Warning- RFL Contains Moral Views About Political Leadership

Dear Friends,

You may not want to read today’s column if you are looking for a message that is simple, positive and very directly related to an average workplace setting.  You also may not want to read it if you are set against asking any kinds of questions or seeking any deeper meaning from the situation in Iraq.  But I think there is a powerful leadership message below.  It applies to both of our political parties, and it applies to us as citizens and leaders, and I’m taking this digression from my usual shorter, and more local fare, because I’m just not sure anyone else is saying this:

 

I believe great leaders give a MORAL accounting for the work that we do with them.  When Odwalla discovered a product of theirs had poisoned people, and when Johnson & Johnson learned the news of the Tylenol tragedy, both companies responded with transparency, candor, accountability, and compassion.  Both healing and constructive forward-looking policies were the result. 

 

With the war in Iraq there’s an elephant in the room.  And I’m not sure many of the Democrats recognize it, and I feel quite certain the President does not.  The elephant in the room is our tragic moral responsibility: our actions as a nation unleashed a torrent of human violence and suffering.  Before (some of) you turn me off, here’s what I am not saying.  I am not saying Iraqis are not morally responsible for the deaths they have caused.  Iraqis are perpetuating the continued sectarian violence, as well as attacks on our troops.  But I am saying that our invasion was the proximate cause that has led to tens of thousands of deaths and as many as 2 million refugees.  Had we not attacked – and/or bungled the aftermath – this killing would not be happening.

 

Even if the president’s intelligence was significantly credible, even if the fall of Saddam was justifiable, and even if we sincerely thought we were prepared for the aftermath of our invasion, the results are what they are.  And our actions — driven by the President, fueled by his supporters, cheered by most of the public, and endorsed by Democrats and Republicans alike — has led to all of these horrors that we continue to watch.

 

We should admit at this point without condition that we grieve the extraordinary suffering our actions have caused.  As our Jewish brothers and sisters seek personal “atonement” during this season of their new year, perhaps we should all – as one nation under God and indivisible – fast and pray in solidarity with our troops and our human brothers and sisters in Iraq.  Our miscalculations have led to untold carnage.  I didn’t believe in this war from day one, but I am sad I did not speak up with the loudest and clearest voice I could have.  Some of the blood is on my hands.

 

This is not just religious or moral talk, but I believe it is incredibly important from a policy standpoint.  If we do not confront our moral responsibility, I fear our policies will necessarily be equally partial, half-right, misguided.  If we do not deal with our sadness, regret — and as I argue here, our guilt – I am convinced these powerful emotions will work beneath the surface.  We all – Ds and Rs and the unlabeled – rightly fear that the way we leave may create even greater chaos, pain and suffering.  We are right to fear that, and to craft policy that minimizes that risk as best we possibly can.  But if we don’t acknowledge our guilt, we may unconsciously generate more of the same mistakes.  We have to tell ourselves the whole truth about the past so we can honestly see and think about what’s really here now.

At this point, the overriding objective and context should not be about Al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda is not irrelevant.  But what is overriding is to quell the sectarian violence that we have helped to unleash.  But if we don’t admit we unleashed it, we can pretend it’s almost secondary.  Is America’s long-term safety relevant and important?  Absolutely.  But the overwhelming moral imperative is to pursue the best policies that will bring hopes for peace. If we were horrified — as we were — at the loss of over 3000 American lives in the World Trade Center, shouldn’t we be honest about the heart rending tragedy of the chaos that now exists in Iraq? Sometimes I wonder if the horror is just too much for the President to face.  But leaders stand to repeat the mistakes they’ve made if they don’t face the past — and bring it to their followers to face with them — with brutal honesty.

 

It’s time to stop the nonsense about international coalitions (it was 95% ours at the start and is about 99% ours now – just look at the casualties), about “finishing the job” (the job description keeps changing – WMD, Saddam, Al Quaeda – the job is to restore peace, do no more harm, and get our kids home).  We let the genie out of the bottle.  Admit it, grieve it, learn from it.  But don’t pretend we can put it back in, because we can’t stand the guilt of knowing we pulled it out.  Clearly, the Iraqi people must step up to end the sectarian violence that is now literally killing them.

 

We’ve got to accept our moral responsibility if we’re going to move forward rationally, thoughtfully, calmly and compassionately.  You’ve got to tell the truth – including the moral truth – if you’re going to

 

lead with your best self,

 

D

66 responses to “Warning- RFL Contains Moral Views About Political Leadership

  1. Nice column –

    On target regarding steppiong up to our responsibilities –

    Similar to the State budget ‘who’s on first’ routine!

  2. You are dead right in this column. I’m sure you will get lots of letters condemning what you said, but it is something that should have been said, loudly, a long time ago. Thank you for having the courage to start the dialogue.

  3. If we are Guilty then someone is to blame. That leads to a values discussion. My values see it differently. People were dying before we entered in rape rooms and as political victims of a tyrant. There was no hope in those deaths. People are dying now as a new government seeks to stand itself up. Lets compare them to America. How long did it take us to form a government, how did we deal with the whisky rebellion, how are we doing today in solving problems like Social Security, and Immagration reform. We should grieve every innocent death. We should also be a less judgemental mentor helping a new government make those deaths meaningful and bringing hope to their future. I do not feel guilty. I feel proud. What other country would be willing to lay down their own sons for someone else?

  4. Yes… the blood on our hands is real. Many of us DID speak up before day one, but for most of us the perseverance, strength and clarity of the message was not all it could and should have been. My admiration is unbounded for the moral character of many people like Margaret Kingsbury, a leading Lansing peace worker who has consistently and clearly persevered in resisting the Iraq war. Yes, it’s time to raise our voices but at this point it appear to be joining the crowd rather than leadership. The great questions to ask ourselves are “Exactly what was it that prevented me from ‘speaking with the loudest and clearest voice I have’?” and “What can be learned about taking responsibility for the blood our weak voices enabled to be spilled?”

  5. I guess Mr.Bush(not a President, as far as I can see)has a hard time swallowing the truth,listening to we the people, feeling our pain, and seeing what the power of his hand has done. With the loss of four of the five sences, its no wonder he keeps dropping the ball.

  6. If each week you heard screams from your neighbors home and you saw children or spouse with bruises, welts and broken bones, what would you do? Would you try to help, in some way? What if you never saw bruises or welts or broken bones, but only heard screaming? Then what?

    The only guilt this anyone should feel, is the rest of the world for standing by while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s were slaughtered by their own leaders, while the world turned a blind eye. It’s part of the guilt I feel. We waited too long.

    Aren’t there other places crying out the same way? Begging the world to listen, to hear, to see. In my moral accountability, there is a hymn which says so much:

    Let none hear you idly saying,
    ” There is nothing I can do,”
    While the souls of men are dying.
    And the Master calls for you.
    Take the task He gives you gladly,
    Let His work your pleasure be;
    Answer quickly when He calleth,
    ” Here am I, send me, send me !”

    If not us, who?

  7. Dan’s argument is based upon the presupposition that death is the greatest evil and greatest tragedy. No doubt that by removing the restraining evil power of Saddam Hussein, that more evil was exposed in the ensuing conflicts. But I’m with Patrick Henry on this one when he said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”

  8. First, I want to say that I normally agree with things said here, or find things to examine in my own life and leadership. But this week’s email really disturbed me.

    As a former military officer, and a current leader in Michigan, I am a little put off by the selective moral arguments.

    Yes, we let a genie out of a bottle. Perhaps given world history, we should have known eliminating a common enemy (like Hussein) might open the door to sectarian or ethnic violence. Examples like the fall of the Soviet Union, the fall of Yugoslavia, and the exile of Idi Amin Dada perhaps should have given us clues that things might be more complicated – and that we might have trouble predicting how. I am certain the military researched these areas and forwarded recommendation on to the national leadership.

    There are some facts that might lead one to conclude, however, that we were morally bound to intervene in Iraq.

    These facts were conveniently overlooked, while other facts highlighting “tens of thousands of deaths and as many as 2 million refugees” were included.

    Saddam Hussein was responsible for about 1,000,000 deaths during his war against Iran from 1980-1988. He was responsible for an additional 1,000,000 murders of his own people — Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, opponents, dissidents, and others.

    He was also responsible for perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths in the period that surrounded Operation Desert Storm. If you count the entire Kurdish population as refugees – which is how they saw themselves under Hussein – add 5-6 million refugees to the at least 2 million deaths directly attributable to Hussein.

    Add to these figures that Hussein used chemical weapons repeatedly against Iran and against his own country.

    Saddam Hussein was no better than Hitler. If we were morally bound to intervene then, we are as equally bound to intervene now.

    Let me leave you with a quote from John Stuart Mill:

    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

    1. I have no problem, it our reason for invading Iraq was to stop the bloodshed. However, the American people were led to believe they were in danager due to the weapons of mass distruction. Our moral obliation has turned into a secondary reason or justification or being there.

    2. There is a very compelling argument here, re: intervention on behalf of the Iraqi people vis a vis intervention on behalf of the Jews.

      If we truly feel this moral obligation, how do we justify not stepping into Darfur. (That’s not to say we were wrong to go to Iraq.) And why can’t we seem to make this compelling moral case for intervention with our allies, such that they will ante-up in the same manner in which they did in WWII?

      I would feel more comfortable with this administration’s moral compass, if I felt that it was indeed a moral obligation that drove us to take the actions we have taken.

  9. Dan, I have wondered what happened to the American people when the President led us into war. Who spoke up against the actions? Who reminded us of Vietnam? Where were the voices of the other side? Where was the debate about our actions? Thousands of deaths later I still hear simplicity “support our troops” rather than complex conversation. Have the voices of reason been rendered incapable or is there a collective lack of courage? I fear we have “democratized” ourselves out of any sense of moral sensibility. Yes, everyone has a right to an opinion but all opinions are not equal.

  10. Thanks for taking a leadership stand on the Iraq civil war. Truth flows from universal law, not from personal nor political views.

    As Adjutant of the 48th Truck Group in the U.S. Army at the beginning of the Vietnam civil war, I knew we should not have engaged in such a conflict…that wasted many young lives.

    Yet, human history continues to repeat itself and many suffer the unintented consequences. For the first time in human history, it’s our choice.

    Transpersonal psychologist and psychiatrist Roger Walsh, author of “Essential Spirituality” (John Wiley & Sons), tells us that for the first time in human history every single one of our global problems is human-created. Every one is a reflection of our individual and collective choices and behavior. And this means that the state of the world is a reflection of the state of our minds.”

    “Our world is in grave trouble, we all know this. Our world is in grave, grave trouble, but our world also rests in good hands, because, actually, it rests in yours.”

  11. Only when our leaders in Washington or anywhere learn to “live” by values will we be able to move forward and address our common problems. Our morals and values have to especially be adhered to during difficult times. The moral barometer is transparency. When our followers are afraid to answer with honesty and candor, then our values have been diminished. Only when we as leaders can accept the good along with the bad can we (borrowing from you) lead with our best selves.

  12. Thank you, Dan, for having the courage to say what many of us are thinking and for also being honest enough to recognize our individual and collective guilt.

    1. If there is a collective guilt to be acknowledged, then why don’t I feel guilty?

      War can be politicized, and politically moralized, any number of ways in what has been catch-phrased as “spin”. This “spin” is always somehow strategic, not only politically but martially.

      If the question is why some strategic propaganda was used against U.S. Citizens in provoking them to support a war effort, the answer is simple: they otherwise wouldn’t have.

      Given the popular lack of support for the Vietnam police action, and it lasting freshness in the American “collective” mind, another police action would have found little support without a sufficient impetus, namely the demonization of Hussein as more than just a Hitler-like figure, but as a potential threat to world peace.

      What is interesting to point out, though, is that until Hussein was portrayed as being the possessor of massively destructive powers, very few Americans really cared who he was or what he was doing. Notice that many instances of the deaths of millions of human beings are brought up now — but not years ago when they occured — as proof of Hussein’s treachery and justification of the need to eliminate he and his autocracy.

