I've been chewing on these thoughts for many weeks. I'm enraged and outraged by our occupation of Iraq. I doubt ranting about it will help, but I know remaining silent won't.
War is evil
War is an excuse to ignore our morals. We do these unspeakable things when we are at war. Our leaders publicly wring their hands and rationalize about Justice and Democracy and nevertheless deny due process of the law to "enemy combatants". The most admirable rhetoric about Iraqi liberation sent American youth out to kill or be killed.
At least in World War II it was the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor and the Germans who invaded Poland and Austria. In those days we were clearly defending ourselves and our allies. By contrast Iraq was never a threat to the United States and barely a threat to their neighbors. They didn't have weapons of mass destruction and had nothing whatsoever to do with September 11th.
This time we started the war. We the People of the United States invaded Iraq without provocation.
The country we attacked was enormously weakened. They had been severely beaten in the Gulf War and then endured more than a decade of international sanctions. It's like a professional heavy-weight boxer picking a fight with a malnourished junior high school bully. At least through the Cold War we were standing up to another superpower.
Did I hear you right, Mr. Bush? We had no choice? The most powerful country in the world was forced into this war by a deceptive, third world dictator? How can we be the most powerful and yet so powerless?
The ends justify the means
Saddam Hussein was probably the most successful mass murderer in history with the help of his regime. He imprisoned, tortured, or killed people on the mere suspicion that they were plotting against him -- no due process, no burden of proof, just suspicion. We rationalize "liberation of the Iraqi people was reason enough to invade Iraq." The ends of Iraqi liberation justify the means of unprovoked, unilateral military invasion and occupation.
Unfortunately there is no end, only changes. Nothing actually ends, so there is nothing to provide justification for our unsavory means. One evil action leads to another. It should come as little surprise that Americans tortured Iraqis.
More cynically, We the People of the United States showed little concern for the Iraqi people for two decades of Saddam's rule in Iraq. Suddenly in the last two years we developed a national conscience? Somehow September 11th snapped us out of the insensitive spell we were under? No. We invaded Iraq because we were scared of them. That's right. We, the professional heavy-weight boxer, were afraid of the malnourished junior high school bully. So we went in an kicked his ass. Very courageous. Very admirable. After the fact, we discover that the gun we thought he was holding wasn't really a gun. "Shoot first, ask questions later" is not the moral ground on which the United States was founded.
We took "preemptive action" in our own defense. In case it's not obvious, that is an oxymoron. You can't pick the fight and call it self-defense. You start it, you are the attacker, not the defender.
Actions speak louder than words
What we have done in Iraq is replace Saddam Hussein, not remove him. In the microcosm of Iraq, we have taken on the responsibility of controlling the Shi'a, Sunni and Kurds. To be sure we're kinder and gentler than the Ba'th party, but only barely. We shut down newspapers when they encourage opposition to our rule. When it suits us, we take prisoners to countries which lack legal protection against violent interrogation. We even torture and humiliate prisoners on Iraqi soil. None of these actions represent our moral standards.
We abandoned our morals in unilaterally taking over another country. In the geopolitical macrocosm, we are the ruthless dictator. The US Government executed the Iraqi Government on the suspicion that they were stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and training terrorists. We also did it to send a message to the rest of the world. Shock and awe. We hoped to scare the rest of the Middle East into submission with the implied threat of other executions.
Tell me again about the Axis of Evil, Mr. Bush.
No matter what happens next, we cannot remove the stain on our own conscience and enormous damage to our reputation for having abused our power.
Made in the U.S.A.
The actions of our government are the actions "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The blood, abuse, and torture is on our hands. We have abused our power and violated the world's trust. Words will not repair the damage. Our actions must change.