Saturday, July 31, 2004

hapless soldier's sigh

my first posting. Hmmm....

If you haven't read MY WAR yet do it now (it is at It is an immediate account of an infantryman in Mosul, Iraq, and the guy really knows how to write.

To get started, here is an editorial I wrote in November 2002, months before we invaded Iraq. See who got it right, me or George W. Bush:

The President has not shown that war with Iraq is morally just. Under the classic “just war doctrine,” a state is morally justified in its use of force if it meets all of the following four factors:
(1) The damage inflicted (or threatened) by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.
(2) War should be waged only as a last resort.
(3) There must be serious prospects of success.
(4) The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

As discussed below, war with Iraq has not met the just war standard.

(1) The damage inflicted (or threatened) by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain. If the facts show that Saddam is close to completion of a nuclear weapon then we should eliminate him. We don’t need to wait and be hit first before responding. His history of chemical weapons use against Iran and his own Kurdish minority demonstrate that he should not be allowed to acquire even more dangerous nuclear weapons. Is there proof that an atomic threat from Iraq is imminent? We simply don’t know. We are told that evidence can’t be shared because of “national security.” Such concerns did not stop President Kennedy from laying out his case during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If the United States is to go to war, it had better not do so under false pretenses. The administration needs to lay out its case clearly and unambiguously, just as President Kennedy did. If there really is evidence, then a way can surely be found to show it while protecting the identity of sensitive intelligence sources. This has not been done. Even after secret information was recently shared with Congress many senators and representatives remained unconvinced. No credible information has been shared with the public. Meanwhile, North Korea, which provided Iraq its Scud missiles, has openly admitted to continuing its development of nuclear weapons despite agreeing to stop doing so in 1993. Is there talk of war against North Korea? Strangely, no. Why Iraq and not North Korea?
I am not willing to take it on faith, without evidence, that we must invade or suffer nuclear attack. Retired General Wesley Clark, a former NATO commander, feels the same. He recently testified before the Senate that, "It's a question of what's the sense of urgency here, and how soon would we need to act unilaterally? So far as any of the information has been presented, there is nothing that indicates that in the immediate, next hours, next days, that there's going to be nuclear-tipped missiles put on launch pads to go against our forces or our allies in the region."
On 9/11 we watched in horror as two towers full of living human beings crashed to the ground. Our reaction was normal – we wanted to fight back, to punish the “evildoers.” I felt, and feel, the same. I want Osama dead. So why are we invading Iraq, a secular regime often denounced by Islamic fundamentalists such as Al Qaeda? Iraq did not attack us on 9/11. If Iraq had been behind the attacks, this debate, and Saddam, would already be over. The President’s weak attempts to use 9/11 to justify war with Iraq only point out the weakness of the case. When a president uses half-truths or untruths to justify a war, it is probably a good idea to slow down the march towards conflict. The attacks of 9/11 are unrelated to Iraq, and thus can provide no justification for an invasion.
Saddam and his cronies are evil, and the world would no doubt be better off without them. He has brutally oppressed his own people. That is not a reason to invade Iraq. If that were the test, then we should also invade North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe, Iran, and arguably Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, and on and on. Something more is required to provide a just cause for war or the sovereignty of all nations is threatened.

(2) War should be waged only as a last resort. One reason given for war is that Saddam is not complying with UN resolutions. However, Saddam hasn’t complied with UN resolutions for at least a decade. Why the rush to war now? Three retired four-star American generals said recently that attacking Iraq without a United Nations resolution supporting military action could limit aid from allies, energize recruiting for Al Qaeda and undermine America's long-term diplomatic and economic interests. "We must continue to persuade the other members of the Security Council of the correctness of our position, and we must not be too quick to take no for an answer," Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Similar testimony was given by Gen. Clark and Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former chief of United States Central Command. The three generals, some of whom warned that a war with Iraq could detract from the campaign against terrorism, said the Bush administration must work harder to exhaust diplomatic options before resorting to military action to oust Saddam and eliminate any weapons of mass destruction Iraq may have. The three generals said a United Nations resolution was important because it would isolate Saddam internationally, give skittish allies some political cover to join any military action and bolster America's long-term global aims. "We are a global nation with global interests, and undermining the credibility of the United Nations does very little to help provide stability and security and safety to the rest of the world, where we have to operate for economic reasons and political reasons," said Shalikashvili.
Now that the President has been forced to obtain a UN resolution calling on Iraq to comply with weapons inspections, he must allow time for the resolution to work. If Iraq complies, then no war is needed. If Iraq does not comply, the threat will be clear and we will have worldwide support for our actions. Why rush to war without such support? The short answer is that there is no need to rush. Make the case, build support, and then if other measures don’t work we will have the moral legitimacy we need before we issue our military a license to kill and put our soldiers in harm’s way. When (if) diplomacy fails we will at least know that we tried. Our soldiers and the innocent noncombatants who will be caught in the middle deserve our best efforts with diplomacy first.

