War No More? Reflecting on Iraq & Other Wars

Trouble With War

I find myself at an interesting impasse. I suppose it was only a matter of time. Let me begin by saying, I’m not “anti-war”, but I’m even less “pro-war”. I don’t support war as a first option. But, I believe there are times where evil people leave no other choice but for violence. Case in point, World War 2. Had we not intervened the entire world would have been eclipsed in darkness. To quote the late, great Winston Churchill (full speech with audio),

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.

Or, to quote King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3:3,8 AMP),

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: … A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Young And Naive

When the war began, I found myself hoping for it. Mind you, I was in my middle teens then. Now that I look back at it, I realize that I didn’t understand the magnitude of war or the price many brave people would have to pay for that “exciting” bit of news. Now, progressing into my late twenties (man, I feel old saying that), I don’t find war so exciting. In fact, I find myself fighting back a guilty knot when my friend and talk casually about war tactics and games.

I’ve come to replace that misunderstood excitement with a sober sorrow that real people, mostly younger than me, will die. That’s just on our side. What about the innocent civilians that are inevitably caught in the crossfire? Placing myself in the shoes of someone who has lost a family member, I could imagine thinking, “If not for this war, my family member/friend would still be here.” I also don’t think that our President, who is briefed daily with graphic pictures of death and carnage, would lightly send troops to die.

Looking Back

Really, looking back, I remember the First Gulf War. I remember hearing the horror stories of what Saddam Hussein did to his people, and maybe in light of that it was justified. But, for the reasons we were given, I am starting to understand why some people doubt the reason for our involvement.

I don’t judge President Bush. I’m not convinced we went to war for nefarious reasons. I don’t buy that it was “to finish daddy’s job”. Honestly, there were far easier ways to knock-off Saddam if revenge were the goal. None of those methods involved facing massive international criticism or risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. I also don’t buy the idea we went there for oil. Just look at the gas prices. It obviously hasn’t paid off for us.Aftermath of Saddam's Genocide: War on the Kurds

I wish they had sold the war on something far more tangible; like the Al-Anfal Genocide and Halabja Poison Gas Attack that killed thousands of Kurds in the most horrific ways possible (Let’s not also forget the Sunnis in the south who also suffered). We never heard about that from President Bush or the media. Why? Isn’t a man who holds the record of largest chemical weapons attack on a civilian population worth removing from power? But, those details were ignored.

Selfishness of America

Just the other week, we were discussing in my news writing class how certain stories gain prominence. My instructor highlighted how it is a great tragedy that certain news stories are omitted simply because they aren’t “sexy”. You have mass killings occurring all over the world, but often times you don’t see anyone touching on it. Were Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) the only thing that could bring us to move against a brutal dictator?

Let me rephrase that:  Is it because we as a people have become so selfish that the slaughter of thousands doesn’t phase us, but the rumored existence of a weapon that would improbably reach our shores will? Are we so self-centered that people, including little children, choking and burning inside out from deadly chemicals is not a reason to act? Have we really fallen so far that the only way for us to care and intervene for suffering human beings is if we have a personal interest?

We like to believe the words of the writer John Donne in his memorable quotation we often refer to as “For Whom The Bell Tolls”,

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Yet, just looking at all of the shouts and accusations and even the reasoning of our government for war, it tells me that we really don’t believe that. The person next to us is only important if we perceive they benefit us. Otherwise, as with Darfur, the Kurds, and countless others throughout history, we throw them under the bus.

Parable

Imagine that you lived in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. Due to a brutal 30 year reign you decide to try and get a recall vote (because of course brutal 30 year term governors can be recalled). The Governor calls up the national guard, and they bomb the tar out of the populated cities in the UP. Even worse, he orders chemical weapons be used which don’t just kill, but horrifically kill thousands of men, women, and children. Thousands  die, including some of your close relatives and friends. Would you hope Canada came and rescued you? Or would you prefer to “deal with it yourself”?

As absurd as the scenario is, the situation is an analogy to what the Iraqis had suffered for many years under Saddam. Many cried foul demanding the war was “illegal” and that we should have never gotten involved.  Yet, I would wager, had these people been in the shoes of the Iraqis whose family members  were burned in vats of acid, beheaded, raped, tortured, etc.  would be begging for someone, anyone, to come in and overthrow my government. Did we not expect the French to come to our aid in the War for Independence? Going off the anti-war rhetoric of today, France would have been in violation of “international law” and be guilty of war crimes for involving itself in a British civil war.

We’re really silly. We don’t want to draw these connections, and I’m going to guess many of my readers will think I’m making a huge stretch. But, the logic is sound. Iraq was bad, but if it were us, it’d be perfectly okay.

Complex

Contemplating WarAs you can see, I’m struggling with some complex thoughts. On one hand, I don’t understand why we must go to war. On the other hand, I don’t understand how we can’t. Maybe, ultimately, I do understand why. But I find myself struggling to accept the cost. As a person who voted for Bush and as a person who supported the war, I recognize that I am personally responsible. The cost of so many loved ones is a difficult burden to bear. A burden many of us carry.

I end with a quote from United States and Confederate General, Robert E. Lee,

It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.

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