Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Freedom

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.

11 comments:

Leiandra said...

I know this might be a huge leap of "faith", but for the basis of discussion, let's assume a couple of things. Let's assume that Iraq did have a program to develop nuclear weapons. (We can assume this because why else would he be kicking out U.N. investigators?) To make that point valid, we may also have to assume that it was smuggled out of the country before we found any real trace of it. Let's assume that Saddam was at least a little bit... how shall I say?... crazy. Let's assume that Iraq harbored terrorists. Let's also assume that there is a very large group of Iraqis that are quite dangerously armed. (Yes, I'm well aware that we were predominately the ones responsible for arming said group of barbarians. Edit: this may be more the Afghanis... I'd have to look this up.)

Now, all of that said, I believe one of the main reasons we invaded was to protect ourselves. Sure, you can argue that it was for oil or because Bush Senior didn't finish the job... whatever. The bottom line to me is that we were attacked... on American soil. And we retaliated.

What would Jesus have done? Would He have turned the other cheek? Or would He have "purged the land" such as he did with the money changers in the temple? I think He would have protected his chosen people.

Sure, we're all children of our Heavenly Father. Yes, it's a horrible tradegy of how impoverished Iraq was and even more so is.

My belief is this was why we invaded: to protect ourselves. There's probably other reasons as well; everyone always has their own agenda. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about any other war. I'm not talking about when we bombed Khadafi or Vietnam or anything else that happened in the Cold war. I'm only talking about our recent invasions post-9/11.

Would I like us to be out of other countries? Absolutely. Would I like to be be at peace? Yes. Would I like to see less government spending? You betcha. Do I want to even think about the billions of dollars we've spent on the war, and that we have and will spend on rebuilding? Heaven's no. But I know it's there. I recognize how much it could have helped out on our own U.S. soil. But would any of that even mattered if somehow, somebody got just one nuclear device into a populated area such as New York? I think not.

Doug said...

Leiandra,

I appreciate your thoughtful assumptions.

I need you to know that I also, initially, supported the attack on Iraq for the same reasons.

The bottom line, however, is that we were not attacked by the people we retaliated against. The line of reasoning to justify an Iraqi invasion is so specious, so tenuous, so "out there" that it is a slippery slope that can basically be used to justify any action by any country against any other country anywhere.

All of the official US government investigations of either pre-war Iraqi intelligence or the larger picture of 9/11 (and there have been huge reports each year on both subjects since we began the invasion) are unanimous in admitting that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. The only connection is that there were people in the administration anxious for MidEast conquest who were stymied by the public's [Constitutional, moral, valid, etc.] disapproval for aggressive war and conquest. When we found ourselves attacked by "an enemy" we found public will to go out and attack "any perceived enemy" in the name of national security. One of the buried facts about the Iraqi invasion is that [after the Afghan invasion] Bush administration initially asked Congressional leaders for permission to attack every nation in the MidEast. Congressional leaders went back to administration saying basically "You're nuts. The American people will never go for this. Choose an enemy and provide justification." They backed down slightly -- building a huge barrage of false justifications for invading Iraq specifically and whittled down the arbitrary list of enemies to "Syria, Iran, Iraq, [and for good measure] and North Korea."

I went to Syria for a month weeks after that speech about the "Axis of Evil". It was a somewhat frightening time as the cities I visited were being considered for the same threats of US invasion as Iraq was getting.

I'm getting off-track, but the point is that (A) Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. (B) The only country that has shown a tendency to use weapons of mass destruction irresponsibly in the last decade is the USA. (C) Going around assuming that somebody, somewhere, might do something bad sometime unless we level their nation and kill all the people in it seems to me a very bad foreign policy. It doesn't even make me feel safer since I know that acting in that way tends to cause the same sort of "blowback" that our official reports claim motivated the 9 [mostly Saudi Arabian] thugs working with Osama bin Laden [who we allow to run free in our "ally" nation of Pakistan . . . where they oppress their people and defy UN resolutions to actually create working nuclear warheads . . . but we recently declared them "good guys" to get help on taking over Iraq].