      Americans now, today, are armed with the facts about Hussein to justify their politicized view of what is occuring in Iraq (and, perhaps in the near future, Iran), but there is a glaring lack of this caring knowledge in the past when it was most prevalent. This potential embarassment is, of course, not missed by propagandists, who therefore also espoused this war as “pre-emptive”: though this term would have applied best had some more preventative action been taken at a much earlier time or in an earlier administration, its use now deflects full scrutiny and wards off criticism by assuaging the common sense of the need to “do something”, an acrobatic performance out of a political need to avoid detraction.

      Truthfully, though, no matter how this or any war is “spun”, all war really amounts to a fairly gruesome butchery on the altar of “civilization”. The most enlightened treatises on the subject refuse to portray war at all, but to take it at face value, and “reveal” (without veiling) that war is truly, in every circumstance, reducable to an elimination of population and property. That war, in the reality of the matter, has nothing to do with any written documents (that the pen is mightier than the sword yet had to be written to have any effect) or any political ambitions, but is an act in and of itself, not an implement, not a tool. That those who fail to see this historically find their cause and life at the mercy of their soldiery, as all America would find herself should a succession of administrations similar to this one put us in similar straits or worse, and crash the economic bubble of the “New World” (our dear, green gem) down around our absurdist heads in martial law (“code red”, “defcon one”, Suspension Clause, John Warner Defense Authorization of 2007, etc.)

      So it would be much to any civilization’s benefit to realize not the potential but the real tragedy of war and not overextend their political arm at any whim. But tell this to any of either politicized side of the current argument for or against staying in Iraq, and find a deaf ear. Some say they are arguing for the sake of the lives of their or others’ children who are warring and perhaps even dying at this time, but that still is not the most valid argument. At the very least, that child pledged his or her life to the effort of the war. But at the very most, calling for the war to end over one more single human life is absurd. War is continuous loss of lives, so in life how would that one soldiers’ be expected to make such a difference in the course of so many others’?

      The war has already ensued; the only argument that is valid is for the progress of the war. It’s a tragedy that this has had to happen in our lives, but the sooner that is acknowledged as a real tragedy — *not* a “spun” one — then the more realistically we can all be on terms. And as a real tragedy, it involves real losses. Not political losses; not a clash of ideals verging on “collective” moral ambiguity. Real, actual losses, that can’t be politicized back to us.

      We could maintain our innocence (as in “early innocence”, not as in “innocent of wrong”) and demand a pull-out from the war now, and deal with the consequences of multitudes of other parties’ involvements, including the show of weakness and the near inevitability of further attempted attacks against America by those our military would fail to kill overseas. Or we could stay there, and start a draft, and send a significant portion of the American population — who really are quite tired of attempting to “American dream” away a life stifled by the stratifications of the wealthy class as it is, and whose “undesirable” lives won’t be missed by the wealthiest percentiles (unless there’s still a need to have your clothes folded for you, Sir or Ma’am) — to fight for the cause of — no, not the Nation — the War. It isn’t the person who lives or dies when war blooms on the face of this realized, rounded orb: it is the war which is alive, and dies as it sees fit. And War has no mind for morals and a bottomless appetite for innocent blood.

      The more anyone tries to moralize and politicize this or that side of a wartime strategy, the more they glorify the war — so whichever such side is doing the most to diminish the war is going to make the very least sense of all. There are many sterling examples of the mentality of human beings once they get set about to suborning their lives to the act of warfare. Here are some quotes exemplifying what I just wrote about:

      “One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.” — Thomas Sowell

      “Honor is like an island, rugged and without shores; once we have left it, we can never return” — Nicholas Boileau

      “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” — Joe Stalin, comment to Churchill at Potsdam, 1945

      “[To interplanetary archeologists of the future, the fate of the Earth would appear to be]. . .a very long and stable period of small-scale hunting and gathering was followed by an apparently instantaneous efflorescence of technology . . . leading rapidly to extinction. ‘Stratigraphically’ the origin or agriculture and thermonuclear destruction will appear essentially simultaneous.” — Lee & Devore

      “A visitor from Mars could easily pick out the civilized nations. They have the best implements of war.” — Herbert V. Prochnow

      “What a country calls its vital… interests are not things that help its people live, but things that help it make war. Petroleum is a more likely cause of international conflict than wheat.” — Simone Weil, Ecrits historiques et politiques, 1960

      “Battles, in these ages, are transacted by mechanism; with the slightest possible development of human individuality or spontaneity; men now even die, and kill one another, in an artificial manner.” — Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol 1, book VII, chapter 4

      “Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood.” — Gandhi, Non-violence in Peace and War, 1948

      “…when whole nations, at first guided by priests, after having slaughtered each other in the name of their chimerical divinities, later take up arms for their king or country, the homage offered to heroism counterbalances the tribute paid to superstition; not only do they then most rightly substitute these new heroes for their gods, but they also sing their warrior’s praises as once they had sung the praises of Heaven…” — The Marquis de Sade, Reflections on the Novel

      “The most appropriate type of daily life for me was a day-by-day world destruction; peace was the most difficult and abnormal state to live in.” — Yukio Mishima (playwright)

      “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” — Napoleon

      “The most persistent sound which reverberates through men’s history is the beating of war drums.” — Arthur Koestler

      “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

      “If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war.” — Pentagon official explaining why the U.S. military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War

      “In war, truth is the first casualty.” — Aeschylus

      “Wars usually have the effect of speeding up the process of history.” — Pieter Geyl, Debates With Historians

      “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” — Bertrand Russell

      “War has a deeper and more ineffable relation to hidden grandeurs in man than has yet been deciphered.” — Thomas de Quincey

      “No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time.” — Henry Kissinger

      “There is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of national self-respect and honor, beneath which are shielded and defended a people’s safety and greatness.” — Grover Cleveland

      “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

      “The permanent self-sacrifice, serving the Nation; the elite idea is strongly linked to the sacrifice idea, the poverty idea, the severe living idea; where the self-sacrifice stops, there stops the Legionary elite.” — exerpt of the Legionary Grades Oath, by Corneliu Codreanu.

      “Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private individuals.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1955

      “It is one thing to decry the rat race, for that is the good and honorable work of moralists. It is quite another thing to quit the rat race, to drop out, to refuse to run any further–that is the work of the individualist. It is offensive because it is impolite; it makes the rebuke personal; the individualist calls not his or her behavior into question, but mine.” — Paul Gruchow

  13. amy time i interfere in the affairs of governmennt of a sovereign nation i must accept partial or total responsiblity for the results. we have a responsibility to the people and government of irag. even though i oppose the war and our actions i believe we can not pull troops out without total chaos as a result.

    military might is not the solution. only when the iraqui people decide they are tired of the bloodshed and desire an end to it will there be peace in iraq. the people themselves must stop the violence.

    if we learned anything from viet nam, it should have been that no one (including the greatest military in the world) can fight another’s war without their full consent and cooperation. the united states can help but we can not bring democracy to a people. the people must bring democracy to themselves.

  14. This is classic Granholm-family mush mouth. Playing to those who are against the war by petting the elephant in the room – the un-anticipated level of secetarian violence post take over/liberation – while offering no solutions or leadership.

    What is “moral” about ignoring the larger moral obligation not to cut and run – as is being advocated by the left?

    Here are the facts: Sadam killed more people than have died “as a result” of of our invasion — and MORE people will die “as a result” if we withdraw. If being “moral” means protecting human life – we need to stay the course.

    B.

    1. This is just plain rude and there is no need to criticize families here. This is supposed to be a constructive leadership column and commentary that focus on how to better yourself as a human being. I am glad that you at least receive the column because that is most definitely your first step. Your second is to read it.

  15. The fact that I consider this to be a courageous post reflects on the nature of the national dialog. We all know what happened to the Dixie Chicks when they spoke up. And when I spoke up about the Dixie Chicks in my SpeakStrong.com newsletter, the same thing happened to me, (on a much smaller scale, of course because I operate on a much smaller scale than the Chicks.) There have been many shots across the bow for those who dared to question.

    Dan, in 2003 or 2004 I met a man on a plane who questioned both the loss of our civil rights and the war. At that time, it was rare to be able to ask questions without being attacked and labeled. It felt freeing to be able to discuss what was in my heart. This man told me about your newsletter. I enjoyed it and continued to read it, but I wondered why he thought to tell me about it. Now I know.

    If I believed this war was really about the liberation of those oppressed in Iraq I would be among those championing it and proclaiming the morality of it. To me, the way the war has been conducted has confirmed my initial skepticism.

    Dissent is easier to express now than it was then, but I still find that the response to sincere questioning is often blanket condemnation. The book Attack on Reason says it well. Emotional arguments try to take down logic and reason – and often succeed.

    The fact that the cost tends only to be measured in dollars and American lives speaks volumes to what we value.

    Thanks for your post – it’s a discussion that should be a normal part of the national dialog, but in fact is quite courageous indeed. I hope your demonstrated leadership inspires others to embrace true leadership.
    Meryl Runion
    Author of PowerPhrases
    http://www.speakstrong.com

  16. Dan,

    AMEN! When the history of the “War of Terrorism” is written fifty years from now (until then it’s just current events…), the judgement will be harsh. Harsh on the President, very harsh on the media who allowed themselves to be handled and managed by the administration, and harsh on the citizens of the US who, in their zeal to show support for the troops, blindly accepted the need for a needless war. Indeed, the guilt is shared by all. Thank you for speaking out!

  17. Dan – Well stated and strongly supported.

    As a country, we have vastly overestimated the power of military action to solve world problems. Now we are paying the price.

    Strong leaders are needed who can advance the role of science, technology, reason and objective understanding of how things work to improve the human condition.

  18. I also agree with your assessment that the American people and their leadership are responsible for what happened in Iraq and we should take responsibility for it. I thank you for putting in print what has been on the mind of many of us.

    What frustrates me about the national debate is the lack of clarity on how we go about cleaning up the mess we made. Will accepting responsibility lead to vision on how to solve the problem? It seems that we need to do more than admit that we screwed up. That may be the starting point, but we have a long, hard slog ahead of us.

    Do we have the wisdom to determine the best (or least problematic) way forward and the courage to tread that path? I fear that the answer is no and, like Vietnam, we will just declare victory, pull out, and leave it to the Iraqis to deal with the chaos. And in doing so we as a nation will incur still more karmic debt that will haunt our children and grandchildren.

  19. Dan,
    Thank you for the courage you showed in your column today for speaking your [the] truth. I admire you greatly for doing this courageous thing.
    –Allen

  20. Dan, thanks for speaking up. Many will disagree with your comments, but they may be the same ones who disagreed with General Colin Powell when he said, as the Administration was planning this fiasco, that ‘if we break it, we’d better be ready to fix it’. It’s too bad some of the folks in Washington didn’t take THAT expert military officers’ advice at the time before launching into the unfortunate abyss in which find ourselves. With forethought, strategy and compassion, as a nation, we might be finding ourselves today in a much better economic position, in better standing throughout the world, and certainly with thousands upon thousands of our young, brave American’s in better mental and physical condition, and other thousands still with us. In my 60+ years I don’t know when I have ever been so disappointed in the top leadership of our country.

  21. Thank you for your courage and clarity. I agree with you 99%. I’ve argued since day one that if we want peace, we need to use peaceful methods, not guns. If we want to build and rebuild communities, we must not demonize our brothers and sisters.

    We must also take some responsibility for our oil gluttony. Our policies in the mid-East are shaped by companies that profit on our oil-rich diets.

    While enthanol, methanol, and biodiesel offer some relief, we must take a serious look at our “ecological footprints” and engage in rigorous, creative dialogue, action, and leadership toward sustainable, peaceful, and bright futures.

  22. Well said, Dan. While there is plenty of blame to go around on this issue, I also firmly believe that acknowledging our country’s share of the responsibility for the humanitarian disaster that is now Iraq is a necessary and important step towards any rationale long term solution. Acknowledgment of our errors is not, in my view, a sign of weakness but a mechanism through which we inform our future conduct to navigate a moral and strategic solution. Seen through a collective moral prism, it becomes clear (at least from my limited perspective) that a wholesale abandonment of Iraq and the conditions we helped create there is out of the question, much as I would like to conclude otherwise.

  23. Thanks for raising this important issue. After reading the comments of others, its clear to me that thoughtful people on all sides of this issue are trying to come to terms with our collective responsibility.

