Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How To Weaken Our Nation

So, this is another variation on the common theme of War is Bad, which I've been warned makes me boring and obsessive. I guess this should be considered (yet another) cry for help.

Two items caught me eye recently:
1. There is a new report about the unexpectedly high number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases the military is seeing:
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/...


2. The CIA determined that Osama bin Laden wanted Bush re-elected, which is why he released that tape a few days before the election:
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/...


So, here's a thought experiment:
Suppose you wanted to hurt the United States. Not just a one-time tragedy, but a whole series of things that will cause long-term damage to the country.

Here’s a laundry list of what you might want to accomplish:

  • Kill or physically injure tens of thousands of Americans.
  • Require us to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on another country where things mostly just get blown up.
  • Weaken our military by getting them bogged down in a war of choice, making it harder to defend the country against real threats.
  • Remove hundreds of thousands of qualified people from the workforce (say, via National Guard), forcing companies to find temporary replacements.
  • Inflame hatred of our country (for example, put soldiers in impossible situations where they fear everyone around them is a terrorist and can’t help but eventually kill unarmed civilians, including children and babies).
  • Weaken our international standing and turn the world against us (for example, scorn international treaties and organizations).
  • Weaken our national values (for example, advocate for torture as a valid interrogation technique, imprisonment without trial for foreign nationals, and wiretapping as an appropriate intrusion into privacy)
  • Weaken our ability to respond to natural disasters (for example, send people and equipment and money to an occupation effort in another country).
  • Finally, release tens of thousands of traumatized husbands, wives, mothers and fathers into the population that will strain the healthcare system and cause a ripple effect of stress and dysfunction on families for at least a generation.

Before thinking that I’m some tin-hat conspiracy theorist, note that I’m not saying Bush wants any of these effects to happen. It is just that he totally played into the hands of Al-Qaeda by starting this war, and continues to do so by refusing to disengage from it.

What’s so depressing and ironic about all this is that it isn’t Al-Qaeda that weakened us. They executed a specific attack on a specific day. Our reaction of fear, revenge and arrogance has caused far more harm to the nation than 9/11 did.

7 comments:

Brownie said...

Danny,

I think you're giving OBL and his zany friends too much credit. No one could foresee the outcome of all that you have listed there. It's easy to look back (hindsight:20/20) and pick it apart, but the looking forward part, that is the real trick.

Therefore, I think the Tin Hat metaphor doesn't really fit. Rather, you might think about auditioning for the role of the Tin Man in any upcoming production of "OZ".

Peace.

Dan S said...

Ouch. No heart? I'm wounded...

It is heartless to criticize someone who feels bad about a mistake they made. Someone who truly seeks forgiveness for, say, the violence, death and destruction they have caused.

That does not seem to apply to anyone in the Bush administration. Quite the opposite in fact. They smear critics as traitors, even as they weaken our country beyond the hopes of our enemies. Truth may hurt sometimes, but that doesn't make it heartless.

No one could forsee these outcomes in the same way that no one could forsee levees breaking due to a hurricane. Lots of analysts predicted a long nasty slog in Iraq, but they were ignored and/or ridiculed. George H.W. Bush predicted what is happening, which is why he didn't do it in 1991.

It is unlikely that Osama expected all this to happen. He probably just wanted to hurt us in any way he could. But, my point is that we have outdone him.

Brownie said...

Oops! It was not my intent to infer that you were without a heart. My apologies. It was really just meant as a play on words (tin hat::tin man, as in the degree of your liberalism).

But remember, we know that the Tin Man's heart was there all along, in his actions, despite his actual physical make-up and the Wizard's (heartless) ruse.

You have a good, kind heart, of this I have no doubt, but when political (power)issues intrude into our lives, they have a tendency to corrupt and decieve (again, I'm not accusing you in particular, rather, making a general observation about the nature of power and how it tends to lay waste to all that is truly pure and good, even when we have the best intentions, i.e. Boromir).

Peace.

Orinda said...

