Iraq War – A Just Cause

Dedicated to my son who is a true warrior for his country.

Just over four and one half years ago we bombed Baghdad. Although many of us had struggled with the President’s evolving decision to go to war, the consensus seemed to be that we were being forced to make a choice. Especially after Saddam refused to let the inspectors back in, giving apparent proof that he did harbor weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was a mass murderer on a smaller scale than Hitler only because his ambition exceeded his grasp. He was a malignant growth on the world community.

It’s true that as far as we knew, Saddam was not directly involved with 9/11, and somehow we were led to believe that he was. Any person or group is notorious, when building a case, for stacking the decks if they can. Exaggerating a point for or minimizing a point against. The Republicans do it, the Democrats do it, your Mom does it, your Dad does it, your teachers did it, etc. Even your dog does it, with his soulful looks exaggerating his hunger for steak and minimizing the stain on the carpet.

So when did this trait, common to all sentient beings, become equated with deceit, lies, and impeachable offenses? We need to get our facts right. Those who led us into war went wrong in not just flat out admitting they sometimes overstated their case. We began to war with each other, one side refusing to admit they had misstated anything and the other side determined to force the admission.  It took me awhile to figure it out, that this is what they keep calling “partisan politics”.

Now the biggest issue in the 2008 Presidential race is the Iraq war and bringing our troops home. Lately even those against the war seem to be acknowledging it isn’t that simple, is very complicated as a matter of fact. What really bothers me and many people I know is that while the country is arguing this issue we are letting down our troops.

Please don’t jump on a partisan bandwagon and yell at me but hear me out. When we send our military off to war we have already decided the cause is just. We have already given these brave men and women a reason to be willing to die. Enough people in this government and this country made this choice, whether some later felt lied to, betrayed, or what. For us to tell any of our warriors they have died or will die for an unjust cause is the most horrendous thing I can think of.

We owe them our lives, for it is the tradition they carry forward from all our military past that continues to give us the life of free self-expression we now have in this beautiful country of ours. As Americans we must insist that our troops be provided with the best that we can give them for their every need. We must, in every way, continue to remain loyal to the choice we’ve already made.

14 Responses

  1. Amanda

    You speak the truth – I pray for the safety of your son and his fellow troops. There’s no way we can ever truly show our military how grateful and thankful we are for their service.


  2. My condolences for your loss.

    However, when you say “We must, in every way, continue to remain loyal to the choice we’ve already made,” you appear to be suggesting that we should ignore new information. That we shouldn’t reconsider our choices, or re-evaluate our strategies, when we learn that our previous assumptions may have been incorrect.

    Should we continue to send more of our well-meaning and patriotic men and women into a situation in which they could be killed, just to honor those who’ve already died?

  3. It seems to me there is bad and there is worse, but no good decision to be made. You say that causes for the war were mistated and the guilty won’t come clean. You want the truth, even if that means a president must admit he lied and a congress was misled. Why then don’t you want the truth about the troops? They are dying for an unjust war. That it is true is what makes it so terrible. That it is terrible is why it must be said.

    Don’t shoot the messenger. The president is the one who put them in the line of fire. Time since 911 has shown that he’s the most unAmerican president we’ve ever had, demolishing the spirit of the law by wheedling every nuance of power from the letter.

    If it’s a choice between admitting the brave died for a bad reason and saving the rest, I think it’s worth it. Keeping a face on it to make past deaths palatable only means losing more now and every day to come, until the war ends.

