Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Terror War

I don't know what "evidence" Congress was presented with before approving the invasion of Iraq. I don't really even understand why the West invaded Iraq. I don't know what secret communications the CIA or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any one of numerous other U.S. organizations were privy to before advising the president, the security council, and/or Congress to take Hussein down. But what I think I do know is that we should've finished the job in Afghanistan before heading to Iraq. But it's possible that I only think that because I have the benefit of hindsight.

I think that our government and military leaders failed to fully appreciate the tenacity with which those on the ground in Iraq would exhibit in an effort to maintain their way of life. It would appear that anyone with any fore-knowledge or planning of the invasion did not realize that "they" would fight back and that the fight would be this brutal and costly.

So who's to blame for the quagmire that is Iraq? I don't think the responsibility should rest fully on the shoulders of the President or even of the Administration. I think Congress is also to blame. But more importantly, I blame the U.S. media and most of the citizens of the United States.

I think the events of 9/11 gave each of us a false sense of hubris. We were attacked at home and since we were a super-power we expected and demanded that our government take action against those who had done this terrible thing to us. We bought flag t-shirts, put flags on our porches, and flag magnets on our cars. We cried along with and cheered Congress as they sang "God Bless America" from the Capitol steps on September 11, 2001. We gathered care-packages of beef-jerky, cigarettes, and socks for our brave men and women fighting overseas for our right to maintain our American way of life. We started attending church again. Those of us who were lucky enough to live in military towns lined the streets in a rare showing of solidarity as our soldiers rode out in their huge trucks and Humvees, headed for some other base in some other town in an effort to prepare to go fight our war. It didn't matter if the soldier was someone we knew or not, they were all epitomes of our pride, wrapped up in flesh and blood packages.

But what was going on behind the scenes when the rest of us were engaged in a battle to prove our patriotism? We'll probably never know. Too much time has passed. We were broken and in our brokenness we forgot to criticize and question our government. We handed our Constitution and Bill of Rights to the President and told him to do what needed to be done, regardless of the cost. The media saw us and what we believed in and they rallied to our cause. They let us down. We let us down.

I doubt anyone really thinks it was a bad idea to retaliate against Afghanistan. I've tried finding even just one person and I've failed in that endeavor. So what is it about Iraq that makes a normal American's visceral reaction be one of disgust at the loss of life and utter failure that that war is? I think it's because deep down inside each of us we know we gave up our democratic power for a brief moment when we relied way too much on our government to save us and to assure us that this type of nightmare would never revisit our soil. Instead of questioning the Administration by way of forcing the media to ask the questions that needed to be asked, we laid there like little broken automatons with no ability to maintain reason or to demand appropriate leadership from our government when our country needed it most.

The government took advantage of us in our broken state. They used us. They lied to us and to the world. The Administration, Congress, DHS, and however many other organizations you can imagine abused our trust. And as angry as that makes me and as deeply as I want this entire administration out of leadership, I think I'm still more angry and disappointed in myself for not listening to that inner voice that told me not to simply accept whatever the U.S. government was throwing at us and instead to question everything. The government failed us but we failed ourselves more because we proved how silly, shallow, and lazy we really are by not demanding that the government offer us proof before we allowed them to send our friends and family to fight and die in a war for a cause that never even existed in the first place.

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