Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thoughts on the war in Iraq

The Washington Post has some stunning news.

President Bush is listening to a man who agrees with him, and provides political cover for his disastrous war in Iraq.

In other news, water is wet.

Here's a great quote from the story: Administration officials say it is natural that Bush would give extra weight to the views of his commander on the ground, especially one whose congressional testimony in September helped deflect efforts to force a withdrawal. Yes, it is perfectly natural that the President would listen to someone who helps him accomplish his political goals. If a man can help accomplish a political goal, then clearly, he must be a good commander for the military. For example, look at President Bush himself; he sold the war in Iraq quite nicely, and, hey, mission accomplished, right? You remember the landing on the aircraft carrier!

I think this makes for a good time to reflect back on the tart of the war because it's an issue that few people give proper attention to.

War is, to quote Ozzy, the ultimate sin. People are going to die, and you can guarantee that it will include people who are guilty of doing nothing wrong. Even if it includes only "enemy soldiers", well, soldiers have to follow orders, sometimes even questionable orders (but not illegal orders). People who've chosen to do nothing more than be willing to go through hell to protect their homes will end up dying, and that's if you're lucky, and it's only soldiers, not civilians.

So war requires a huge amount of justification. People like to talk about America defending her "vital national interests". There are even times when such talk is justified, but war is about killing people. When folks trumpeting "vital national interests" aren't referencing matters of life and death, they're spouting pretty words and sophistries to cover up murder.

So, why did we invade Iraq?

The Bush administration did not trust the weapons inspectors. The Bush administration claimed that Iraq had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and a nuclear program. The weapons inspectors said that there was no evidence of this. There was some hesitancy about Saddam Hussein's cooperation at first, a sense that he still didn't realize how serious the matter was, but before the invasion, he was cooperating with the inspections. The inspectors came up with the truth - that there were no active weapons programs, but the Bushies didn't want to believe them.

This was not a matter of life and death; it was fear and mistrust.

So what about the rest? Don't we have a right to depose Saddam Hussein for the good of his people?

Well, let's look at it from another perspective. If a man has a gangrenous spot on a finger, one that could grow and eventually kill him, do you get to lop off his arm? Of course not. You can't even treat the gangrene without the consent of the patient. If a person has a rampaging illness, medical treatment can sometimes be forced, but not when the patient is stable and in no immediate danger.

More importantly, war is not like a surgical procedure where you can take off just a part of a finger, or just the finger itself. Warfare is only "surgical" if the surgeons you know use sledgehammers in lieu of scalpels.

(Yes, there are singular operations - think "battles", not "wars" - that can be viewed as surgical. That's why I said "warfare", not "singular military operations".)

Invading Iraq "for the good of its people" simply can't be justified. The Iraqi people get to decide when it's time to put their lives at risk for their freedom. We don't get to kill thousands of them because we think we know better.

There have been many arguments made by Very Serious People who all think that the war could be justified. It's a sign of a very sick society that they can be taken seriously at all. Tens of thousands of people have died; more are still dying, because of our nation's actions, and at no point in time did we have any purpose that could justify the causing of those deaths.

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