Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Reality Road Check: Undecided Voters Part VI

Voices of Iraq: Wrong War?

I am working on a review of the tax cuts for our edification. In the meantime, I don't want to leave you without something else to think about.

When you see the news, every night, even in it's most kindest version, what you see of Iraq are pretty much: car bomb, dead citizens, wounded citizens, dead soldiers, destroyed houses, angry Iraqis, pundits talk about Iraq, politicians talk about Iraq.

When was the last time you saw an Iraqi talk about Iraq? Read about one lately? Think all Iraqis are walking around thinking Americans are evil baby killers? Authors of their destruction? Support the Islamists? Support the "insurgents"? Based on the media that you see, do you think that Iraq is full of bombed out buildings, no electricity, running water, sewers, etc? All Iraqis walk around with AK47s waiting for their chance to kill Americans, kidnap them, set off a bomb, dance in the street chanting "death to America"? Are Iraqis nothing but a bunch of goat herders in bare feet or sandals living in mud huts?

I don't blame you if you do because I know what I saw on TV before I went looking for something that wasn't a two second sound bite from CNN.

So, here I am compiling a brief list of places that you can go to on the internet and hear from Iraqis themselves. Go to the inner sanctum to get a list of places to hear from Iraqis themselves. And if you have the stomach, scroll down from here to view pictures of "The Wrong War, Wrong Place and Wrong Time".

The first place I am going to take you to is a film that will be airing in the US shortly. It wasn't filmed by anyone in the US. It was filmed by Iraqis with digital recorders:

Voices of Iraq

One hundred and fifty digital recorders were handed out to Iraqis. No political affiliation. No stated views. They were asked to just go film hours and hours of their lives, their families, ask questions, etc. It's not propaganda either folks. I won't fool you. There are a few on this film that wouldn't mind seeing Saddam back in power if only the fighting would stop. On the other hand, there are quite a few people that spit on Saddam and are enthusiastic about democracy, freedom, the future, etc.

Hey, don't take it from me. Go to the site and look on the right hand side bar for "video". Or go here to see several other previews of the film.

This morning, I saw the CNN interview with the producers and the clips they showed. After seeing the preview of the film myself, I was unbelievably stupified at the clips that CNN chose to show. They did not show differing points of view. I am not kidding when I tell you that they chose to show four clips of similar message: car bomb, angry Iraqis, American soldiers driving through crowd of Iraqis with guns and a small child who said they were driven out of their home by American bombing and all they wanted to do was to return to their home in Fallujah.

Not that these weren't on the film, but the words "fair and balanced" do not even cross the CNN editors mind. You will know I am not just going on another "the media is biased" tirade when you watch the previews I sent you and then watch the CNN broadcast. Unfortunately, I can't find the link on the CNN website, it was sent to me as an embedded program. If you want to see it, please send me an email (go to side bar and click on "dispatches"), I'll be happy to forward it to you for comparison. One thing that stuck in my mind was the way the interview from CNN phrased his question to the editors of the film: "We don't know much about the Iraqi suffering..."

Please, just go see if they are suffering yourself and click on the previews. Don't take my word for it nor CNN nor Fox. The only people that can tell you about Iraqis are Iraqis. Go to voices of Iraq: videos and click on "uncensored preview" and "in-depth preview".

For another view of Iraq, I also suggest the following: Iraqi Truth Project and click on "see movie trailer" at the top of the page.

After you see this film, you might wonder why anyone would say that we should have left Saddam in power and worked through the United Nations. Surely, he was a man who sits in the realm of history along with Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler. It's not the first reason we went to war, but it is without a doubt a reason we should understand. Humans lived there. Humans died there. And they did it in masses with full knowledge and action by their own government.

Maybe it was just me, but there is a clip where a woman was standing near the mass graves, I don't know what she saw or who she found, but she let's out a bone chilling scream that should remind us, but for the grace of God...

Thinking of those that continue to deny the appropriateness of this war or those that still talk about the deposition of Saddam as if he was some sort of benevolent uncle leading his people to prosperity and we interfered with his wonderous reign, I think of the saying I once saw from post holocaust Germany:

First they came for the Jews, but I did nothing because I am not a Jew. Then they came for the socialists, but I did nothing because I am not a socialist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I did nothing because I am not a Catholic. Finally, they came for me, but by then there was no one left to help me.