Our reaction of fear, revenge and arrogance has caused far more harm to the nation than 9/11 did

I don't see our reaction of fear or revenge...arrogance maybe. How do you see fear and revenge played out in the US response? What would have been a better response to 911 in your opinion? And more importantly how should the US respond to Al Qaeda today? I agree that Bin Laden wanted us to invade Iraq & Afghanistan, but is that a reason not to? Theoretically speaking, if, it is in our interest to invade, isn't what our enemy wants or doesn't want sort of irrelevant?

Dan S said...

Hi Orinda, welcome back. I've been away at a family reunion for a few days, or would have responded sooner.

Fear & Revenge: Fear is simple - We attacked Iraq because we were afraid. We were afraid that they were a threat to us, that they would use WMD against us. We justified pre-emptive war because we were afraid they were going to hurt us sometime in the future.

Revenge is not as clear cut, but a majority of Americans (and especially soldiers, based on polls) tied Iraq to 9/11, which is completely false, but which the administration kept alluding to (they didn't outright lie about it, but they try to tie 9/11 and Iraq together as much as they can).

In any case, Americans generally wanted revenge for 9/11. It would have been better to work through the UN, and keep Iraq nuetralized and harmless. But, I think revenge played into the desire to see Saddam deposed.

I don't complain about Afganistan as an option. I think war of any kind is immoral, but the best we can do some times is pick the least bad solution, and Afganistan was actively harboring those responsible for 9/11.

Iraq is completely different, since Al Quada was not operating there, and Saddam was not supporting them. Al Queda is there now, of course, but that is our fault, which is part of what I'm trying to say: We've weakened ourselves and strengthened our enemies by giving into war fever in Iraq.

What would I do now? Leave Iraq. Our presence there continues to create more terrorists. We need to get an international force there that is not seen as a occupier, or let the Iraqis sort it out. If we leave, we take the best recruiting tool terrorists have.

Also, we need to start working *with* international organizations, instead of against them. Terrorism is a political problem, and not one that can be solved by going to war.

Orinda said...

Dan S said...

Hi Orinda, welcome back. I've been away at a family reunion for a few days, or would have responded sooner.

Thanks Dan, I'm glad you don't mind "trolls" in your space... truth is, I'm trying to make a blog but family demands have made it difficult--I'm grateful to those who do take the time to make their opinions and knowledge available and are willing to share with people they don't know. I'm still trying to sort out my beliefs so I appreciate the exchange. Thanks for bearing with me.

Fear & Revenge: Fear is simple - We attacked Iraq because we were afraid. We were afraid that they were a threat to us, that they would use WMD against us. We justified pre-emptive war because we were afraid they were going to hurt us sometime in the future.

Ok... I guess I'm confused here, b/c the "we" is unclear. There is the Bush Administration and the American people, nearly half of whom did not vote for Bush, (I being one.) So, as far as the Bush Administration and those who supported the Iraq action go, many liberals were cynical about Bush's Admins motives, suggesting they never truly "feared" WMDs but rather used it as an excuse to invade for (oil?) ...truth is, I've never gotten a clear answer from liberals about what they believe Bush's true motives were, but in any case, there is a widely held belief that fear of WMDs never figured into the equation at all, rather it was employed to execute a far more nefarious agenda (which has yet to be convincingly articulated by Bush's detractors). Fear afterall is understandable--and perhaps even forgivable b/c at least it's earnest and based on a real desire for self-defense--(doesn't make it spiritually right) but at least, at its heart, it is honest. I'm still not convinced the Bush Admin didn't believe there were WMDs and didn't do what it had to do to protect the American people from an unpredictable mad man. However, the very idea that the invasion served another agenda makes that excuse suspect, a little too convenient. Fear may have played a role in the support given by some American people for the war--the "we", but was it the real motivation of the decision makers?

Revenge is not as clear cut, but a majority of Americans (and especially soldiers, based on polls) tied Iraq to 9/11, which is completely false, but which the administration kept alluding to (they didn't outright lie about it, but they try to tie 9/11 and Iraq together as much as they can).

I don't know of anyone, especially where I live, far from ground zero, who really, deep down inside, cared about 911, or who felt a desire for "revenge." Besides, everyone I spoke to was well aware that the two had nothing to do with each other, Iraq being a secular nation, etc. etc. Bin Laden has more in common with Christian extremism here, than with Saddam Hussein who worshipped Stalin. I thought you were going to say "revenge" referred to the assassination attempt on Bush's father. That has always been a curious, rather played-down motive, but I think it deserves some real attention.

