths have been inflicted on Iraqi civilians and non-combatants because of the Iraqi war and our mishandling of the aftermath. Probably a few hundred thousands of deaths might be attributed to terrorism, communal violence and vendettas, and the work of “bad guys,” but I still think there would be over a quarter-of-a-million deaths for which America could take the blame. Innocent people who were blown to bits by our bombs or shot to pieces by our bullets, people who died because we failed to establish law and order, or because we failed to provide adequate medical care, or because we failed to protect doctors and hospitals, or because we failed to get drugs to the people who needed them. Our failure to secure law and order means that America should share the blame along with the thugs and terrorists who flourished in the conditions we created.
I find this all very horrifying, and so I’ve been eager to see one of two results: 1) for America to get its act together and act responsibly in Iraq, restoring order and getting people’s lives back to something like normality, or 2) for America to leave the scene and let the Iraqis deal with their own problems. Once certain Iraqi towns or provinces settled down into law and order with some form of democracy we can flood those particular areas of Iraq with funds, reconstruction work, and military protection.

I haven’t paid much attention to what the media report about the conditions in Iraq. I mainly read blogs to keep up with the situation. The best Middle East blog is Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, but I also try to keep up with some other blogs such as Riverbend, Healing Iraq, and Iraqi Pictures.

I still think we ought to get our military out of most of Iraq as soon as possible. I think most Iraqis didn’t like America or Americans before we went over there, and most of them aren’t pleased with us now while we’re there, and most are going to continue hating us after we’ve left. I do think we should help protect the Kurds, who seem to have a pretty nice thing going in their corner of Iraq. We should continue training and supplying material aid to the elected government of Iraq and the army and police that are loyal to that elected government.

It seems that there are some leaders in the Republican Party who think we ought to remain in Iraq, build and keep permanent bases there, and make treaty agreements with the government so that our soldiers and contractors over there will be immune to local Iraqi law and not subject to Iraqi courts. I don’t think permanent bases and extraterritoriality treaties are going to be sensible policies leading to good long-term relationships between Iraq and the USA, and I’m amazed that there are people in the American government who think we can or should secure these sorts of concessions and agreements with the Iraqi government.

I mentioned that I have mixed feelings about the Iraq War. Well, I do like the idea of international coalitions of governments working together to overthrow the worst tyrannical governments. I’d like the world to be organized in such a way that all the major powers would unite to smite and destroy governments like those currently inflicted on the people of North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, and some other places. Perhaps the war against the Baath regime in Iraq was a deeply flawed precursor to such wars against militaristic despots. So, I wasn’t entirely against the idea. However, the whole planning and occupation after the military victory was so terribly botched, and it was clear it was going to be a disaster right from the start, so I knew the Bush administration would screw this up. And anyway, if we are going to have international coalitions destroying the worst authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in this world, it will be better if such things are done more carefully and diplomatically. Aerial bombing campaigns against cities are hardly what I have in mind.

It seems to me that both of the leading Democratic candidates for president have some reasonably sensible ideas about getting American troops out of Iraq as swiftly as practicable. I remember feeling betrayed and angry when Hillary Clinton voted to give Bush certain war powers back in October of 2002, but I don’t think that’s why I slightly prefer Obama to Clinton in the current election. I’ve read Obama’s books, and I’ve corresponded directly with him, and I just like him a little more than I like Hillary. I do remember back in 1992 wishing it was Hillary rather than Bill Clinton who was running for president. I always thought she would be a better president than Bill, and I still think if she wins the election instead of Obama, she will be a great president. Yet, I’m more enthusiastic about Barack Obama. I think in the long-run he’ll stand up to the military-industrial complex, and cut military spending. We’re spending about twice what we should be spending on our defense here in the United States, and I hope Americans will examine the budget problems and realize how much we’re wasting on military spending.

No comments: