I learned during a trip home to see my family that intelligent public opinion on America’s current foreign policy issues is more divided than I thought. It started with a lunch discussion with my father. He’s an intelligent man with firm opinions. I respect him and model a lot of my life on his character. Five minutes into our discourse on the war in Iraq, I was nearly screaming. I’m not a very passionate guy when it comes to matters of politics. Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. Yelling at my dad is something I never do. I ended up declaring, “I’m not talking about this with you anymore.”
Five minutes later I was yelling again.
When I posted Tuning In, I expected very little response. Based on the e-mails and comments, I was wrong about that. Because I think talking about it is the only way we’ll ever get close to consensus, I thought I’d bump the discussion up to a post of its own.
Mike M. wrote:
What are you talking about? Mexicans booed the US soccer team just weeks after 9/11 in Mexica, chanting Osama…Osama throughout the match. This is not a “wake up” call, at least not to most of us.
Everyone hates us and they have for decades before 9/11. Are you ready to change America so that the world loves us again? Ready to sell out Israel? That will gain lots of friends.
Mature people worry about doing the right thing. Teenagers worry about being liked.
1) Being mature and being liked aren’t mutually exclusive.
2) I said “most of America” woke up with the beauty pageant. You might forget that most of America doesn’t watch soccer and missed that other Mexico incident.
3) There’s a difference between actively trying to be liked and actively working to be hated.
Zippy backed me up:
As for Israel, I’m pretty sure it can take care of itself these days. They can always use those nuclear weapons that they don’t have that they didn’t build from nuclear material we didn’t give them or have taken from us in the late 60s.
Mike was having none of my liberal ranting. He responded:
C’mon, Otis. Are you kidding? Do you think this is a “wake-up call” to even 5% of Americans, the ones who have been in comas?
I think you are simply rejoicing in the humiliation of an American woman. I think you feel Americans have it coming to them for not voting the way you would vote.
And I *know* that if an American crowd acted as the Mexican crowd did, you would have no problem recognizing the unforgivable racism, xenophobia, and hatred on display by ugly Americans. There would be no “wake up call for Mexicans” for you to point out if a Mexican girl was humiliated on an American stage. It would be all about the racist American pigs who made racist taunts and jeers at a brave contestant.
I didn’t respond to that at the time. I guess I should now.
You’re right, Mike. I would call the American crowd xenophobic if they booed a foreign contestant. It’s an ugly way to treat people who are not at fault for the world’s problems. Further, it does nothing to further the cause of peace and harmony (and, lest you think that sentence is all “Come on people, smile on your brothers,” I’m not really riding a Flower Child trip here–I just think peace and harmony are decent, if futile, pursuits).
What you might have misinterpreted from my thoughts about the Mexican booing is this: I wasn’t applauding the Mexicans. I was simply saying that a majority of America pays more attention to beauty pageants than it does news about the war. I guarantee you that more people discussed the Mexican Booing incident than discussed how many Americans died in Iraq that same day. I’d suggest that sucks and I suspect you’d agree. The point isn’t that Miss USA got wrongly humiliated. The point is that America at large is shocked by the fact that the people of other nations dislike us enough to boo our pageant queens. The point is we should be taking a critical look at why other nations dislike us. If it’s because we’re free and rich, well, then I don’t care if they like us either. However, if it’s because we use words like “crusade” when we attack lands of different faiths, well, then I think we have a problem.
The biggest part of the argument I had with my dad was over whether America’s reasons for war were justified and if, even in the face that our initial stated reason was false, whether our continued involvement was just, fair, and smart. I’m not sure I have the answer to that (at least well enough to write about it). However, I think it’s a question we should all be able to answer before we support or actively fight our continued involvement in Iraq.
Which brings me to Random101. He is a friend, and an intelligent one at that. Rarely outspoken, he has taken this opportunity to offer me a thinking exercise. He commented:
My reaction to the Iraq/world opinion stories ran contrary to your comments. I would like to make a request to the best writer that I personally know. You are President/King Otis. It is 9/11 or whenever. What do you do? Do you stop enforcing the “no fly” zone in Iraq? Do you pull all of the 100,000 or so troops out of the Middle East? What would be the reaction of other countries? What are your counter actions? If you capture real terrorists, what do you do with them?
