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Laramie Movie Scope
Iraq: The Nonsensical War

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 14, 2003 -- It is hard to make any sense at all out of this war in Iraq, or to make much sense of those people who are dead set against it, or those who are gung-ho in favor of it.

One thing I think almost all Americans can agree on is that we are proud of the way our military fought in Iraq, and the British should be proud of their troops, too. This military campaign was brilliantly conceived and executed. It was a tremendous military achievement. Our service men and women showed bravery, fortitude and good moral character in their victory. I am proud of them, and I think almost all Americans are proud of them. They will need those same virtues in helping to govern and stabilize Iraq in the future. Their work is cut out for them. The sad part of all this is, of course, that if our diplomatic tactics and efforts had been as brilliant as our military tactics and if we had spent as much money and effort on diplomacy as we did defeating Iraq's army, maybe we would not have fought this war at all. This war, sadly, shows where our nation's priorities truly lie. Even noted conservative Newt Gingrich is not blind to the diplomatic failures that paved the way to war. He said, "The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success."

The thing that bothers me most about the war are those asinine conservatives who claim patriotism as their own private domain and who argue that anyone who opposes the war is unpatriotic. One particular quotation has surfaced in this regard. It is this: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." It is worth noting that this was written by a former president, Teddy Roosevelt (he was 26th president of the United States) and it was written while Americans were fighting in World War I. Roosevelt wrote this as part of a regular series of columns he wrote for the Kansas City Star.

This is a particularly relevant point of view at this time in our history. Unfortunately, it shows we haven't learned a thing about freedom or democracy since 1918 when Roosevelt wrote these words. I have heard a lot of people, mostly conservative Bush supporters, strongly imply that those who protest this war are unpatriotic. I heard one conservative television commentator argue that people who participate in protest marches are endangering the public safety because it diverts police away from the task of catching terrorists. Fortunately, there are very few people stupid enough to believe that argument. In fact, you have to have manure for brains in order to even take that argument seriously.

These arguments are a symptom of good old-fashioned party politics, pure and simple. If the arguments were really about the war, then the war supporters wouldn't be quite so anxious to always include President George Bush in their calls for supporting the troops. Bush is not a "troop." He served the same amount of time in military service as President Bill Clinton did, none, nada, zero. Bush owes his presidency to four things, 1 -- big money (a list of his major contributors bears an uncanny similarity to the list of companies being awarded contracts for rebuilding post war Iraq), 2 -- the fact his father was president, 3 -- the fact his brother was governor of Florida, and 4 -- the fact that the Supreme Court didn't have enough integrity to stay out of Florida politics. The argument that any criticism of the president gives aid and comfort to the enemy is also highly suspect. There have been lots of protests against this war, both in this country and abroad. How much did these protests help the enemy? Not much, by the looks of it. The Iraqi army collapsed like a wet cardboard box and was defeated in less than one month. The only reason we didn't whip Iraq faster is that we sent a much smaller force this time than we did in the first Gulf War. Maybe all those protests in the U.S. and abroad made Iraqi leaders overly confident that the U.S. wouldn't attack, or would be delayed by the protests. Maybe the protests actually helped pave the way for the invasion.

There has long been an unfortunate tendency on the part of less informed and less thoughtful conservatives in this country to wrap themselves in the flag and portray themselves more patriotic than liberals. They tend to be even more demonstrative about this when there is a conservative in the White House. There were few, if any, calls to support the troops and the president when the U.S. engaged in military actions in Kosovo and Bosnia during the Clinton Administration. I see no evidence of the patriotism claimed by conservatives, other than superficial flag-waving activities. If these people were really patriotic, they would not be trying to quash free speech in this country and they wouldn't so heartily support the Bush administration, despite the administration's poor record on protecting personal liberty, not to mention its dismal economic policies. They would also not be trying so hard to pretend that the war in Iraq is really in the best interests of the United States, when there is plenty of evidence that the war is hurting U.S. interests, not only economically, but in international relations, and in the so-called "war on terrorism."

