Remember when George W. Bush invaded Iraq? How people lined up to insist Americans must line up behind the president? Now, thousands of deaths later, and with no end in sight, we still debate the issue, long after Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” bravado—bravado his administration still embraces while pointing to the flag and couching any debate in terms of winning or losing the war.
When will we decide that ego isn’t the way to conduct policy? That opponents to those polices serve an important function? Here’s what I wrote shortly after the second U.S. invasion of Iraq:
Imagine the U.S. and Iraq had made a deal: each country kills X number of their citizens, and in return, Iraq’s leaders step down.
Certainly no one would agree to such a horrific plan. Yet how is war essentially different? What comes from armed conflict that’s missing from a simple exchange of sacrificed lives?
The Bush administration wanted this badly--so much that to challenge Baghdad was worth killing Iraqis and losing American lives. And many Americans approve. Why?
The decision was hardly altruistic. America, self proclaimed defender of liberty, isn’t interested in helping the people of Burma, for example, despite their severely repressive regime. Rather, Americans seem motivated by a combination of poorly focused anger and a lack of foresight. Nobody defies America! Time to kick butt. Damn the logic.
The counter argument? “You unpatriotic bastard! This is the time to support our troops!” But this is a red herring. Everyone supports the troops--that was never in question. They’re doing a remarkable job in extremely trying circumstances. Back home, Americans aren’t doing so well. Apparently, it’s OK to protest a war as long as there isn’t a war. Right.
So blind patriotism rules the day, unblinking in the face of senseless rhetoric and obvious fallacies. “You’re either with us or against us.” False dilemma. “Iraq has to prove they don’t have these weapons.” Inappropriate burden of proof (can’t prove a negative). “Changing the regime in Baghdad will bring peace to Palestine.” Now THERE’S a non sequitur.
Consequently, instead of examining French and German reasons for their opposition to this war, Americans rename their deep fried potatoes. Instead of improving the search capacity of weapons inspectors, America takes on the job, with no better success. Can peace in Palestine be far behind?
The cost will be high. The Bush administration has made it clear that negotiating with the United States is useless--agree or move aside--and honors agreements only when convenient. America has invaded a country, ignoring United Nations objections, and is now viewed, quite understandably, as a threat to security. Since neither treaties nor refraining from aggressive actions will help against such an arrogant nation, the only solution is to acquire nuclear arms, the only thing that seems to get American attention.
Not much occasion for pride here.