An open letter to those who still support the Iraq War:
First of all, I admire your perserverence. It's not easy to hold to an idea when it seems to be falling apart around you. Nor am I assuming that you're necessarily wrong, although I happen to think you are.
Of course, what do I know, besides what I read, and hear, and see on TV? I haven't taken a "fact-finding" mission to Iraq, like so many of our elected officials. I don't know a soul over there, although I have interviewed some returning soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like you, I have to rely ultimately on guesswork and gut feelings.
I would like to make a couple of points, though -- and let me add that I don't consider myself either a liberal or a conservative. I won't bore you with a checklist of my positions on a laundry list of issues, but trust me on this: The older I get, the more I realize that there are virtues and flaws on both sides of the ideological divide.
1. Wars are not automatically noble causes. Some are necessary, some are not. Some are motivated by morality, others by greed.
As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I have an enormous respect for the American soldier. My father was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, my mother worked for the military during World War II, and I grew up in that culture. Over the years, I have written innumerable stories about soldiers who did their duty. A soldier serves where he or she is told to serve, period.
Still, we Americans have a right to question whether a war that is costing billions of dollars of our tax money is a good thing. That's what differentiates us from a lot of other countries, where citizens don't have that right. What irks me is when people use the argument that "You wouldn't be able to say those things in Iran" to convince others not to say them. You can't have it both ways.
Anyway, just because our military is deployed somewhere doesn't mean that the officials who sent them there are right. And if they're wrong, it's no reflection on the troops, as long as they follow the general laws of humanity. They're still brave.
The just wars, by and large, are obvious. Otherwise, a war is very much like a joke -- if you have to spend a lot of time explaining it to people, it's probably not going to work.
2. A lot of this is about Israel.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing, necessarily. They are, after all, a longtime ally.
Think about it, though. Suppose Iraq did have "weapons of mass destruction." They have no delivery system, and hardly any Air Force. In order to use those weapons against us, they would have to ship them here by UPS. Or smuggle them in -- but they could do that anyway, from anywhere. Occupying Iraq won't stop that threat.
Same with Iran. They are really no danger to us, in the traditional sense. But both Iran and a radical Iraq would be a huge threat to Israel, which they could reach with those weapons. That, it would seem to me, is what we're worried about.
It is also about oil, but I won't go there.
3. We need to start learning our geography.
I remember Alan Jackson's poignant song after 9-11, where he said "I'm just a simple man. I don't know the difference between Iraq and Iran."
I don't see that as a good thing. I get the sense with a lot of you who strongly support the war that you see all of the Middle Eastern countries as an indistinguishable mass, even though they are actually very different. The Iranians, for example, are not Arabs. I don't know enough about these places as I should, but I know that much.
Reflexively attacking Iraq because of Sept. 11 makes about as much sense as if we had attacked China after Pearl Harbor, arguing, "Why not? They're all Orientals, aren't they?"
Given that logic, and the fact that the majority of the hijackers were Saudis, wouldn't it have made more sense to bomb Saudi Arabia?
4. Who are these guys?
George Bush has gotten a lot of flak for his "Mission Accomplished" pronouncement, but in a sense, he was right. We took over the country, which we now occupy, and not only ousted its leader, but had him hung.
It's the aftermath that's the problem. In Vietnam, we at least knew who we were fighting. In Iraq, there are a dozen different groups fighting each other -- and us, because we're in the way. There are no hills to take, no beaches to land on, no cities to liberate. We have been reduced to a peacekeeping force, as well as a sitting target for a host of radical militias.
The question then, is not really "How do we win the war in Iraq?" We handled the war quite effectively -- it's the peace that's getting badly screwed up.
5. What do these people want?
They aren't all mentally disturbed, although I have to think at least some of them are (agreeing to strap explosives to your body and blow yourself up just to kill a few civilians is in a marketplace would seem to be certifiable). So what's going on in Iraq, as chaotic as it seems, must be for a reason.
Religion might motivate the rank and file, but probably not the leaders. They have an agenda, so what is it? That doesn't mean we should agree with it, but it might be nice to know.
By the way, I don't understand what President Bush is talking about when he says "they" will "follow us here."
They certainly aren't going to invade us with their armies, because that would be like the Concord Little League All-Stars challenging the New York Yankees. So "following us" must mean terrorism.
I think most people in other countries, especially developing countries, envy us for our wealth but would love to climb aboard our gravy train themselves. What the opposition in the Middle East hates us for, as far as I can surmise, is because we support Israel and because we're occupying Iraq.
5. How can we end this honorably and with a minumum of bloodshed?
If I knew that, I wouldn't be working in Lynchburg, VA -- I could sell that knowledge for millions.
Obviously, the perfect solution would be to have to Iraqis fight their own battles. The problem is, their government seems too polarized and paralyzed to be able to do that.
I do think, with our military clout, that we could keep the surrounding countries from piling on if we left. But we couldn't keep the violence from escalating within Iraq, and we'd have to be willing to accept that.
Anyway, this is just what I think -- take it or leave it. I'd also love to hear any arguments for remaining in Iraq that don't include the words "liberal scum." Send them along, and I'll print them.