  4. I am reminded of the opening of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858. “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” To me, this means thinkng in linear fashion from the onset of a problem to the possibilities of its resolution. The first question facing us is, in the beginning was the Iraq war a just cause? I believe it was. However, the fact that Bush was our president at the time and that a president brings his own strengths and weaknesses to the challenges he faces during his tenure is illustrative. As to what Lincoln would’ve done, there’s no way to know, but it makes no difference. If one believes in destiny Lincoln was president during the time in which he was needed. If it follows that Bush’s destiny is connected to 9ll and the Iraq war, what does that mean? If he is, as Teresa says, the “most un-American president we’ve ever had” was that what we needed? If so, why! Was Bush too arrogant and proud? Was this also a reflection of influences in our country that were leading us away from our greater destiny? Because our destiny, individually or as a nation, is not fixed but is influenced by all the choices we make, good or bad, and how strongly we stay loyal to them (or to put a face on the bad choices, how stubbornly we cling to them). I believe bad choices were made later, after the war began, but at this point is the only way to correct them to refute our original choice? I agree with Teresa and Dan that, expecially in light of these mistakes, too many have died. But I do not believe that this eradicates the first choice, of going to war.

  5. While I’d be more than happy to debate the bona fides of President Bush or the constitutionality of actions by the administration or Congress over the past 7 years, such conversations distract from Amanda’s central point. The country – not just the administration – chose to go to war in 2002-3. This decision was part of larger series of decisions that, to no small degree, included decisions by our adversary (the enemy has a vote). We can “what if” ourselves into any number of reasons for following our private agendas – what if Saddam had acquiesced to the demands of the UN, what if we’d given him another 6 months, what if the French hadn’t undermined our efforts, what if, what if, what if. The reality is that what happened, happened, and drove decisions, the consequences of which were, to a large extent, unknowable. So here we are. Now what? Amanda’s point is that we have to be “loyal to the decisions we’ve made” – we chose a path that we must see to its conclusion – victory. Do you truly doubt that the U.S. can be victorious in Iraq? This is where the true partisan divide appears. I’ve heard so many prominent Democrats say that we can’t win in Iraq, so we should bring the troops home. If that’s true, then they’re right. But it isn’t true, and the success of our new commander’s plan in Iraq is the proof (which I think is the reason that the Democrats in Congress tried to short-circuit his September report and the reason for the notorious ad). Loyalty to our decision means committing, as a nation (both/all parties), to victory. The sooner we do that, the sooner we win, the sooner the troops come home, and the fewer casualties we will have to suffer.

    [By the way, if you think any of this is new, then you don’t know your history. New Yorkers rioted to try to get the Union out of the Civil War and large numbers of people disagreed with entering WWII even after Pearl Harbor, to name just two wars that divided our nation. Many people in the U.S. believed that Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor before it occurred and let it happen to justify that “illegal war”. (If only Hollywood was on America’s side this time around. . .)]

    I leave for Iraq tonight where I will do my part to achieve victory for my country. I would prefer to stay home with my family, to spend the holidays with my kids, to sleep with my wife in our own bed, to shop at the mall, to enjoy the Winter season, to enjoy all of the benefits of being an American. But I have a duty to my country, my fellow soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, so I go. I go with complete confidence that this war has been, from its inception, a just war as defined by St Thomas Aquinas. I go with complete confidence that America’s sons and daughters will uphold the best traditions of the U.S. military despite those sorry few who have tarnished our reputations. I go, too, with confidence that our current leadership has found the right strategy to win through to a true victory – for our nation, for the Iraqi people, and for the larger civilized world.

    God Bless

  6. Amen! And God bless you too. And God bless America.

  7. Justin,

    I leave for Iraq tonight where I will do my part to achieve victory for my country.

    But do you, I, or any American have an idea of what success there in Iraq will look like? As I understand it, success would be achieving peace and stability over there; and it is our very presence there that is motivating anger and unrest over there. How can we generate peace when we are part of the cause?

    Sure, there are other issues, such as the war on terror. I’m all for that! We should invest more time and energy where the terrorists are concentrated. But we’re not.

    There’s also Iran. I don’t know what to do against Iran. Surely though, replacing the Ba’athists with ourselves isn’t the solution. Inflaming Islamic rage against America isn’t the solution.

    What is the objective in Iraq? What will victory look like? My impression is that it will look awfully like tyranny.