-Pastor Niemoller (1946)

Want more video? Stories from Iraqis and soldiers in Iraq? Go to Untold Iraq and click on "Iraqis in their own words".

In my own hometown paper, the Kansas City Star, some folks from this group visited Raytown, Missouri to talk about Iraq:

That's exactly where Councilman Abid Khalid and an Iraqi doctor, Hayder Abdulkarim, were last week, meeting with Raytown city leaders and spreading news of progress in their country.

Khalid told the city's Board of Aldermen that the American media seem bent on exaggerating Iraq's problems. News reports ignore improvements in schools, sanitation and drinking water, he said.

“Iraqis are dedicated to building their country, and they really want America to stay for a while,” said Khalid, a civil engineer.

And, from the mayor of Raytown, Sue Franks, she expresses exactly what I have learned in reading and listening to the many sources from Iraq:

Frank said meeting the Iraqis reminded her of American political apathy. People in Baghdad may die going to the polls, but many Americans don't even vote.

“All of us were just left with such a sense of awe and a sense of appreciation for how much we take for granted,” she said.

Whatever I say here, whatever I do, largely I am trying to provide you, if you are undecided, information on what each side is presenting and whether this is accurate or not.

You have only to look on my side bar to understand who I am and who I am voting for. But, in the end, it is you that must decide who best will represent your view of America and where we should go in the next four years.

My decision did not come to me overnight. It was not a thunderbolt from the sky. It was many events that led me to that conclusion. In the same token, my own feelings on the justification for the war in Iraq did not come from one speech by the President. I have no idea how young or how old some of my readers are, but I am old enough to remember the last 14 years.

I remember the first Gulf War and the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent removal of Saddam.

I remember seeing the pictures of destruction of Kuwait. The ravaged buildings, the ravaged citizens and the reports of the tortured, executed and missing after the "cease fire" was signed.

I remember wondering in that moment why we left such a dictator in place. Someone that could feel no compunction about unleashing such destruction on a neighboring country for purely territorial gains and greed.

I remember the massacre of the Shi'a who rose up against Saddam as we signed the cease fire and how we did nothing except institute no fly zones which simply meant that Saddam went to the road to drive his troops to the areas and continue massacring the Shi'a.

I remember learning about the gassing of the Kurds several years before (when I was still too young to know or care about international politics) and seeing the pictures of men, women and children lying in tortured positions, their mouths agape, foaming, burned skin, lying where they fell and we had done nothing.

I remember wondering in that moment why we left such a monster in place and had not gone to Baghdad to remove him as surely this cease fire meant that we would one day return to this place.

I remember how many times (hundreds) that I heard or read about Saddam's military targeting or shooting at our planes in the no fly zones.

I remember how many times he defied the UN and threw out the inspectors.

I remember how many times we had to threaten him with violence (the cessation of cease fire as he was violating the cease fire agreement) or do violence in order to get him to re-admit the inspectors.

I remember the sanctions that were to keep Saddam from gaining certain military abilities (even WMD) but help the Iraqi people with food and medicine and how I learned that the people were suffering degredations while Saddam staged little shows of defiance from gold plated palaces.

I remember when President Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998 and I thought "finally, we will remove him" but we could not muster the political will to do so and I wondered how we could continue to leave this man in place

I remember Saddam's words after we were attacked on Sept 11. They were no words of condolences, but words of defiance and satisfaction.

I remember when the President said that Saddam must disarm or face serious consequences (and we weren't just talking disarming WMD, nuclear or biological or chemical; that included his missiles that did not meet the UN resolution standards for what he could have militarily to defend himself and not prosecute "offensive" wars) and I thought again, "finally, we will remove this man".

And we removed him with all speed.

I remember thinking, "finally, we do what we say and are no longer speaking empty words."

I remember seeing the prison full of children and women being liberated by our soldiers and being even more shocked than I thought I could be after 14 years.

I remember seeing the torture chambers, the men speaking of their torture, the videos of that same torture and murder made for the entertainment of Saddam and being even more shocked at the depravity that I could not understand here in my safe world where my only worries were paying the bills, buying groceries and what I would watch on TV that night.

I remember seeing the mass graves and all those things that I had read about in history, about the holocaust, the purges of Stalin, the killing fields of Cambodia, suddenly became a reality in my world. Something I thought surely must have passed away into history, but there it was, confronting me.