I don’t want to argue or trap anyone. I just want someone describe the alternative path. People sound so hopeless. What possible series of US/world events leads to people sounding hopeful?
It is 9/11 or whenever.
I’d first take issue with the characterization of “9/11 or whenever.” Not to be glib, but it reminds me of that line from “Sixteen Candles.”
The Geek: How’s it going?
Samantha: How’s what going?
The Geek: You know – things, life, whatnot.
Samantha: Life is not whatnot, and it’s none of your business.
September 11th could never be compared to any point that could be described as “whenever.” September 11th was a moment that galvanized America and showed us how vulnerable we are to the people who hate us. No other event since Pearl Harbor had such an effect on America at large. I shudder to imagine that it could become so commonplace that we’d describe it as “whenever.” So, I’ll assume you were just being colloquial and you can forgive me quoting John Hughes.
What do you do?
Without question, I hunt down the organizers of the terrorist groups and I kill them. I kill them in such a way that there is no question that I intended to kill them. I continued to kill them until there are no more to kill.
So, most supporters of the current war would suggest that’s what we’re doing in Iraq. We’re working to kill the people who tried to kill us. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence to support that. I’ve yet to see evidence that Iraq provided serious support to Osama Bin Laden or his people. I’ve yet to see serious evidence that Saddam had much success in building weapons of mass destruction. So, launching an assault on Iraq and deposing Saddam might have been a good idea. I’m not saying it wasn’t. What I’m saying is, 9/11 wasn’t justification for it. What I’m saying is America is in the middle of a crisis of its own making and the only people winning are the Haliburtons of the corporate world.
People sound so hopeless. What possible series of US/world events leads to people sounding hopeful?
Maybe I’m being naive. Maybe there was reason to occupy Iraq for four-plus years in an effort to fight terrorism. Maybe the trillions we’ve spent destroying and rebuilding Iraq is actually making my family safer. However, I don’t think that.
I have an in-law who once said, “If we don’t find them over there, your son will have to fight them over here.”
My question: Who is “them?” Iraqis? Muslims? Middle Eastern people? Brown people?
Supporters of the war seem to draw a clear connection between The War on Terror and the occupation of Iraq. I don’t see one.
So, what of hope? What would make me hopeful?
Hard to say anymore I guess. Looking back, I wish we would’ve spent trillions in covert missions and undercover work to find and kill terrorists. I wish we had not gone to war in Iraq. Had we decided to depose Saddam, I wish it would’ve been a CIA mission as opposed to a full-scale military assault. I wish we would’ve listened to the intelligence about the insurgency problems we were sure to face. I wish thousands of American soldiers hadn’t had to die for a war with no clear goal or exit strategy.
But, hope in one hand, yada, yada.
So, what would give me hope now?
A gradual drawdown of the American presence in Iraq.
A clear timetable for our eventual exit.
If we’re to stick to a strategy of pro-active war, I’d be hopeful that America is given clear and accurate reasoning for such future battle.
The end or reduction of no-bid contracts.
Clear accounting of money spent during times of war.
For-profit mercenary firms being held to the same legal standard as American military troops.
A recognition that our espoused noble war is operating, if not at the expense of, at least in the ambivalence about such tragedies as the genocide in Darfur.
I am not a foreign policy expert. I don’t claim to know even 25% of everything I need to know to have an educated opinion about this. I’m speaking largely from my heart. I believe in democracy. I believe in freedom. I believe in America. However, no one has given me any reason to believe the war and continued occupation of Iraq is helping America or the people of Iraq. To the contrary, the war has injured my belief that America works in the interest of peace and democracy. I can only hope that my belief is restored. War is sometimes necessary. This kind of war, however, is not.
When I left my hometown, I sat in a small airline gate with my kid at 6am. A clean-cut, tough solider in fatigues stood almost at attention. He looked through the glass windows out into the insecure area and did a lover’s version of sign language to his girl on the other side. For nearly 30 minutes, they signed back and forth in their own unspoken longing. When the gate agent called for boarding, the guy turned on his cell phone. With tears running down his face and a waver in his voice, he said, “I love you, baby.” And then he walked in tears onto the plane that would start his journey toward Iraq.
If he was your son, your husband, your boyfriend, or your brother, what would you say if he died in Iraq tomorrow?
Would he have died for a reason? And if so, please tell me what that reason is.