  8. Dan,

    Actually, I think the definition of what constitutes success is an Iraq in which the Iraqis have a government that is constituted of the people, by the people, and for the people. We can’t make peace or stability the criteria for success – nothing is more peaceful than the grave and stability can never be anything more than a snapshot in time. That was President Bush’s point about a new direction in the Middle East. Successive U.S. administrations have attempted to maintain stability in this region through support for dictators (pro-American, of course), but the stability was an illusion. The quintessential example was the government of Iran circa 1978. Yet, as Iran showed, when the people don’t have a voice, the pressure-cooker remains stable right up to the minute it explodes.

    Some pundits said after the elections in the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. had “allowed” free elections and it was a failure because Hezbollah won. That’s entirely wrong – elections expressed the will of the people and were thus a success. That we didn’t like the government is irrelevant. Others in the press opined that by stopping aid to the Palestinian Authority after the election, the Bush administration had reversed itself – again entirely wrong. The Palestinians aren’t children and stopping aid wasn’t “punishment”. They made their choice – fine; we responded to their choice – fine. It wasn’t an attempt to punish the Palestinians, it was just the right thing to do for U.S. interests. All people, all nations, all polities realize that there are consequences to their actions. If they don’t like the consequences, that’s not our problem. The question as usually asked is: are we more or less secure with Hezbollah in charge in the PA (or the governments in Iran, Iraq, or whereever). I think that’s the wrong question. That’s a question about the snapshot in time rather than about the longer term. We are all better off when people are able to express their wishes at the ballot box rather than the barricade – or with airplanes hitting buildings.

    I think the preceding discussion makes obvious that victory in Iraq won’t look anything like tyranny – quite the opposite. Day-by-day the Iraqis are taking control of their own lives, their own civil society, and their own government despite constant meddling by their neighbors. This was the change in U.S. strategy that a new commander brought to Iraq this year – a change that has more to do with recently (and belatedly) reported successes in Iraq than the surge in the number of U.S. forces. This change is vastly more important than the surge in troops, the Congressionally-mandated political progress, or even improvements in security because it is a necessary precondition for lasting success in Iraq. Iraqi civil society is maturing rapidly under the pressure of the death and violence over the last 18 months – and with the assistance of the U.S. military. I am more hopeful right now for the Iraqis than I have been at any time in my life about any developing nation in the world because the Iraqis are building their country for themselves – one family, one block, one neighborhood, one province at a time.

    May God bless them in their endeavor.

  9. To All Whom it May Concern,

    I’d like to make note of shibboleth that has been commonplace in the press throughout my lifetime. we are frequently told that “democracy is foreign” to nation X or that some cultures are different. We’ve heard such comments frequently about Iraq. The worst offenders are usually (though certainly not always) what Americans call “Liberals” (a misnomer, if ever there was one, since there is very little that is liberal about their politics – fascist would be more accurate).

    Frankly, it angers me to hear such statements because it is so incredibly condescending. I would ask all of you who read this blog to examine your preconceptions or misconceptions. Although cultures differ, the individuals who constitute the peoples of the world are incedibly similar in their aspirations, dreams, and fears. The unique way in which those peoples express their aspirations create a rich cultural millieu, but does not change or eliminate the desires for liberty (individual freedom), truth, justice, or so much more.

  10. Justin,
    Indeed, it would be ideal to have a democracy in Iraq as a final conclusion. I’m not sure that the average Iraqi fully appreciates the benefits that could come with living in a democracy – all they’ve known is authoritarian forms of leadership, most recently in the form of a dictatorship.

    The trouble with freedom and liberty are that they cannot be given. Democracy cannot be instituted by a foreign power such as the US. Any democratic government that we install will only ever be democratic in name only, and not in spirit. At least that’s my take.