I remember and hear even now, how there were no WMD stockpiles to be found, therefore, the justification for this war was null and void and I think even now how shocked I am to hear someone wonder about the "legality" of this war or wonder for it's justification when I have clearly lived these last 14 years and have not lost my memory nor have I gone deaf and blind.

I hear people arguing about the semantics of the 9/11 report about whether Saddam was involved in planning 9/11 or had contact with Al Qaida or other terrorists or if that contact was extensive and I wonder what are we arguing about? Clearly, here was a man and a government machine that violated the ceasefire, violated international law and violated every tenet of human decency and yet we question whether this was the right war? The right place? The right time?

Sitting here now, I have wondered if we have fallen so far that we, as a nation, have lost all sense of good and decency in this world that we must wonder at this action? We wonder if it was worth it? We wonder at the sacrifice of our young in that far away land?

I have many times expressed to some who doubt the legitimacy of this war, that there were many wars before that started out for less than humanitarian reasons that, in the end, resulted in some of the most fantastic humanitarian efforts known to man kind.

Did we fight the Civil War on our own homeland to free the slaves? While the right to admit slave states was among the issues of the day, the reality of that war was the southern states intent to assert states rights and secede from the union and Lincoln's intent to preserve it. The Emancipation Proclamation was not even signed until three years into the war and yet, we teach our young that the most important outcome of that war was not the retention of the union, but the freedom of the slave.

Did we fight the Nazis because they were exterminating the Jews and any other undesirables they determined in order to create their "master race"? No. We fought them because they threatened our allies, had an alliance with Japan, which attacked us, and seemed intent on conquering whatever part of the world they could reach. And yet, when we teach our young, one of the most significant points is the monstrosity of the Nazi machine and the holocaust.

We fought the Japanese because they attacked us, but when you read history, do we not include the atrocities committed in Nanking, China? The butchering of the Chinese citizenry? The Batan Death March? The beheading of our soldiers and brutalization of civilian captives?

Why do we include all these aspects of these wars when the original reason for the war was not bound by these reasons? Because they represent a part of those wars that cannot be denied, that represents the morality of those wars and we sacrificed much in them. And in the end, those sacrifices were for our security, but also for freedom, not just here in the United States, but for people around the world. They were not for nothing.

And we have fought so many other wars for less.

And here, we question ourselves about this war. Having expressed these reasons and pointed out the monstrosity that was Saddam, some people have argued with me and told me that I cannot use the "humanitarian" aspects of the war as justification and that the only justification was WMD and that has proved false, therefore, this war is false.

I say to you that you may believe as you wish. The justification for this war was not in one speech given by the President. To me, it was 14 years of memory that cannot be erased by the words "weapons of mass destruction" or any lack thereof.

The justification for this war is buried in the hundreds of mass graves through out Iraq. It is in the pictures of wailing women and men as they discover their loved ones there, the last site of them as skeletons and decomposing bodies with blindfolds and bound hands, broken skulls and bullet holes.

The justification for this war is in the pictures of a liberated prison where women and children and old men and women were the only occupants.

The justification for this war was in the pictures of mutilation and torture for the amusement of a sick man.

The justification of this war is in the rooms of torture and the overcrowded underground cells where men could not even sit, much less lay down, who were detained for nothing more than not being one of the select, for not showing deference to a poster of Saddam, for not being willing to give up their business to a crony of Saddam because they simply "wanted it".

Don't tell me what I need to justify this war. I have not fallen so far from the morality and human decency that my forebearers fought and sometimes died for, that my grandparents and parents taught me at their knee that I cannot know when it was right to remove a monster and his offspring. That I cannot know when something or someone so heinous threatens the security of me, this country or the world.

The Duelfer report says that Saddam did not have stockpiles, but retained the ability, the resources and the desire to recreate his WMD program. The same people that tell me that I cannot use the last 14 years or the horrible death and destruction Saddam perpetrated on his people as justification, tell me that the retention of ability, resources or desire do not constitute the same threat to our security.

In 1918, Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versaille in a truce for World War I. In this truce, they were forced to decrease their military, destroy their biological weapons (mustard gas), limit their naval ability and pay extraordinary reparations for their aggression. There was a young corporal named Adolf Hitler, who was particularly agrieved at the humiliation that Germany was forced to endure by the Treaty of Versaille and for nearly 20 years he harbored a deep antipathy for those that forced this humiliation on his country, on him.

