A few days ago a good friend, Barry, sent some of his friends, including myself, a brief e-mail: “This week on March 20 marks the 13th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. I encourage you all to send of letters to the editor and remind folks what a fiasco that was and continues to be. I have attached my own short article [see end of this post].”
Barry has far more than “paid his dues”: he’s a Vietnam vet who knew people whose names are on the memorial wall. He has walked the talk for peace, visibly and publicly for years. A thirteenth anniversary is an anniversary easily overlooked. I’m glad Barry reminded me.
March 20, 2003 (it was a Thursday) began our invasion of Iraq. Some would correctly contend that March 20 was simply a continuation of the brief Gulf War of early 1991. I still have the letter some anonymous GI wrote from the front at the end of that War. (Back then letters to GIs were encouraged, and my “pen pal” then, must have passed my letter to him along to someone somewhere in Iraq. The letter, 25 years ago, says it all about the reality of peace through war.)
(click to enlarge)
Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991
A dozen years after this lonely GI wrote from the Iraq desert came what we witnessed between March 20 and May 1, 2003: what was called “Shock and Awe”.
On May 1, 2003, President George Bush gave his celebratory and still controversial Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We were led to believe that the Iraq War was over 40 days after it started; all that remained, we were told, were the candy and the flowers, the gifts to and from Iraqis for bringing “democracy” to Iraq….
Mission Accomplished, indeed.
I have my old e-mails from that awful time in history, Spring 2003, including a halfsheet post sent to friends on March 19, 2003 (#1 below).
And for some weeks now I have been putting together a single sheet of paper which I call “The Human Cost of War For The United States”. I wasn’t planning to roll out either one in connection with today, but Barry’s reminder is sadly appropriate.
I’d encourage Barry and everyone to print out those sheets and discuss their application to today.
1. The E-mail of March 19, 2003 (one half page): E-Mail March 19, 2003001 (At the time I wrote this, I was quite new to the Peace and Justice movement, and not a leader in any sense of the word: just a concerned citizen who routinely participated in protests.)
2. U.S. War Deaths from Civil War through March, 2016 (one page): War Deaths U.S.002
3. Here is a much longer piece of additional data for those with an interest: World and Historical Deaths from War and other anthropogenic disasters here. (The key columns are the first one, and the columns which give duration of the particular catastrophe.)
While, I realize that this topic of war is subject to endless argument, here are a few thoughts to help stir up conversations wherever you are….
4. Essentially war has ceased to be a cause of American deaths; and while we are “armed and dangerous” to an extreme degree, the amount of killing at our hands out in the world is proportionally very low compared with even our recent past (2003-2008). We are still, however, extremely comfortable with violence and too many reverence what they feel is our “power” and past “might” and glory. The slogan, “making America great again” celebrates the glory of War, of dominance.
5. The Iraq War turned out to be ruinous and near catastrophic in many ways for our country, not even to mention Iraq and the Middle East. We didn’t think, 13 years ago, that we were building ISIS from the ground up.
6. Back then in 2003 the word “Drones” was not part of the conversation – the way to go was to “bomb the hell out of ’em”, give ’em “Shock and Awe”; now Drones preoccupy. Drones will not disappear. Back in 2011 I encouraged my own peace movement to enter into a constructive conversation about Drones, generally. I don’t recall much buy-in for the conversation at the time, or since. John Rash in yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune called attention to a new film about the ethical aspects of Drones. I suspect we’ll take in that movie. I continue to support the idea of deep conversation and action to at minimum regulate the use of Drones in War.
7. Far too many in our American society are pre-occupied with protecting an obsession with our sacred guns, and similar. Paradoxically, we now directly kill far more of our own citizens by firearms, than we kill faceless others by bombs, but we seem to refuse to deal with this domestic issue.
8. I abhor war. Nonetheless I believe “war” will never be archaic. All we need to do is look at history (see the depressing data I linked in #3 above. There is always a new rogue, sometimes of our own making, who has fantasies of being in control. It never works, long term…but there are always the dreamers….
9. The ever-increasing wealth gap is a huge problem in all developed countries, but most of all in our own. This seeming out of control gap births conflict. The poor, and those for whom reasonable success is elusive, do not want to be rich; but they do wish to be able to survive with dignity. A saying I once heard applies: in the long run, even the selfish will pay for their own selfishness. It’s just a matter of time.
10. The United Nations is regularly vilified, even by the left, and, yes, the UN needs reform, but without the United Nations this world be in much worse shape. In many ways, the UN or its related organizations help keep an otherwise unstable human world from repeating the 20th century legacy of death and destruction especially before 1945.
11. As individuals or small groups we may seem to have little power, but as Margaret Mead so famously observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
12. Conversely, those who believe that they can take a pass on electing competent leaders at all levels of government, or even take a pass on voting at all, are foolish and short-sighted.
