Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Finishing the Job and Fighting to Win

I am tired of the worn out and misguided meme about "finishing the job" in Iraq.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

First of all – let's get this out of the way – the Iraqi invasion had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks of 9/11. Yes, it was sold that way. Yes, I initially supported it on those grounds since I was still in 'shock and awe' from the horrific attacks of 9/11 and so believed all the tenuous connections that the Bush administration was avowing. But in the years since they have disavowed every single one of those connections. Many government leaders have come forward and admitted that many in the administration knew that most or even all of them were untrue from the beginning (but that the ends justified the means). Now the war is justified based on other reasons – some still push 'WMD' claims for instance, Sadaam's evils are enumerated, etc. But none of the reasons put forth by any government official have to do with the actual attack on U.S. soil by the [mostly Saudi Arabian] thugs associated with Osama bin Laden and motivated – according to our official Intelligence reports – by decades of U.S. interference and warmaking in the MidEast.

So what are we doing in Iraq?

1) We are building an unprecedented network of American military and intelligence bases set to be our permanent bastion in the Middle East and from which we can conduct all further "national security operations" in the Mideastern Theatre into the conceivable future.

2) We are securing American [and other promised Western] Oil contracts -- again, in the interest of "national energy security".

3) We are employing slave labor to build a high walled city-within-a-city (larger than the Vatican) in Baghdad in order that Iraq (and their neighbors) never, ever forget who is really in charge over there.

4) In addition to the slave labor [conveniently contracted out to firms in Dubai, Kuwait, etc.] we are employing nearly as many U.S. based contractors as military personnel to do various and sundry (often fiscally irresponsible, even criminal) jobs around the country. Not the least of which are the security operations ("too . . . 'messy' for 'official' US forces to be involved in" as one returned soldier described to me recently) in which corporations like BlackWater USA send trigger happer thugs to secure safety for diplomatic vehicles, etc. often by simply machine gunning innocent citizens who get too near their charges. In a shining example of liberty, freedom, and 'justice for all' these security contractors are carefully held innocent of both Iraqi and US laws.

5) We are completely failing to promote peace, democracy, religious harmony, prosperity, or even – five years later – basic living standards of clean water, power, health, and education that used to exist before our violent invasion.

Tell me again why we should "finish" that job.

Or, even worse, I often hear the idea that regardless of how the fight started we should now "fight to win!" In what sphere of morality is this "good"? So now that we have destroyed the infrastructure of a nation, set various factions to fighting, and are still struggling to carve out our initial unwise, un-Constitutional, selfish, and illicit goals: it "behooves" us to "fight to win"?

I simply do not subscribe to that perverted idea of fervent nationalism. The USA is a great nation because our carefully preserved ideals -- as enshrined in the Constitution and [more or less] exhibited through over two centuries of action preclude us from doing what this administration has taken us over to Iraq to do. I am tired of the inconsiderate dismissals of any honest discussion of our foreign policy as simply being "Blame America First".

I love America because of what we stand for, what I truly believe God intended us to be and do. I am patriotic because I believe in the ideals our Founding Fathers lived and died for. I do not for a second believe that America will receive and deserve God's blessings regardless of her actions in the world simply by virtue of 'being America'. God's promises do not work that way.

Between the broadcasts of our last General Conference, there was a special presentation on President J. Reuben Clark. President Clark was a counselor in the First Presidency of Presidents Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, and David O. McKay. Previous to that time he had practiced law, and served in the U.S. State Department, eventually becoming the Undersecretary of State for President Coolidge. He also held other various government positions such as being the American ambassador to Mexico.

I've quoted him before on this site, but it bears repeating:
"For America has a destiny – a destiny to conquer the world – not by force of arms, not by purchase and favor, for these conquests wash away, but by high purpose, by unselfish effort, by uplifting achievement, by a course of Christian living; a conquest that shall leave every nation free to move out to its own destiny; a conquest that shall bring, through the workings of our own example, the blessings of freedom and liberty to every people, without restraint or imposition or compulsion from us; a conquest that shall weld the whole earth together in one great brotherhood in a reign of mutual patience, forbearance, and charity, in a reign of peace to which we shall lead all others by the persuasion of our own righteous example."
I also think it is relevant to recall once again what President Kimball said in the First Presidency Message of June, 1976:
"We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel – ships, planes, missiles, fortifications – and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45). "

