Saturday, September 09, 2006

Apparently it's a rhetorical headline

Gene Williams is a staff writer for The Times of Acadiana. In his latest article, he explains to us Why We Need to Be in Iraq.

I am, among my friends and coworkers, one of the few people to defend the war in Iraq. At least out loud. If others think the way I do, they have mostly kept silent, lest they get the look, as in "What, are you out of your mind?"

The Times has been accused of being out of touch with the community as of late. This would seem to represent that, being that it's almost impossible in Lafayette to have no friends who support the war in Iraq. I can't throw a stone here without hitting someone who supports the war. No matter how hard I throw it.

One person for whom I have enormous respect has heatedly questioned my sanity, labeled me as a war monger and basically wondered aloud if I've had a lobotomy and can no longer function about the level of a carrot.

She is not alone in her vehement objection to my view.

I imagine that others have better objections, because no one writes a defense of their beliefs based on one tepid personal insult.

All I ever do is ask them to remember. Remember the sight of planes flying into buildings. Of people, nearly 200, trapped above the flames who leapt to their deaths rather than die in the flames. Of the buildings, impossibly, collapsing in a roar of anguish. Of the 2,752 who died in the buildings and the planes that crashed into them. Of the hole in the ground. In New York City. In the United States of America. I ask them to remember Flight 93 and the gouge in a field, now grown over, in Somerset County, Pa. I ask them to remember 184 dead and the gaping cavity in the Pentagon. In Washington D.C. In the United States of America.

What you've forgotten is that nobody's forgotten that! On the other hand, some people have moved on to thinking about honest solutions to the problem rather than the angry, "kill all ragheads" reactions. Is that what we should go back to? Has that helped any?

A colleague suggests this is insulting, that I believe those who don't agree with me don't remember those events. I don't mean it that way. I only ask that any argument against the war has to include where it started.

Terrorism did not start with 9/11, nor is it even within the first 30 chapters of the book. The problem is that most Americans never bothered to notice terrorism until it hit them at home, so they think this was the "first" move. It isn't and never was. The horrific actions of 9/11 were undertaken by terrorists who "remembered" the damages and military presence that we perpetrate in their own countries.

Those images are forever burned in my memory.

That's a thoughtful way of putting it. I imagine a lot of the victims share that view.

For reasons I can't quite fathom, many people have forgotten what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. No, I'm told, they remember. But how can they if they now think that the war in Iraq is wrong, that we should get out, that we never should have been there in the first place?

Because of that small caveat of, "There is no connection with the war in Iraq to the events of 9/11." Sin of omission? This is precisely where this editorial, as well as Bush administration rhetoric, completely falls apart. If I remember correctly (and I do), al-Qaida--a terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden and based in Afghanistan--was behind the 9/11 attacks. We swiftly moved in on Afghanistan, toppled the al-Qaida-harboring Taliban (however temporarily), and went after al-Qaida. And then, one day, we were suddenly in Iraq. And while that was no surprise to anyone who followed George W. Bush's foreign policy since early 2001, it still had no leg to stand on as a response to 9/11.

The Middle East is where the terrorists came from, where they fomented their plan. The Middle East is a war-torn area of the world where dictators and despots and religious fanatics have ruled for years. The Middle East is the key to ending much of the world's terrorism. Iraq is in the Middle East.

So is Israel. Are they in league with al-Qaida too, or are they an exception to your gross generalization?

Did President Bush manipulate foreign intelligence briefings he received to pick a fight with Iraq? Did he blatantly lie about weapons of mass destruction?

Well, maybe he did and maybe he didn't. Either way, not one moment of the Iraq War has been justified.

So many of you think so, fervently, passionately. But to do so is to believe that our president has cavalierly thrown the lives of 2,600 young American men and women away on a whim, that he cares not about whom he hurts, whom he destroys.

That's not much of a stretch. Bush has shown such callous disregard for everything that doesn't fit his single-minded agenda. He demonizes his critics as being anti-American; cuts aid to poor citizens; stifles scientific research in the name of fundamentalist religion; operates one of the most incompetent and unresponsive governments in our lifetimes; and employs a reckless foreign policy at the expense of world respect. What makes you think that his hubris stops at something as trivial as the common soldiery? Even I, Ian McGibboney, have been to more funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq than he has (I've been to one).

Why anyone still gives Bush the benefit of the doubt, much less someone in south Louisiana, is a mystery to me.

Since when did we become so suspicious of our leaders, of this leader? It used to be that we respected the office.

Hmmm...I asked the same question repeatedly when Clinton was getting the fifth degree over a blowjob.

Not always the man in the office, but the office. Now, we don't. They're all liars. Ford was a liar. Bush Sr. was a liar. Reagan was a liar. Clinton was a liar. Now Bush Jr. is a liar.

Well, it's probably because Reagan was a liar, Bush 41 was a liar, Clinton was (technically) a liar and now Bush 43 (not junior) is the biggest liar of them all. Oh, and Nixon too. Why leave him off this illustrious list?

I choose to believe that Bush is a man who cares about life. I choose to believe that his intentions in Iraq are good.

You can choose to believe that cars don't pollute and that Wham! will get back together. But that doesn't make them any truer.