    However, I don’t think it is helpful to focus on our “guilt”. To me, the issue isn’t so much to try to figure out why protests at the beginning were unsuccessful or maybe too silent, or to the various important factors that seemed to justify the taking of arms. To me the moral imperative is “What do we owe to the Iraqi people now, and how can we best deliver on it?” While I’d love to have our troops home (I have a son who has served in the theater), and I’m not sure our current plan is advancing the needed outcome, I fear that simply bringing them home without a viable plan will result in even worse chaos in Iraq and potential destabilization of the entire region. Other foreign interests will move in for the spoils. My only thought is to go to the UN, hat in hand, and beg for a true international effort to bring justice to Iraq.

    We have let the genie out of the bottle. We can’t simply turn our backs and let ethnic cleansing ala Rwanda, Serbia, Germany, etc. to run its course again.

    1. Rick,

      I am in agreement with the moral imperative that you so clearly express. Thank you for taking this debate forward and focusing on the present and the future.

  24. Your comments are right on the mark. There are some estimates that put the Iraqi death toll at over a million. How long can we sit in our comfortable armchairs ignoring the carnage we ourselves have exacted in retaliation for an unrelated crime?

    Something has been wrong in this country for seven long years, starting with Mr. Cheney’s refusal to divulge those present at the initial energy meeting in spite of a court order to do so. The nose thumbing has continued unabated from there.

    Go to the White House home page and see for yourself. The Executive Order of July 17th that becomes effective today is breathtaking in it’s theft of our Constitional freedoms in the name of preventing “the destabilization of Iraq”. Make no mistake, the “war on terrorism” and the subsequent war in Iraq are symptoms of the larger reality which is the loss of our hard won freedoms. Morality? Morality has never been a part of this picture.

  25. Thank you for telling it like it is! It is time for all of us to be honest with ourselves on this horrific issue. You are absolutely right and your honesty and clarity is painful to hear. Your bravery at speaking the truth is admirable and refreshing.
    Thanks,

  26. Maybe this will help me go further than just criticism by being more aware of and sensitive to the ethical and moral issues. I will forward it to our three kids their spouses and grandchildren.

    Thanks! Don Mathews

  27. Well said.

    This finely written piece takes the focus off the lack of leadership coming from Lansing these days to solve the problems of our state. The state is sinking, no one is leading, but this takes us to a far away land where no one is this state (except our troops from Michigan) can affect.

    1. Jack,
      Thanks for the “well said.” I disagree about both points. First, this “far away land” is of utmost importance. America’s character and America’s lives and the lives of millions of others are at stake. Perhaps you do not, but I believe in a thought-filled active citizenry, and I think we have a role in helping each other think and act — whether by demonstrations, letters, or the happy day when a pollster calls us.
      As to Lansing, you are totally right that we need to stay focused on it. I believe it is another case where voters are so easily misled, and so citizen activism is critical. But that’s another story for another day.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you weighed in.
      DanMulhern

  28. Every past president, every other country and most presidential candidates realized correctly that Saddam had to go. We are doing a good job in Iraq and it is pivotal to the success against the evil dictates of Islam. These people are not satisfied with us leaving Iraq or even dropping our support of Israel. They are commanded by their “religion” to carry our violent jihad against all non muslims. This is the beggining of a very long war that Bin Laden declared on us in 1993. The elephant in the room is your passivity and moral relativism. You need to realize the gravity of losing in Iraq and stop placating your feelings by admitting that war is bad. This war is necessary to the future of our kids and our way of life.

  29. Hallelujah!!!! I agree with EVERY single word you wrote today (9/17/07)!!!

    Before this war began I told my family, I hope this war doesn’t “open a can of worms” and sure enough that’s what it did!!!!

    It is “trickling” into other countries as well such as Afghanistan!

    Thank you SO much for saying what you did!!!

  30. Dad,

    This has got to be one of my all-time favorites. (Sorry, the political stuff pumps me up!)

    Let me begin by saying to all the commenters that argued for/against the war that you need to read the column again because, as much as I wish it were, it is not about whether or not we should be in Iraq or –as my dad SO PLAINLY states– whether or not Sadaam Hussein (or any other Iraqi) is morally responsible for his/her actions. My dad is saying that we, as Americans and as human beings, are morally responsible for the atrocities that we have committed by entering Iraq. (In this column, he is not arguing that we should not have entered in the first place, but seeing as many people that have commented here have opened that can of worms, I’d love to address it in a minute.) People are so quick to point fingers elsewhere, (“-but he started it!”) but I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned from my dad in my almost-18 years of menteeship is, GET OVER YOUR PRIDE and take responsibility. I am an extremely proud person, much more so than my dad, which makes saying sorry; admitting fault; seeking first to understand, then to be understood; putting myself into someone else’s shoes; etc. very difficult for me. But the focus of this week’s RFL was US. We have directly caused millions of deaths. Now, whether or not the “other side” has caused deaths, should you not feel sorry for those who were killed directly because of our actions? We are morally at fault. Therefore, we should feel the guilt and sorrow for all of the lives lost at our expense.

    As for the political debate…
    YES, Sadaam Hussein committed terrible crimes that should make any human’s heart ache. However, that does NOT justify our actions for 2 reasons: 1) Had we originally sought to end the violence caused by Hussein’s regime, we would simply be one (morally sound) country seeking to help another. We did not originally enter the country on the premise of solving an Iraqi sectarian crisis, but rather in a fury to avenge the loss of 3000 American lives, and 2) We must take responsibility for our own actions, regardless.

    Ok, last thing. I really liked when you said:
    “Sometimes I wonder if the horror is just too much for the President to face. But leaders stand to repeat the mistakes they’ve made if they don’t face the past — and bring it to their followers to face with them — with brutal honesty.”
    Because it reminded me of “The Lion King.” Simba runs away and lives a good portion of his life in the jungle because he is afraid of what will happen if he “faces his past,” and goes back to Pride Rock. Had Nala not come, Simba would have continued to make the same mistake, hiding, horrified of what had happened because of his decision. Now is the time for us to make amends with, not only the families that we have destroyed, but also the UN that we have turned our back on. Now is the time to return, “hat in hands,” or tail between legs, so that we can begin to rebuild from the ashes (as in The Lion King) and create new, better policies and stronger alliances.

    Lots of love, thoughts, and admiration,
    Kate

    1. Kate,

      At some point in the next 50 years, this war will be looked at as an incredibly pivotal point in world history, and will be looked upon much more positively than it is now (as will George W. Bush). “We have directly caused millions of deaths”?? I am assuming that you are referring to this Iraq war, right? Any factual basis for this other than the opinions of anti-war extremists? We’ve committed “atrocities” by entering Iraq? Please do not say that you are referring to Abu Ghraib… what atrocites are you referring to?

      In my opinion war is the last resort when all other options have been exhausted. It is never the desirable option. It pangs me that over 350 americans died per day – PER DAY – in World War II, just as I am saddened by the losses of Americans, coalition forces and civilians in this war. I do not wish others to die, however I know that our troops are making every effort limit civilian casualties. What of our enemy? Do they avoid civilians or target them? I am of a ‘live and let live’ mind, but our enemy is not. We are confronted with individuals who aim to kill anyone who does not embrace “there is no God but allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”. They believe that allah will reward them in heaven for killing us. And by “us” I am referring to you and I, and everyone that we know – because they view all of us as the great infidel. This is a war that we do not wish to fight, but that we MUST fight… and in fighting a war, civilian casualties will occur. I suggest that you read of the Bataan Death March, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and watch the Nick Berg execution (if you can find it anywhere online). Get an idea of what our enemy’s mindset is, then compare it to our own. We have no desire to dominate or conquer the world politically, religiously or physically, yet we are the target of radicals who want to make the world muslim. Our moral authority to continue this war is our continuation as a nation… appeasement is never the correct route (even Neville Chamberlain admitted he was wrong in that aspect).

      I see further down that you suggest “electing Hillary”, so I naturally assume that you were a supporter of Bill Clinton. Are you filled with moral confliction because of the missle strikes that Bill ordered on Iraq? What about the bombing of Bosnia? Or is your moral outrage limited to presidents to whom you are politically opposed?

      Winston Churchill once said “If, as a child, you are not liberal, you have no heart. If, as an adult, you are not conservative, you have no brain.”

      1. Whoa – I had added some more to that, but it was cut off: my post concluded that the Churchill comment is not meant to be an insult, rather that you seem to be quite intelligent, and if you examine issues from a variety of standpoints, I feel that you may have a different view of them.

      2. Luke,
        I think it’s great that you are inviting Kate to a little more precision in her use of words. With all due respect, I might suggest the same of you. Your attacks on Kate are based in fact — at least in questioning hers – yet the power of your argument FOR this war and this president is fully loaded up in your analogies and not in any facts. So, I’d invite you to consider your two main analogies on which your argument rests: WWII and Churchill.

        The ready analogies to World War II – a war we entered as I assume you know the history you are offering Kate – with incredible restraint, care, etc., is a wonderful debate technique that pulls at the heartstrings but offers an opening for a thousand distinguishing facts. In 50 years I hardly think people will say Iraq was just like WWII. Was Hitler a bad guy? They will say YES. And Saddam a bad guy? Why YES. I’ll give you that. But the distinguishing features are innumerable. Hitler, as I recall, had overrun and occupied most of Europe. Japan and Italy were allied with them and doing some mighty damage as well. Surely Iraq was in no sense equivalent to the powerful and destructive force of the Axis powers Luke?

        But two other distinguishing features – since the WWII analogy is at the heart of your argument — seem absolutely essential and largely passed over by so many who are so sure we should be where we are. First, you make this statement in your post: “In my opinion war is the last resort when all other options have been exhausted.” And you square your position with the way we initiated this war? How can that “exhaust all options” square with the actual facts and context of our entry into Iraq? We totally short-circuited the UN. Yes we had our alleged justifications – especially the WMDs that we were totally sure were there — what a massive miscalculation that was. We got way out in front of nearly every one of our allies in the effort. Some – like Italy and Spain – we displomatically muscled in, only to lose them when our alleged justification evaporated and their people started to die. Our hubristic certainty got so badly in the way.

        Second, I am so befuddled when people act like Al Quaeda in Iraq is like Japan in World War II. They are NOT contained by a boundary. They do not wear uniforms. They are not created, funded, supported by any particular government (though it seems they are supported and financed by some). Indeed, according to what I have read of the Iraq Study Commission, Saddam was not supporting them; in fact they were in some cases opposing him. The popular myth from the right is that Al Quaeda rebels are now flocking to die in Iraq. And that there are a finite number of them, and we are “winning.” Meanwhile, have we noticed that Osama hasn’t grabbed a gun and come to martyr himself there? Have you noticed that this is indeed their strategy? There are cells that have attacked in Madrid, London, Indonesia, etc., etc., etc. I suspect they are enjoying watching us bogged down in Iraq. What a sad and sick thought that is.

        Worse, it’s hard not to think that our unwelcome presence in the Middle East is not creating more radicals and not less. Meanwhile, we deplete our treasury – with a new price tag of $190 billion for 2008. My state’s share is now above $12 billion – 7 times the deficit that nearly shut our state down.

        Do we need a war on terror? Absolutely. And a big part of that war is that we win the war of minds. How? Stop (at least implicitly) lumping all Muslims together. Continue to try to bring order in Iraq. Push political control to the Iraqis as quickly as practical so they, not we can be responsible for the success or lack thereof, which is generating pain, hopelessness, and a desire for vengeance (that’s human nature, not just radical Islamic nature). I trust that you know that polls of the Iraqi people have consistently and increasingly said that they want us out.

        Finally, as to your quotation of Churchill apparently meant to seal the deal: I’d invite you to consider this from Wikipedia about the quote on conservatives:
        “Furthermore, the Churchill Centre, on its Falsely Attributed Quotations page, states ‘there is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this.'”