Another irritating thing about this whole mess is how the Christian Right has jumped on the war bandwagon. Pat Robertson practically drools when he talks about this war and how great it is that we are killing all those nasty Arabs. In fact, I heard Robertson actually argue that Allah isn't the same as God. He claims Allah evolved from a genie who was originally the moon god. The Muslims I have heard on this subject say that Allah is the same as the God of Abraham, the same God worshiped by the other two great monotheistic religions in the world, Christianity and Judaism. I think this moon god business is just a way to further demonize Islam and Arabs, to create an "us and them" attitude. Preaching war from the pulpit is anti-Christian. It is a direct violation of the principles that Jesus taught and lived by. Those ministers who preach in favor of this war occupy the moral low ground. At best, they confuse politics with religion.

Speaking of religion, it is impossible not to notice the implications this war may have regarding biblical prophecies about the end of days. Of course, any time a superpower engages in a war so close to the Plain of Megiddo it sets off apocalyptic alarms. Televangelists Robertson and Jack Van Impe, among others, have noted the prophecies, which they say predict a major war involving the U.S., Israel, Russia and China. This is depicted in the movie Megiddo: The Omega Code 2. What these prominent televangelists are not saying is the way that President George Bush resembles the Antichrist mentioned in the end of days prophecies. According to some of the same prophecies, Christ will return to earth at this time and put an end to this, and all wars for 1,000 years. This prophecy reinforces the image of Christ as peacemaker. This role is the opposite of the doctrine of "preemptive war" currently being heartily endorsed by those of the religious right.

Let's add up the pros and cons of this war. The pros: The war will be good for the Iraqi people by ridding them of a terrible dictator. No matter who replaces Saddam Hussein as the new president of Iraq, he has to be an improvement. The war will also help ensure a steady supply of oil for the U.S., the biggest consumer of oil in the world. It will put the fear of Allah into rogue nations like Syria and Iran, and maybe they will behave. Part of this fear could be the future establishment of military bases in Iraq which could be used to attack these two nations (U.S. military leaders deny, at least for now, that the U.S. will establish these bases). The war will also help ease our guilt. After all, it was the U.S. who helped put Saddam Hussein in power in the first place (one of the CIA's less brilliant moves). It is our responsibility to take him out.

The main rationale for the war by the Bush administration was to find and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. If the U.S. forces do find nuclear weapons, this would, indeed be a good result of the war. So far, none have been found. As for chemical and biological weapons, they really are not weapons of mass destruction, although it is theoretically possible to kill millions of people with a well-engineered chemical or biological weapon with an adequate delivery system. Whether or not weapons and delivery systems of that sophistication even exist in Iraq's arsenal has yet to be proven. It is also worth noting that any biological weapon capable of killing millions of people would probably also kill the very same people who turn it loose upon the world. That is one genie you don't want to let out of the bottle unless you have a death wish. It is likely that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. If that is true, it nullifies the main reason for the war. The Bush Administration's rationale for the war in this regard is humorously illogical. The idea is to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions by defying that same Security Council. These Alice in Wonderland kinds of arguments have been pointed out by journalist Peter Freundlich in a National Public Radio editorial commentary.

Another reason for fighting the war is that we did a terrible disservice to the Shiite Muslims in Iraq during the first Gulf War. We encouraged them to rise up against Hussein, and then left them to die when we failed to cut off the main force of Iraqi troops from returning to Baghdad. These same troops that we let escape ended up keeping Hussein in power. Economic sanctions against Iraq were not keeping Hussein out of power, but they were killing thousands of Iraqis. Attacking Iraq probably resulted in fewer civilian deaths in the long run than the death toll from continued sanctions. Also, if the United States and its allies are successful in establishing some kind of secular, stable democratic government in Iraq, it might encourage other Arab nations to follow suit, but don't hold your breath on that one.

