Shock & Awe: Invasion and Protests

No matter what else you thought about it, ground forces are now less than a day from Baghdad. Some question whether Hussein survived the bunker-busters. The Iraqi military gives the appearance of being in disarray. Surrendering Iraqi units surpass American preparations to receive and process Iraqis who just want to go back to civilian life.

For the record, we would have preferred staying with the diplomatic process, or even a more proactive combination of psy-war (propaganda), political activism, and brazen capitalist enticements. For our money, one sniper should have taken Saddam out a decade ago, or perhaps American billions should have finished the job in Desert Sand when a majority of our allies still backed us.

The fact that we didn’t do any of those things then doesn’t make it wrong to do it now. Any action taken — or not taken — is now morally clouded by the muddled history of our ambiguous (some would say duplicitous) dealings in the region.

Our take on this isn’t particularly courageous, or even particularly interesting. What is interesting is that informed, articulate, conscientious citizens can’t agree on almost any aspect of this whole Saddam thing. Whatever lessons you hoped we had learned in Vietnam, this is a whole new ball game. It’s not the last one, either.

You can argue all you want that terrorism is rooted in injustice, but that offers neither comfort nor security to your household or mine. Self-evident platitudes protect no one. What are strangely absent in all the dialogs are concrete proposals to end injustice.

Clearly America cannot wage war on every tinpot dictatorship and would-be terrorist. Equally clearly, we cannot just remain silent and do nothing. Ideologues on the left and right are offering us the opportunity to “take sides” based on the status quo. We can certainly reject that, and we do.

Apart from the hopelessly polarized anti-government protestors, and rednecks who can’t see beyond the front sights of their rifles, what can the rest of us agree on?

We all agree that we care for the ordinary Iraqi citizens, and hope for the best for them and their country’s future. We all agree that Saddam is not the “good guy” here; even to the other side he has never been a Ho Chi Minh.

What few can still agree on is what to do about it. Contrary to rhetoric you might hear from “my way or the highway” partisans, this is not some inherent thinking defect or “moral fiber” problem that has infected variously 30% or 70% of the citizenry, depending on “which side” you take.

This national confusion is attributable to the length of time we took getting into this historical can of worms in the first place. When half the country can convincingly argue either side of the same issue, the issue itself is conflicted. Whatever the viable options were, in hindsight, the world did not exercise them when it had them. Whatever operative principles we failed to identify ten years ago, still fail to guide our thinking today.

If Americans had a penchant for debating the Emmy awards or the Phillies game when we might have debated exotic place name situations like Afghanistan and Iraq, well, where were the French and Germans? Once again, prior paralysis does not disqualify us from taking any action whatsoever.

Let us hope for a swift, just and conclusive end to the invasion. Let us hope for a safe return for our men and women in the Armed Forces. And let us hope for a brighter, safer and freer future for Iraqi citizens.

War protest movements have been an eternal disappointment and irritation, haven’t they? Lacking the courageous dignity of a Ghandi or Dr. Martin Luther King, the jerks who block streets and bridges just don’t get it. It isn’t just Washington that’s learned nothing new in forty years.

Peaceful protest is a civil liberty to be protected at all costs. When pacificists condone violence from within their ranks, they are endorsing the very tactics they protest, and chipping away at the foundations of the liberty they exercise, by cheapening it to the point of public revulsion. Blocking one’s fellow citizens from driving to work, or entering their workplace buildings, “because people are dying, folks” is the epitome of hypocritical arrogance.

While we know of conscientious objectors who probably do not condone civic violence, hangover tactics of the 1960’s remain a guarantee that no thinking person who is undecided will be swayed.

I have many issues with this war, but swiftly dispatching Saddam Hussein and his terrorist apparatus isn’t one of them. Praise the level-headed of whatever persuasion, and pass the ammunition.

Alex Forbes
© 2003

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