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Why the War was Immoral: Parallels to Vietnam September 4, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, iraq, military, politics.
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I am not usually one to speak of politics in terms of “morality”. The word “morality” is most often times grossly subjective and has been distorted by fundamentalists and others to bring great harm to the United States. That said, I just finished a New Republic article from April 29, 1985 titled Why the War was Immoral. Written by Hendrick Hertzberg, the article argues that the war in Vietnam was both unwinnable and immoral.

As the war in Iraq rages on and a new Pentagon report paints a bleak outlook, it is impossible to read the 1985 New Republic article without noticing the tremendous similarities between Hertzberg’s view of Vietnam and the current situation in Iraq. Here are some observations from the article, with my commentary beneath:

Parellel #1:

There were always two main arguments in favor of the war: the geopolitical and the “moral.” The war’s aftermath has undermined the first argument but has seemingly strengthened the second.

Although it is difficult to keep straight the alleged “reasons” we went to war in Iraq (ie, weapons of mass destruction, 9/11, etc), it is clear that many of the reasons for invading Iraq were argued as geopolitical or “moral”. As critics of the war became more vocal, the Bush administration and other neocons told us it was our country’s moral duty to rid Iraq of its brutal dictator. Although Saddam Hussein is an awful person that killed thousands of his own people, the “moral” justification was an after-thought… the moral argument came as the original justifications proved false.

The geopolitical argument has also gained favor among the neocons. They argue that pulling out of Iraq would create instability in the entire region. This same argument was used in Vietnam, and when we pulled out, southeast Asia did not become a solid communist block.

As the war rages on, so to speak, it has become increasingly obvious that America will have to leave Iraq, not enter it, for moral reasons.

Parellel #2:

…the argument for will: we needed to go on fighting in Vietnam in order to demonstrate our resolve and reliability. This argument implicitly recognized that the fate of Vietnam was, by itself, peripheral to the national security of the United States.

Americans have listened to George W. Bush use the words “resolve” and “national security” for almost five years now. He claims leaving Iraq would harm America’s image and leave the country open to terrorist attacks. His argument fails to point out that America was safer before we entered Iraq, and that our image as both militarily strong and morally superior has faltered because of the failed foreign policy. Leaving Vietnam did not seriously diminish our security at home… the same is likely with Iraq.

Parelell #3:

…these arguments rest on the assumption that there was a point at which North Vietnam, having calculated that the actual costs of war were exceeding the prospective benefits of victory, would have stopped the fighting… [North Vietnamese] were prepared to accept limitless casualties to attain their sacred objective…

If the North Vietnamese were willing to accept limitless casualties, if they were willing to pay any price, then the war could not have been won except by the physical destruction of North Vietnam and the killing of a large portion of its people.

Bush loves to talk about “defeating the terrorists”, as if some threshold will be reached in which they lay down their arms and say “enough is enough”. We are not fighting a rational enemy or a standing army in Iraq. These people have proven they are willing to kill fellow citizens to drive America troops out of their country. Just as we continued to fight the North Vietnamese until we were disgusted by American causalities, the same is likely to happen in Iraq. Insurgents, like the North Vietnamese during Vietnam, are willing to accept limitless casualties to win its jihadist-like war. Human lives are less valuable to terrorists than to the American people (notice I did not say the American government), and public opinion has already shown that Americans will reach the final threshold before any insurgent groups do.

Parallel #4:

It wasn’t cowardice that finally impelled us to quit. It was conscience.

Republicans love to paint anti-war Democrats as weak on terrorism, unpatriotic or untrusting of American military power. Anti-war Democrats are not cowards… they have a reality-based look at Iraq and their conscience is telling them we have overstepped our bounds. Anti-war advocates want the best for Iraq and America, but do not see the continued conflict being beneficial to either countries.

*******

In the brilliantly written New Republic article, Hendrick Hertzberg defends his criticism of the Vietnam War by saying he cares about America and its place in the world. He is not the anti-American dissenter that neocons love to portray him as. The same is true today. Vietnam war opponents and those against the war in Iraq are extremely patriotic, having to face extreme hostility to defend their belief in what is best for the country.

It is time to fight for America by stop fighting. This is patriotic. As Herzberg said: it is time “to wash the flag, not burn it.”

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Understanding Hezbollah and Avoiding World War III July 16, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in international, iraq, middle east, politics, terrorism, violence.
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Courtesy New York Times

The Lebanese extremist group that may be credited with starting a Middle Eastern war is a powerful organization, but one without overwhelming support from most Lebanese. The mainstream media has made it clear that Hezbollah, not the Lebanese government, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in what Israel now calls “an act of war”. But many Americans, perhaps with the help of bloggers, have confused the Lebanese people with supporters of Hezbollah. There are some Lebanese that support Hezbollah, but those numbers are marginal… at least before these recent events in the Middle East.