In any case, Americans generally wanted revenge for 9/11. It would have been better to work through the UN, and keep Iraq nuetralized and harmless. But, I think revenge played into the desire to see Saddam deposed.

Did revenge play into Clinton's decision to hit targets in the no-fly zone? Clinton used force on a number of occasions to respond to Iraq's defiance. I think you may be underestimating the American people. Not sure I know what to make of the polls you have cited but, in my experience, the average American is a lot smarter than you give credit... As I said, I don't know of a single person, not my mailman, my cleaning lady, my mechanic, my hairdresser, my busdriver, or anyone else I spoke with during the time of the invasion who believed it had anything to do with 911; they were all surprisingly well-informed--or if it did, it was the notion that anyone who could do what the 911 terrorists did, had to be stopped. That being said, it's not entirely irrational to believe Saddam Hussein didn't have had a hand in terrorism or harboring terrorists, (not for the same reasons as the Taliban, but harboring them nevertheless.) We know he protected Rahman Yasinfor a decade after he fled the US after building the bomb which was used in the first WTC bombing-- (he was brought out as a bargaining chip at the days leading up to the invasion--though many saw this as one more of SH's ploys to divide the US and the UN.)

I don't complain about Afganistan as an option. I think war of any kind is immoral, but the best we can do some times is pick the least bad solution, and Afganistan was actively harboring those responsible for 9/11.

Suppose we never invaded Iraq and only went into Afghanistan, what do you suppose SH would do (being already defiant)? Don't you think he would have taken advantage of a bad situation, and the US forces in Afghanistan would have been sitting ducks? I don't know, I'm not a military strategist, but I think a confrontation with Iraq would have been inevitable and maybe a lot worse than what we are seeing today; some would argue invading Iraq was really all about winning in Afghanistan.

Iraq is completely different, since Al Qaeda was not operating there, and Saddam was not supporting them.

How do you know this? That's a pretty sweeping assumption. SH was eager to support other terrorists--he made gross ceremony of compensating families of Palestinian suicide bombers to the tune of 25K on a number of nationally celebrated occasions. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were not Shites (his other enemy), so he had no reason not to harbor Al Qaeda. Furthermore, Al Qaeda also wanted to destroy the Saudi royal family, another enemy of SH. He had good reasons to form a perverse alliance with it, and there is evidence Al Qaeda was well ensconced in Iraq long before the war.

Al Queda is there now, of course, but that is our fault, which is part of what I'm trying to say: We've weakened ourselves and strengthened our enemies by giving into war fever in Iraq.

Perhaps, but they would be there either way given a war with Afghanistan. Do you honestly believe, SH, hating the US, would turn away those fighting us? (He harbored Yasin) And what if the insurgents had that kind of support? Do you think they would do less damage today than they are doing? Perhaps they wouldn't be blowing up downtown Baghdad, but it's frightening to think what they might accomplish if they had "Chemical Ali" at their disposal.

What would I do now? Leave Iraq. Our presence there continues to create more terrorists. We need to get an international force there that is not seen as a occupier, or let the Iraqis sort it out. If we leave, we take the best recruiting tool terrorists have.

It would be nice if it were that simple; but I doubt the terror would stop. The damage is done. Those who are wreaking havoc in Iraq are not as rational as you are. Do you think they will say, ok, our job is done here let's pack up and go home? Their war is not only with the US, it's with the Iraqi people who want peace and democracy; their war is with freedom itself. They will continue to recruit young, impressionable men who are terrified of freedom which comes with responsibility, as all young people truly are, and put them to the service of evil. If you want to see "Fear" and "Revenge" in action nothing is more demonstrative of these than what the insurgents are doing in Iraq. I think fear is perhaps what most motivates our enemies more than any sense of injustice. They fear change, they fear being left out, they fear the unknown, they fear anonymity, they fear life and they fear death; they fear personal responsibility; they can not reconcile living with Christians and Jews and other faiths, b/c their own faith is so absolute, so unaccommodating of Peace. At least the spirit of Christianity and the Word of the new testament is non-violence... even if our leaders don't subscribe to it. That is not the spirit or the Word of Islam, which sanctifies killing "infidels." Until that inscription is rejected, they will pursue martyrdom, whether we are there or not.

