Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My War

Or: How I Went From Being a Political Agnostic to Being a Boot-Licking Neocon Shill

For my first post here on IBC, I thought it might be interesting to review my own experience with the war on Iraq. These days it seems objectiveness is entirely in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll just be up front about how I’ve come to view the war as I do.

I may as well start in 2000, not that this was the beginning, but because I have to start somewhere. I was discussing who to vote for in the Presidential Election with a friend of mine. I said that if Bush was elected, there would be a war. It was (mostly) a joke, but he was not doing well in discussing issues of foreign policy. On the other hand, I couldn’t vote for Al Gore. He wanted to be another John Muir. He’s no John Muir. To begin with John Muir never invented the internet. I ended up voting for an extremely obscure, thirteenth-party candidate from a party that sounded kinda cool and whose platform might work in a perfect world even if it smelled just a little bit like bong water.

On September 11, the war came to us, and it shocked me as much as it shocked many of us. Maybe like most people I thought the first plane was a horrible accident, but by the second… then the third… then the fourth it was quite clear what was happening.

I don’t remember when Bush gave his speech from the wreckage of the WTC*. I do remember watching it live. Bush was stumbling, mumbling a bit, at a loss for words. Then those New York firemen called “we can’t hear you!” from the back, just as they would say to anyone speaking before them. Bush took a long time to respond. Then he finally came up with the “World will hear you… and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon” quote. It was the right thing to say, and invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do for all but the most ardent America-haters out there.

As the run-up to war began for Iraq, I was glued to the news. I was hoping some sort of solution would materialize that would make military action unnecessary. Still, I was a detached observer to this all- interested from a historical perspective, concerned from a humanist perspective, worried about all the people on both sides- and those who would be caught in the middle- but still just an observer.

On January 11, 2003, I was in the stands of the Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, AZ for a supercross race. Like every event I had been to, a color guard marched onto the field. I knew from my time in the Marine Corps Reserves (’91 to ’97) that the Marines in the color guard were the active-duty Inspector Instructor staff from my old unit, possibly supplemented by a few Reservists who volunteered for the duty in exchange for free tickets. But after the color guard came out, a few dozen Marines in desert cammies came out and unfurled a huge American flag over the field, and then the National Anthem was sung. Afterwards, I could barely hear the garbled announcer over the cheers of the crowd, but I heard him say that these Marines were part of the unit- my unit- that had been activated for service in the Persian Gulf. I did some quick math in my head. I got out in ’97… most of my friends got out in the next few years… even the “lifers” I knew had gotten out… a Reserve contract is six years… So, it was possible that some of the Marines who were just joining the unit as I left were being activated now for service. Did I know any of them? Did I train any of them?

That was the point that the war seemed “imminent” to me, and that it became real. Since then, I have family, friends, and friends’ family who have gone and come back or are there now. It’s definitely real.

I don’t think I supported the invasion at first, until it happened, at least. I knew Saddam was done, there was no doubt about that. Even South Park had picked up on him, portraying him as Satan's boyfriend (Saddam wore the pants). Still, I was hoping he would take the last minute exile deal he was offered. As troops rolled in I shelved my misgivings and wished for a quick success, for us and for the Iraqis. The invasion ended quickly, and the Iraqis seemed pretty happy with Saddam ousted. My anxiety ebbed a bit.

As the insurgency picked up steam, and was joined by domestic and international critics of US policy who seemed to delight in difficulties in Iraq, my anxiety returned. I started to wonder again:

1) was the invasion justified?

2) is Iraq going to be OK?

3) is it “worth it”?

I began to take a particular interest in the opinions of “average” people, how they were coping and so on. For example, I found the BBC’s “Have Your Say” section to be very interesting. By the by I found the Iraq message board at abcnews.com. I followed this pretty closely, just reading & seeing what other people thought. After the election of 2004, where Bush won (and this time with my vote- not that it meant much in my bright red state), the “lefty” posters there were so bitter they began to romanticize the insurgents and terrorists, and would regularly cheer the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. So, in late November 2004 I signed up and began posting there. My posting name “RhusLancia” comes from a conscious effort to choose a name with the most uninteresting back-story ever. This is not so easy to do, once you start to think about it. My first post was in response to someone justifying terrorism, and I replied you don’t express legitimate gripes by blowing up innocent men, women, and children. That's a bit of a pet peeve I have.

I posted quite a bit there over the next few years (almost 1200 times as of today, not counting dozens that the mods deleted). Along the way, I had a number of level-headed debates with antiwar, anti-US, and anti what-have-yous. This helped me discover how I felt about the war, and why. I also threw a few barbs at people who deserved it. Lately, the board has been so heavily moderated that actual discussions are rare and it’s been left to endless calls for Bush’s impeachment and so on. Yawn.

Somehow I found my first Iraqi blog, which was Sam @ Hammorabi’s. It was fascinating to read his views on the day to day of life in a war zone. Eventually I found my way over here, and ran through most of the Iraqi blogs on the blogroll. My favorites, and the ones I regularly comment on, are Baghdad Treasure and 24 Steps to Liberty. I also like Iraq the Model, Iraqi Konfused Kid, and Healing Iraq. Another new one that’s topping my charts is Iraqi Mojo. Just as Jeffrey said, the Iraqi vs Iraqi debates are rare and informative. I’ve learned a lot about the history and inner struggles of Iraq from the debates in the comments there. I comment there a bit, but I usually don’t invade & occupy their discussions as they have them.

By the way, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s Neocon quiz, I’m a “realist”, not a neocon. I was perfectly OK with this until the Iraq Study Group released their report. "Realist" should not equal "Surrender Monkey".

So there you have it. I am still an observer to this war. My answers to the three questions so far? 1) yes 2) I don’t know 3) It depends on #2!

I’ll try my best to add something meaningful to IBC. I’m hoping to find some blogs from Iraqi soldiers and police (does anybody know of any?) since that’s a perspective I haven’t seen yet in the blogosphere. I’m also thinking about getting some Arabic & English translation software to see what the Iraqis are saying on Arabic blogs.


* OK, I looked it up to get the quote right. The speech was Sept. 14.




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