Every war, conflict, and skirmish, has had its soundbytes, all the way back to "remember the Alamo." Stalin's command to his army was the memorable (ultimately unsuccessful), "Not one step backward."
Today, we have "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" which is purportedly what an Iraqi told the New York Times when asked what the Americans would bring to his country.
Here in the red, white, and blue U.S. of A. one is tempted to puff with pride-what better three exports do we have?
A few things are worth remembering as we slog forward (or "race toward victory" if you watch the Pentagon briefings). Arab nations aren't democracies. The separation of church and state alone would be anathema to their governments. And "democracy" doesn't exactly have a perfect record (one elected Hitler).
With unemployment at 5.8 percent and 8.5 million Americans unemployed (and still more that go unreported), the rebuilding of Iraq may not be at the top of everyone's agenda as U.S. tanks roll through Baghdad.
Our economic interest in post-War Iraq is clear (it's rare we go around liberating the oppressed and tortured masses who are NOT sitting on black gold). But there's certainly no blueprint. And the U.S. has amply proven itself to be no brain trust in establishing an electoral system that works, and is reflective of the will of the people.
The United States is rapidly coming to "crunch time" in Iraq. Although the Iraqis were slow to regard us unequivocally as liberators, and progress has been slower than most Americans had expected at the outset, it seems clear that the allied coalition will drive Saddam and his regime from power.
But that's not the end of the story, that's the beginning. The Bush administration has justified this war on two basic counts-to rid Iraq of its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capability which could support terrorism; and to bring down a tyrant in massive violation of human rights, treaty commitments, and then bring democracy to the Iraqi people. Both these reasons have solid basis in Just War doctrine, but the really hard part is just ahead.
To this point, our military effort has been magnificent, even though our diplomacy was flawed in getting us there-the pace of our move to military action, the disregard of the U.N. and key allies led to unfortunate reactions across the world and especially in the Arab world. Our efforts to free Iraq may yet prove to be a recruiting boon for al Qaeda if we can not deliver on the promises for peace.
We seem to have sealed the breach with Turkey that left one American division hanging out of the war for a time and could have seriously compromised our work with the Kurds. Some refugee Iraqis have been returning, and the military has civil affairs teams already working in many places.
A troubling note is that virtually all the planning for the restoration of self-government has been done by the Pentagon, and a former general has been named head of the transition team. Where are the veteran U.S. diplomats who have served in that area? If a restored civil society is the goal, shouldn't most of the work beyond the necessary security efforts be done by civilians and those with high cultural sensitivity?
Is the U.S. State Department being frozen out? Not only are we not using expertise the government has paid to develop, but leaving all things in the hands of the military will result in a military-like civil solution, not real civil society.
The neo-conservatives in the Bush administration have been pushing for Ahmad Chelabi, a former banker, scholar, and Iraqi National Congress leader to take over the reins-he arrived in Iraq on April 7. His dissident group is small, and virtually unknown to those who have suffered Saddam's regime in place. Iraq has had virtually NO experience with real democracy in his history; most elections have been mere plebiscites, delivering the usual 99.9 percent majority for whatever the regime wished.
There has been no experience even with local elections-the educational task is vast.
Moreover, most of the world is not convinced we are there simply to "do good." Control of Iraq's oil is a major issue; other countries are concerned about their agreements with the Saddam Hussein regime-will they be frozen out? The present jockeying over who will take charge of Iraq is a case in point: Having left the U.N. out of the war, the U.S. may be on the verge of greatly compounding the problem by freezing it out of the peace. Not only is that not smart and VERY expensive, but it misses a great opportunity to get the rest of the world back on board the campaign against terrorism and rebuild our international coalition.
Certainly the U.S. will need to fully gain and maintain military control, but the secret of getting out of the Iraqi "tar pit" will be to engage others to help, and this means also allowing them some say in what's done. The U.S. has been heavily criticized for its unilateral policies and blamed for seeking an "empire."
The best way to give the lie to this canard is to learn to "play well with others." After all, the overwhelming majority of Americans are really what Walter Russell Mead calls Jacksonians-willing to fight if aggrieved, but also earnestly wanting to be left to themselves for normal trade and tourism. Neither of the extremes-empire or terminal pacifism-fit our real national feelings nor our basic national security interests.
It's time to let wisdom into the ballgame.
Those of us who make reading an everyday habit are in the minority in the U.S. The last statistics I saw reported that 18-20 percent of the adult population regularly reads books and/or newspapers. Obviously those of us who read don't necessarily share the same political views or philosophies.
Before the invasion of Iraq, one poll (Pew Research) showed that the more education a person had, the more likely they were to oppose this war.
The propaganda campaign of the Bush Administration for this war, has relied primarily on TV and radio. The justification for this war was based on the following premises:
1. Saddam Hussein is a cruel and inhumane dictator. 2. He has weapons of mass destruction. 3. He has ignored U.N. mandates. 4. He is linked to al Qaeda.
At this point, a little policy history: In the 1990s, a neo-con think tank was formed called "Project for a New American Century" (PNAC). In 1997, they produced a document that called for the U.S. to unilaterally assert its military might in a series of "theater wars" beginning with Iraq. Saddam's presence, they said, was not required. Even if he were no longer in power, the invasion should take place in any case for the following reasons:
1. to establish U.S. military presence in the Middle East. 2. the oil.
The document also said that these actions should promote democratic pluralism and free market economies, as well as assuming "constabulary duties" (policing the world). They also noted that a "critical event" along the lines of Pearl Harbor, would be needed to "galvanize" the American public. Regime change in Iraq was also mentioned in the Republican party platform in 2000, though Bush or Cheney certainly didn't focus on this issue in their campaign, for lack of a "galvanizing event."