        Hmmm.

        danmulhern

        1. Dan,

          I am confident that I read the Churchill comment many years ago in a biography – I will try to locate it, but it may be difficult as it was a book in my High School library. The quote stuck with me – similar to how a woman accused him of being drunk and his response was “Yes, madam, and you are ugly. But tomorrow, I will be sober.” Churchill was very quick with wit, and I could easily envision him saying the Liberal/Conservative quote, especially since he was on both sides at different points in his life. I will attempt to find my source… but I see the quote on the Churchill Centre as you stated. Originally, I did not read it with the ages of 25 and 35, rather the way I had remembered it was ‘child’ and ‘adult’. My attribution of that quote was not to ‘seal the deal’ simply that it appears that your daughter is intelligent enough that she will not remain a liberal forever, provided she considers multiple viewpoints before making up her own mind about issues. I was not trying to influence or advise Kate, but I think she is ignoring or dismissing a lot of opposing ideas at this point in her life. It is similar to the reason that I listen to you – I find it entertaining to listen to your viewpoints even though we are completely opposed ideologically. I think to myself ‘could he be right?’ then I hold a brief mental debate, and generally side against you.

          In WWII, I don’t think that anyone will counter that the goal of the axis was world domination – Politically. Let’s face it – Had the Germans further developed the ME-262 as well as advanced their own nuclear program (as attested to by Oppenheimer and Einstein) the axis would have conquered the world, there would have been a brief period of peace, then the axis powers would have declared war on each other, most likely with the Nazis winning as they had the most advanced technology, ushering in Hitler’s dream of a ‘Thousand Year Reich’. Well, the goal of radical Islam (not to be confused with the 90% of Muslims who are peace oriented) is WORLD DOMINATION – religiously. Dan, they believe that you and I, as Catholics, not believing in the “prophet Muhammad” should be slaughtered – and that Allah will reward them in the afterlife for doing so. I see this war as being AS important if not MORE important than WWII. You make an excellent point about the enemy NOT belonging to a particular country. In Iraq, we are fighting INSURGENTS from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Iraq. We are not fighting a uniformed army (side note, the third Geneva convention concerning POW’s applies to soldiers “having a fixed, distinctive sign recognizable at a distance” fighting for a country). In a war, I would define winning as killing more of the enemy than the enemy is killing of us, and our troops are doing just that. I am not trying to be callous with that statement – I realize that every soldier has a family that is devastated by this war, but what is our option? Do we sit back, wait for the next terrorist attack, and then counter it? Or do we try to draw out the enemy onto a battlefield where the best of the best Americans have volunteered to fight them? I woke up this morning thinking of ways to make my life and the lives of my family members better, and I’m sure that you did the same – there exist an estimated 10 to 50 million people (Muslim extremists) who woke up this morning trying to think of ways to kill you and I and our families simply because we do not worship as they do. That is the fact of the matter. The Japanese effectively instilled into their population that the Emperor was god, and that the Chinese were ‘yellow devils’ and the allies were ‘white devils’. This mindset led to the invasion of Manchuria where Japanese soldiers would play a game by tossing babies in the air and catching them on bayonets, and Japanese soldiers eating our prisoners as the war in the pacific was winding down. The Nazis instilled into their population that the Jews were less than human. This mindset let to the death camps. Radical Muslims believe that non-Muslims are infidels and that they are carrying out Allah’s will by killing us. This mindset led to 9/11 and 3/11 and the bombing of the USS Cole and the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, not to mention the Israeli-Palestinian situation. War is the last resort against these people, as there is no negotiation or diplomacy that we can entertain short of offering them our lives.

          Why Iraq? Why not continue in Afghanistan? Or attack Syria, Iran or any other nation where we know radical Muslims are? There is a simple answer – we were justified in invading Iraq, and not the other countries. Think about this: When did the first Gulf war end? People errantly believe that the war ended on 2/28/1991 – but that is the date of the CEASE FIRE. A cease-fire is not a peace treaty to end a war (similar to how we have a cease fire with North Korea since the “end” of the Korean War). Iraq agreed to certain terms and conditions in order to maintain the cease-fire, and violated those terms on at least 17 occasions since the cease-fire was agreed to. The US had every right to begin hostilities again after the FIRST violation of the cease-fire. Even Osama Bin Laden calls the Iraq war “the third world war”. Personally, I think of it as the fourth world war (the Cold War being the Third). It is true that many countries did not join our coalition this time and I wonder at their motivation for choosing not to do so. But let’s look at the track record of the UN. The UN did NOTHING as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge slaughtered 2 million Cambodians. The UN did NOTHING as Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran in the 80’s, and against the Kurds in the 90’s. The UN did NOTHING as 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered (many with machetes) in the Tutsi genocide. The UN is doing NOTHING as 600,000 Sudanese are being slaughtered in Darfur. The UN could not even handle a simple program where Iraq would sell oil and buy food and medicine with the proceeds WITHOUT 11 billion dollars in kickbacks funneled back to Saddam himself. The UN is filled with individuals who are far from “leading with their best selves”.

          I’m not even going to counter the financial argument, as if something is the right thing to do, considering the financial ramifications of doing the right thing is inconsequential. Out of curiosity, how are you calculating Michigan’s contribution to the 190 billion dollar expense as 12 billion, or what is your source for that number? Forgive me, I’m an accounting nerd.

          I know that you are no fan of President Bush (and there is much that I disagree with him about), but consider this: When he took office in 2001, if you were to look at the countries of the Middle East (West to East from the Mediterranean Sea) you have Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Politically, they WERE Free Country, Islamic Dictatorship, Islamic Dictatorship, Islamic Dictatorship, and Islamic Dictatorship. When he leaves in 2009 they will be Free Country, Islamic Dictatorship, Fledgling Democracy, Islamic Dictatorship, Fledgling Democracy. Which situation is better for the world? Let’s not forget, our own Revolutionary war (which only about 50% of colonists supported) went on for 8 years. We did not have a constitution until 12 years after the war began. 37 years after the war began, England tried to reclaim the United States in the war of 1812. 85 years after the beginning of the Revolutionary war, we fought the Civil war because of different interpretations of that Constitution. Country formation and strong self-government are not easy processes by any means, but if you use the US as a standard, Iraq is ahead of where we were. I only hope and pray that the government takes hold with minimal loss of life.

          1. Luke,

            If the ideas that I am “ignoring” or “dismissing” are yours, you are very wrong indeed; after fully reading every word of each of your posts, in some cases more than once, I stand rooted much more firmly to my very proudly liberal position.

            First, I would like to echo my dad’s point about the absolute disanalogy between WWII and the war we are currently in. As you brought up new reasons to compare them, I would like to bring into light new reasons to contrast those very reasons you compared.
            (1) The fact that Muslim extremists and the Axis powers had the same ultimate goal (which wasn’t even the same, as you pointed out, one was political and the other is religious, which in itself is an enormous difference) in no way makes them equal enough to compare them fairly. The difference is how they go about achieving those goals. Terrorists operate using very well-planned “sneak-attacks.” The Nazis and their allies marched through countries and battled until they conquered. This brings me to my second point,
            (2) BECAUSE we are fighting a COMPLETELY different enemy, we need to consider all of our options before jumping into the “last resort” of war. Very few people will disagree with your analysis of the extremist Muslim faith, but terrorists will not be “drawn onto the battlefield.” The people that will be drawn onto the battlefield will be the citizens of Iraq that no longer want us occupying their country. Are they our enemy? Because if they are, then surely you are correct in your assertion that we have killed more of the enemy than they have killed of our soldiers. But to say that we have killed more than 3,800 TERRORISTS?

            You said that we were justified for entering Iraq. I think an incredibly large portion of the country would join me in asking, What was that justification?? The UN did not join us because we had none.

            And as to the UN, you listed a series of atrocities (if I may use the word) that have happened or are happening throughout the world where the UN did “NOTHING.” Well, why didn’t we charge in without them in those situations? Surely the slaughtering is worthy of our attention? Or only if the slaughtering occurs on US soil are the victims worthy of our attention? We did not enter Iraq to help the Iraqis in any way.
            But, you may argue, we have helped them! We are stabilizing their government so that it may run functionally, (“the ends justifying the means” is just so absurdly present here and I hope for your sake that you do not agree with those politics) with the US as it’s model.

            Well, there, I find another problem with your analogy. JUST because the Iraqi government is developing, absolutely does not mean that it is following any kind of model created by the US. There are SO many dissimilarities, but here is what I find to be the most important:
            The US was unclaimed territory that England wanted to keep its stakes in. The United States was fighting for (religious) independence, and unless you wish to argue that we, the United States, are now trying to claim territory on Middle Eastern Oil –which, as a conservative, I surely doubt you are willing to do– it cannot be disputed that Iraq was not unsettled territory whose settlers want democracy. It was an established nation (albeit not very well established, in “our” eyes) that had very few ties, other than geographical, with the organization we are “at war with.”

            The only way to win the war on terrorism is through intelligence. We should remove troops from Iraq (of course, as safely and securely as possible, without taking 2 steps back) and put the funding that would have gone into next year’s battling into the tracking down of Al Qaeda members.

            And personally, I would never chose my political stance based on a quote from anyone. I’d rather understand the issues and make “my own decision.”

            Kate

          2. Luke,
            Looks like we should have you over for dinner.
            I appreciate your willingness to engage.
            As Kate said, you have written a lot, but you still miss the two massive differences in analogy:
            1. This is not WWII other than for the long term “take over the world” goal. If we went to war with every nut down through history that wanted to take over the world there’d be war on the entire planet all the time.  The President you expect to go down in history as great – perhaps with a photo of him in his jump suit, declaring victory some 1000+ days ago – rushed into this war without solid justification and without strategic political backing.  And young men and women are bearing the cost of it.
            2. As you admit, Al Quaeda is not Japan. Who has sucked who in where? We are drawing them like a magnet? Or they continue to work on their cells all over the world and laugh at the mighty US that can’t even find Osama. We can thump our chests about “killing more of them” – an absurd definition of winning (we LOST in Normandy, the Russians like LOST in Russia to Napoleon and to Hitler by your standards); winning is about strategic ends. Even our own generals have said we can’t win this war militarily. Put away the testosterone about killing more of them than they kill of us and think long term about how we defeat radicl Islam. I’d suggest we show some humility, manage some of our own issues, make friends in the Middle East, work with the Saudis (the home, as you no doubt know of about 85% of the 911 terrorists), etc.
            As to financial figures, if you want to depress yourself about your hero George Bush’s war, you can find figures at the cost of war website.
            Have a good one.
            Dan

          3. Kate and Dan,

            World domination is still world domination – whether the goal is to have a nazi flag flying throughout the world, or having three billion women in burkhas, going to mosques and praying to allah 5 times per day. The enemy wants to conquer us. The nazis wanted to impose their government around the globe, the Islamic radicals want to impose their religion around the globe. I’m at a loss as to how you cannot make that connection, and see and see how each enemy goal is equally dangerous. The fact that these terrorists see themselves as devoted to Islam with no allegiance to a particular country makes them more difficult to fight, as it is difficult to identify the enemy. Kate and Dan, WHAT IS YOUR SOLUTION?? If your argument is that we are angering terrorists now that we are engaging them militarily, by that logic there should have never been a 9/11 or a USS Cole bombing since we were not fighting them at that time. Bin Laden declared war on the US in the early 1990’s, we simply dismissed him as a nutjob. Now we are fighting him and other like-minded individuals.

            Kate, I do not buy your contention that Iraqi civilians are so upset with the US that they are taking up arms against our soldiers. The department of defense website defendamerica.gov – a government entity, and I know how much you good liberals loooove government =), does not reflect that assumption. There is progress being made in Iraq (progress being defined as a reduction in violence). Even your own good liberal leaders in DC had to admit that “the surge appears to be working”. And as for us killing more of the enemy (what I believe this war is about) I have no doubt that the US forces have exceeded by far the number of enemy dead in comparison to US troops. In Fallujah alone, 95 wonderful american soldiers, who were better men than I could ever hope to be, gave their lives devastating 95 families over here in the States. I grieve and pray for every one of them, and wish that we could live in a world of peace and harmony. However, 1,350 insurgents were killed in that same battle, as well as over 1,500 captured. That’s just one battle. I would call that a victory for the Allied forces, wouldn’t you? Dan brings up a great point about how we won battles in WWII even though we suffered more casualties than the enemy. I know it’s going to seem like I’m picking and choosing here, but that is one major difference in WWII and Iraq. If you will re-read my posts, I do not think that I said that the wars ARE the same, but they are analogous in that: world domination is our enemy’s goal, and that the IMPORTANCE of our victory is the same. In WWII, sacrificing 7,000 troops to gain a beachhead WAS considered victory, as we were pushing the Germans or Japanese off of land that they had previously occupied – and the goal of that war (from our standpoint) was to drive the enemy off of land that they had claimed. We are all in complete agreement that our enemy in this war does not occupy a particular country, rather they travel throughout many nations, but they are still our enemy. Our choices are to engage them militarily in an attempt to kill them, or sit back and allow them to plot and kill us. I don’t mean to be so blunt about this, but they have proven this time and again.

