It’s getting hard to remember a time before blogging, but at the
time of the US invasion of Iraq the Dowbrigade did not exist. However,
some recent readers may be surprised to find that in the run-up to
and immediate aftermath of the military phase of the war, we were in
favor of going in. Like John Kerry, even knowing what we now know,
we would be in favor of going in. In fact, we NEVER believed the
flimsy, transparent rantings and rationalizations of the Bushies. We
had reasons of our own for wanting to take the bastard out. Let us
Saddam Hussein had by then passed over the line and entered a category
of human being we refer to as Very Bad Men. VBM’s are people the planet
would quite simply be better off without. They are people who, had we
the power to do so, would cease to live. Different people gain that designation
for different reasons; as a lifelong opponent of capital punishment, we
do not give it our lightly.
But there are cases of people so inherently evil, involved in enterprises
which would result in the deaths of scores of other, innocent lives, that
killing them would be an act of heroism. The classic case is that of
Adolf Hitler. If you found yourself alone in a room with Adolf Hitler
just before the invasion of Poland set off WWII, and there was a loaded
gun on the table between you, closer to you than to him, would you pick
it up and kill Hitler?
It would certainly be a different situation if you knew that Hitler
had a tiny bomb planted in his brain, and you could kill him by pressing
a button, without any danger of getting caught and executed yourself.
How we wrestled with these chestnuts as an adolescent groping towards
an understanding of himself and what he was capable of. Could we do it?
In the ultimate analysis, no one can answer that question until they find
themselves in a life or death situation. One of the candidates for President
this year knows the answer to that question, and knows the price a man
must pay to take the life of another with his own hands.
George Bush is a killer in his own way, to be sure, but his way is of
the push-the-button-and-blow-up-the-brain variety. He has sent hundreds
of thousands to do the killing, and over a thousand to die. We would
truly prefer that the person making these decisions be someone who understood
what they entail.
Back to Saddam. What did he do be included in our personal Eliminate
On Sight list? You may remember that at that time,immediately prior to
our invasion of Iraq, an unprecedented wave of Palestinian suicide bombers
were attacking Israel at a pace of several a week. Pizzerias, Supermarkets,
discotheques, bus stops were going up right and left. A sixteen-year-old
high school student blew herself up next to another sixteen-year-old high
school student. Children were killing children.
And Saddam was offering cash payouts, $50,000 or thereabouts, to the
families of these children, to encourage them and assure them that their
family would be taken care of. What idealistic teenager watching
his or her family suffer would not consider a "heroic" free pass to heaven,
especially if it included material salvation for the loved ones left
We became convinced that Saddam’s payments were directly causing the
deaths of dozens of Israelis and Palestinians. It was pure evil. At that
point, we would have supported any effort to remove him from power, including
invading Iraq for the express purpose of doing so.
Invading Iraq has not proven to be the problem. It is the kind of job
our armed forces is trained to do We did the job in six weeks, destroyed
the Hussein family, erased Iraq’s capacity to threaten her neighbors,
and ascertained that there were no WMD’s lying around for terrorists to
get their hands on. Only 256 US soldiers died during this phase, and we
are convinced their actions saved many more lives than that.
What are armed forces are NOT prepared to do, by neither training nor
temperament, is to occupy and control a country twice the size of Idaho
and 25 million fiercely nationalistic people for an extended period of
time. The best of our youth, our most precious resource for the future,
are sitting ducks in a shooting gallery, as real killers and crackpots
are flocking in from around the world to step up and take their chances
at the "Kill An American Carnival Sweepstakes".
Are we, perhaps, using this as a sly tactic to lure out all of the closet
American-haters in the world, and get them all into one place, just to
make it easier to wipe them out? Nice theory, but in reality every one
we eliminate engenders two or three more – widows, kids, brothers bent
on revenge in a never-ending cycle of violence.
So what should we have done then, you ask. Pack up our toys, er, advanced
weapons systems, and go home. Well, yes. With the clear understanding
that if at any point in the future we became convinced that Iraq again
presented a clear and direct threat to the Untied States or our national
security, we would without hesitation do it again.
Our guys could have come home feeling good about accomplishing their
mission. We would get better and better at these finite and precise surgical
missions, accomplishing them at less cost and with less loss of life.
Antagonistic foreign leaders would learn to respect us, and fear us.
But we must avoid, at all costs, this business of occupying a foreign
country, or propping up an unpopular puppet regime. It is an ugly business,
unAmerican and doomed to failure.
As a final point, a secondary reason we were in favor of excising Saddam
did have to do with the great unspoken but overriding presence
bubbling up from beneath the whole affair – oil. Maybe, we thought, with
the Iraqi oil online, we could stand up to that other group of despicable
Very Bad Men – the Saudi royal family. In addition to providing virtually
all of the human and financial resources for 9/11, they were on our shit
list mostly for the way they treated the women unfortunate enough to be
born within the reach of their fanatical edicts. It galls us on a daily
basis to have to kowtow to these smug reactionaries who are opposed to
everything America is supposed to stand for.
Maybe they shouldn’t be put on the Eliminate on Sight list, but at the
very least they should be stripped of power and forced to return the
billions they have stolen from the legitimate asperations of the people
But that is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that support
for the initial Invasion of Iraq in no way divests one of the right to
criticize how the war was handled or what it has become.