(3) There must be serious prospects of success. Our military is the best the world has ever seen. Success against the Iraqi military is a certainty, and thus the President’s call for “regime change” is bound to happen if we invade. We need to be certain, however, that such a change would result in a safer world. That is the test for success, not removing Saddam. Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that men don’t ride events, events ride the man. The war could (and probably would) have consequences beyond what most of us can predict now. The eminent military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz cautioned that when preparing for war political leaders should never take the first step until they know their last. If war with Iraq is worth U.S. blood and treasure it is worth establishing and articulating a desired political end and a plan for the political consolidation of our military success. We must not take the first step until we have thought our strategy through to the last step, until we understand all the risks and rewards. This has not been done.
The first Gulf War convinced many Americans that war is cheap and easy, with few American casualties. There is an expectation that we can win easily and mostly from the air. If Saddam and his cronies hold out in the cities we will face urban combat, which is much more dangerous both to our military and to noncombatant civilians caught in the middle. It will not be a cheap victory. There is the threat that Saddam, backed into a corner and with nothing to lose, will lash out with weapons of mass destruction such as the chemical weapons he already has. He has already threatened to strike Israel and Israel has already promised to respond, throwing the entire region into even more disarray with unforeseen consequences. General Clark warned that attacking Iraq could divert military resources and political commitment to the global effort against Al Qaeda and possibly "supercharge" recruiting for the terrorist network. It would also cost a lot more national treasure than the first Gulf War. In the first effort in Congress to estimate the fiscal cost of an Iraqi war, Democrats on the House Budget Committee issued a report putting the likely price tag at $30 billion to $60 billion, less than that for the Persian Gulf War in 1991. That war cost about $60 billion, but our allies picked up four-fifths of the costs. The Democrats' estimates do not include the possible costs of a long-term peacekeeping mission or of providing aid. No doubt those costs would be enormous. Would an invasion of Iraq be in our long-term best interests, making the world safer? In short, we don’t know. The case has not been made. Rushing to war without properly considering the risks and rewards is a recipe for disaster, not success.

(4) The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. If Iraq actually is close to possession of a nuclear weapon then an invasion to eliminate that threat would be the lesser evil, but as I discussed above the President has not, or can not, show that this is the case. I am also concerned about how the President used the threat of war in a partisan manner, just as Republican strategist Karl Rove suggested last year. This threatens the long-term survival of our republic. The response of Mr. Bush to valid questions and criticism by some senators was to question their patriotism. In the recent election Republicans in Georgia ran ads showing the twin towers falling and stating that Senator Max Cleland, who voted against giving Mr. Bush unchecked war powers, did not have the “courage to lead.” Cleland is a combat veteran who lost both legs and an arm fighting in Vietnam. His opponent, who never served in the military, won. Mr. Bush, a National Guard veteran who courageously defended Texas from the Viet Cong while Cleland was fighting in Vietnam, has falsely tried to link Iraq to 9/11, has refused to provide evidence of an imminent threat, has dissipated the worldwide sympathy and support the U.S. enjoyed after 9/11 by not building a case with our allies, and then wrapped himself in the flag when questioned.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is ok to question authority – our founding fathers taught us this when they created our republic. I therefore question Mr. Bush’s understanding of our Revolution and our Constitution. If war in Iraq is the right thing for us to do then our President should provide evidence to the American people. He has refused to do this, citing “national security,” and until he does so (if he can) war in Iraq is unjustified. If a “wag the dog” strategy is allowed to succeed it will weaken our system of government, which is a greater threat to our national security than any possible threat from Iraq.

One last note: if we do go to war in Iraq then we are all responsible, even those of us against the war. Do not blame the military for political decisions. When America wages war it is never the generals who decide to do so, but the politicians. Criticism of the war should not be directed at the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines that go into harm’s way in the name of the United States. As citizens of a republic we are all responsible for the actions of our military, whether we wear a uniform or not. I hope we don’t go to war. If we do, I will support our soldiers however I can – but not the President.


DaveSplash said...

Let me the first to post on your new site. I have actually posted your excellent essay on my site as well, along with an edited conservative response. It is quite good.

exfbonnie said...

Yeah, Im finally glad you have a posting up, we all have been waiting. Your words are eloquent and your damn funny. So, if you dont mind I will put you up under "playgroups" on my blog. And yeah! regarding children, its something having little ones at this age. They really are truly remarkable. And they keep getting more enjoyable as there their little personalities unravel.

Anyway, I've truly enjoyed reading your reponses on Cb's site and its about damn time you put one up yourself!

this we'll defend said...

You both are too kind.

And Bonnie - you are so right about the kids. My 3 1/2 year old said his prayers last night and after praying for all the puppies and kitties (as he does every night) he prayed for Daddy to do good on his "exam bar test." Wow. I teared up.

exfbonnie said...

oh that is so beautiful, that is too cute and funny. Arnt prayers the sweetest things to come out of babes mouths! I dont care what religion anyone believes or even if they dont, when even a child learns to be thankful and respectful of a higher being, what strength of character it adds, not to mention just being a decent human being.

The other day my daughter who is almost 2 1/2 was pretending to go "night-night" and I asked her if she was going to say her prayers and she said, I quote (becasue i wrote it down it was),
Dear God,
Thank you for blessing our family.
Thank you for the bee stings,(read comment in Cb's atacked on OP)
" ", (repeated a couple times, becasue she is copying how, I myself, say a list of thank you's)
Thank you for all things different, (learned from A richard Scarey video)
Thank you for opportunities (referring to my comments about wanting something after Ive offered, when its too late)

Its just too cute.
Thank you for all things different

Bigandmean said...

Keep us posted on that "exam bar test". You get results on 11-19?

You've gotten your blog off to a brilliant start. I'm looking forward to reading some more of your stuff.