    Moreover, we’ve done a bang-up job of giving Iraqis the impression that a democratic government would automatically be a puppet government, full of corruption, and more death in five years than they saw under a 20-year dictatorship. I’ve heard of polls among Iraqis suggesting that the majority would, given the chance, vote for a return to dictatorship.

    Democracy is a grassroots idea, not one that can be built from the top-down by an invading power. And I see no hope whatsoever for anything resembling a democracy as long as we remain there, telling them how to run their own country.

  11. Dan,

    I agree with you 100% – freedom can’t be given, it must be worked for. That was the fundamental flaw in President Clinton’s Bosnia strategy. It’s also the best news out of Iraq -the Iraqi people are fighting for their liberty, their culture, their way of life – in short they’re creating a civil society where virtually none existed for decades. That’s the point of my previous commentary. The Anbar Awakening, the Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs, in military-speak), and the other several movements spreading across Iraq are exactly that – the people of Iraq working, fighting, and, unfortunately, occasionally dying for the freedom to determine their future. I’ll say it again, the turn-around in Iraq hasn’t been the result of the surge (though that helped create operating room and breathing space), but the people of Iraq taking control of their own lives, their own civil society, and their own government.

    You state that “any democratic government that we install will only ever be democratic in name only, and not in spirit”. That statement reflects a flawed premise – we didn’t “install” anything. The sheikhs and leading intellectuals that survived the Saddam regime, along with the members of the provisional government (overseen by the entire coalition, not just the U.S.) wrote their constitution; the people who voted for the current leadership did so without American bayonets at their backs (though with the ever-present threat of violence from Al Qaeda in Iraq and Former Regime Elements); and the current political difficulties of the Iraqi parliament (of which the U.S. press and Democrat leadership make such a fuss) will be punished by the Iraqi people at the next election – or not (since they don’t care about our Congress’s timetables). You fall into the condescension trap that I mention above by regarding the Iraqis as children who were led (or misled) by the war’s victors into creating a government that doesn’t suit them. I also don’t know why you think that “we’ve done a bang-up job of giving Iraqis the impression that a democratic government would automatically be a puppet government”. They’ve hardly jumped to meet our Imperial Congress’s demands on the political front. Even Al Jazeera doesn’t make the claim that the government in Iraq is a puppet – not since the elected government replaced the provisional government.

    You also somehow see moral equivalence between the voluntary violence perpetrated by both sides since the Golden Mosque bombing with the slaughtering of both innocent and guilty by an all-powerful state. Simply put, I don’t. While heart-wrenching, horrific, and lamentable, the attrocities commited by both sides reflected the violence of two well-armed camps in which, as has been the case throughout history, mainly the innocent suffered. This is a far cry from the willful violence of the state against its own, mostly defenseless citizenry. Similarly, I don’t know the number of deaths from Saddam’s 35 years nor that since the war, but the number is not the relevant factor. While I don’t think that the violence over the last 18 months ever reached the point of civil war, it was a voluntary violence by both sides – and that is very relevant.

    If you’ve truly heard of polls among Iraqis suggesting that the majority would, given the chance, vote for a return to dictatorship, then I challenge you to examine the wording of the questions and the motivations of the pollsters. While Iraqi society is very different than those of the developed world in being very tribal, that hardly makes Iraqis desirous of being oppressed. And, of course, the question also remains: who runs the dictatorship? If there is such a poll and if the questions were fair and if the pollster had no agenda, who, exactly did those polled think was going to be in charge?

    As I stated earlier, I agree that democracy is a grassroots idea, not one that can be built from the top-down. However, if you truly think that we’re over here “telling them how to run their own country”, then you haven’t been paying attention. If President Bush could dictate Iraqi progress on the Congressionally mandated benchmarks, the Democrats wouldn’t be making such a fuss about it. In reality, we monitor, we cajole, and we encourage, but the Iraqis are a proud people with a rich heritage and a history so deep that Americans can hardly comprehend it. While I think the Iraqis respect our perspective as the most successful democracy in the world with one of the most diverse populations (not to mention the most powerful country on earth), they also have a better sense of what’s possible in their society and are choosing their own path.

