Tuesday, April 01, 2003

"We had hope," he said. "But then you Americans came to bring us democracy and our hope ended."

In a disturbing article following up on the tragic shooting incident in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bakhat Hassan, "who lost his daughters, aged two and five, his three-year-old son, his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces aged 12 and 15, in the incident, said US soldiers at an earlier checkpoint had waved them through."

Incidents like these lose wars ladies and gentleman. And allies. Don't downplay them. Much more is at stake than may be decided by force. Regardless of what happens in Baghdad, and the ultimate outcome of the war, these kinds of incidents cannot continue. This one is past us, but we can allow no more.

How can we just say it's just an innocent mistake, a result of miscommunication in the warzone, ultimately Saddam Hussein's fault, when it is we who have forced the issue of violence, in the mission to free them? And instead we're killing them. Dead.

If people hate us even more after this war, the Jihad picks up and all hell breaks loose, and our allies back away and seek safer harbors, the fault does not lie with Saddam Hussein.

If you start a war to liberate people who obviously are not ready for you, then you are ultimately responsible for each and every life that is lost, and for the flack and unpopularity you take on when it's over. Not going to war, and not forcing the issue of violence, is the only condition under which Saddam Hussein would have continued to be responsible for Iraqi deaths, except for those taken during conflict by the hands of his men.

With that said, we can still make things right over there. We have to. By winning this war, being rid of Saddam Hussein, and telling the truth to the American people so that we come together to help these helpless Iraqis as we did for the victims of 9-11, we can help the Iraqis build the kind of free society that is right for them.

Until then, the promise of freedom only brings catastrophe, decimation and terrors the young and old alike will not forget easily. For the children, the nightmares will continue for countless years ahead. Freedom will not salve these at the beginning, and perhaps not at all, even though our intentions are ultimately good. Such is the hell of war.

As for the Iraqi people, first victims to Saddam Hussein, and now to us, we must lay bare our souls, and raise up their hopes. We're killing them to save them. Acknowledging this, and bending over backwards double-time after the hostilities cease, in the creation of a united front to help them, is the only way to make good, to do America proud, and to reestablish our name and word as it rightfully should be known.

The legacy of this war will be more than the end of the Saddam Hussein regime. It should also be the end of the lies, deceit and dishonor we take on in the exercise of our power and for the furtherance of our interests. If not, we risk the frustration of our interests and the loss of our power.

Freedom is not just an end, it is a means. As is compassion. To realize this, America needs to conduct herself with forthrightness, honor and truth, respectfully listen to the counsel of our friends and allies, and never again forget or downplay the costs and horrors of war.

Thank you.


As an afternote, if it seems I'm being too harsh, I don't mean to decry the cause for which the sacrifice of Iraqis is being made necessary. Of course in war there are going to be casualties, military and civilian. I'm trying to emphasize the larger picture, and our absolute need to make good on this in the post-war period. Obviously, reading my other stuff, I'm somewhat critical of some of the means too, but as to the cause of freedom I give no resistance. Such a life as under Saddam Hussein would be absurd for any free-loving American to conceive.

All Americans are in this together, and share responsibility for this war, by the nature of our founding, and the legitimacy and accountability of American power, which rests in the people.