The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reply to Frank

“Supporting the troops” means supporting the war.__Here is my position on this, having served in the military myself:"

Frank, I appreciate your service, but you aren’t qualified to answer this question, really. I asked if anyone had data about what ACTIVE servicemen thought on the issue of bringing them home, and debating bringing them home: whether such a discussion equates to “not supporting” them. On the other hand, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to suggest that a survey of FORMER servicemen might be valuable on this issue as well, in which case, your opinion would be pertinent. Even then, however, you didn’t answer the specific question. So then it would have been appropriate to propose a different test, asking a different question—in which case your response would be valuable. Even so, thank you.
I would suspect that one aspect of “supporting the troops” would have to be getting them home alive to raise their sons and daughters and love their wives and continue their lives. I think it would be fair to ask active servicemen if they would be offended if we discuss this option.
“Now if you try to say "supporting Iraqis" means supporting the average Iraqi; and if you conclude that the average Iraqi "wants us to go away" are you also saying that the average Iraqi wants to live under another Saddam?”

No, I’m saying that the average Iraqi might well believe that they are capable of sorting this situation out, and might also believe that we are making it worse, not better. We may disagree…in which case are YOU saying they haven’t the right to decide?
“ Are you saying that the average Iraqi doesn't want political and economic freedom? If we conducted a tally by plebiscite, are you saying that more people would vote for dictatorship then freedom? It may seem an absurd choice, but perhaps you do believe this. “

My, that straw man you’re building is looking kinda shakey. I’m saying that the average Iraqi probably wants freedom and security, and may well doubt that Americans have their best interest at heart. And if this is what the majority of them think (and I’m not saying it is) and you believe that they haven’t the right to decide this, isn’t that the kind of paternalistic attitude that, at the core of it, is saying “we’re better than they are.” And “we know better than they do?” And it isn’t even “we,” Frank, because much of America now disagrees with you. Which puts you in the position of saying that the 37% of Americans who want to stay (if that number is right) know what’s good for the Iraqis better than the Iraqis do…AND the majority of Americans do. All right, that's possible, but that’s a mighty big load of hubris, isn’t it?

“So if you decide that the vast majority of people are choosing freedom in Iraq,and you know that to construct such institutions you need to first provide security from those who are ideologically against freedom, then clearly supporting the Iraqis means doing whatever is necessary to see that their wish for economic and political freedom is fulfilled.__”
What? Even if it is against their will? Even if they believe that we’re making the situation worse, and they’re capable of providing their own security and running their own country? This is, in my mind, not supporting them. It is infantilizing them. And I fail to see how you can respect someone enough to think them capable of managing a democracy, and simultaneously be willing to disrespect their wish for you to GET THE HELL OUT OF THEIR HOUSE.
If the position was reversed, and someone said they were “freeing you” and you did not trust them, and asked them to leave and they would not, you would probably consider yourself within your rights to kill that person to get them out. That’s the position that we have placed our men and women in, if the average Iraqi wants us out.

By what right do we say we’re correct, and have the right to tell them, against their wishes, what to do? If that isn’t tyranny, I don’t know what is. IF WE SAY THEY DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK US TO LEAVE, our claim to be “supporting freedom” looks shoddy.

