JOHN OSTRANDER: Devil’s Advocate – Iraq

John Ostrander

John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.

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11 Responses

  1. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    "The WMDs were a lie and the Administration knew it or, at very least, should have known it."Forgive me for repeating myself, but just about every politician (including both Clintons and John Kerry) all bought the "lie" about Iraq being in possession of weapons for YEARS. There's endless quotes of all of them saying clearly and distinctly that Iraq had ABC weapons (Atomic, Bateria, Chemical; old school Judge Dredd reference) and that he was a definite threat to the region and the world. So either they were all lying, or all deluded? Clinton hit Iraq a couple of times during his presidency; why is he never spoken of as a despotic madman or the like?I've used this analogy before, but I get the feeling Iraq was like the one kid in school that everyone knew it was okay to pick on cause they'd never fight back. But finally one kid actually HITS him, and everybody backs off, saying "aw, man, that ain't cool". Like they ruined the fun. That was Bush's mistake, apparently.All told I do believe that taking down Saddam was a good idea, but I agree that the time chosen to do it was poorly selected. We sorted out Afghanistan in what seemed like a week and a half. We should have spent a lot more time touting that victory. Making it clear to other countries that if you push us, we push back. That would have provided a lot of the leverage we needed to help weed out more terrorists from "friendly" nations. Instead Bush cashed in his political capital and went after Iraq.People still remember the images of Republican Guards surrendering to CNN in the last war in Iraq. We're used to easy wars now. This little sortie took longer than a marathon game of Halo 3, so people started to think we were losing, and wanted to pull out (note eternal correlation to war and interpersonal relationship terminology; no joke actually needed). Add to that the fact that in too many people's eyes, we hadn't actualy succeeded in Afghanistan because we didn't "get Bin Laden". They spent too much time touting him as the mastermind, the Blofeld of the plot. So though we took out his seat of power, the majority of his assistants, and much of his infrastructure, we didn't get The Guy, so to a lot of people, we didn't do anything.Ironically, Bin Laden has now taken Saddam's place. A public face of evil (with very little actual power at the present) that the Americans all know to hate, who pops up occasionally to say rude things and make us look bad and feel nervous about. The bad side is that we can't point to a spot on the map and say "He's here."The "war" was won some time ago (defined as, taking down Saddam). We are now in the cleanup, which often takes far longer than the act of breaking something. How long did it take to get Germany in a state (okay, two states) that it could support itself? We are indeed responsible for the position Iraq is in, and we are similarly responsible to sort it out. It's just that I believe it's quite possible the new situation will be better for both the people of Iraq, the region and the world. We will never leave Iraq. Heck, we STILL have bases in and around Germany. But progress is being made, and I do believe that they'll end up with a more free way to live.

    • John Ostrander says:

      VinnieBefore the war started, we had weapons inspectors ON THE GROUND inside of Iraq who Bush demanded to be racalled as part of his ramping up to war. They weren't finding the WMDs. You can take the stand that either a) Saddam was a genius at hiding them or b) they weren't there. I know which option I'M betting on. The weapons inspectors were thorough, they had people who spoke the language, and they had tips from people who lived inside of the country. We had to RUSH TO WAR because, we were told, the threats were IMMINENT. In reality, we had to rush to war because if people had to take a cold hard look at the facts, the case for war would have collapsed. The Bushies played on the fear that, if we didn't get them WMDs, we would face another 9/11. It was NOT sold on the basis of the oil or of nation building or of saving the Iraquis from Saddam Hussein — it was sold to the US on the basis of the WMDs. The American people were told, over and over, that we would take down Saddam Hussein and be back out in a matter of MONTHS. There was NO talk of an investment of years and billions of dollars and lots of lives because the Bush Administration never considered that possibility going in. They were going to do it quick and cheap.The failure in Afghanistan is not in the failure to capture of kill Ben Laden — although that was Bush's promise and vow — but in diverting resources away from Afghanistan to Iraq. IF we were going to do nation building anywhere, THAT should have been the place. And we COULD have. But, for the Bush Administration, Afghanistan was always just a sideshow — despite it actually HOUSING the people who caused 9/11 — to their real intentions in Iraq.We're in a CLEAN-UP stage in Iraq? No, we're in a MELTDOWN stage in Iraq! The REAL objective in the war was not simply taking down Saddam (which was easy; Luxembourg might have been able to do it) but in replacing that iraq with a functional, stable democracy. and the Bushies have BLOWN that."Never" leaving in Iraq is not a viable option; Iraq isn't Germany (and i'm not certain that the German bases haven't outlived their purposes either) and we can't bleed forever. Germany has a STABLE government and Iraq has. . . chaos. The two aren't comparable.What we need is a new plan since the current ones aren't working. One that has fixed and achievable goals and not merely platitudes. Something this Administration, because it can never admit to being WRONG, is incapable of doing. I'm not an expert so I can't tell you what it is. What it ISN'T is what we're doing NOW.