            As far as not finding bin Laden is concerned, we never actually found Hitler’s body (or at least there is no proof of the Russian contention that they found his cremated remains) but there is no doubt of an Allied victory in WWII. Hell, teams of searchers working for about a month cannot find Steve Fossett OR his plane in the southwest of OUR OWN COUNTRY – and this is supposed to be out in the open in a non-war zone. Imagine if he were trying to hide in an elaborate cave system…

            No counterpoint was made to my contention that the first Gulf War had resulted in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty, and that multiple violations of that agreement by Saddam were ample justification to return to military action. I believe that the UN was more concerned with their own financial interests rather than doing the right thing, and they were exhibiting the same pre-9/11 mentality that Dan is stating… in the words of Rodney King “Can’t we all get along”. In a perfect utopia this is the ideal, however there is no way that we can be friends with people who want us dead. I cannot stress that point strongly enough. They do not want us dead because we are in Iraq, or Afghanistan or have bases in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan, Korea or any of 100+ nations that we have troops stationed – they want us to die BECAUSE WE EXIST.

            Kate, I hope that you didn’t think through your depiction of the American Revolution, because if this is truly your perception of the Revolution, you need to re-learn about it. The US was NOT unclaimed territory, rather the present day USA was divided among England, France, and Spain. These nations fought each other for their claims here (The French and Indian War) using indians and colonists to achieve their objectives. We fought for separation from England governmentally, not for territory. In fact, if you read the Declaration of Independence (adopted 15 months AFTER the revolutionary war began) you will not find one reference to religious freedom amongst the list of King George’s “…repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…”. Taking such a narrow view of the American Revolution is sort of like saying that the Civil War was fought over slavery – there is much more to it than that oversimplification. An Iraqi revolution could not take place in the same manner as our revolution as Saddam made it clear that he would kill anyone with an inkling of thoughts to overthrow him. Have you seen the video of Saddam coming to power from 1979? He is in a sort of assembly hall with all high-ranking Iraqi officials, and he has a list read of individuals whom he suspected of trying to undermine him. As each name is read, soldiers escort that individual out of the room and execute him, as Saddam laughs and smokes a cigar. He made it clear that no one was to question him (ironically, he kept getting re-elected with 99% of the vote – I often wonder about that 1% who did not vote for him…). As you can see here, since your vision for the world is peace, and my vision for the world is peace, one can easily conclude that, among the free exchange of ideas the ultimate goal is the betterment of the people as a whole. However, in a dictatorship where dissention is stifled, the goal is the preservation of the dictatorship whether or not it benefits the people, and the people cannot say boo about it. This is why I believe that we chose to engage Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Once peace is eventually established and Iraq can defend itself as a sovereign nation with free political discourse, the country’s actions will be for the betterment of the people as well, rather than for the preservation of an individual’s power. When this occurs, it will be an example for other oppressed nations to look to and long to be like. Al-Qaeda can only survive in an environment where others are told how to think, because if people start thinking on their own thoughts like: “If allah wants all of these people dead, and he is supremely powerful, why wouldn’t he plague non-muslims with natural disasters and eradicate them from earth so that it is populated with only muslims?” Or, “Rather than punishing non-believers, why don’t I enjoy this life that allah has given me, express to non-believers my religious views, and let allah punish them as he sees fit when they come before him at judgment”. If people have the freedom to think and believe on their own, they would not choose the path that Al-Qaeda is on.

            As for why we haven’t intervened in other world atrocities, I cannot answer that. I feel certain that we would militarily intervene in Darfur if not for the fact that the stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan are higher for the world as a whole, and that the constant drumbeat of liberals around the world would intensify the cry of “American Imperialism” if we were to send troops there. Also, the anti-war left in this country would not stomach the loss of life intervention in Darfur would entail. I believe that Clinton ignored doing the right thing in Rwanda because it would necessitate ground troops dying, and he did not want that negativity to surround him. I’m not trying to belittle the previous president, or prop up this one, but it seems to me that Clinton acted in a manner that was most beneficial to himself and his poll numbers (examples: instead of engaging the enemy on the ground in Bosnia, Iraq or Pakistan which would have resulted in the loss of American troops, he chose high-altitude bombing or cruise missile strikes) – Bush acts in a manner that he believes is right for the nation without regard to his legacy, his poll numbers or even his own political party. Which one is leading with his best self? Please do not pose the ridiculous “oil” argument. Let us assume this presupposition that oil is the purpose of the Iraq war. Wouldn’t our troops retreat to surrounding the oil supply and allow the rest of the nation to be overrun by insurgents? After all, we would have our objective.

            As for the financial aspect, I’m skeptical about the ‘cost of war’ website for the following reasons – 1) who is this ‘National Priorities Project’ and what is the source for their numbers? 2) How are they allocating their estimation of the war costs among individual states? 3) If we take the amount of defense spending from 2000 (a good base line since that is the last year of Clinton and the US is not at war) and subtract that amount from 2003-2006 defense spending (2007 numbers not on the congressional budget office website yet) we yield 692.7 billion dollars of additional defense spending. That amount not only is for the Iraq war, but also military pay increases, Afghanistan and all increased military and homeland spending associated with a post-9/11 USA… are we to assume that all other increases in defense spending only account for 1/3 of the defense budget increase and the rest is devoted to Iraq?? That does not pass the smell test. Also, if we accept that this war is as important as WWII (as I most certainly do) the expense of the Iraq war as related to GDP and Tax Revenue is miniscule in comparison to that of WWII. Let us not ignore our moral duty out of the necessity to retain dollars, if so, we are putting a price on doing the right thing.

            The sooner that people understand that this is not “my hero George W. Bush’s war” and that it is OUR war as they [our collective enemy – Islamic radicals] want to eradicate all non-muslims from the face of the earth. As far as acting in Iraq is concerned, I found an excellent example of our rationale in a speech delivered on the floor of the Senate years ago:

            “While our actions should be thoughtfully
            and carefully determined and
            structured, while we should always
            seek to use peaceful and diplomatic
            means to resolve serious problems before
            resorting to force, and while we
            should always seek to take significant
            international actions on a multilateral
            rather than a unilateral basis whenever
            that is possible, if in the final analysis
            we face what we truly believe to be a
            grave threat to the well-being of our
            Nation or the entire world and it cannot
            be removed peacefully, we must
            have the courage to do what we believe
            is right and wise.
            I believe this is such a situation, Mr.
            President. It is a time for resolve. Tomorrow
            we must make that clear to
            the Security Council and to the world.”

            That is the conclusion of a speech titled ‘We Must Be Firm With Saddam Hussein” delivered by John Kerry on November 9, 1997. Don’t believe me? I copied it verbatim from the Congressional Record – you can find it by going to the Congressional Record website, and searching for 1997+Saddam+Kerry. He makes a strong argument for unilateral action if the UN fails to act, doesn’t he?? And this website is a record of what is spoken on the floor of congress. It is not influenced by outside opinion as organizations calling themselves the “National Priorities Project” or “moveon.org” or “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” or any other groups with political leanings are.

            I love the discussion, but I need to get back to work – there’s new taxes that I have to pay for =)

            All the best,
            Luke

          4. I know this discussion was from the beginning of October, but an internet tradition is to keep favorite discussions alive (so I hope nobody thinks I’m interrupting?) I came back to find a series of quotes, and found this enthrallingly long argument, and for some reason read the whole thing. I’d like to offer my opinions and, potentially, insights, and for other peoples’ sakes, some corrections and validations, on a subject that is highly important and not so well discussed as found here. I think Dan’s blogsite is superb and hopefully it will stay up for a long while. More trafficked blogsites, of more widely-known citizens and politicos, don’t receive such bright or avid commentary, or offer such a vital basis (leadership).

            “We, as Americans and as human beings, are morally responsible for the atrocities that we have committed by entering Iraq.” — K.GMulhern

            That’s a good start, but now you’re infringing on my right to be presumed innocent. How about if you start with that whole lump of clay and divide it, and set some aside: first those who didn’t vote for Bush (even if they did join the military overseas); then those who didn’t support the war (yay, you’re safe) — also even if they did join the military overseas (it’s part of signing up, you have to obey orders); and of what remains, you have bloodthirsty civilians and actual soldiers. I’d say out of those soldiers, you can absolutely divide-out those who faced disciplinary measures for failing to obey orders, and of what remains “in” (the original lump), I think you’d be far more correct in placing this guilt on them. But please, don’t lump me in just because I’m American — try harder for my sake (and your own, citizen) by protecting at least the presumption of innocence.

            Furthermore, Kate Granholmmulhern, I don’t think you’re all that liberal. Modern media have overuse the terms “liberal” and “conservative” so much that it’s become catch-all, and that’s not the intention of forming words, for them to become hyperrealized (overused to the point of becoming void of meaning). And modern media’s use of these terms more closely resembles the dividers on a tennis court than any political sensibility. Philosophically I think you are liberal: you would “tweak” your view (a bit) in order to support a group you see as most fit. But politically, you’re a classic conservative. Well, or you’re trying to be, but just haven’t had time to justify so many things logically. And in any case, when you argue with a neo-con (different than a classic conservative, by far) you are going to be told again and again (probably by allies and opponents alike) that you’re a well-defined “liberal”. That doesn’t make it true, but that’s the name-game (sticks and stones, yada yada…)

            You said that a conservative would not admit that our Iraq skirmish is over Oil. However, a classic conservative would have to admit that, as it is so apparent and has been from the beginning. A neocon would deny it to the fullest. A classic liberal … would be on and on about ideals and utopian dreams and so on, and using bumpersticker sloganism (as you mentioned you’re not apt to do). As a classic conservative, however, you pointed out what’s obvious and presented a logical conclusion. Just an example of how conservative you actually are. Typically, I find it’s true, liberals need leadership and classic conservatives exude it.

            I think your analogy between colonial America and modern Iraq fell apart just a little bit, but only grammatically. What you were saying is: there was the New World (unclaimed); the discovery (for Spain); the settlement (international); the colonisation (English); and then the rebellion (American); and that the rebellion signifies a change in the ideals of the people who inhabit the land as to how they should be told to live their lives. Whereas in Iraq, we have a decently sized slice of the cradle of civilization, old as the hill, and a foreign country comes along to violently impose its tradition upon them. However, the nearest analogy between what’s happening in Iraq and what happened in our war for independence (and this is why I agree with you and could see your analogy for what it was) would be to say that Iraqi civilians are killing our soldiers, which is basically what’s happening. And you meant to offer some insight as to perhaps why, and you used our shared national history to illustrate, so kudos.

            Now some things Luke said intrigue me. The commentary feature in Dan’s blog here doesn’t allow nested comments below a certain point, and most of what I’m responding to lies upon that threshold. So I’ll make a mixed response, here, and all what’s below is addressed directly to Luke (oh, and I agree with your view that the war on terrorism can only be won through Intelligence):

            “This is a war that we do not wish to fight, but we MUST fight… and in fighting a war, civilian casualties will occur.” — Luke

            I find it puzzling that your idea of war necessarily implies the loss of innocent life. I bet you and I share a similar distaste for international standards of wartime conduct, though for probably different reasons: I don’t think you should necessarily have to wait to be fired upon first before firing on an obvious opponent, for example. It completely destroys decisive and victorious tactical precision (where do we place the fraction of a human life lost to probable outcomes, on the arm? The leg? The heart?) However, I doubt your real sense of strategy. Can you name which war America was involved in, wherein it was strategic to kill innocent people? And I’ll preempt the most obvious citations from Vietnam by stating plainly that a child firing an automatic weapon at you (and the many other obvious heart-tugging examples) is not an “innocent” casualty.