“What's more, I feel we have a responsibility to fix what we broke.”
Now, here is where I think the moral rubber is meeting the road. I believe that many who hold your point of view are good and moral people. Who grasp that their support of the war, has created fantastic damage and disruption. If we leave now, there is an inevitable negative balance at the Karmic bank. But if we can just, somehow fix it, then we can hold our heads high. But this is almost exactly the kind of reasoning that compulsive gamblers use when they’ve lost the mortgage. Let me stay at the table just a little longer. Just let me dip into the college fund…
So, yes, if we stay there is a chance of straightening things out. If we leave, there is a chance that the Iraqis may straighten it out for themselves, perhaps with the help of their neighbors. Of, if we stay, things might get worse. Or if we leave, things might get worse. Here’s an apparent difference between you and me, Frank: I would be willing to trust the Iraqis to decide. Apparently, you would not. I interpret that as I accept that they are adults, masters of their own fates. You seem to want to think they are children. And you know what? If the people who agree with you on keeping our military there also think they are children…well, then, by God they are children sitting on the world’s 2nd largest oil reserves, and it is mighty, mighty hard for me to believe that we’d let “children” keep control of it. It makes it easier to believe that those who would profit by controlling it would LOVE you to have that belief, Frank.
I don’t know what is true…but I do know I’d be willing to trust the Iraqis to decide their own future. And if we don’t, regardless of the stated intentions, we’re just another dictatorial power saying we’re doing what we’re doing “for the people.”
“We start by intending to change the equation in the Middle East by undermining dictatorships (which abound) and instituting Democratic institutions. We start with the biggest bully on the block, because everyone knows that if you stand up and take down the big _bully, others will respect you”
No, Frank. We started by believing we were retaliating for 9/11 and preventing an attack on American soil by WMDs. Everything else you’re saying is the excuse tacked on afterwards, when the Emperor proved to have no clothes. Isn’t your memory a bit short here? I don’t blame you though—the Right Wing noise machine has been repeating this 24/7 for years.
“Now I have to ask, how did you come by this insight? I mean what evidence did you use given that all major intelligence organizations believed he did have WMDs? You know, recently I went back to the discussion groups I was involved in around the time of the beginning of the war (I wasn't blogging back then). And you know what I found? I found that everyone who opposed going to war also thought Saddam had WMDs, and that US troops would get slaughtered in Baghdad as a result. One prominant member who held such a position predicted what would happen if we invaded__""What's next?" indeed. Wait for the UN to decide upon a mandate, refuse to concur, launch a unilateral invasion, kill thousands of civilians, storm Baghdad, become exposed to a cocktail of chemicals, bacterium and poisonous gases,"__

I found that everyone, right and left believed he had them.__Of course now, all of a sudden, no one believed it. And especially the politicians who voted for war are all now claiming they were misled by Bush, even though there is a record of them stating the opposite before anyone even knew who Bush was.__But not you.”

Frank, you’re being frantic here. You have said two things that are simply not true—and I’ve come to expect better of you. First you say “Everyone, left and right, believed he had them.” You don’t literally mean this. You mean “the majority.” Then you say “now, all of a sudden, no one believed it.” That is also untrue. You mean to say “now the majority of people claim they didn’t believe it” or something of the like, correct? You’re forgiven. But I'm guessing that this is actually how you feel, that the world really does seem so black and white to you. If so, lighten up guy.
But as to how I “knew” Saddam didn’t have them, it was based on psychological observation, not evidence, and I FULLY admit that I knew I could have been wrong, and know that even though I was correct, it might have been a coincidence, all right?

And here was my reasoning: He was born in 1937, and in 2001 was 63 or 64 years old. During his last expansion push, in 1991 (the first gulf war) he was 53-54. He got totally spanked, just ass-rammed and told to put Kuwait back. Ten years later, he is completely over his testosterone flush, really on the downside. He was no longer in his prime empire-building risk-taking phase. It’s the age and ass-ramming TOGETHER that say this to me—not either of them separately. Why in the world would he want to screw with the U.S. like that? I figured he knew he had no hope of really hurting us. The only thing that would happen is getting thumped even worse. This man was no religious fanatic, trusting in rewards in Paradise. He was a greedy, violent, power-hungry murderous bastard, with the fears that all such people have at their core. He was a bully, and like all bullies, is afraid of the bigger kid who has already kicked his ass. At his age, having just had his ambitions thoroughly destroyed, I figured he would be more interested in enjoying his declining years as a comfortable billionaire, rather than beginning an action that could go no where, and do nothing except lead to his sons’ death, and him being dragged out of a hole and hung. The man wasn’t an idiot. So…I sat back and watched the U.N. inspectors. Saddam blustered and protested—of course. Hell, he was a Strong Man dictator. There was no way he could just roll over for us without seeming weak and thereby exposing his throat to rivals. (Frankly, I think we had people smart enough to know that, and that that reaction was part of the plan—to force a confrontation by humiliating him into acting “guilty.” Predictable, predictable, predictable. Like doing fly-bys over his territory, trying to tempt him into taking a shot. Here, doggie doggie…nice piece of meat….oh! Surprise! He snapped! Rev up those missiles!) That seemed basic psychology to me: expect him to posture. But the more the inspectors moved around and found nothing, the more confident I felt in my original assessment.
I know that many, many good and intelligent people (some certainly smarter than me) believed WMDS were there, in BOTH parties. But not “everyone.” I am not suggesting that only wrong-headed or stupid people did. I know that my reasoning might have only accidentally led me to the right conclusion. I get that. But that was exactly, precisely, my thought process on the subject, and in the spirit of full disclosure I offer it to you warts and all.

No comments: