Throwing Rocks in Iraq

Throwing Rocks in Iraq by pendragon David Whelan I’m not a religious scholar but I’ll hazard a guess that both Christians and Muslims would have some shared understanding that those who attempt to judge others may themselves be judged – ‘he without sin should cast the first stone’, or, as in the Battle Hymn of the Republic, ‘as you deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal’ – and it is that thought that I find recurring in light of the dishonorable actions of the soldiers photographed with Iraqi prisoners. The war in Iraq has not been about the war on terrorism for some time, if ever. It is now the delivery of American democracy to Iraq, with all its attendant blessings and, as is apparent now, miseries. As the American government attempts to take the moral high ground, each example of American decadance, moral decay, and duplicity will be held up and analyzed closely by the world community, even though they are not true measures of the strengths of the American people.

Since we are somehow inured in America to the abuses of prison guards and law enforcement against criminals and the accused, it may be that in the long term, this may not be as significant an issue here as it might be. It’s most certainly true that the actions of a few police, or guards, or soldiers, is not necessarily a reflection of the actions of all.

It highlights, though, the crusading nature of this particular American military action. The moral superiority with which George Bush and his administration approach this conflict distorts the reality that the American people are no more perfect than any other population in the world. We have more freedoms and yet there are many things in American culture that no-one would want. Let’s start with low exercise of the vote by citizens. What other developed country has its leader determined by half of all eligible voters, only a majority of which are actually selecting the winner?

There’s no question that Saddam Hussein was in need of removal. There are another dozen despots who are in the same boat. The rationale behind this particular action is weak, in that terrorism continues unabated and there doesn’t appear to be any clear benefit to the United States from its involvement. The only basis for our continued involvement in Iraq is to stop it from descending further into chaos. But staying also means that US troops – and the quasi-non-governmental carpet baggers – will need to exercise their best judgment about how to deliver on the promise of freedom and liberty.

That’s not a clear path, though, and the end result is likely to be less glorious than the American political leaders – Bush, Congress, etc. – have painted it for the American people and for the world generally. The next few years are likely to be defined by events like:

  • the Marines’ retreat from Fallujah (because they were given an impossible to achieve objective)
  • more human rights violations (because the military are poorly trained and because human rights violations in a war environment seem often to lie in the eye of the political beholder)
  • continued political tacking, from hard-line to soft-ball, as first one then another ideologically hidebound policy fails

It is hip to refer to Iraq as a quagmire, because Walter Cronkite so eloquently described our last real war in Viet Nam as one and it is chic to call up his insight. But Iraq does not strike me as a quagmire yet, so much as it does a maze. The ground seems quite firm – we just happen to be lurching along with our eyes closed. And unfortunately, there seems a marked lack of interest in the part of the political and military commanders in Iraq (and Afghanistan, …) to analyze where the maze leads. We will continue to run into dead-ends, retracing our steps, losing time, and further alienating the populace of the countries we invade.

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