The current administration has gotten into the habit lately of saying that the Iraq War really wasn't about weapons of mass destruction or links to Al Qaeda, and that it never sold the war that way to the American public... I know that isn't true, because I've got some of my own correspondence from the time just before the war was launched that is reflective of how those were exactly the terms upon which the war was sold.
Cleaning up a few old files on my computer, I came across the draft of a letter I had written to my good friend Joseph in Spain right on the eve of the war, on 02/18/03. I'm going to do what a lot of people are unwilling to do, which is to show how I was wrong at the time... how I'd bitten on the administration's story hook, line, and sinker... Joseph was strongly against the notion of going to war, and I was trying to make a case, albeit a conflicted one.
Joe, I don’t know what the answer is on this Iraq thing. I’m in a real muddle about it. I can’t remember the last time I was so conflicted on an issue. One of the saddest things for me is how different our perceptions here seem to be from Europe’s, and indeed, the rest of the world. As the world’s sole remaining superpower, I’ve been wondering for some time if economic and political differences would start to manifest themselves as military differences. It is disconcerting to see us becoming so increasingly isolated, especially in the wake of September 11th. Are we the biggest threat to world peace in the eyes of other countries? That is a troubling notion. NATO seems to be falling apart. Will the new European Union Defense Force replace it? The way I see the situation is like this:
Saddam Hussein in no Islamic fundamentalist. He has modeled his whole life and modus operandi after Josef Stalin. I don’t truly believe he hates the United States. In fact, what I think he’d love to do is sell us oil after he becomes the undisputed (secular) leader of the Arab world. I’m sure he’s developing weapons of mass destruction, but is the target the US? I’m more inclined to think it is the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and ultimately the Israelis. I have a tough time imagining a control freak like him giving up some of those weapons to be used by a group like Al-Qaeda, who mean him no good will, and would likely act in unpredictable ways that he’d have no control over. The odious regime in Saudi Arabia, with its funding of Wahabi madrasas all over the Islamic world, are bigger sponsors of terrorism than he is. Is there a personal vendetta between Saddam and the Bush family? I think you’d have to say there is. I’ve no doubt that there is a real threat to stability in the region with him having these weapons. I can’t help but wonder sometimes, however, if there is some French company currently getting business that an American oil company would like to get their hands on. Are multinational corporations working across global boundaries, dismantling American industries one by one and undermining the governments of nation-states everywhere? You betcha yesiree Bob they are…. Then again, Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney may be right about all of this(more on that later).
As for Europe, well… I have no problem with Germany’s stance. They should be pacifists – forever. God forbid they should be otherwise. No need for them to rev up their tank engines. Bad things follow when they do.
As for the French and Belgians, that is a somewhat different matter. In some strange way they may be doing America a favor by trying to force us to live up to our stated ideals. Launching a pre-emptive strike against another sovereign country would certainly be something new in our history. Crossing that Rubicon would be out of character for us, which gives me some pause. The problem with the French is that they haven’t had the sensitivity to put the question and the challenge to us in those terms. They arrogantly play a brand of realpolitik that only smacks of appeasement. They should drop the “Bush is a cowboy” rhetoric and challenge us to act like the “Beacon of Freedom” in the world that they’ve known us to be in the past. Instead the French and Belgians have people here wondering if we should dig up the war graves of our boys in Normandy and Bastogne and bring them home. They could be a tad more grateful about us bailing them out…twice.
I’m fair enough to say that most of the European reaction is principled. They know the horrors of war better than we do, although they should have learned something about the dangers of appeasement too. The only thing about it that bothers me is the undertone of anti-Semitism I see in some of it, disguised as solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians. Granted, Sharon is a war criminal. Yes, the Israelis have made a lot of trouble for themselves with their settling in the occupied territories. The fact remains, though, that they have the right to exist. In my opinion, it is also a fact that the only places in the world where Jews are truly allowed to live as Jews are the United States and Israel. Europe has forgotten too quickly their complicity in what happened to the Jews, and a generation has gone by without an appreciable number of Jews in their midst. They don’t understand them and hold antiquated ideas about who they are. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about this.
One thing I don’t think Europeans realize is the effect of September 11th on the American psyche. People here are unsettled and fearful over that and a number of other things. I know Europe has suffered through terrorism for decades. I don’t know how many lives the ETA campaign has taken. The conflict in Northern Ireland claimed 3,000 lives in thirty years. The September 11th attack took that many lives in a couple of hours. Someone could point out that per capita, the Northern Ireland conflict has had a much greater impact on that population. I would respond that “per capita”, September 11th had a similar impact isolated to northern New Jersey, Queens, Westchester county and Boston. In the wake of that we had a number of trusted institutions fail us – the Church, corporations. The economy has gone into the tank. This, following on the heels of the prosperous 90’s, has people pretty unsettled.
You are absolutely correct when you point out that Christianity, true Christianity, is pacifistic. There can be no other way for the real Christian. Love is the only way to conquer hate. I buy into that. I really do believe in it. We did not deserve what happened on September 11th , but between just you and me, we did contribute in bringing it upon ourselves by ignoring all the red flags. We’ve meddled in the affairs in other countries. We’ve supported autocratic regimes in the Middle East. We’ve made it clear that we couldn’t care less what happens to Arabs as long as cheap oil keeps flowing. We’ve wreaked havoc on the world by foisting this globalization of the world’s economy down everyone’s throats, whether they like it or not. We’ve launched saturation marketing campaigns pushing our crass, moronic popular culture upon traditional, conservative societies. I’d rather see us stop ALL of that rather than go to war. On the other hand – I’m a father of five little children who look to me to keep them safe. My government tells me Iraq is building weapons of mass destruction and is in league with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is committed to our destruction. They’ve proven that. Do I have to take my government and Al-Qaeda at their word, respectively? For the sake of my kids, maybe I do. A nuke can be brought all to easily in our shores in a container ship. Boston is a coastal city.
I don’t know what the answer is. As you can see, I’m torn. God help us if we attack Iraq and they don’t have these weapons. God help the Europeans if they force us to back off, and some bright, sunny September morning, several American cities vanish all at once. ..
I can tell you how I desperately want to live - with Christ at the center, and love should be my Life Principle.