            “The Axis would have conquered the world, there would have been a brief period of peace…” — Luke

            You know, even the Italian arm of the Axis didn’t stand up against the slaughter of Jews? I won’t ask you to allow me to ask you to think like a Jew, I can’t do it, I won’t, no. But I will ask you this, had your mother’s mother’s mother been Jewish during WW2, would you have assumed that an Axis victory would have been followed by “a brief period of peace”?

            “I would define winning as killing more of the enemy than they are killing of us…” — Luke

            So… in your strategic opinion, if you have 300 men who manage to kill 20,000 of the enemy (a grand display of strategy), and your opponent’s 150,000 men manage to kill only 299, who has won?

            “Even Osama Bin Laden calls the Iraq war ‘the Third World War’. Personally, I think of it as the Fourth World War (the Cold War being the Third). ” — Luke

            I think it’s very interesting when people are frenzied by the novelty of a war being a “World War”. I assume that World War 2000-XS will not require so much propaganda to market, considering how people respond so positively to any new twists on the moniker, obviated by their being apparently enthralled by simple incrementations by one. I wish I was a World War moniker hobbyist, like yourself, but then we may have ended up with far too similar political viewpoints and the activity would have lost its unique point.

            As it is I far too value my informed (and intelligent) opinion on the Cold War: it wasn’t a War, unless you consider competitively shoring up the value of commodified information to be warlike. This extends from a larger (albeit Amero-centric) perspective beginning with the first World War, and informs my view on the use of “World War” overall. See, America was politically isolationist before both WWI and WWII, and as has been pointed out in other commentary herein, we “came out” to fight the second war quite cautiously, and guardedly. The end of WWII gives full context to the nature of “The Cold War”: the strategic use of nuclear weapons. However, therein we find the content of war itself (as an ideal) has changed dramatically, now involving potential worldwide apocalypse engineered by nowhere near the number of hands previously required, and the formation of large, smoking craters.

            Global, thermonuclear war as a reality became perhaps the first implementation of war that was seen as something to be deterred. We could have argued that biological warfare was first in contempt, but unlike nuclear weapons, germs have been used in battle since the black plague. So, in actuality, the “Cold War” as it is erroneously (alas) called, was about deterring the future use of nuclear weapons (though this conclusion takes some information and intelligence to reach, as counterintuitively, the proliferation of nuclear weapons during this time period seems extraordinary). The fact of the matter was that for the first time, the construction and armament of a weapon could deter like consecutive measures –without requiring the actual threat of use (during the Cold War, it was considered clumsy to actually directly threaten your enemy with use, rather, theatrical targets were selected and various plans and measures were drawn up as to theoretical use, and intelligence was gathered on these plans and used to form newer plans). So, as this period of strategy and implementation was antithetical to anything like “war”, it cannot properly be called “The Cold War”. Nor can it be considered World War Three, as the entire international operation was purposefully about preventing World War Three from ever occuring, as it would obviously destroy all of civilization (and probably all human life on earth).

            So, as of “The Cold War” (read: The Strategic Nuclear Armament, or absurdly, “The Nuclear Arms Race”), the moniker “World War Three” has already found use, and it has obviously not yet occured.

            Though I find it interesting that you justify your use of speech with the words of Osama Bin Laden. I believe that has been the neocon strategy since 9-11.

          5. Okay, for starters, I did not label Kate as a liberal in a derogatory context – I was simply restating her own self-description as a liberal, or as she stated “very proudly liberal”. I am a staunch conservative, obviously. I find it funny that I am decried for calling people names (sticks and stones) yet I am labeled as a ‘neo-con’ and a ‘World War moniker hobbyist’. In my opinion, liberalism and conservatism are quite difficult to define, since they are philosophies. It is nearly impossible to define HOW a person thinks about a situation. By GAPetrie’s definition, EVERYONE is a ‘classic conservative’ since just about anyone can, in their mind’s view, “point out what’s obvious and present a logical conclusion”. After all, Hitler thought the ‘master race’ was obvious, and his logical conclusion was extermination of all others, beginning with the Jews. The same is true for Ahmadinijad – I’m sure that he believes the annihilation of Israel is obvious and could logically justify his sentiments. Does that make these deranged individuals ‘classic conservatives’? Since conservatism and liberalism are ways of thinking, I will give you the best examples that I can of what they are: A liberal believes that government intervention in almost every nuance of domestic life is the answer and the blueprint for prosperity, and that these government programs should take from the rich (who have too much) and provide for those ‘less fortunate’. However, liberals believe that US influence internationally is the cause for conflict, and that the US is the cause of all of the world’s ills. Conservatives believe that the government should provide for us only that which we cannot provide for ourselves (national defense, law enforcement and VERY limited regulation). Conservatives see the US military as a force for good and the solution to the world’s conflicts, not the cause of them. Liberals are wonderful – they are great for the exchange of ideas, and I fully support their right to be as wrong as they choose to be =)

            I hear from all of these people about the “war for oil” – however no one has addressed my counterpoint to this: If the US were ONLY interested in oil, why wouldn’t we pull our troops into the oilfields and protect them from attack and let the rest of Iraq go down the toilet at the hands of the insurgents? To a ‘classic conservative’, this should be the logical move to obtain our objective (the oil).

            We approached WWII cautiously? We were forced into WWII after Pearl Harbor. To his credit, FDR wanted us to enter the war much earlier, but pacifist liberals in Congress wanted us to be isolationists. Similarly, in Europe, England and France did not want to fight Hitler, but rather followed a policy of appeasement (similar to the policies that present-day liberals want us to take with Islamic extremists). “We have achieved peace in our time” – Neville Chamberlain. During this appeasement phase, Hitler advanced his V-1 and V-2 programs, his nuclear program (without ever procuring enough fissile material, thank God), and his jet propulsion program. Technologically, Germany was decades ahead of us from a rocket standpoint, would have beaten us from a nuclear standpoint except for a couple of lucky breaks, and way ahead of the world in jet propulsion. If more factories and experienced German pilots were available when the ME-262 was introduced, the European theater would have progressed along a much different path.

            Iraqi civilians killing our soldiers? Besides George Soros, is there anyone who truly believes that a good, clean-cut Iraqi family is forced to take up arms to protect their country? That makes no sense, since they would have no say in government WITHOUT our intervention. I love how the opponents of the war paint this picture of a beautiful utopia in the ‘cradle of civilization’. I read an article once about the Iraqi national soccer team who played Iran to a 1-1 tie in the mid-90’s. Please recall that Uday Hussein (whom rep. Rangel affectionately referred to as one of ‘those kids’) was in charge of the Iraqi Olympic program. Uday was so enraged by this disgrace of tying that he ordered the team to be beaten until the team members had open wounds all over their bodies, then Uday ordered the team members thrown into vats of raw sewage. His intent was that their wounds would become infected and that they would die when refused treatment. Yep, I can see why Iraqi civilians would want to return to those good ‘ol days… Let’s not even start with the political executions committed by Saddam.

            I find it comical to look at the American rebellion as “a change in the ideals of the people who inhabit the land as to how they should be told to live their lives.” I can’t even begin to get into everything that is wrong with that statement – please read the Declaration of Independence and show me how the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” can be twisted into being told how to live. The rebellion was fought AGAINST tyranny, not to replace tyranny with new tyranny. This is why the founding fathers abhorred democracy. “I do not wish to trade one tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away.” Democracy was viewed as a tyranny of the majority, or ‘mob rule’, or mobocracy. Democracy is PRECISELY the source of the problems that we are seeing with Iraq today. Had we had been more emphatic in “imposing our tradition upon them”, Iraq would be a REPUBLIC (as we are) where Sunni, Shiite and Kurds would be guaranteed governmental representation. Instead, each sect feels like the other two will oppress it, making the new democratic government not to their benefit.

            Now as to your misinterpretation of my comments, I cannot think of one instance in which the United States has TARGETED civilians in a war, and I never stated that. I did point out that civilian deaths occur in every war (I am a realist). The closest instance that I can think of in this sense would be the bombing of Tokyo. Napalm was newly invented, and was dropped on the wood and paper homes incinerating that city as well as many others. The targets were not the estimated 1 million civilians that perished, but the factories that were built in civilian areas and perpetuated the Japanese war machine. Similarly, during the bombing of Hamburg (where a major ball bearing factory was located), fires raged so intently that a 140 mph wind was created from the inferno’s updraft. I am not so naïve to believe that no civilians were killed, however this is a war. It’s going to happen no matter how much we may not want it to. Do you think that, in the bombing of Bosnia and Iraq, the cruise missile strikes in Iraq and Pakistan, Bill Clinton was so far superior of a Commander-In-Chief that he was able to order these unilateral strikes without causing a single civilian death? Some other nations targeted civilians in times of war, not the United States. This is nothing new – just recount wars throughout history. To the victors belong the spoils. I’m not saying that to be crass, but look at how the Vikings attacked, or Kublai Khan, or Cortez, or in a more modern sense, the Japanese ‘Rape of China’ in the late 1930’s or Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s. There are countless other instances as well.

            Likewise, I hope that anyone who read my contention about ‘if the Axis had prevailed’ understands that I meant a RELATIVE period of peace – as in, the Axis would not fight each other immediately. Would the world TRULY be at peace, where there were NO conflicts anywhere on the globe, and not a single person or race was oppressed? Of course not. That ideal has never existed in recorded history, and it probably never will exist. The Jews have been oppressed and hated by races for over 5,000 years. As much as we’d like to see the Olmert and Ahmadinijad hold hands and sing kumbaya, it’s not going to happen. My mother’s mother was Polish. I know about the oppression of the Nazis, how the Polish people bravely fought the advancing Panzer tanks on horseback, and how the Polish people were oppressed further by the Soviets post-WW2. Please do not imply that I turn a blind eye to Jewish oppression the way that liberals turned a blind eye to Iraqi oppression.

            As far as the Cold War is concerned, Khrushchev and Breshnev considered the 24-hour patrolling of the Arctic by our nuclear-armed B-52’s as a ‘dagger to their throat’. Yes, the Cold War was primarily focused on deterring the use of nuclear arms, but the deterrent was the constant threat of use: Mutually Assured Destruction. I had the honor of hearing the magnificent lady Margaret Thatcher speak many years ago. (For those of you who view Hillary as the ‘smartest woman on the planet’ read some of Thatcher’s speeches sometime – there is NO comparison). Prime Minister Thatcher may not be as intelligent as you purport yourself to be, but she was a central figure in the Cold War. She stated that our victory over the Soviets was explicitly linked to SDI – even though we never completed the missile defense shield, the Soviet Union knew that we could, and once that happened their threat would be gone or significantly reduced. In this situation, they could not compete.

            It is true that, unlike typical wars, we did not directly engage the Soviets. However, can you really not see their hands in Korea and Vietnam? Or ignore our funding and arming of the Afghani resistance? Did you not make that connection of the round about way of engaging each other without bearing arms against each other? A world war is a war with global consequences. Instead of England fighting the rebellion, or the United States against England or Spain, or even Iraq against Iran, the war is not over a border and is not contained. The outcome of the war has global implications. WWI and WWII are very clearly wars where the outcome determines the direction of the world. I would contend that the Cold War had global influence as well. Imagine if the Soviet Union had not collapsed under our influence… I would put the current war on terror in this category. Unfortunately for you, even though I am clearly your intellectual inferior by your own statements, the radical Muslims would kill me with as much fervor as they would kill a self-proclaimed intellectual giant like yourself – and trying to give them a great big hug wouldn’t make a lick of difference.

            If this makes me a neo-con, then I guess I need a new remark on my driver’s license.

            Neo-Con… OUT!

  31. Hi Dan,
    I read your words and applaud the non partisan direct approach. Everything about the Iraq situation is so complex and layered with ancient history and emotion. It is great to see words from the heart that speak about our responsibility as moral people and US citizens.

    They say that 20/20 is hindsight and I notice there is no shortage of people willing to slam what our country has done from the vantage point of hindsight. That serves no purpose and we need a sincere effort to address the facts as we know them now. I see so many politicians harping about past blunders. Add insult to injury, they rant now and seem to forget the fact that they endorsed these policies in the post 9/11 world. I guess they thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Now it just seems like all the finger pointing talk is a blatant attempt to get a sound bite in the media. Media and election driven policy and opinion is not an answer. How stupid do they think the american public is anyway?

