Mohammed Fadhil, Iraq the Model blogger and my friend, writes a crie de coeur about the impact of abandoning Iraq:
And so, my friends, I will call for fighting this war just as powerfully as the bad guys do – because I must show them that I’m stronger than they are. The people of America need to understand this: the enemies of a stable Iraq are America’s enemies, and they simply do not understand the language of civilization and reason.
They understand only power. It is wileth power they took over their countries and held their peoples hostage. Everything they accomplished was through absolute control over the assets of their nations through murder, torture, repression and intimidation.
Go read the whole thing.
One reason why I initially supported and still support the war is simply because I believe that we are fighting for the decent people like Mohammed and his family. Dentists and doctors, people who simply want to make their country one where their children can grow up with hope and an unblighted future.It’s because of what Geraldine Brooks wrote in Salon in 1998:
Until the Gulf War, I had always been on the pacifist side of the argument in all the conflicts of my lifetime. Vietnam, Panama, the Falklands — I protested them all. And then in 1988, on a searing summer day, I stepped off a plane in Baghdad and began my acquaintance with a regime of such unfathomable cruelty that it changed my views on the use of force.
I learned from Iraqi dissidents about mothers, under interrogation, tortured by the cries of their own starving infants whom they weren’t allowed to breast-feed; about thalium, the slow-acting rat poison Saddam Hussein used on his enemies; about Iraqi government employees whose official job description was “violator of women’s honor” — i.e., prison rapist.
One bright spring day during the Kurdish uprising, I followed Kurds into the security prison they’d just liberated in northern Iraq. It was dim in the underground cells, so my face was only inches from the wall before I was sure what I was looking at. Long, rusty nails had been driven into the plaster. Around them curled small pieces of human flesh. One withered curve of cartilage looked like part of an ear.
I’m home now in my own liberal, pacifist country, Australia. Within a couple of hours of the news of the latest Baghdad bombings, people in Sydney were in the streets, demonstrating against them. Friends were on the phone, upset: “Terrible, isn’t it? And at this time of the year! Whatever happened to peace on earth, goodwill to men?” Local pundits argued on the television, decrying American bully-boy tactics against a small and defanged Arab country. I agreed with almost everything they said: Yes, the slaughter and injury of Iraqi civilians is tragic. And yes, the timing of the bombing is the worst kind of political cynicism. And yes, it is questionable what effect this new onslaught will have on Iraq’s weapons capability. And yet I disagreed with their conclusion: that this bombing is therefore wrong.
The West’s great crimes in Iraq are not the latest bombings, but the years of inaction: ignoring the use of poison gas in the theaters of the Iran-Iraq war; ignoring it again in Halabja and other rebellious Iraqi cities; ignoring the vast human and environmental devastation since the Gulf War in the mostly Shiite regions of southern Iraq, where the ancient wetlands of Mesopotamia and the unique culture of the marsh Arabs have been wiped out by a series of dams and diversions designed to starve a minority into submission.
Opponents of the bombing say that dealing with Iraq should be left with the United Nations and its gentle leader, Kofi Annan. But Annan is a peacemaker, and a peacemaker isn’t necessarily what’s required in Iraq, any more than it was in Bosnia. Sarajevans will tell you of the agonies caused by the U.N.’s “evenhanded diplomacy” — the pressures to accept any kind of unjust peace the Serbs happened to offer. The history of the United Nations has shown that the organization is most useful in keeping peace between belligerents who have decided they no longer wish to fight. But recent experience has shown that the organization is both inept at, and degraded by, its insertion into conflicts where one or both parties have no wish for peace.
After I left the Middle East, I spent some time covering the United Nations at its headquarters in New York and in the field in Bosnia and Somalia. During that time, I learned that people who go to work for the United Nations often do so because they believe that war is the greatest evil and that force is never justified. In Somalia, one U.N. staffer broke into sobs in front of me because instead of keeping peace, her job had become the administration of a war.
It is impossible to imagine the bureaucrats of the United Nations accepting the kind of harsh conclusion that may be necessary in the case of Saddam Hussein: that the bombs should continue to fall until he does. Iraqis will die. But they are dying now, by the scores and the hundreds, in horrible pain, in the dark security prisons with the blood on the walls and the excrement on the floor.
I wish I still believed, as I used to, that the United Nations was always the world’s best chance to avert bloodshed. I wish I could join, as I once would have, the placard-waving peace protesters outside the U.S. Consulate here in Sydney.
I wish I’d never seen the piece of ear nailed to the wall.
I have watched as the conventional wisdom has shifted – driven by a relentless cycle of media and pundit pronouncements that the war is immoral and unwinnable – unwinnable most recently of all we are told because we don’t have the determination to win – because our pundit class has been busy telling us for five years that the was immoral and unwinnable, watched as politicians have moved to cover their asses with cynical proposals they know won’t work but they know they can propose because they will never be implemented if the politicians proposing them are elected.
The problems surrounding the war in Iraq – or the war in which Iraq is the leading battlefield – are truly wicked problems. They are not susceptible to computer models, or policy white papers, or answers arrived at in clever debate. Words, models, ideas matter – as tools, as weapons – but they will not solve this.
So I’m lost – like so many others, I make my way with words and numbers and ideas. I don’t have any in my bag of tricks today that will reverse the course our affairs must take.
Sometimes, when I can’t decide on an issue, I make my decision by looking at who stands where, and who I’d like to stand beside.
There’s no issue here. I can only stand beside Mohammed. I can only stand beside the troops who are in Iraq and believe more in the mission they are doing than we who have sent them.
There will be a time for policy and clever ideas and arguments and numbers. We’ll need them. But given a choice about where to stand on the big issue, I really have no choice.
We must keep fighting those criminals and tyrants until they realize that the freedom-loving peoples of the region are not alone. Freedom and living in dignity are the aspirations of all mankind and that’s what unites us; not death and suicide. When freedom-lovers in other countries reach out for us they are working for the future of everyone tyrants and murderers like Ahmedinejad, Nesrallah, Assad and Qaddafi must realize that we are not their possessions to pass on to their sons or henchmen. We belong to the human civilization and that was the day we gave what we gave to our land and other civilizations. They can’t take out our humanity with their ugly crimes and they can’t force us to back off. The world should ask them to leave our land before asking the soldiers of freedom to do so.
Those who choose to stand elsewhere today will find that they will have harder choices to make tomorrow. Sadly, I think that all of us will.