That may seem a bit extreme, but I think it puts our aggression in an appropriate context. For instance, my strongest objection as an American citizen is that the people we are attacking and punishing – ostensibly for the events of 9/11 – are not even our enemies. They are certainly not the ones who actually attacked us. But, even if amongst their nations there were those who were indeed 'our enemies' in some respect (through historical Anti-American rhetoric or trade negotiations or in some other way) it would not justify the hatred, dehumanizing, inaccuracies, and literal murder of innocents ('collateral damage' it is politely termed) that so many Americans are willing to close their eyes to.

I write on this blog because I love America and everything it stands for. When our mission and purpose become perverted by powerful people who do not share these ideals, it behooves me to speak out. And, quite frankly, though much of my concern is for the larger human family of God's children [and I believe He loves all of us equally], when we allow our nation to behave like an Imperial Conquistador it also affects our specific freedoms at home in adverse ways. Not just "blowback" which clearly makes our nation less safe (setting the fallacious arguments of the warmongers on their heads), but also – as holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt presciently described it: "Empire abroad entails tyranny at home." Our behaviors in regards to these issues of national security – both at home and abroad – send the wrong messages to any that would look to us as the example of "the" nation most blessed with liberty and freedoms "for all".

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Has the American invasion and occupation of Iraq provided freedom and liberty for its people?

Does the average Iraqi have more freedom today than they had under Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime?

What does freedom mean to you? Do they have freedom of assembly, the press, religion? Do they even have freedom to travel the streets, find food, clean water, and basic utilities, or even the freedom to make use of the much-touted energy resources of their native lands?

Americans don't ask these questions. The American Press generally avoids them as well. Americans question how German citizens could have so easily bought into the group-think propaganda of Hitler and yet we, as a people, close our eyes to the violent truths of American Imperial conquests.

Despite all the heartwarming images of purple fingers, despite the early footage of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam, our intentions and actions in Iraq continue to do more harm than good and they [our illicit intents] become more clear to the rest of the world daily. As citizens, we cannot close our eyes in impunity forever.

The truth is that before America began its violent "re-making" of the Middle East, Baghdad, for instance, was a relatively peaceful city with clean water, working electricity, functional hospitals and Universities – and people were able to live decent lives. There was not freedom of assembly, but neither is there now. There was not freedom of the press, but [in the name of 'temporary restrictions' to protect Iraqi and US national security] there is not now either. Some freedoms of religiosity have fledgling starts but there is violent warfare as a result and the US has no interest in providing either a good example of how to resolve them nor thoughtful discussion of the matter. Rather, we fuel the discord when it suits our needs, we make shifting alliances with different violent and intolerant factions – and we even arm and support them when we see a selfish advantage.

It is certainly true that Saddam and his sons were tyrannical monsters who claimed absolute authority to torture, kill, and exploit their perceived enemies within the populace. I won't make the obvious comparison here, but the fact remains that – five 'freedom building' years later – the newly violent Baghdad is much worse off in nearly every regard (including the *increase* in the number of feuding groups that all claim 'absolute authority to torture, kill, and exploit their perceived enemies'). The *only* place that gets 24-hour electricity these days is the gargantuan embassy-city of the conqueror-occupiers (the United States). Even the once secure hospitals regularly lose electricity because our only true concern is that we finish the mission of establishing permanent military bases (and "diplomatic" hegemonic city-states) from which to continue re-shaping the Mid-East in order to more surely control energy, water, shipping, and other resources in the region all in the name of our own "national security".

Does this sound like exporting freedom and liberty to you? What should American citizens do about it? And, honestly I hope somebody has some encouraging comments for me because, what can we do about it?

P.S. Don't get me wrong. I know that many (from my experience, the vast majority) of our good men and women in uniform go 'over there' and do the right thing. They bring hope, order, and love to a war-torn people (generally sidestepping the complication that we brought the war in the first place). I've seen the pictures. I've read the stories. I have personal knowledge that many such stories are certainly true. But this breaks my heart more because it drives home the ease with which the architects of these Imperial conquests are able to successfully use good people for illicit causes.