Who signed the PNAC document? Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle, and Jeb Bush, among others.
On September 11, 2001, PNAC got its wished for "critical, galvanizing event" in spades.
When Bush gave his "axis of evil" speech, the three countries he mentioned were Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, noted also in the PNAC document signed in 1997. Rumsfeld was so gung-ho, he wanted to invade Iraq immediately after 9/11. Colin Powell advised otherwise, contending that this event had not galvanized American opinion sufficiently. More work was necessary. But it didn't take long for the administration to begin floating the idea. Surely, Congress needed to fulfill its Constitutional duties in war making. "We don't need Congress's permission," replied Ari Fleischer at a press briefing. "We already have it (through passage of the Patriot Act)."
But the minds of the American public were still not yet fully "galvanized" for invading Iraq. In his State of the Union address in January of this year, Bush used Iraq and al Qaeda in the same sentence, eight different times. In February, before the U.N., Colin Powell presented the administration's case. While there were numerous weak arguments (some of which turned out to be fabricated) there was very little presented that tied Saddam to al Qaeda. In fact, a few days later in England, Tony Blair was questioned by reporters and admitted that they had no proof of such a link.
Polls done just prior to the invasion revealed that anywhere from 42 percent to 58 percent of the American people believed Iraq was responsible for 9/11, even that Iraqis had been the hijackers. The American people were now sufficiently "galvanized."
Of course, PNAC's rather aggressive policies won't come cheaply. It is difficult to imagine that the billions required to rebuild Iraq can come at the expense of the American people while schools are being closed for lack of funds and, as mentioned in last week's cover story, the slashing of funds to veterans' programs. Thomas Herrick also pointed out how members of this administration (and their families) will be making out like bandits because of these war policies and their ties to the military industrial complex (Eisenhower's warnings unheeded) as well as other industries involved in rebuilding Iraq. Richard Pearle got a little too aggressive in his salesmanship and had to resign, though he still sits on the Defense Policy Board (along with other members of PNAC). Isn't it great to be making the world safe for democracy and free markets, while you line your pockets at the same time?
No need to worry about the cost. On March 20, Bush signed an executive order, reading (in part) as follows:
"I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, hereby determine that the United States and Iraq are engaged in armed hostilities, that it is in the interest of the United States to confiscate certain property of the Government of Iraq and its agencies, instrumentalities, or controlled entities, and that all right, title, and interest in any property so confiscated should vest in the Department of the Treasury. I intend that such vested property should be used to assist the Iraqi people and to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq, and determine that such use would be in the interest of and for the benefit of the United States."
And you were worried about the cost? We must have forgotten about the oil that this war is not about.
Get ready world, here comes the American empire!
Confusion sets in when people ask me my opinion on the war. The ironic aspect of this is that I am not confused as to whether we should have it or whether we shouldn't. It is more like, "Why are they asking me?" I know that my stating that I could care less could result in a violent death. Or even better, or more amusing, billions of protesters beating down my door with their signs screaming, "Give peace a chance, man." No thanks.
Am I committing disloyalty towards my country if I don't choose a side? No. I am simply stating that as a 20-year-old college student, I have other things to worry about. Do I think this will affect me? Of course, but I don't have a car so gas prices don't really phase me. Am I oblivious? Maybe. But I don't care.
You probably think that I am ignorant because I say that I don't care that my country is fighting and people are dying. Let me tell you something. I don't want anyone to die, but if you knew me personally, you would know why I choose not to get involved. I am perhaps one of the most sensitive people that God created. If I were to let myself get involved emotionally with everything that is happening, then I would be an emotional wreck. I cannot live my life like that, nor will I.
I do not know why we are in war; I sit in my own little world, hoping I will pass my next test to get me a step closer to law school. I cannot sit here and pray that I won't get blown up. If the little town of Midway is going to go, then I will grab my blanky and I will blow up with everyone else. I guess my reality tells me that there are more important areas of the U.S. to obliterate, so I feel safe.
For the record, I am sorry that we had to go to war, but just leave me out of it unless I have to go too.
I have tried for some time to put into words how I feel about current events. What always held me back was that the opinions of the individual military members are as varied as those of the population at large.
Granted, there is a tendency toward the conservative, but they still vary.
However, I believe I have come up with a sentiment that most of my comrades would agree with: a general annoyance with the broadcast news agencies.
It has nothing to do with political opinion and everything to do with the way they abbreviate and attempt to label all facts and events in easily digested snippets. While I understand it is standard practice to use such snippets for headlines in order to grab the viewers, lately the news has seemed like one continuous stream of such headlines without any real content, repeated every hour on the hour.
One example of this would be their prolonged coverage of the MOAB or Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, also referred to by the media as "Mother of all Bombs."
It has many elements the media loves. It's shiny and new, hi-tech, and best of all has a nickname that is a play on a previous statement by Saddam Hussein.
Consequently the broadcast media spent a lot of airtime discussing the MOAB and what it could mean, not to mention eye catching graphics. In summary, much ado about nothing.
Another example is Dr. Sanjay Gupta's coverage of the Navy's Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite, by now referred to as the "Devil Docs."
If they were not called by that nickname, I doubt half as much airtime would have been devoted to the subject.
Assuming that the term "Devil Docs" refers to this particular unit is presumptive, as it is a common term used by Marine Corps and Navy personnel for at least the past few decades. Here is a short history lesson. In 1918, during World War I at the Battle of Belleau Woods, the German soldiers nicknamed the victorious Marines "Devil Dogs."
Corpsmen and medics on battlefield are commonly referred to as "Doc." It was only natural for the two terms to merge into "Devil Doc," referring to the Navy corpsmen and physicians caring for their marines. I'm not sure when the term was first used, but I have found references in autobiographies from the Vietnam War.
Soundbytes are not "news."
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