In the same time, a great organization was created, The League of Nations, whose premis was to insure that no such World War and destruction would occur again. That all nations could sit at a table and discuss their problems and avoid such wars. This organization was to enforce such treaties and other international laws. This organization failed in it's premis. It eventually became useless and disolved. 18 years after World War I and the Treaty of Versaille in 1936, when the world had turned it's eyes away from Germany, having determined that the Treaty of Versaille had done it's duty, that same corporal was now the "elected" leader of Germany and began to re-arm Germany, persecute political opponents, demanded that all persons wanting to live and work in Germany become part of their party, instituted "the final solution" for the extermination of "undesirables" and again threatened it's neighbors.

And we looked not on his actions because, they were in Germany after all. Far across the ocean. No threat to us and our kind. Four years later, our allies were in a fight for their lives, their very freedom, while many debated the ethicacy of involving ourselves in another war. December 7, 1941 we were attacked by an ally of Germany, Japan, and promptly declared war.

In 1936, had the world recognized the danger of a re-arming Germany and actually enforced the Treaty of Versaille, Nazi Germany would have died a dream in the darkest recesses of Hitler's heart since Germany, at that time, did not have the ability to fight the war that it began fighting in 1939 and we joined in 1941.

One man understood the danger of Hitler and scoffed at the appeasers while France laughed behind the fortified gun implacements of the Maginot line and Russia assumed it was protected by the great tundra and the Ural mountains that had proven Napolean's downfall. His name was Winston Churchill and he was branded a war mongerer. In 1942, no one was laughing anymore. No one wondered why the war was important, France had fallen and Russia trembled as the Nazis began their first foray into the hinterlands.

After millions died and the great holocaust came to light, did anyone wonder at how they had come to such an impasse?

We are there today. History does not repeat itself so much as tells us the lessons of the monsters and of our own downfalls. They are meant to be lessons learned and not repeated.

The United Nations was created to insure such a war would never occur again. That no such dictator could come to power. Committ such atrocities. Threaten the world. It has served many purposes, but here, once again, it has failed to learn the lessons of the League of Nations. We turn blind eyes in hopes that these things are figments of our imagination. Not so great and horrendous as we suppose. Explainable. Stoppable.

You cannot change the spots of a leopard. A simple cliche, but a truism beyond measure. No act of the United Nations would change Saddam. No sanctions disarm him. No censure of this world keep him from abiding his time and returning to his desire to arm Iraq to the teeth and become the power of the region. Threaten his neighbors, our allies and, in the end, the US itself as the main author of his humiliation in Gulf War I.

The Oil For Food scandal and the armament abilities of Iraq in 2003, clearly showed that the cease fire, resolutions and sanctions were falling apart. We can look into the heart of Iraq and see clearly the the kind of man, the kind of leaders the heinous actions of this man and his machine committed against his own people.

There is no need for a crystal ball, for inspectors or investigators, or another five or ten years to go by to tell me what Saddam and his sons would become. I have the pages of history to review the advent of dictators upon our world as if Nostradamus himself had written it. I have fourteen years and the voices of Iraq to tell me.

Believe as you must. Cry foul if you will. Speak of "illegitimate" wars, the UN, inspections.

This is my "Voice of Iraq" and, by God, I will never say "Wrong War. Wrong place. Wrong time."

Freedom is never wrong.


Kat said...

This is my PS....

One thing that we failed to do in this war, we should have rounded up every Ba'ath party member, high and low, every citizen that proclaims the "days of Saddam" as better or safer and force them to do as we forced the German's to do: walk amongst the torture chambers, the crematoriums, the prisons and dig up the mass graves themselves so they would know what "Saddam" was and what they had perpetrated on their own citizens by their very silence.

Tom said...

Excellent points regarding the the Civil War and WWII. How often that the real reasons we went to war are not the same as the post-war justifications! Yet would anyone say that fighting those two wars was wrong?

The UN is definately going the way of the League of Nations. It is just as useless now as the League was during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.

One of my post-election projects will be to explore options to the UN (or NATO, a Cold-War relic). There has to be some way to form a community of "like-minded nations" to deal with situaions like Iraq or Sudan. Any thoughts or sources you have on this would be appreciated.

We can make Iraq work, but it will require staying power. We'll know in a few short weeks if we have it.

onein said...


Hope all is well. Great post. Optimism breeds success. If all we thought about is the bad things that could happen, none of us should ever get out of bed. Believe in a better future.

Thanks for your emails every now and then.