Also, we need to start working *with* international organizations, instead of against them. Terrorism is a political problem, and not one that can be solved by going to war.

This was a major reason I did not support the war. I believed that we had to have complete support of the international community, as bad and disgusting as the self-serving Europeans were during the decade of sanctions (we now know they benefited from the oil for food program... you see, everyone has an agenda: the Europeans were no more interested in "doing the right thing", than the Bush administration "feared" WMDs.) Nevertheless, without that support, indeed, we did weaken our cause and our credibility. We could have waited too, so I suppose the elections here had much to do with the timing as anything else. [In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think the power struggle here at home was the real reason for the invasion.]

But even if we got an international force to replace ours, it will never be seen as anything but an occupation; the idea that our enemies are fighting us on the grounds of some sort of experience of injustice, gives our enemies way too much credit; they will always see non-Muslims as occupiers, infidels, and fair game.

To say, "let the Iraqis sort it out" I think, is cruel. There are no Iraqis in this war. There are no occupiers. There is only Peace and Evil. We need to find a way to defend and serve peace w/o being drawn into evil. I'm not sure pulling out of Iraq serves Peace. It may only serve a false sense of security and self interest (and revenge on the part of anti-Bush activists here)--save our own men, but screw the Iraqis. Better we stay and rebuild Iraq as best we can. Have you heard of Gary Sinise's group, Operation Iraqi Children? There are many more groups like this. I think they do a lot of good and would not be able to operate w/o a military presence. Our militaries should serve these efforts.

But even if you had it your way, and the US left, how would you propose to fight terrorism, fight Al Qaeda, from our isolated little land? How exactly does that work? If it was right to invade Afghanistan (for harboring terrorists threatening the US) that standard applies elsewhere... we'd be right back in Iraq by that criteria. So maybe, in hindsight, we never should have gone into Afghanistan at all... Personally, I don't think we should have. It was our war with the Taliban, not with SH, that brought us to where we are today. When they hit us on 911, I think there may have been better options to protect our shores from terrorism, but I don't think that was ever really the agenda. Fear and revenge may have played a role, but not in the manner you think. Those who want power are always operating out of fear of not having it; those who want revenge are always operating out of hunger for power. I don't believe the US created those motives in Al Qaeda. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with Islam, or any religion that advocates in it's text, violence and hatred of another group of people (yes, I would include Judaism too, and I was raised Jewish.)

One of the most difficult things I've had to reconcile in my life is the fact that so much of the freedom I enjoy was founded on violence. I'm still contemplating that.

Dan S said...

Wow, Orinda, a lot of thoughts there - you *do* need to start a blog :)

I'm not really going to be able to respond to it all, as I'm having a hard enough time posting anything new to my blog itself.

Just a few thoughts though:

1. Jim Wallis mentioned in an article somewhere that Al Quada are just religious fundamentalists who would hate us no matter what. But they have an easier or harder time recruiting depending on how US policy affects the people they are recruiting.

So, even though our policies (like invading countries) don't create orgs like Al Queda, our actions make it far easier or harder for them to recruit. So, you are right that leaving Iraq won't immediately stop Al Queda. But, we have to begin somewhere. And, Al Queda *recruits* don't hate our freedom or values. They hate our policies, and we can change those.

2. Islam should not be reduced to what its fundamentalists think or do, anymore than Christianity should be reduced to what its fundamentalists think or do.

I don't believe we are primarily attacked in Iraq because Islamic fundamentalists fear us. We are attacked because we are occupying their country. It would be the same here if we were invaded and occupied by Muslims. We might use Christian religious justification, but underlying that would be the more basic anger of an occupation army.

Our latest justification for the war is to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Let's call our own bluff and leave, like the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want. If we don't believe the polls, let's hold a special election and let the Iraqis vote on it. I would bet my lovely house that the Iraqis would vote for us to leave within a few months.