Now it's time for the cons: The war will stir up additional hatred against us in the Arab world and it will alienate us from some of our allies. This has serious consequences in the war on terror. Not only will terrorist organizations be able to recruit and obtain financing more easily, we could lose the cooperation we need from other countries in the war on terror. Because of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, other countries may be much more reluctant to cooperate with us. They now see us as an imperialistic power. This war has nullified the good will that the U.S. had built up over the years. Although most Iraqis will be better off under new leadership, some will be worse off. One of the groups that could be worse off under an Islamic regime in Iraq is the Iraqi Christian population (mostly Catholics).

Because we have attacked Iraq, a nation which probably has no real weapons of mass destruction, but have not attacked North Korea, which does have such weapons, we encourage nuclear proliferation. If Iraq had nuclear weapons, we would not have attacked it. Because North Korea has nuclear weapons we can't afford to attack it. That means that any country that wants to stop American aggression need only to develop nuclear weapons. This is an incredibly dangerous message to send to the world.

The war with Iraq will delay settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has been raging since Bush indicated he was not going to actively pursue a settlement of the ongoing territorial dispute. That inaction paved the way for Israeli hardliner Ariel Sharon to pursue tougher policies that led to an escalation of the violence there. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a flashpoint of continuing instability in the Middle East. The war in Iraq will serve to strengthen both sides of the dispute and harden the positions of both sides. This festering dispute threatens the world's oil supply.

Another con is the cost. At over $100 billion and over 100 American lives, the war, and a lengthy occupation, does little, if anything, to make America more secure and nothing to make it more free. Spending the $100+ billion (the estimated cost of the war and occupation) on homeland security, which is still very underfunded, would be a better use of taxpayer money. For instance, airport screening systems are still inadequate. There is no comprehensive linkage of all the thousands of law enforcement computer systems in this country for more effective sharing of criminal and terrorist investigation and arrest information. Such a linkage could have saved lives in the recent sniper attacks. U.S. borders and ports are still not secure. Local law enforcement and health services are still not properly equipped or trained to adequately deal with certain terrorist threats, particularly biological weapons. We also lack an effective missile defense system to stop a possible missile attack from North Korea, for instance. It is ironic to note that the Bush Administration proposes providing universal health care for the Iraqis, but not for Americans. Many Americans have lost some or all of their Medicaid health care coverage because of huge cuts in state funding caused by the recession.

In summation, the war should provide some benefit to the people of Iraq, at least in the short term. They will undoubtedly have better rulers. The benefits to the United States, aside from a more secure supply of oil, are not as clear. Even with the lucrative Iraqi oil reserves, it will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $10 billion (not including interest) extra per year to occupy Iraq. The diplomatic cost of the war, and the setbacks it will cause on the war on terrorism are incalculable. It used to be that U.S. policy dictated that any war had to provide some kind of positive benefit for the country, like getting rid of a threat to our national security. I don't think this war fits that criteria. I wish I could believe that the American soldiers who died in Iraq died for our freedom. In fact, they died for the freedom of Iraqi citizens, because, in the final analysis, the Iraqis failed to get rid of Saddam Hussein by their own efforts. I hope the Iraqis get the freedom we have promised them. I hope they appreciate it and don't squander it. I hope they don't end up hating us for overthrowing their government. Most of all, I hope this does not lead to more massive terrorist attacks against the U.S. like the ones on September 11.

In the end, I wonder if George Bush will eventually come to think thoughts along these lines:

“Those who failed to oppose me, who readily agreed with me, accepted all my views, and yielded easily to my opinions, were those who did me the most injury, and were my worst enemies, because, by surrendering to me so easily, they encouraged me to go too far ... I was then too powerful for any man, except myself, to injure me.” I think thoughts along those lines may have come to many presidents over the years from Abraham Lincoln, to Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and others. The one who said these particular words first was Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France (1769-1821).

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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