Leiandra said...

I don't particularly trust the U.N. They don't seem to have any real power, in my opinion. Being the only real super power left in the world, I think we do have a responsibility to take some action. Sometimes we have to take action even when the U.N. doesn't agree with us. Should we have at least investigate the other countries you mentioned? YES! North Korea's freaking setting off bombs not even caring because they know we don't have the extra military power to do anything about it. Is it feasible to fight wars on 5 different fronts? Of course not.

I bring 9/11 into the picture because it's a perfect example of what can and will happen if we do nothing. Not because it's directly related to Iraq. Should we go attack every country that's a threat to us? No. Could it be that we're making an example out of Iraq to deter other countries from interfering with us and pulling another 9/11? Possibly. Is it bad policy to want other countries to be respectful towards U.N. resolutions?

This may be a really bad analogy, but think of the world as a family. The U.N. is the mother, and the U.S. is the father. Why is the U.S. the father? Just follow me for a second. The mother runs the house, tells people what to do. The father is the one to carry out some of the dirty work.. possibly spanking the children when necessary. If the father tries to be the children's friend, they may end up walking all over him, and probably being totally disrespectful (which is much of what is wrong with a lot of families today, but that's a whole different topic.) Note: I'm not saying that everyone should spank their kids, but I am saying that kids need to respect their parents.

Back to the point a bit... I'll admit not being a history buff at all. But I can't think of a single time in the last decade that the U.S. has used a WMD. I'm sure more have been used than I can recall, but I can only think of the 2 at the end of World War 2. I know there's a lot of controversy there, but I don't think I'd call that irresponsible.

Doug said...

Leiandra,

You bring up a valid question.

Does somebody need to police the world? [And, if so, can we trust ourselves with the task?]

Our Founding Fathers were against the idea that any country "play Mom or Dad" in the world except perhaps by shining example (in the way you might look up to and and try to emulate some good quality that your parent embodied well). The reason – and they wrote and wrote and wrote on the conundrum – is that they deemed it [exactly as you suggested] a 'really bad analogy'.

No country can legitimately lay claim to the superior wisdom and morality (and selfless love, etc.) that a parent [in theory at least] can and should have over the children with which they have been blessed.

It's a 'conundrum' though because -- as you accurately point out -- it is indeed a big, dangerous world out there and allowing every nation their sovereignty seems rather frightening. But our Founders considered this and wrote extensively about it as well (and laid wise ground-rules for our own behaviour in the face of such danger).

Basically the fearmongers claim that conventional morality, 'just-war' theory, and 'Founding Fathers' philosophy no longer apply because the world is inconceivably more dangerous than it used to be. Frankly, to me, that sounds like the same kind of argument that you-know-who used in the Mormon understanding of the War-in-Heaven.

As for WMD, it's a pretty ambiguous word. The "WMD" that Saddam "used to have" or was found buried since the start of the war or might have spirited off to Syria was all of the non-nuclear type that we have been using on Iraq (my contention is that it's been irresponsible).

Furthermore, we are one of the only nations to still have large quantities of chemical and nuclear weapons (what you and I would probably more normally deem WMD I suppose). Even those are on a slippery slope. We have used both chemicals and radiation in Iraq. (White Phosphorous and Uranium tipped shells) In both cases, we simply re-classified weapons we used to say *nobody* should use, to be weapons that 'sometimes the good guys might need to use'. Meanwhile, though we have stopped using white phosphorous, we continue to litter the Iraqi countryside with expended radioactive uranium today as I write this.

Papasilas said...

I have a couple of nits to pick with leiandra's line of reasoning. Rationale for military action in Iraq is conflated with 9/11 not because of Iraqi involvement, but rather:

"I bring 9/11 into the picture because it's a perfect example of what can and will happen if we do nothing"

The motives of the 9/11 conspiritors were not based on the abstract, but rather because in their eyes we were doing too much in their countries (Osama B. L. specifically mentions US military presence in Saudi Arabia).

