I'm angry. I'm worried. And I'm sad.
I've refrained from voicing my opinions on this matter until now, but because I've always kept TidBITS personal and despite my reluctance to allow such matters into these pages, I can refrain no longer. Regardless of my utter lack of influence in international politics, to remain silent would be to join those of our leaders whose silent acquiescence I find despicable. Also, although this article reflects my personal frustrations, worries, and fears, other members of the TidBITS staff - Tonya, Matt, Jeff, and Mark - have asked to be included as publicly supporting what I say below.
I'm angry because it looks as though the United States is about to wage war on Iraq without direct provocation, without clear evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, without strong international support, and without even having shown indisputable ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
I'm angry because the cynic on my shoulder keeps whispering that it's all about oil, that it's aimed at distracting from an inability to hunt down Osama bin Laden, and that it's happening right now so it won't turn into an election-year issue in 2004.
I'm angry because despite a massive public outcry, with protests larger than any since the Vietnam War and the strangest of bedfellows campaigning together against unprovoked war, I hear almost nothing from our elected representatives. If they are against the Bush Administration's saber-rattling, why aren't we hearing fiery opposition speeches, such as came from Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia? If they support Bush's relentless march toward war, where are the attempts to persuade us that we should send our friends and neighbors off to war? Where is the discussion about what the long term goals of a war in Iraq should be? I expect them either to represent the views of the people or to take leadership roles, not to cower in silence.
My anger walks alongside worry. I'm worried about spending hundreds of billions of dollars on destroying and then rebuilding Iraq, money which could be spent in productive ways. And I'm worried not just about those direct costs, but also the effect a war would have on a stumbling economy. Business prospers in times of certainty and optimism, and every step we take closer to war reverberates ominously in the stock exchanges, adding a layer of confusion and doubt on top of already suspect corporate financial underpinnings.
I'm extremely worried that whatever the result of our aggressive actions in Iraq, they will inflame those people already unhappy with America's foreign policies. We may eliminate an Iraqi threat while simultaneously birthing a generation of terrorists. And I worry that the U.S. government's knee-jerk responses to these acts of terror will both further damage our civil liberties and increase racial and ethnic tensions. It's ironic that such a thing should happen here, in a country built on the backs and brains of immigrants from many lands.
Perhaps most of all, I'm worried about the Bush Administration's avowal of a preemptive strike policy. Call me naive, but that's just not how the good guys act. We've already seen other countries trying on the rhetorical fit of preemptive strikes, and it will be nothing but pure hypocrisy if we condemn such actions on the part of others but reserve them for our own use. Talk about the world's policeman caught beating Rodney King.
Bundled up in all of this is an unremitting sadness. I'm sad that we've allowed our leaders to twist words and meanings so far that we live in a continual state of war. Wars are meant to have beginnings and ends, to have clear-cut antagonists, and at least from the side of the good, to have noble goals. (And yes, I'm also naive enough to believe that there should be a side of the good.) First the war on drugs, and then the war on terrorism, which I can't see ending so long as there are people in the world who, for legitimate reasons or not, hate the United States. And now we face an actual war in Iraq. Whatever happened to the desire to live in peace? Does it simply not make a good sound bite? Or have we been at peace long enough that we need war, even an unnecessary war, to remind the population at large of the importance of peace?
I'm sad too that people are going to start dying for all these weak reasons. Scores of Iraqis will die, and Americans will die too, along with men and women from other countries. Don't be shocked - wars kill people, often lots of people. Some of those people will be good, others will be bad, some will have chosen a profession with a likelihood of violent death, others will simply have been born into a situation they couldn't or wouldn't escape.
I'm sad that the world has spawned men like Saddam Hussein, and I'm sad that the U.S. government saw fit in the past to support him with money and weapons. Even assuming he was the lesser of two evils, the fact remains that this country was responsible for aiding the growth of evil in the world. Just as we're told as children not to start fights and to try to get along with others, another of those early lessons is that two wrongs don't make a right.
Lastly, I'm sad that amid all of these concerns, which I am by no means unique in having or expressing, the Bush Administration seems either unable or unwilling to develop creative solutions to the Iraq problem. There's no question the threat of force was instrumental in restarting the weapons inspections and in galvanizing the United Nations, but there's a huge difference between a threat and wholesale war. There are plenty of good ideas out there - are we really so jaded that war is anything but a last resort?
I don't have the answers, and no one in power would listen if I did. But I know that this is not a video game with bonus points and extra lives, and it's not a feel-good action movie with a happy ending after the explosive special effects. Those are fantasies, and the reality is that unprovoked war with Iraq is not an end, but the beginning of a chain of events that fills me with dread.
I do not expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I ask that those who do follow me in any way. Everyone must decide for themselves what to think and say in this situation, as I've done here. What I do expect, and what I do ask, though, is that you act with intention, in accordance with your convictions, and with careful thought toward the long term interests of the entire world. It's the only one we've got.