In the 2005 Lebanese election, Hezbollah won 23 seats out of 128 in parliament.** A little less than 18 percent of elected Lebanese officials are from Hezbollah’s political wing. This is not a majority party and does not have majority support. You could likely find 18 U.S. Senators that believe we should bomb North Korea, but that does not mean the U.S. government believes North Korea should be bombed. There are radicals in every government, but it is a disservice to the government and to democracy to characterize an entire country by its radicals. Does America really want to be known by its radicals, like Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), who talks more about bestiality than health care?

That said, Israel cannot stand idly by while a militant group attacks its people. Hezbollah is dedicated to destroying Israel and establishing a non-democratic Islamic rule in Lebanon… it should not exist. The problem is, Israel has treated Hezbollah’s aggression as if it was the will of the Lebanese government and people. All 23 Hezbollah government members were elected from Southern Lebanon… not one from the North. To keep public opinion against Hezbollah while trying to root it out, Israel should be attacking Southern Lebanon, not northern urban areas like Beirut.

If people in Beirut, who have not supported Hezbollah, watch a relative die in an Israeli air-strike… will these people continue to oppose Hezbollah or will the radical group gain sympathy with the Lebanese people? I believe the latter, which is a scary scenario for Israel, the Middle East and the world.

Newt Gingrich, ever the optimist, told Tim Russert on Meet the Press this morning that we are heading towards World War III. Although Tim Russert’s other guest, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), disagreed with Gingrich’s analogy, the events of the past week could easily lead to a war of gigantic proportions in the Middle East.

I won’t pretend to have the solution that avoids all out war. However, it seems relatively obvious that the United States and other potential negotiators should be throwing its support behind Israel and the Lebanese government, while working cooperatively to destroy the militant wing of Hezbollah. But this is not happening. Lebanon is a democracy that depends on public opinion. Just as would happen in other democracies, if innocent Lebanese continue to die, the general public will become more radicalized and the government will be quick to follow.

A crisis that could potentially involve Israel, Palestinians, Lebanon, Iran and Syria will also have a tremendous impact on the Iraq war. Some Iraqis have protested Israel’s offensive into Lebanon, which they believe is supported by the U.S. government (picture above). America is already losing the public relations war in Iraq, and its refusal to take a strong stand against excessive Israeli force will only make the situation worse.

I have tremendous sympathy for Israel and believe it needs to fight Hezbollah and its militants. Israel just has to remember that it is fighting Hezbollah, not the Lebanese government, and that the vast majority of Hezbollah supporters are in Southern Lebanon. Leave Beirut and other northern areas alone so the military can concentrate forces and air-power on the terrorist group that started this whole mess in the first place.

**CNN reports that there are only 14 Hezbollah members in the Lebanese parliament (11 percent). I have yet to determine for sure which of the two reported numbers are correct.

Ending Jihadist Ideology July 2, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in international, iraq, politics, terrorism.
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From Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found:

He recites the international rosary of the jihad: Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bosnia. I have heard this before, in a mosque in Brooklyn, in the imam’s sermon: the careful perusal of every Islamic struggle worldwide, the bugles of distant battles, a sense of a global wrong. These are the street skirmishes in the larger worldwide war, a war that has been going on for centuries, beginning in an obscure hot place among people convinced that there was a good and there was an evil, and evil had to be fought and good defended. The lives of the young Muslims in the gangwar are given meaning by this fight, not to convert the kafirs–the infidels–but to protect their own honor… [it is] only the latest in a long series of historic battles.

This passage is a small insight into the way Islamic jihadists view Western nations and the world, but leaves us with more questions than answers. I believe breaking up terrorist organizations and fighting extremism is vitally important, but only as important as changing the violent ideology of terrorists and preventing future generations from adopting it.

“A global sense of wrong”… is this something America is attempting to combat, or are we contributing to this sentiment?

I am not saying terrorism is justified because of an unjust American foreign policy… terrorism is never justified… but as a national security concern, it is important to analyze what creates this Islam versus the World mentality. Certainly the situation in Iraq will be used to recruit new members to a jihadist movement…. a Muslim nation pushed into chaos over a war started for reasons that have since been proven false. But as American troops remain on the ground in Iraq, we must find ways to destabilize the imperialist perception many Muslims have of America.