The other nit I have to pick is the idea:

"Could it be that we're making an example out of Iraq to deter other countries from interfering with us and pulling another 9/11"

I have serious issues with this for multiple reasons. From a practical standpoint, an effective deterrent should be pointed at the (potential) offender and not a bystander. In the case of global terrorism, Iraq is and has been a bystander. Iraq was an enemy to Al Qaeda. Attacking Iraq to deter Al Qaeda or other islamic terrorist groups is tantamount to telling Sweden that if they don't agree to stop shipping so many Volvos that we will attack Canada and occupy Montreal. Morally, I see no justification for attacking a second party to attempt to influence someone else. It is terrorism and hostage taking on a larger scale.

Conflating Iraq with a Global War on Terrorism is a huge leap of faith that breaks down quickly. Military actions in Afghanistan are a much more hazy affair. My complaints there fall more along practical grounds than moral. There is justification for action there. Whether that action is the best alternative is another discussion. I have no qualms in stating that action in Iraq fails both the practical and moral tests we should exercise before military action.

Cheers,

Silas

Leiandra said...

I guess the biggest qualm I have with both Doug, and now Silas, is that you guys don't site references. I'm expected to just believe what you say and take it as fact. If you're going to tell me that all Aliens are Green (and talking the fictitious UFO ones here), I'm the type of person that will look for a yellow one. Unless you said, "According to the UFO census of 2006, 100% of all Aliens are Green." Vague "reports" don't mean anything to me.

And I think Silas misunderstood my point. I'll have to come back to it tomorrow to address that.

Doug said...

Leiandra said:

--you guys don't cite references

Agreed. I need to start doing that more often. If you've read my previous year's blog, I sometimes did that. But my most recent entry, this one, and my comments need better citations.

I spent years arguing some of these things with people until they showed me enough incontrovertible evidence to turn me into an activist. It was one of those things. Not that I'm as cool as the Saul to Paul Bible story, but once I realized the truth of some of these things I was like "Oh man, that's just not OK" and I've been looking for ways to get involved.

But it is way ineffective of me to claim things are 'largely ignored in the mainstream media' and then not give some accessible citations to what I'm talking about. If I was you I likely wouldn't believe some of this either lol . . . a lot of it is simply outrageous.

I'll add some links to my two April posts (yeah, yeah I know it's the internet where you can read -- or write -- anything you want . . . I'll aggregate some credible sources -- when it's true it does get the attention of credible people even if it gets downplayed and subjected to "spin") and do a follow-up comment here.

Jerry Williams said...

Excuse me if I digress somewhat from the debate but I am wondering if someone can answer my persistent and nagging question. Why is it that the majority of Mormons vote for war and yet the majority of Mormons do not serve in the war. Now don't give me the one or two examples . I know there are Mormons serving now and in past wars. However, I am talking about the Church as a whole. If you want a war; if you vote for a candidate that wants war, then pick up your gun and go to the front. Tell your children to do likewise. I have a Mormon neighbor who has never found a war he didn't like. He was all for the Viet Nam war. He is all for the current war but darned if he ever felt obligated to put his life nor the lives of his children on the line. They were all conveniently on missions, in school or starting a family. You name it. They were just too busy to put themselves in harms way for their convictions. They found it very conenient to let other people's children die for their war. There are supposedly 12 million Mormons in the world. If only 1/10 of them voluntered the armed forces would be increased by 1.2 million. Can you imagine what 1.2 million additional soldiers would have meant at the beginning of this war? Instead, the average Mormon is willing to sit comfortably in his little McMansion watching this war of their making destroy the lives of countless other families. Case in point is Romney and his eight children. He is a proponent of every military shenanigan the US ever conjured up. But he was just too busy to put his life on the line from Viet Nam on. Even his kids refuse to serve,with no apparent shame, while other children carry the brunt.

I guess its like what my Mormon neighbor said, "Some times a war is the only way to solve things. I wish we didn't have to wage war but some things are worth fighting for."

