Saturday, October 28, 2006

Inquest Iraq

I attended Inquest Iraq today (see link in yesterday's post). It was a very powerful presentation.

The war in Iraq was started with deception, was poorly planned and disastrously executed. But we knew that already.

What I learned with infinitely more clarity today is that in this fight there is no victory only loss, waste and destruction. I think this precious clarity is the true benefit of attending events like this, where one can listen to and question people who have witnessed the war from both sides. Today's event was planned and convened by people dedicated to peace (the American Friends Service Committee) so one might expect an impassioned plea to change the direction on the War in Iraq, and that is what I heard.

But more than simply a call to "give peace a chance", what I was faced with is the indictment of our country in a far more personal way than I had ever felt before. I have personally blamed the Republicans, and blamed Congress, and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush. I've felt powerless in the face of the seemingly inevitable March to War. Sure, I voted for Kerry and was depressed when he lost (if he lost). And I've condemned the war to family and friends (mostly to close friends) and I even decided before Jack Murtha spoke out, that we needed to Recall our Troops. But in truth I have done very little, incredibly little to bring about the radical change that is needed.

Somehow our country, our media, our congress (both parties), our intelligence agencies, our civilian and military leadership fell into a sort of hypnosis about the inevitability of it all. There were a few voices warning of the danger, some wise souls willing to risk (and often lose) their careers to point out the false premise underlying our rush to war even as we began it. But most of us fell for the lies about WMD and terrorist ties and that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the US. It was time to finish what we (or rather he) started in 1990 by invading Kuwait.

But having discovered this threat/WMD lie too late, we decided that perhaps we could create something wonderful to behold, a bright shiny democracy in place of the much despised dictator. We fell for a new lie, that we could will remake Iraq into a new nation (at gunpoint) and through our narcissism thought they would become just like us if we could just show them the way. We forgot that violence begets violence and our very presence would bred resentment (especially since we were desperately and violently interrogating every Iraqi male we could find about WMDs and terrorists when neither existed). Our administration somehow felt that we could ignore the Iraqi resistance/insurgents out of existence even as our humiliating and imperious treatment of Iraqis fueled the nascent resistance.

We have since glossed over these first 2 years with the "mistakes have been made" excuse. We no longer talk of spreading democracy or liberating the Iraqis, we have lowered expectations to the point where a stable, secure and (possibly) unified Iraq is all that can be hoped for, even as we still lack a plan to achieve even this much. So now two lies/figments of GWB's imagination have been exposed as simple mirages. But wait! 2,800 (US) men and women have died, we owe it to them to stay (complete the mission--the same one that was declared "accomplished" in May 2003?) until the country is stable, don't we?
If it were not the exact group that got us into this colossal mess in the first place, I might be tempted to consider a "new plan". But given that the deceivers are still in charge (at the most charitable they can be considered "dupes"), I say nonsense!

No more. We need to withdraw our troops without delay! We are creating more terrorists than we are killing. We have caused the untimely deaths of more than 2.5% of the Iraqi population (or we are at least responsible for their deaths as the occupying power in charge of security). Think about that...1 person in 40 in Iraq has died since we attacked.

And finally I get to what I realized today. I have been living my own lie. I've been denying my share of responsibility for what has been going on in Iraq. I am against it, I've told myself. I have always been a peace-nik. I called it a bullshit war from the very start. I have seen the death and destruction (daily) and I've been ashamed of Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, the patriot act, the torture. I've been disgusted that all this was going on in our name.

But it took today's presentation by former diplomats, Iraq veterans, and Iraq citizens for me to realize that I have never accepted RESPONSIBILITY for the war and the deaths personally. Unlike our leaders who say they accept responsibility, but do nothing, I believe that taking responsibility means taking ACTION.

My first action will involve retelling the stories that I heard today (to the best of my ability knowing that it will be so much less powerful coming from me). I will become more politically involved (somehow before today I actually felt that voting was all I needed to do). But now that I realize that people in Iraq are dying because I haven't yet convinced enough people that we need change, I understand how much I am failing to act everyday.

Perhaps the best quote today came from Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, (her website has much more on her views)
"We need to act as if lives depend on immediately bringing US troops home from Iraq...because they do."


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