JOHN OSTRANDER: Devil’s Advocate – Iraq
I’ve got something nibbling at my mind and perhaps the only way for me to sort it out is to put it into words. It has to do with our adventure in nation-building, a.k.a. the Iraq debacle.
I’ll start by saying that I was for the invasion of Afghanistan. Then and now, it seemed to me the necessary response to 9/11. Al Quaeda appeared responsible; they had their camps in Afghanistan with the full knowledge and support of the Afghan government, the Taliban. You get hit, you hit back at the ones who hit you. Hard. As Al Capone said, “That’s the Chicago way.”
On the other hand, I was not for the invasion of Iraq from the beginning and I said so. I didn’t buy the “imminent danger” from the “weapons of mass destruction,” especially since there were UN weapons inspection teams on the ground inside the country. The fact that the Bush Administration was so stridently insistent made me ask “What else is going on here?” At first I thought it was about the oil (and now Alan Greenspan says it was); I came to believe that it was a NeoCon vision of transforming the MidEast by creating a functioning democracy in the middle of it. Now I think it’s about the oil, about the NeoCon vision, and certain select Bush-friendly companies making a bucket of money there.
I believe that the NeoCons thought that the Iraqis in exile would just step in, set up a new government, we would be hailed as liberators, and it would all be done in six months. I believe it was on the agenda to do before 9/11 happened; that tragedy just enabled the Bushies to push the plan through without thinking it through. The only plan the current administration seems to have for dealing with the mess is to leave it for the next administration to clean up. Instead of nation building, we seem to have created a geographical area of chaos. It’s a constant drain on both our military and our national finances; Iraq seems like an open wound.
My disgust with all of this is long standing. We had no business going into Iraq in the first place. The WMDs were a lie and the Administration knew it or, at very least, should have known it. The Dems were elected to Congress on the promise to end the war and the low low low approval rating of Congress at the moment stems on their failure to even staunch the flow. Since I didn’t believe we should be there in the first place, it stands to reason that I think we should get out at first opportunity.
BUT. . .
Colin Powell is purported to have said to Bush about Iraq before the invasion that “If you break it, you’ve bought it.” And there’s my problem. I think there’s truth to that. Before we invaded, Iraq was a functioning country: it had electricity, people had jobs. Yes, it also had a murderous dictator in charge; lots of places around the globe do and we don’t seem to have bothered ourselves about them.
So now what have we got? Sect fights sect and sects fight internally and they all hate us. It’s chaos and we brought it. We, the People. This country. You, an individual, may have, like me, been against the whole misbegotten enterprise from the start but I’m talking about the collective We. The We that elected not only the President but the members of Congress that sustained him, as well as the Democratic Party that has no spine.
Iraq is broke, we broke it and my question – my problem – is how do we just walk away from that? How do we just remove our troops? This mess, like it or not, is our collective responsibility. The chaos exists because our country created it. We let it be created in our name. It is our doing – not just Bush’s. It was going to be fast, cheap, and painless for us. Well, it wasn’t and isn’t.
So – what is the answer? Damned if I know. Everywhere I hear the solution is diplomatic rather than military but I don’t know what that means. What is the role of the military in Iraq now? If we can’t define it, maybe we should pull them out. I don’t know. We keep extending the military tours, overextending the personnel, and asking them to do jobs that are not really a military function – such as “winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.” The military guards, it defends, it attacks. It functions best when it has clearly described goals and a clearly defined enemy. “Nation building” is not something that should be asked of them.
Is the answer to divide the place up? Some, such as Senator Joe Biden, have offered that there is really three “Iraqs” and that we should recognize that and let each area rule itself, coming together in a Federation for such things as oil revenues. That sounded like sense to me but I’ve also heard that isn’t what the people of Iraq themselves want. It would be another imposed solution by people who don’t live there and know neither the people nor the culture(s).
Nor do I think it would be a lasting solution. Each region would be weaker than a whole and subject to domination by its neighbors. To the North, Turkey has no interest in a (semi)autonomous Kurdish state; it would encourage the Kurds in Turkey to break away and I don’t think the Turks would put up with that. For the central and South – Syria and Iran both have covetous eyes on the Iraqi oil fields; Syria has shown, with Lebanon, that it has a penchant for controlling neighbors and Iran is already appears to have its agents at work in Iraq.
The Iraqis should choose for themselves, but maybe there is no such thing as an “Iraqi.” The country of Iraq was an artificial construct, created by foreigners after World War 1 who jammed different groups of people together and drew arbitrary national boundaries. On the other hand, how much in common did Virginia and New York have when they became part of the formation of the United States?
Perhaps the solution is more along the lines of the Marshall Plan where, after World War II, this country helped those countries shattered by the ravages of war – including enemies such as Germany and Japan – to become functioning modern nations. But instead of the U.S. government doing the rebuilding, a la the Marshall Plan, we’ve tried to “privatize it” – we hired private companies to handle it – because supposedly that is the most “cost effective” way – on paper, anyway. We let the “free market” do its thing. However, perhaps because there is no regulation and no oversight, what we’re getting is massive corruption, overcharging, and theft – and the work isn’t getting done. We’re just getting ripped-off. Gordon Gekko is out of prison and working in Iraq and greed is, indeed, good.
I know we can’t continue the way we’re going; that way – which Bush is determined to follow – produces nothing and shows no viable sign for improvement that I’ve seen. However, I also think we have a moral responsibility for Iraq and cannot simply haul ass back home and say, “Bye, you’re on your own.” Or is that just hopelessly naïve and simplistic? The best I seem to be able to come up with is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I can’t tell if that means I want Ben Parker for president or Stan Lee.
Bush was elected (though some would argue that) and then re-elected (although some would argue that as well). And the majority of Americans bought what he was saying about Iraq and cheered as we went to war. He’s our bull and we’re responsible for what he did in the Iraqi china shop. It’s our mistake to make right and it won’t be quick and it won’t be cheap.
Make no mistake; I’m not talking about “staying the course” until we achieve “victory.” I’m talking about making right what we did wrong. If we are anything at all like we say we are –as we like to think of ourselves as being – hen I don’t know how we get around it. I don’t know how to fix it but I don’t know how we walk away.
GrimJack: The Manx Cat, by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman, debuts on ComicMix this Tuesday. Munden’s Bar returns on Friday, October 5th right here on ComicMIx – both are free and available to you 24/7. John’s Suicide Squad: Raise The Flag and Star Wars: Legacy are in the comics shops right now.