On the fourth anniversary of shock and awe


It has been four years since the onset of shock and awe in Iraq. It is hard for me not to see the war as anything other than an absolute disaster. The allusions to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 that have consistently been made to justify the war have always struck me as something of an abomination — the cynical reference to the horror of that event and the hallowed lives lost that day in an attemp to rationalize the war. If the purpose of the war was to make our nation safer, it has failed miserably in that regard, in so far as recruitment by terrorist groups intent on doing us harm receives a boost as every month passes with our soldiers remain in place in the region.

As we all know, the initial justification that was offered for going to war was that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that he would use in short order against our country and our allies. When no such weapons were found, the attempt to justify the war fell, in my mind, to whether or not the outcome truly would be one of liberation; that it could be determined that our soldiers had sacrificed their lives for the noble cause of setting the Iraqi people free from the oppression and cruelty of Saddam Hussein’s tryanny and helping them to create a better life. If this were shown to be so, I would be quite willing to praise the decision to go to war. There is, I believe, a place for American military might being used in this world that has less to do with what we call “national security” than it does with accomplishing truly humanitarian purposes. Had we been willing to deploy troops to Rwanda, for instance, genocide might have been avoided.

Most of us are acutely aware of the 3000 plus American soldiers who have died in the war. We are less attuned to the fact that over 100,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the conflict.  If Hussein‘s oppressive regime had remained in power, it is certain that there would have been far less bloodshed in that sad land. There is now an outright civil war taking place, with no end in sight to the violence.  The invasion by our soldiers has not been good news for the Iraqis.

In retrospect, there was an unfortunate arrogance in our leadership that assumed that our soldiers would be welcomed as liberators bringing the coveted gift of democracy, and that the violence would quickly come to an end.  Along with this arrogance in our leadership, there was a passivity on the part of “we the people” in terms of our willingness to allow the decision to go to war to go unquestioned.

Last night I attended a peace vigil in town. About 25 people gathered for an hour holding candles. One man drove up and began to engage in an angry rebuttal of our vigil. Unfortunately, several of the people beside me in the vigil were more than willing to give the vocal abuse back to this man, and then some.

If we aspire to be peacemakers, we need to forgo tactics that are more intent in humiliating those who disagree with us than we are in persuading them to see our point of view.

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