    Your comments are the first balanced and thoughtful thing I have seen in a long time.

    My 26 year old son is a Marine Sgt.currently on his fourth deployment in Iraq. He is due home in April. He sent his first email from this assignment and he tells us things are a mess. They are working 18 and 22 hour days (in 140 degree heat) in order to build shelter and take care of basic needs. Basic things are in short supply or not there at all. There is no company cook and so the only food they have is MRE’s which are not always available and have been known to spoil. Bad food makes everyone sick. He tells us they need more help and while the Iraqi’s are glad the Marines are there they want things to improve. My son never complains but the stress of the merry go round deployments has affected him and several people in his company to one degree or another. His company has lost several people as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    As paernts of a Marine, my husband and I keep praying and will probably spend another $2000.00 sending our son basic things like food and toiletries. We can only hope that honest and direct efforts will help us solve the religious conflict that has been going on since 427. Charlemagne and Leo the Great tried to solve this conflict and gave up. Let’s hope we can begin to do something constructive soon.

    Donna

  32. I believe there is not a word of a lie or misrepresentation or misdirected intent in your message Dan. I have read your message, all the comments, then reread your message. I feel in quite an interesting position replying to this because it appears to me I may very well be the only person from outside the US weighing in to this discussion.

    For me the key points seem to have actually been contributed by your daughter Kate so I may be echoing some of what she said:

    The US administration and it’s allies (Australia included) went into Iraq, I believe the US were hunting Saddam to seek retribution for 9/11 and it’s allies were supporting the threat of WMD – Australia is in an awkward place politically because we are too small to be seen not to be supporting the US (if we need help ourselves in the future). I still get chills when I recount the footage of George Bush making the announcement about the capture of Saddam – I recall the smug almost conceited way that he came out with “We got im”. It spoke volumes.

    For those who have jumped in, to essentially say that the end justifies the means i.e. this is all ok really because we didn’t really know initially that the WMD thing was a lie… but the fact is that ‘We got im’… and he was a very bad man killing lots of people so that’s ok… tell me then which country of tyranny where similarly bad atrocities are taking place is the next target? I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. You are flying the flag for being the morally justified powerful big brother yet no one else flew planes into your buildings so are any other countries likely to be ‘liberated’.

    I agree, it is best that Saddam is not leading that country now but the fact is that if the reason given for the attack on Iraq doesn’t need to hold relevance in the end result, then what of future reasons to intervene in other nations. No Mr Bush, admit fault, be a man and admit it was wrong to use the reason that was used to attack, instead of justifying for the opposite. Then take the advice covered in this RFL. Then and only then do I belive that true forward thinking planning and resolution can result. Your point, Dan, about fasting and praying with the Iraqis is the biggest ‘nail on the head’ of your post. We need to ‘own’ the deaths.

    One other point on this topic. I remember chatting to a work colleague about this issue years ago not long after 9/11. He was fairly learned regarding war, history, and was really into military technology. As we spoke about it he made the point of the terrible mistake that the perpetrators (all the way up to however high this plan reached) of 9/11 had made to attack the US in such a way… “because if there’s one thing you should never do, it’s to piss of the Americans because they will expend every resource and means available to avenge the loss at whatever cost”. I wasn’t really in any position to comment either way on the point as I am no historian, I just contemplated his comment. It’s an interesting point to ponder now. And from the perspective of someone living in Australia, such a feeling about America is quite commonplace and I often find myself defending America and Americans to others here in Australia because I know many great Americans. The most common complaint I hear and often witness and this is interesting in light of claiming ownership for the deaths/state of the country is how little Americans seem to know about other countries and international interests/cultures. Of course the natural extension of this is whether this leads to some of the attitudes of the nation towards other countries and their ‘pecking order’ in the eyes of the US.

    I feel like I am jumping around all over the place sorry, I have many thoughts swimming around. The essential crux of this RFL to me is essentially psychology 101 – you have to own up to and claim a problem before you can truly resolve it inside yourself. I think this call to responsibility is a good and timely one. I too must look at myself and ask if I was active enough in my views on this war – did my net effect in the whole process result in having an impact, no matter how small, on the outcome? I am no political leader but I have friends and am part of a community, we talk about issues, what did I do to contribute to culture here and be part of saying what I think about it?

    Bill said: Comment by Bill
    2007-09-17 08:50:26
    Only when our leaders in Washington or anywhere learn to “live” by values will we be able to move forward and address our common problems. Our morals and values have to especially be adhered to during difficult times.

    I realise what you are saying and it is true Bill and I don’t think you were saying that it’s only all up to the leaders in Washington, but just in case… none of us can change our leaders in our nations, we can only change ourselves and lead with our best self. This is our call and we must be part of a culture who all seek to lead in order to create cultural change.

    I am going to finish with a different sort of reflection on something that happened to me that I believe provides an interesting ‘aside’ commentary on the situation…

    I share this to present what I think is a common sort of experience for ‘Aussies’ of the way Americans ‘are’.

    One of the times I have felt the saddest in my relationship with an American, to me spoke volumes about the patriotism there and whether the focus on it goes too far and I mention it as I feel it also plays a part in this discourse. I had built a friendship with someone in an online discussion forum some time back and somehow the topic got to God’s kingdom, or to take religion out of it, the world, and nations/patriotism. I made the point with him that for me, the borders of our nations were not as important as the view of the whole world – that essentially Nations are a subset of the World. i.e. I am a ‘member’ of the world BEFORE I am a ‘member’ of Australia and that I saw him as a brother in the family of the world (and the religious side of it that we are brothers/sons of God – he was Christian) before worrying about the fact he was American. His response shocked me as he basically said, he loved me like a brother yet he was a patriotic SOB and saw himself as an American 1st and he would defend his country to the hilt. I’d be interested to know whether I am marching to the beat of my own drum in my take on how this ‘order’ should work but I felt like a lost a brother on that day.

    Final comment: I hope I haven’t trod on too many ‘Americans’ toes in my post. I love many many Americans and it makes me happy to see so many of the ‘we need to take ownership’ posts in this thread. I share what I have, to give an ‘outsiders’ view to how many in Australia/New Zealand (where I am from originally) see the US and that such a view is often enacted through the policies of the govt. I don’t know if I’ve added anything to the discussion but one thing I do hope and pray for is an end to what is happening there as soon as possible.

    Peace,
    Daniel
    in Australia

    1. Daniel,

      Completely on point about the ends justifying the means. There are so many nations where terrible atrocities occur on a daily basis, and why aren’t we, the “big brother” jumping in to help? Because….

      I think you are absolutely right on about the general “American” attitude, and it also makes me sad. I think it’s interesting that, historically, America is often referred to as a “teenager” in comparison to other, more developed, nations, and we seem to be acting like one! (Being one myself, I like to think I may have a little more maturity when it comes to this, but as my dad can tell you, I surely have my moments.) We are quick to anger, often incredibly unreasonable, we make rash decisions, we lie to our constituents (parents/authority?), we absolutely think the world revolves around us, and we have no sense of the bigger picture!

      How frustrating, because sometimes I feel like we just have to wait for America to grow up! (or maybe elect Hillary…)

      PEACE
      Kate

      1. Kate,

        Thanks for replying to my post – I was worried about what I said and appearing to jump about all over the place ‘America bashing’ yet you have seen the intent in my message and responded with insight and maturity. Considering your comment about an adolescent US certainly makes one take a deep breath – an adolescent with access to that sort of power? Eeep! 😉

        Here’s hoping we can all continue to grow up and continue to learn to lead with our best self.

        Oh, and on your ‘moments’, no doubt they are usually caused because, of course, at the time your Dad is being totally unreasonable! 😉

    2. Daniel…..
      You’re right on with your observations. My wife and I have had the good fortune to travel often in our years together and over the past 5 or 6 years are always amazed at how people in other countries see ‘Americans’…mainly because of what they see on the news and, primarily, of our national leader(s). We were in Poland in May and found that people we’d spent days with only began to open up to us when they found we DIDN’T agree with how many things in the US were being handled. They had assumed that nearly everyone supported the war and the ‘tough-talk’ they saw on Tv from Washington. That ‘we got-em’ attitude. These comfortable, probably established ‘middle-class’ folks were amazed that there is so much opposition to the activities in Washington. As did a couple we met and dined with in Italy a few years ago, they asked why we didn’t ‘do’ anything about it. Not a bad question!!!
      We enjoy our traveling and hope to do more when ‘retirement’ finally comes our way. What concerns me is the unbelievable bad image that has been cast throughout the world toward Americans because of the lack of tolerance or conciliation on the part of our leadership. We don’t need to perpetuate the tough-talking, hard-riding, gun-toating image any longer. And, yes Kate, it’s my hope too that the next President will be able to project an image of civility and balance throughout the world. And given the fact that her husband is STILL so well liked in so many countries, and that he is doing some extraordinarily beneficial things in many, won’t hurt at all either!!
      Thanks Daniel for your ‘outsiders’ view. We need that frequently. And coming from another of our favorite places in the world, very appreciated.

  33. I was very struck by this week’s message from the first gentleman. To be honest, I haven’t been very diligent about reading them for the last few months but this week’s subject caught my eye.

    I think the challenge we (America/Americans) face is that in admitting and acknowledging the guilt we feel we are also taking on a vulnerability that doesn’t sit very well with our ethos and position. These are conflicting forces in our psyche and may be what leads to compounding mistakes and irrational decision making.

  34. There were some who said that Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Party were guilty of wrongdoing and should apologize for the 620,000 Americans who died during the American Civil war. Perhaps. But as an African American whose ancestors were freed from the bondage of slavery as a result of that war, I’m glad they had the courage to do the morally correct thing rather than pursue peace at all cost. War is hell I agree, but sometimes it’s the better alternative than the hell it destroys.

  35. Well said! Thank you for putting words to the “unease” (that hardly seems adequate) that I, and I’m sure many others, feel. Now what can we DO about it?

  36. Where’s our followership?

    Look at this unprecedented string of comments, many from those who agree, as I do, with Dan’s assessment. What more can we do to engage in moral response as our civic duty? This is not a rhetorical question. I must answer it myself, and engage my family and my friends.

  37. AS A HUMANITARIAN AND STUDENT OF HISTORY I WAS ALSO SHOCKED AND SADDENED BY THE GERMAN CIVILIANS AND JAPANESE CIVILIANS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES AND PROPERTY DURING WORLD WAR II. IT IS A STRANGE PARADOX THAT MANY MORE LIVES WERE SAVED BY MILITARY ACTIONS THAN WERE LOST. IRAQ IS THE POKER CHIP OF THE MIDDLE EAST. IF IRAN AND ITS AGENTS RULE THE MIDDLE EAST WILL WE BE SAFER THAN NOW? WITH RADICAL ISLAM IN CONTROL OF ANY LARGE CHUNK OF THE EARTH, WE ARE IN MORTAL AND IMMINENT DANGER UNLESS WE GIVE UP OUR WAY OF LIFE AND SUBMIT TO THE TENANTS OF MOHAMMED.

  38. Dan,

    You are on target with your criticism of the war. I too find war abhorrent and wish we could find a way to bring it to an end.

    I believe the real elephant in the room is that this war is ultimately about greed, power, and the continuation of a comfortable materialistic culture as we know it in the West. I was happy to read on the internet over the weekend that Alan Greenspan also named this elephant in the room in a national interview. Almost no one else in Washington will publicly speak this truth. I am guessing that every Iraqi knows this truth.

    I believe that the real reason we are in Iraq is to secure the second largest supply of a rapidly diminishing resource, oil, in friendly hands for our continuing National consumption. This issue affects every American. Oil is our American Achilles heal. Our entire way of life is premised on the assumption that we will always have a steady, secure, inexpensive and reliable supply of gas. We have built our nation with energy wasting as a given. Water heaters keep our bath water warm 24/7 for our five minutes of use each day. We have developed most of our living spaces without adequate infrastructure for public transportation in favor of private cars which are built mostly without conservation in mind.