I could go on and on and on and on.
Have a good conversation. And have a great Spring.
Comments welcome, and will be printed unless there is a specific request not to print:
Barry’s submission to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Thirteenth Anniversary of Iraq Invasion
On the thirteenth anniversary of the US most recent invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, let us reflect on its costs. Just a few of which are: Thousands of US lives lost, Trillions of US dollars spent, anywhere from a Few Hundred Thousand to over a Million Iraqi civilians dead, totally destabilized the region, exploded sectarian tensions and led directly to the rising of Isis. Not to mention of course, it was all based on lies.
Let us remember too who voted for and supported this disaster, Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders spoke out strongly against it. Do we really need another War President?
To Barry: Personally I strongly support Hillary Clinton for President. She has the experience to deal with the many great complexities the next President will have to confront in this nation, and in our world.
Your friend, in deep respect,
Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961
from Norm: Thanks Dick for your blog this morning. We are not reminded enough. And thanks for including your Collegiate Press piece. A wonderful second sentence.
I’m reading The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current, April 2016, of The Atlantic which I was surprised the whole article came up online [You can read it] here.
I marked two paragraphs because they say so much for what Obama is about. Here they are:
The Atlantic April 2016
This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”
“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”
I first spoke with Obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”
from Jim: I read your post with interest. You conclude with your support for Hilary Clinton. She of course voted for the invasion of Iraq. She was part of the debacle in Libya. She has come out against the Pacific trade deal, negotiated by the Obama administration and which I support. Mrs Clinton is an astute politician. Like her husband, she collects thousands for making speeches. When you review her tax returns, about the only charity she regularly contributes to is the Clinton foundation. At the caucuses, I supported Bernie Sanders. I sent $50 each to Bernie and Governor Kasich.
Response from Dick: Thanks for the comment.
To piggyback on your comment a bit: Hillary Clinton was, of course, U.S. Senator from New York at the time of 9-11-01. New York City was the epicenter of 9-11-01. I was always troubled by the fact that 94% of Americans de facto wanted war against somebody after 9-11-01. It was probably even higher in New York. That is a strong wind to buck.
The rest is part of the dilemma of decision making faced by an individual representing a powerful country in an extremely complex world. (BTW, if I could afford to have my own Foundation, I guess I’d be inclined to give preference to it in my donations). And as Secretary of State, representing one of 193 countries in the world, albeit the most powerful, there is not a single simple decision.
She has been under relentless attack for 25 years, and I think she’s more than capable of the position of President of the United States; still the Left piles on. I like Bernie, too, and he’s running a strong campaign, as Hillary did against Barack Obama in 2008 – up to almost the Democratic Convention.
Kasich? I think the more we learn about him, the less likeable he’ll be….
from Stephen: I really try to get along with everyone, peace at home and all that. Some times I can get so angry at even friends and family. Some one I love said to me peace through strength. It just took the wind out of my sails. I just said “ya”. If this e-mail had been in my head I would of said,”Strength maybe War no. Thanks for all you’ve done and do.
Love not War, Stephen
from Barry: I respect your opinion but I believe very strongly that there is the possibility for real change with Bernie (as I did with Obama) if for no other reason than getting corporate money out of our politics. Bernie has also already pushed Hillary to the left on many issues. He has been at this longer than Hillary and has been a voice for reason right along. He speaks his truth whatever it is even though it may not be popular or win him votes.
I read in Friday’s StarTribune Obama stating about Bernies authenticity that “folks say that Bush was authentic too, but authenticity does not make a good President.” Well I don’t know about you but it is certainly a quality I admire. Plus what does that say about Obama? Also he said that at “some point Bernie needs to step aside.” Well it seems to me that the race is not over yet
Response from Dick: Many thanks. The only reason I made the entry about politics, is in response to your comment about politics. I happen to like Bernie Sanders a lot, but I think if he gets the nomination (which is very unlikely) he’ll have as much chance as right winger Barry Goldwater had in 1964.
Most of what I have to say about Hillary is in response to Jim’s comment above.
As it happened, yesterday afternoon I watched her deal with the Libya issue in a one-on-one Town Hall Forum in Springfield IL, at the old state Capitol building. In Libya, she said, credibly, that among the many dilemmas she faced was the need to listen to concerns of allied nations, such as Europe and Egypt, who needed to have something done. And, of course, Libya’s leader, Qaddafi, had never been a knight in shining armor. Etc. She did well in her response.
At these high levels, every decision is wrong, from somebody’s point of view. This was Obama’s reality, too, and I think he knew it well on entering office. The best we can do is select someone who helps to make our nation and world a better place. I think that happened with Obama, and it will happen with Clinton.