    The emerging civil society (defined as that interaction between people not regulated by the government) is the most promising aspect of life in Iraq 2007 and gives me great hope. It means that a unified state in Mesopotamia is truly possible, that a new and better Iraq may arise from the ashes of the old colonial state (itself a relic of the Ottoman Empire), and that President Bush’s objective of a representative democracy in the heart of the Arab-Islamic world may yet be possible. It is not a foregone conclusion – no Iraqi George Washington has yet appeared, Iraq is still not a completely peaceful and stable country, and Iraq’s neighbors are still attempting to play geopolitical games with the the Iraqi people. But it is possible.

    As the Muslims say,”inshallah” (if Allah wills). Let those of us who share the God of Abraham pray that He does, indeed, will it.

  12. Justin,

    It’s also the best news out of Iraq -the Iraqi people are fighting for their liberty, their culture, their way of life…

    Indeed. It just so happens however that they’re fighting for their liberty against us. That’s my point.

    But if you are so convinced that the Bush administration is not manipulating politics in Iraq, then I’m afraid that we just won’t see eye to eye anytime soon.

    Thanks though.

  13. Case in point – your own comments:

    In reality, we monitor, we cajole, and we encourage…

    And you say:

    I also don’t know why you think that “we’ve done a bang-up job of giving Iraqis the impression that a democratic government would automatically be a puppet government”

    Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 50 years of CIA coups, tacit support of oppressive governments (both dictatorships and nominal democracies), military tactics to reach political goals, and foreign occupations, have led me to that impression.

  14. On your first point, I’m afraid you’re right – we won’t see eye-to-eye anytime soon. But this argument goes to the core of Amanda’s point about remaining faithful to the choices we’ve made as a nation and be committed to win. The genesis of our discussion was to define what “winning” means. I’ve tried to do that.

    The vast majority of the Iraqis are NOT fighting for their liberty against us and, in my experience, they realize that they don’t have to, because we aren’t trying to restrict their liberty. Rather, they’re fighting Al Qaida in Iraq and their political and spiritual leadership is going on Iraqi TV and Arab sattelite TV condemning Al Qaida and its associated elements (sounds like part of the plan, doesn’t it?).

    Your argument isn’t about whether we’re winning as a nation in Iraq or what that means. Rather, you’re expressing cynicism regarding what you assume (with no evidence) that the Bush administration is doing in Iraq. Strangely, your second comment (“[m]aybe 50 years of CIA coups, tacit support of oppressive governments (both dictatorships and nominal democracies), military tactics to reach political goals, and foreign occupations, have led me to that impression”) is exactly what President Bush is trying to correct by changing our foreign policy throughout the Middle East. President Bush agrees with you – he’s said that the U.S. was mistaken when we thought that we were getting stability by supporting tyrants. (In Harry Truman’s (D-MO) famous words, “he may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard”.) President Bush has changed our policy to encourage democracy – regardless of who wins the first election – because it’s the only thing that will bring stability and peace in the long term. The only (slight) exception to this is Pakistan because of their nukes and their still-powerful Islamist movement. While it’s regrettable that we already have a partial exception to Bush’s new policy, the idea of Al Qaida with nukes is sufficiently frightening to justify the aberration.

    I’m sorry that you can’t see the incredible hope that now exists in Iraq. I’m sorry that so many Americans (to judge by polls) labor under a misapprehension of the facts on the ground in Iraq. I’m sorry that so-called leaders in the Democrat party refuse to acknowledge what they can’t help knowing about what’s going on over here. And I’m sorry that the press seems to be a willing accomplice in the dissemination of propaganda hostile to liberty in Iraq. However, as long as we don’t abandon our new Iraqi allies in a misguided rush to isolationism, America will win here – because we already are.

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