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Friday, March 23, 2007

Iraq: So They Will Not Have Died In Vain...

As with the Vietnam War, the supporters and apologists of Bush’s Iraq debacle have resurrected the tired old arguments that any “early withdrawal” would make a mockery of those in the military who have already sacrificed their lives. In their mind, the only way to honor those sacrifices is to sacrifice more lives and treasure to fulfill the mission. As put by a soldier who wrote an article posted at the conservative Townhall web site:
In order to secure the American people, democracy had to be spread to the region because democratic governments are far less prone to going to war and they are far less prone to internal strife and violence. The process couldn't help but be messy, but it was necessary. Obviously, I don't know how this experiment works out, but you do. If Iraq is a democratic nation now, or if Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi, Kuwait, or one of the others has become democratic, then the war was worth it. However, if we pulled out because we lost too many soldiers and got out in an act of political expediency, then I did die in vain.

The above arguments might be seen as logical providing a war is just… where we were attacked first or our national security was truly in jeopardy. Yet I also don’t doubt that even in an unjust war rooted in greed, foolishness, ideological hubris or insanity… such volunteer soldiers such as the author of that Townhall piece may be True Believers. As such they may be predisposed towards a virulent form of patriotic nationalism and uncritical of their national leaders.

But as we all should have learned from WWII, a soldier’s choice to be blind to the obvious lies and delusions of their leaders is never noble and may, in fact, be criminal under international law. The author of this Townhall piece also demonstrates his ideological blinders when he fails to recognized the other possible ways the US could have encouraged democracy in the mid-east, should that ever have been a real goal, WITHOUT an illegal war.

One way was for the US to show the virtues of democracy by actually modeling democracy ourselves. Surely, it’s not lost on even the non-democratic world that in 2000 Bush was originally REJECTED by the People. There was no popular cry for his irresponsible tax cuts, stacking the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologies, or his Son Of Star Wars missile defense. Bush was imposed upon our nation by an anti-democratic institution called the Electoral College. That Bush refuses to call for the abolition of the EC alone calls into question his commitment to democracy and exposes Bush’s pretenses for his war. Even if we were a truly democratic nation, surely we could have worked with our friends in the region to institute democratic reforms rather than rush to an illegal war or aggression.

Bush’s claims to promote democracy in the mid-east as a way of reducing anti-American hostility can also be exposed as a red herring when we refuse to take more concrete steps to reduce the proven causes for such hostility. We could have forced a fair peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians but instead Bush pursued a petulant policy of humiliating the Palestinian people… first by refusing to deal with Arafat then refusing to recognize the elected Hamas government. Bush could have showed true leadership by entering into a Peace & Reconciliation process with all those we’ve wronged in the mid-east. But Bush preferred to portray us as complete victims, shielding the American People from the true cost of our 60-year policy of oil first. Surely those who have been the victims of our policies are not blind to those costs.

And so Bush’s War now begins its 5th year… and the virulent forms of what passes for patriotism on the Right live on. Faced with the reality of US soldiers losing their lives, the peace movement finds the “die in vain” argument difficult to respond to. One response offered by Cindy Sheehan is that the best way to insure that a soldier’s sacrifice was not in vain is to insure no others would died in that immoral war. It’s an interesting argument but I believe misses the mark.

What both sides seem to miss is this simple truth:if a war is unjust or illegal then even if that war is successful, then ALL the deaths and injuries of all the GIs, combatants, and civilians were in vain since the war was unnecessary to begin with.

There is but one way that those sacrifices of our soldiers will not have been in vain… and that is that Bush’s War finally forces us as a nation to deal with what got us into this needless war to begin with. At some point, We The People must confront and break free of the pathological patriotism that feeds such US imperialistic wars. We The People need to confront and break free of those cultural and institutional predilections that make us so susceptible to manipulation by intellectually and morally bankrupt leaders, and their subservient minions in Congress and the media.

Once We The People clean house, bring our own criminal leaders to justice, finally reform this nation’s dysfunctional political institutions, and make peace with those we’ve wronged, perhaps only THEN will those soldiers’ lives truly not have been lost in vain.

revised 3-29-07