Ending centuries old hostilities is not an easy task, but history has proven that military might has not brought us any closer to “mission accomplished”. Our military may be necessary in the global fight against religious extremists, but we are unlikely to be any more secure until America’s actions and public relations machine proves to Islamic nations that we are not out to exploit or to conquer.

Iraq Rhetoric Instead of Action is Killing U.S. Troops and Iraqi Civilians July 1, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, congress, iraq, politics, public opinion.
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The Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack in American history up until 9/11. Killing 168 people, a shocked nation mourned the loss and remained stunned over the evil necessary for such an attack to occur.

That same evil has manifested itself in Iraq this morning, as another domestic terrorist attack in a crowded Baghdad market killed 62 people and wounded 114 others. These 62 Iraqis will be added to a civilian death toll whose low estimate is currently at 38,764 dead. Dozens of unnecessary deaths is just another day in a country that feels unsafe walking city streets or waiting in line at checkpoints.

Congress continues to “debate” whether American troops should remain in Iraq. President Bush insists we will remain until the “job is done”, which continues to look increasingly unlikely. The majority of Democrats insist on a phased withdrawal, a withdrawal timeline or an immediate end to American troops in Iraq. Republicans are combating the Democratic strategy with electoral rhetoric like “cut and run,” but isn’t it time sound bites are traded in for a substantive conversation about why our troops should remain?

We can no longer trust Bush on Iraq. We have had “mission accomplished” and four years worth of guarantees that the country is headed in the right direction. This has been meet with increased violence and increased hopelessness in the country. I strongly support a phased withdrawal and non-binding timeline for Iraq, but I am less sure about an immediate withdrawal for American troops.

When considering these various withdrawl plans, it is imperative that Congress put aside politics and find answers to the following:

  • Will the deaths of more U.S. troops make an impact on the situation in Iraq?
  • Will Iraqi civilian deaths increase or diminish once American troops exit Iraq or remain in much smaller numbers?
  • Does a continued American presence give the Iraqi government the force it needs to succeed or does it hinder the government’s ability to be seen as an institution separate from the U.S.?
  • Is an American withdrawal a win for insurgents in Iraq or will it undermine their validity and lose favor in the eyes of most Iraqis?
  • Will terrorists thrive in Iraq without American troops and if so, will these terrorists be a threat to the United States?

For all the debate among Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, on Fox News and in the New York Times, I rarely hear any consideration of these questions.

My criticism for Democrats: Are we considering withdrawal plans because of increased American troop deaths or because we have considered all the questions above? In my opinion, all of these questions hold equal weight in whether we should consider withdrawing significant numbers of American troops.

My criticism for Republicans: We have been hearing victory is near for four years. Are we avoiding withdrawal in Iraq because it is admitting the war was a mistake or because you truly believe we can win the war? Do you believe we should have stayed in Vietnam longer… would that have helped us achieve our objectives?

The war was a mistake… as far as I’m concerned that debate is over among Americans. It is now a lose-lose proposition… but which “lose” is worse? We must decide what the next step is instead of blindly “staying the course”. Congress must begin to address the important questions about Iraq instead of using rhetoric and politics to win support or keep face. Congressional leaders, Democrat or Republican, using rhetoric instead of substance should be condemned for patronizing Americans and choosing politics over policy in Iraq. Americans want a plan and a solution.

Here’s what Americans said in a June 20 Pew Poll:

  • 52 percent want a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal; 42 percent oppose such a measure
  • 34 percent say Democrats have better judgement on Iraq; 28 percent say Republicans; 24 percent say both or neither
  • 17 percent have heard “a lot” of debate or Iraq in Congress; 44 percent have heard “a little” debate and 38 percent have heard “nothing at all”

It appears the American people believe Congress has been ignoring the financial and political drain that is Iraq in favor of other issues like same-sex marriage and flag burning. Republicans ignoring Iraq in favor of these social issues should be ashamed of their lack of concern for American troops’ lives. Force Congress to have true debates about Iraqi policy.

Excellent News… Zarqawi is Dead June 8, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in iraq, terrorism.
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The leader of the terrorist effort in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been killed in a U.S. airstrike. This is excellent news for both the U.S. and Iraqis longing for peace. Zarqawi was aligned with al-Qaeda and Bin Laden… he will not be missed.

I have always been severely opposed to the war in Iraq, but this news should make all Americans celebrate. No matter what you think about the war in Iraq, this murderer deserved to die (and this coming from someone adamantly opposed to the death penalty).

This great news, however, must be meet with caution. This will not end terrorism in Iraq. Zarqaqwi lead one of many terrorist factions in Iraq and it is entirely possible there will be revenge attacks. That said… let’s appreciate today’s accomplishment.