  2. Elayne Riggs says:

    It's interesting that you use an Al Capone quote to talk about Afghanistan. I've always considered Al Q'aeda more of an international criminal operation than a state-sponsored Afghani thing anyway. The state-sponsored Afghani terror thing would be the Taliban, which is horrid but which did NOT attack us on 9-11. If any state sponsored Al Q'aeda it's Saudi Arabia, some of Bush's best buddies. But I digress. Given the "structure" of Al Q'aeda as a criminal enterprise, it just made more sense to me that we should have hit them hard with our own network of international police and spy organizations, captured bin Laden (still at large after 6+ years!), rounded them up and brought them to justice that way. But that wouldn't have been very profitable for the bomb makers itching to test their weaponry, would it?In terms of "you break it, you bought it," yes, in theory it would be our responsibility to fix Iraq if everything we touched there didn't turn to sh*t. In practicality, since we've already proven our gross incompetence at being able to do anything about– well, about New Orleans' 9th Ward let alone Iraq, we need to get the hell out. I miss the days when Americans had a "can do" attitude about building and repairing; these days we only seem to have that stance when it comes to destruction.

    • John Ostrander says:

      ElayneI think AMERICANS, as citizens, still have a "can do" attitude. The fact that individuals succeeded in New Orfleans where governmental groups failed means that the governmental groups need a swamping out. We need people who think more clearly and realistically and make better plans in the governmental agencies — federal, state and local. we have to start voting people in based on their competence and not whether or not they "share our values" or that they seem like "someone I could have a beer with". Someone who is "just folks". I don't want someone as good as me running the government; I KNOW me. I want someone BETTER, who knows how government runs and can make it work. I think America is still capable of getting the job done, whatever the job is. (Hopelessly optimistic, that's me.) Just need someone more competent in government to organize what government does — and that includes not hiring cronies.

      • Elayne Riggs says:

        Oh absolutely, cronyism and the disdain the neocons have for the very idea of governing are two of the things that have damned this country quite a bit in this century. And I ought to have said I count the citizenry separate from the government in regards to the "can do" attitude. That to me was the great lesson of 9-11 — contrary to Donald Rumsfeld's assertions, the first impulse of citizens in a crisis is NOT to loot an area's valuables, but to see how they can help one another.

  3. Glenn Hauman says:

    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.Using a somewhat stretched analogy, think of a marriage. Sometimes, you have perfectly good people who, in the course of a marriage where things don't work, stop being good people– he goes crazy, she gets abusive, things get ugly, you can write the basic arc. Does holding a "you broke it, you bought it" justify staying in the marriage until death? Or should a toxic relationship dissolve so people can get on with their lives?

    • John Ostrander says:

      Better analogy, I think, would be the doctor's oath — "First do no harm." A surgeon, in particular, does invasive procedures with the desired effecft of improving the patient's health or ability to survive. If they screw it up, they are indeed liable. They are expected to "make things right". A marrioage is a contract between two individuals desiring to create a more perfect union. Might be better applied to the American Civil War.BTW, some religions — like the Roamn Catholics — DO think that the commitment is forever and do not permit divorce.

  4. Mike Gold says:

    "They are expected to "make things right.'"?? Surgeons? Their idea of making things right is to bitch about their malpractice payments. A bigger batch of overpaid prima donnas doth not exist.I understand the RC does not permit divorce or birth control. Some other faiths permit polygamy and/or use sex as a religious ritual. Some use metaphoric drugs. Others use real drugs. Different strokes. That's why it's all called "faith" — it circumvents reality and practicality for external and abstract reasons that are unfathomable to outsiders.

  5. Marilee J. Layman says:

    There was clearly no need to go into Iraq. There were no WMDs. None of the 9/11 hijackers came from Iraq. This was Bush's little adventure. And today, the WashPost says Hussein was willing to go into exile before our attack.Like so many of the little Eastern European countries, Iraq was a mess before we came. We still have a presence in the newly-formed countries, but they are primarily running themselves now. I think that would be appropriate in Iraq.

  6. Steve Atkins says:

    For an interesting slant on the situation, I recommend the Masters Of Horror Season 1 episode "The Homecoming" directed by Joe Dante.

  7. Matthew Ceplina says:

    I agree with John when it comes to Iraq. The U.S. is responsible for the turmoil that exists in Iraq and should do everything possible to help. I don't know what will truly help as the situation is very complex.As for Afghanistan, I agree with Elayne. When the goal is the elimination of one man seems to be the primary goal (as the success in Afghanistan hinges on Bin Ladin), a surgical strike is the best route. Not sending an wave of soldiers and hope you hit the right target in the melee.