Grasping the reality of Iraq |

Grasping the reality of Iraq

Joan Walthall

I do not believe in the act of war – in the decimation of human beings and the lands they inhabit. I do not believe in standing armies trained to kill, or in technologically advanced weapons that, by their very existence, beg to be used. Idealistic? Perhaps. But each “great war” that exacted unimaginable suffering and death was deemed to be the last. And yet humankind has not learned from those sad lessons.

I do not understand how pro-life in the womb squares with death on the battlefield at age 21 – the one abhorred, the other honored. I cannot grasp how the rhetoric of ideology trumps honesty or how a nationalistic lapel pin is the measure of a man. How can anyone comprehend declaration of war upon another country based upon false premises? It has been said the conflict in Iraq could be likened to an invasion of Mexico after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For me, the war in Iraq has the effect of an undiagnosed illness, riding just below the level of comprehension – a stealthy awareness of something as yet unnamed. It manifests unpredictably, causing the heart to swell with apprehension and marking the difference between wholesomeness and organic distress. Leaving the slick surface of everyday life to dredge the depths is always to invite pain, but in the name of sanity, or in the name of God if such an entity exists, it is a task I am compelled to perform.

U.S. troop strength in Iraq is being raised to 150,000 in the hope of quelling rebellion and holding elections there next January. Edwin Black, author of “Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq’s 7,000-year History of War, Profit, and Conflict,” puts it this way: “… Free elections – anathema in most of the Middle East – are viewed by the joint domestic and pan-Arab insurgency as just another device of foreign occupation … Iraq, the so-called cradle of civilization, has a 7,000-year start on the United States and Britain. If Iraqis wanted a pluralistic democracy, they could have created one without a permission slip from Washington or London. Elections do not make democracies. Democracies make elections.” (San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 5)

After recently viewing the destruction and chaos in Baghdad and Fallujah, Sen. Diane Feinstein said the American people should be told that the U.S. occupation of Iraq will continue for at least the next 3-5 years – each of those years resulting in the untold deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis alike, and in the bruised hearts of those they leave behind. In spite of those consequences, our government opts to accede to the pragmatic world of “Realpolitik,” or the politics of power, causing us to forgo our once-acclaimed stance of peaceful accord and human rights throughout the world.

The sea of events bombarding us in the media, filled with contradiction and conundrum, overwhelm and hobble the logical mind. Even knowing the war against the Iraqi people is in itself a sham, it is repeatedly rationalized because of the capture of Saddam Hussein, once our ally during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, now demonized for acts of atrocity against his own people. In context with that war, when Americans were being held hostage in Iran, a now declassified White House press release stated: “… We have remained neutral in the war since it began in September, 1980. Evidence of Iraqi use of chemical weapons only underscores the urgency of a resolution to the conflict that will stop the bloodshed immediately, and allow both states to negotiate a settlement that will maintain their independence and territorial integrity. We do not want either side to force its will on the other or upon neighboring states.”

As Dorothy (or perhaps Ronald Reagan) would say, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Following Iraq’s incursion into Kuwait and the Persian Gulf War, United Nations sanctions were imposed, resulting in catastrophic economic consequences for the Iraqi people. In 1996, the oil-for-food-and-medicine program was instituted to ameliorate the impact of two successive wars and the decade of U.N. sanctions. Iraq’s known use of chemical weapons during the Iraq-Iran war (which the U.S. treated lightly at the time) and suspicion regarding a potential thermonuclear capability resulted in careful monitoring by the United Nations which, according to Dr. Hans Blix, head weapons inspector, was fully effective in keeping Iraq’s military ambitions in check.

The United Nations is not looked upon fondly by the current administration, with U.S. hegemony as the world’s only superpower taking top priority – a clarion call during the presidential campaign. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, France, Russia and China, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who voted against U.S. use of force, stood to gain the most from oil production contracts with a still-sovereign and economically struggling Iraq – a status now accorded to U.S. corporations, most notably Halliburton, during the “reconstruction phase” in the war’s aftermath.

With the present-day conflict escalating and no end in sight, a majority of Americans still believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, perhaps as a result of the horror and bewilderment of Sept. 11 and putting a face – any face – on the enemy. As in all matters of over-simplification and faith and to abate the fear for one’s own security, there is a willingness to believe in the decision-making, strength and innate justice of our leaders; to profess love of country; to honor the military and mourn the dead; and to hope for “victory,” no matter how bleak and meaningless it may ultimately be – while a world away, we who are unaffected awake to yet another day in which to count our blessings.

– Joan Walthall is a South Lake Tahoe resident and copy editor at the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

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