    The inconvenient truth is that we are running out of gas. According to Imad Mahawili, director of the Michigan Alternative Energy Research Center at Grand Valley State University, based on current known reserves, current and projected demand, and if we do nothing to conserve we will be out of gas in thirty years. Are any of us prepared for that future? Demand for this resource is coming not just from the US but especially from China and India which both have four times our US population. Population growth and consumption are placing strains on both our environment and our international relations.

    I believe that the powers that be higher up the economic food chain determined that Saddam Hussein could no longer be trusted to have his hand on the pump. The sanctions against Iraq were beginning to unravel and there was probably a legitimate fear that with the renewed funding from oil Saddam posed a mortal risk to the stability of the region. Even with the sanctions Saddam was funding regular and deadly suicide attacks in Israel. Our attack removed one problem and created a larger one. 9/11 offered a pretext for a preemptive attack. I am angry that we moved away from a full court press to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice but I am not going to be a “Monday Morning Quarterback” and second guess our president’s decision to invade Iraq. The reasons given for our attack were lies. Our plans for occupation are unworkable. But I understand that we live in an imperfect world and under the circumstances if I were in the decision making hot seat I may have made the same decision as the “lesser of two evils.”

    Imagine the reaction of the Michigan militia if the Iraqi’s bombed Lansing, removed our Governor, dictated the terms and the candidates and the philosophy of the new government, stationed troops in Michigan to enforce their will, tortured prisoners, and began backing up their tankers to our Great Lakes Port cities to pump out our water so that thirsty Iraqi’s could exploit our resource for their benefit. Is there any doubt that such a scenario would fuel their cause and that Michigan would be embroiled in unending violence until the Iraqi’s were expelled?

    Human beings are territorial in nature and I believe that many Iraqi’s will continue to resist our occupation of their country with violence no matter how many troops we send. I don’t blame them.

    The real problem for America is that if we leave Iraq as every Democratic presidential candidate is demanding, in less than a week after our departure, control of the largest supply of oil in Iraq will fall into the hands of the Shia majority, allied with the Islamic fundamentalists in Tehran. Fueling this aberrant theology with unlimited oil revenues will be terribly destabilizing for the status quo in the gulf and potentially a major seismic earthquake to the Western economies that could make Hurricane Katrina seem like a Sunday school picnic.

    Further complicating the matter is the greed of our oil companies and the self-serving of our powerful automotive industry. I believe that America should be working collectively with an urgent single minded purpose to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We should demand higher mileage standards for our automobiles. We should make developing alternative energies a national priority and revisit existing laws that prevent innovations in power delivery from happening. Did you know for example that in Muskegon, the Alternative Energy Research Center is capable of producing enough energy for less to help power the rebuilt downtown Muskegon area giving it a competitive edge that could fuel new investment in the same block but is prevented from doing so because of existing Michigan regulations protecting the power industry?

    We should make conversion of heating and cooling operations to geothermal across our nation a top priority. Resisting these common sense goals in favor of an intolerable status quo are our oil companies and our automotive industry with their powerful lobbies and resources to fund candidates who do their bidding. Oil companies resist change because with the Iraq war and soaring demand, profits have never been higher. I believe that the Saudi’s and Gulf States, who are major investors in America’s economy also have a vested interest in maintaining conditions that keep demand for their product high and prices elevated. The automotive industry is getting its bread buttered by selling inefficient SUV’s and honestly our American companies lag behind the foreign competition in developing more efficient vehicles. If our American, Michigan based companies stopped making the gas hogs profits would initially take a beating.

    Working toward peace, a mandate for all peoples of faith, also runs counter to the economic best interests of the military industrial complex in America including significant Michigan firms for whom the continuation of war and a climate of perpetual conflict is good for business.

    From where I sit, to defuse the crisis, I would recommend putting together an international team of Palestinians, Arabs, Israeli’s and others tasked with finding an alternative to Palestinian refugee camps that have been a festering sore in the region since 1948. Until the world finds a workable plan with hope for the 1.5 million Palestinians the Middle East will continue to be a breeding ground for violence.

    Raising mileage standards would lower demand for oil and drop prices. Creating alternatives to our addiction to foreign oil would be healthy for our American economy and would make backing away from Iraq easier to do.

  39. Thanks, Dan! In concurrence, here’s what Bill Hoban thinks. He’s the Managing Editor of the Sonoma Index-Tribune:

    “‘No Child Left Behind’ Doesn’t Add Up

    “There’s a huge difference between the federal government’s grading policy for success in schools and the grading policy for success in Iraq. But then what does one expect from the president who has called himself the “education president,” and the “war president.” He isn’t doing a very good job at either.

    “El Verano Elementary School met 21 of the 22 benchmarks under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind guidelines. And the one benchmark the school missed was by one student.

    “But El Verano received a failing grade because the feds have an all or nothing policy – at least when it comes to No Child Left Behind. Schools either meet all the benchmarks or the school fails and is put on program improvement and threatened with reprisals if it doesn’t pass the following year.

    “Apparently the feds don’t have the same grading scale with it comes to Iraq.

    “The other day, the General Accounting Office reported that the Iraqi government has met only three of the 18 benchmarks that it itself established. And after meeting only three of 18, President Bush thinks we’re making progress.

    “Let’s see, El Verano meets 21 of 22 benchmarks and fails while the Iraqi government meets three of 18 benchmarks and it passes.

    “There’s something seriously wrong here.

    “Even in baseball terminology, a batter who is three out of 18 is batting .166 – well below the established Mendoza Line, which separates mediocrity from outright failure. A major league player who’s batting .166 usually is getting his ticket punched back to the minor leagues. But we’re rewarding the Iraqi government for batting .166 by throwing $2 billion to $3 billion a week at it. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

    “There’s something amiss when school can be penalized for reaching 95.5 percent of its goals while a country is rewarded for only achieving 16.6 percent of its goals.

    “It’s easier to believe school administrators who say El Verano students are making progress than it is believing Gen. David Petraeus who told Congress that the U.S. is making progress in Iraq.

    “It’s not like the government is throwing money at the schools either. In a $35 million budget this fiscal year, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District will receive $2.1 million in federal funds – or 5.9 percent of the budget. And that’s an 8.3 percent cut in federal funding from last year. In one year, the Sonoma Valley schools get the amount of federal money that we blow through in 10.6 minutes in Iraq – and that’s assuming we’re only spending $2 billion a week in Iraq.
    “Back when Lyndon Johnson was president and his upbeat assessment of the war in Vietnam conflicted with what people were seeing on the news every night, it became what was known as the ‘credibility gap.’

    “If Iraq was Bush’s only ‘credibility gap.’”

    [End of quote]

    If you wish to verify that these ideas came from Bill, you can call him at 707.933.2731.

    Thanks, Dan!

  40. Thanks Dan for the thoughtful essay on Morality. Much of what you say has to be true. I wish our government would see the stregth of admitting faults. It takes a very brave person to admit they are/were wrong. And we are responsible for letting this happen as a nation. Many of us fought hard to stop the war, but the total responsibility falls on us as a nation. Hopefully we can get out of Iraq. There was a great interview on public radio last night with a middle East newspaper reporter who had interviewed Benlaudin. I advise you to study what he said. I paraphrase some of it here: “We cannot continue to abuse the Iraq people. Violence begets violence. By having war abroad we drain our resources, and that is exactly what Osama BenLaudin wants. Every time an Iraq native civilian is hurt, we lose ground, and their resentment grows. Osama would like to be a marytr, and the local cells of AlQuaida are growing in numbers and strength all over the world.” Peace, peace, peace, and non-violence are key. That is how I see things. The morality you speak of is so very important, as is our ability to acknowledge our mistakes and to promote healing, citizen by citizen. Let’s work together to stop this outrage.

    Blessings,
    Sister Marie Kopin, C.PP.S.

  41. Thank you, Dan, for speaking up about our moral responsibility especially towards the Iraqi people. This is a major concern of mine too, seldom mentioned in the press/governmental/political rhetoric these days. I appreciate your bold leadership!

    The issues surrounding our involvement in Iraq are complex; current debates focus primarily on single dimensions. Beyond political differences, most of us are frustrated with the lack of apparent solutions. Yet, I believe that when we are honest with ourselves as a country about our responsibilities, we will be able to see and think differently. Then we will find the paths and the collective will that can lead to peace and the resoration of social, cultural and economic wholeness to Iraq.

    A quote from Albert Einstein seems relevant: “The world we’ve made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking.” Accepting responsibility for the the destruction we caused can help move our thinking to a different level.

  42. Dan deserves credit for extolling the virtue of moral accountability in all of our affairs, whether in the public or private sector. My problem with his moral calculation on Iraq is that it begins in late 2002/early 2003 – he completely ignores the bloody way that Saddam came to power, the carnage of the Iran/Iraq war, the rape of Kuwait, the defiance of the sanctions and inspection regimes put in place by the UN in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, and the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqi’s who died at the hands of Saddam’s tyranny prior to OIF. I’ve highlighted two quotes from his statement that depict his ignorance of those points:

    “The elephant in the room is our tragic moral responsibility: our actions as a nation unleashed a torrent of human violence and suffering.”

    Wrong – there was a torrent of human violence and suffering in Iraq prior to OIF – it just wasn’t exposed to the world through the international media.

    “It’s time to stop the nonsense about international coalitions (it was 95% ours at the start and is about 99% ours now – just look at the casualties), about “finishing the job” (the job description keeps changing – WMD, Saddam, Al Quaeda [sic] – the job is to restore peace, do no more harm, and get our kids home).”

    Wrong again – there was no peace in Iraq (ask the Kurds) to restore, and Iraq was a constant threat to the stability and security (“peace”) in the region.

    I agree that we have a moral responsibility to restore conditions of relative security and stability in Iraq, and admit that we have made grave mistakes along the way that have delayed achieving that objective. Some leaders should be held accountable for those grave mistakes – that would be a good example of moral accountability. Turning tail and running away from your failures is not moral accountability.

    –posting from a friend who is a Naval Flight Officer currently engaged on the GWOT

  43. I’m an unabashed conservative (as far as labels go) but rarely avoid splitting the ticket come voting time. I voted for GWB – twice. That said, I am in agreement with Dan’s missive. GWB and all the other politicians have seemingly become so devoted to their own (or their party’s) agenda that they can no longer see (or care) about doing the right thing. Face-saving or agenda advancement seems to be Washington’s primary driver nowadays. We need to admit OUR mistakes and develop a plan to exit in the fashion which will cause the least amount of further damage. That last part will generate lots of debate, but get started for heaven’s sake.

  44. I felt most of the comments were genuine expressions of the feelings of the writers. I found it interesting that not a single elected official was represented. We talk about what the politicians are doing to America. In my opinion they simply reflect the disagreements of their constituencies. I appreciate Dan raising the issue while 100% dis-agreeing with his conclusions. Isn’t America great where we have that right. Lets keep talking in America and fighting overseas until the elected government of the American people decide that is not the right thing to do. I plan to do everything I can to elect someone who has the courage to re-earn our freedom with every generation and I’m also glad that others will be fighting to stop this war. I do believe that in the end the majority in a Democracy sets the right course.

  45. I believe the War Against Terrorism is a concept we must all think about deeply and find what we feel about being free citizens of the world. Dan’s angst is appropriate for a free-thinker. Yet so many don’t share that angst because we are being led; just being led. And being led by who and with what types of intentions and values at stake? Look behind the curtains. What do you find? Who profits economically, politically and culturally from the war? (This is why we fight wars.) Who is hurt? Why do we insist on continuing to wear the blood on our hands? Why does it somehow work for us? At what point will it create disgust, dismay and horror? What would have to happen to us? Where is the source of terror right now? How do we compare the pain with the fear of pain? Where is the message of fear coming from? Who does that message benefit economically, politically and culturally? Why should we feel the need to atone with the Iraqis for what we did? What could we possible owe them? Moral for whom? IS the power we claim as Americans in the world being used appropriately according to our economic, political and cultural traditions? What would be the best indicators that we can or cannot trust our leaders in the White House?

  46. Thanks for posting this. Nicely done! (By the way, I was impressed with your ranking on Yahoo too, good job!) I’ll be checking back later to read some of your other stuff…

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