I do not come by these beliefs easily. I grew up in the '60s, a time of great turmoil and change in this country, and I attended Kent State University, where, as a junior working for the school newspaper, I was among the students fired upon by the Ohio National Guard, wounding nine and killing four. Their sin? For most, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were bystanders in the struggle between the school's administration and student radicals protesting the Vietnam war. It's something I've never forgotten, never completely gotten over. So I don't much trust anybody in authority.

But if President Bush can spark a democratic foothold in the Middle East, in a country not named Israel, and if that promise of freedom of choice can take root and blossom, then, maybe, there won't be any more planes flying into buildings.

So you claim to not trust authority...and yet, you're willing to believe the most transparent liar of our times? Lyndon Johnson was the Dubya of the 60s; he advocated a questionable war to reach abstract goals, and insisted that withdrawing would only embolden the enemy and make us look weak. But thanks to the civic involvement of Baby Boomers, LBJ couldn't wake up without hearing anti-war chants right outside the White House. The young Boomers refused to overlook the continuous loss of American lives, and were not prone to believing governmental lies. The protest movement then was massive and had long-lingering effects; Johnson declined the 1968 Democratic nomination and the Vietnam war became a political liability to his successors.

At what point did we go from publicly calling Johnson on his train-wreck war to placating Bush on his? At least Johnson had the Civil Rights Act and slightly purer intentions in waging war. What does Bush have to counteract his disasters? Unless you're a crony, not much. So what's the problem? Why have we forgotten everything the Baby Boomers taught us in the 1960s? And why have so many of them forgotten it themselves?

I hear that we'd be better off putting our energy into finding Osama bin Laden, the man behind the 9/11 attacks and I agree that it would be nice to see him rotting in an American jail.

Yes...I think almost everyone in the world's been saying that for years, including your beloved president. At least until he declared bin Laden "irrelevant" once he realized he couldn't find him.

But would that single act accomplish the same thing as democracy spreading throughout the Middle East? Would the fleeting image of bin Laden behind bars, or being led to his execution, mean more to us in the long run than peace in a region that has never known it?

For me, yeah. If nothing else, bin Laden's capture would bring closure to the attacks perpetrated upon us. I care more about that than forcing democracy at gunpoint on people who clearly don't want it. America first, as you guys are so fond of saying.

Anyway, hasn't this whole War on Terror been about symbolic victories? The toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan (but who never really went away); the razing of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad; the elections that make for great pictures but have not resulted in true democracy or autonomy; the endless parade of apprehended number-two operatives; and, of course, that whole "Mission Accomplished" thing. By comparison, bin Laden behind bars would be real progress.

I'd love to see bin Laden captured. Love to see him brought to trial. Love to see him pay for his crimes.

But what's at stake is so much bigger than Osama bin Laden.

This is true; however, it so directly contradicts everything the Republicans (and the nation) stood for over the years that it can only be a way of trivializing the fact that we have failed to find him. I felt the same way when Bush suddenly decided that bin Laden was no longer "wanted dead or alive."

We need to ensure that there's never another plane flown into a building, never another body falling to escape the flames, never again a sacrifice like the one made by those on Flight 93.

First off, I doubt that would ever happen again. Terrorism works by shocking us, and the 9/11 attacks sure as hell did. No amount of similar attacks will ever shock us like that again, and the terrorists know it. They strike big and then hide, like all cowards do. What they want is our attention.

There's a hole in the ground. In New York. In the United States of America. Remember that.

Do you really think we don't remember? I get sick of this accusation, as if I don't remember these events because I am not bloodthirsty. Well, I never was bloodthirsty, even on that day, and I personally think we're better off as a nation as our solutions become more reasonable and less based on shock and passion. Like telling a grieving parent to constantly remember how horrible they felt when they found out their kid died, this is not helping us cope. The only thing we can do now as a nation is find a measured, constructed solution to the problem--one that is better defined than simply "stopping terrorism." Nothing will be done by perpetually remaining as emotionally vindictive as were back in 2001. That response didn't work then and there's no reason to believe it will now.

Oh, and apparently Iraq had nothing to with 9/11 after all. Yeah, let's not forget that.


saintlywife said...

Why do we, and the Boomers, not protest like they did in the 1960's? Easy: There's no draft. If you know there's no chance that you, or someone you know and love, will be cannon-fodder...well, you're just not that concerned. Imagine the difference if all the freepers out there had their numbers in a lottery. Hard to be a chicken-hawk when you could be next in line.

And don't forget Bush's (apparently unscripted) comment from his speech the other day:

"The hardest part of my job is making the connection between Iraq and 9/11."

Sometimes you just have to listen to hear the truth.

Becky said...

Side note, about Dubya not caring... it's a trickle down process. He doesn't care, military higher ups pick up on that and they don't care, and so on and so forth. By the time it gets down to the grunts, it's beyond obvious that no one gives a rat's ass about what's going on.

I'm so sick and tired too of hearing "don't forget 9/11" from people who are insistant that we must have if we disagree with being in Iraq. I can remember perfectly well, thank you very much. I can remember being scared shitless that day that the military was going to come and take my husband away for training two weeks early, as silly as that sounds. Of course, with soldiers being told that they're being held over past their discharge dates, I guess it's not so silly anymore.

Thanks for the link at the end of your entry, Ian. I hadn't heard anything newsworthy in the past few days, and I think this counts as newsworthy.