But when I asked him when he and his kids are going over to Iraq. He said "Church work was more important. His son is on a mission in japan. His daughter is planning on her third kid and the other son is in pre-med at BYU. There just is no time. Beside we have a professional army. They should have known better before they signed up."

I had to leave the room before I puked.

Doug said...

Hi Jerry. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

I'm not sure where you're going with your question.

The majority of Americans vote "for the war" it seems but the majority do not actually serve overseas. This is a problem I have with everybody - not just Mormons. On my site, I take my own people to task for it - but it is certainly not a uniquely Mormon kind of shortsightedness or hypocrisy.

Mormons are certainly not "under-represented" in the military as you seem to believe. Although it is true that there have always been some Mormons who have given lip service to 'patriotic duty' and then shirked it through whatever means possible, it has always been true that many other Americans did so as well.

Mormons are not some monolithic block cut from the same cloth, but if you were to identify a trend it would probably tend towards 'more likely than average to actually serve in the military'. I often teach a night class at BYU, for instance, and in every class I teach there are students in ROTC or National Guard or some branch of service who are being deployed soon. I've never engaged any in discussion of our foreign policy (I teach computers and try to stick to that) and I actually admire these students for being willing to serve our great nation.

Sometimes I worry about the perhaps 'over-the-top' support for military endeavors and uncritical acceptance of all Dept. of Defense propaganda I find locally. But if you somehow believe that Mormons are erring the other way sir, you may be happy to discover that you are mistaken. You'll find the leadership of the Church is filled with people who signed up for actual dangerous military duty -- even when they could have gotten out of it. And that kind of brave dedication permeates the Church from what I've seen.

I, personally, oppose the use and abuse of such trusting patriotic people. But I've never known Mormons as a people to be the type of chickenhawks we find in our current Congressional and Executive leadership.

I know you don't want 'one or two' examples, but it just boggles my mind that you are unaware that it wouldn't be 'one or two' examples.

In my multi-generational Mormon family I'm perhaps the first (and this is fairly typical of 'Mormon' families that I know personally) not to sign up for the armed services. But then again I don't agree with what we're using them for [so you might disagree with my views but please don't call me a hypocrite].

My father quit college when college would have kept him out of Vietnam and signed up to go to battle with the Communist forces half-way across the world. He stayed for a second (optional) tour. He had already served a Church foreign proselyting mission but he didn't feel that absolved him of his patriotic duty. He believed in our great nation and the ideals we were trying to help nurture and promote abroad amongst other peoples.

He and I don't see eye-to-eye on that Vietnam war (as you might imagine) but I truly admire his patriotism and service regardless.

In my small neighborhood in Utah where I've moved (from Arizona) and on out to the larger congregations of Mormons throughout the nation, there are literally hundreds of thousands of patriotic men and women like my Father who backed up their "votes" and "lip service" with actual live service.

Carissa said...

That family analogy is definitely a USA-centric viewpoint. But, tell me where would the U.S. get the authority to be the "spanking father"? Because we are a superpower? If China becomes the world superpower someday, does it automatically gain the authority to do the spanking? Yikes. Our constitution is where our government gets its authority from. Ezra Taft Benson said:

"Nothing in the Constitution grants that the President shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader.
Nothing in the Constitution nor in logic grants to the President of the United States or to Congress the power to influence the political life of other countries, to “uplift” their cultures, to bolster their economies, to feed their peoples or even to defend them against their enemies." United States Foreign Policy, 1968

Another interesting quote is this one:

"Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics." Rep. Howard Buffet, Sen. Robert Taft's Campaign Manager, 1952

We seriously need to re-think our role in the world. Because our unauthorized "spanking father" role is what inspired 9-11 in the first place. So much good could come about if we just led the world by persuasion and example instead of force.

Silas said...

Doug et al,

I enjoyed this story on Taiwan/China and the thawing in their 60 year separation:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080708_taiwan_declares_peace_on_china/

It's apropos to Carissa's comment re China as the world's superpower. I'd certainly appreciate any comments you guys have.