Blood shed in Iraq does not honor the memories of the heroes of September 11, nor will it reduce the likelihood of future attacks. In fact, it seems to be having the opposite effect.
The liberation of Iraq is a welcome outcome, but the pretexts
for the war were false and the costs of the war in human lives has been
too great. "Pre-emptive self-defense " is a new doctrine of
warfare that sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.
Good news: Saddam captured. Bad news: We
should have captured him when he was
our client. More bad news: We
had him executed in a manner that energized our enemies and alienated
our friends, such as the Kurds who wanted him to stand trial on
atrocities committed against them. Such a trial would have revealed
more of Saddam's evil deeds, but it would also have demonstrated how
bogus are the claims that the U.S. government cares much about such
I gave a talk about
international perspectives on the war at a rally held at
Bridgewater State College on April 28, 2003. My opposition to the war
described in a pre-war letter
to my local newspaper.
It really gives me no pleasure to say "I told you so," but I
glad that many people are beginning to recognize that war on Iraq was a
mistake. Look back at Josh Frank's list of ten reasons not
to attack , which he wrote in January, 2003. Some of his reasons
seemed radical at the time, but events have
proven him right on most counts.
See my Energy Conservation Education
page for ways that we might avoid the next war.
Stand for Peace and JusticeA group of 80 intellectuals recently signed a statement in support of peace and justice, which appeared in Z Magazine. Since then, more than 110,000 people from throughout the world -- including me -- have added their name. I invite you to read the statement and consider adding your own name.
A friend took the photo at right during a protest in Boston. Sadly, it seems to be true for many Americans. At the outbreak of the Vietnam War, only 14 people in this country spoke Vietnamese. As the conflict wore on, the Brockton Enterprise printed an editorial praising the bravery of soldiers willing to go fight in a country most Americans cannot find on a map. I agree they are brave, but ignorance of geography is no virtue in this increasingly complex world!
Because I believe that the best antidote to ignorance is understanding, I have launched a new web site: Pax Mundo , that helps U.S. citizens overcome the geography gap.
Photo: Dr. Vernon Domingo
If you really want to show support, consider donating Hero Miles. If you do not have frequent-flyer miles to contribute, check some of the other links on this site for other opportunities. For example, I was able to donate airline vouchers to a military dependent in need through Fisher House.
Copyright 2004 Rob Rogers Permission pending.
Quite a few of my students -- including some of those to whom I am closest -- are soldiers or reservists. Others are veterans or military dependents. One of my best friends is a Vietnam veteran who has shared with me some of the hurt he experienced on returning, particularly in the liberal religious denomination to which we both belong. At the onset of the Iraq war, the rallying cry to "support our troops" caused me to think long and hard about what it means to be against this war but to continue to respect and even admire the military people I know.
(Nov 2007 update: Iraq Veterans on Campus)
It seems to me that the wrong -- though most common -- approach was simply to fall in line behind the president and his mission, out of solidarity with the troops he sent over. Because my relationships and friendships with these people started before the war and will continue after it, I do not see how my support for the troops is dependent upon my support for the mission. For if it were, then my support for the troops would require me to support any and all future missions that any future president might initiate. If support for troops equals support for the adventures of presidents, then we have a monarchy, or worse. Clearly, then, this could not be the answer.
Another common response from the left was, "Support our troops: Bring them home." I had some sympathy with this position, and certainly people on all sides of the debate were hoping to see the troops return safely and soon. It was too facile, though. I heard a soldier on a radio program reject this notion, and it occurred to me that we cannot equate support the troops with rejecting a policy that many of them endorsed.
One thing that is certain: supporting the troops and remaining silent on the war are not the same thing. It has become a cliche to say that we have the right to speak against the war because our soldiers are sacrificing to defend that right. This begs the question of whether the current mission is achieving the stated objectives. I do not happen to think that the current mission has anything to do with defending free speech. Given the proclivities of those running this war, I rather think that the opposite is true. That is, free speech must be exercised despite the waging of this war.
The notion of disrespect for the troops has been a straw man in the debate over the Iraq war. In other words, the disrespect is not happening this time around, and I am glad. Troops returning from Vietnam thirty years ago were often treated poorly -- both by the government and by the anti-war movement. Many within the movement came to see the injustice of this, and even Jane Fonda made a film (Coming Home ) that showed how poorly the veterans were treated. (They still are -- the Bush Administration is shutting down V.A. hospitals even though it continues to create new disabled veterans every day!) This time, the protestors have been careful to show respect for the troops, but some vocal advocates of the war have chosen to ignore this. Thousands of this war's strongest opponents are soldiers, veterans, or parents of soldiers:
One argument I have heard in support of the war is that U.S. troops have the best training and intentions to ensure minimal suffering among civilians and even among enemy combatants. It is acceptable for the U.S. to wage war, it seems, because it does so more humanely than do other countries. This argument makes little sense, but I present it here because I have heard it several times and because it attempts to translate respect for our military into a reason to support the war.
I accept the contention that the U.S. military tries harder than any other to minimize civilian casualties, and even to provide for humanitarian relief after the conflict. I would argue that this is true not only because of the virtues of our individual soldiers but also because of pressure exerted on the military following past debacles and even some civilian massacres. The gains made by critics of the Pentagon are not sufficient now to silence those critics. The other difficulty with this line of argument is that even the most careful of attacks has already resulted in many thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq, with over 2,500 allied deaths and untold Iraqi combatants killed.
These numbers do not reflect badly on our soldiers; they are the responsibility of the president and of the Congress, and ultimately of the electorate. If we ignore this responsibility in the name of "support" for our troops, we have walked away from our responsibilities as citizens.
Finally, I have difficulty accepting the premise that those who oppose the war are hurting the troops more than the president who has sent them into harm's way. I also bear in mind that during a previous war of questionable merit, this president used his status as a "senator's son" to dodge participation. When Gen. Clark and Michael Moore brought up this issue, they were rebuked, but the rest of the media are now starting to understand the problem. See Moore's February 11, 2004 letter to President Bush for an explanation of the charges.
Remember that during the Clinton Administration, a lot of his opponents had bumper stickers that read, "Draft Dodger for Commander in Chief? " I have not seen one of those since January 2001, and would happily put one on my car today!
I think that the perspectives of the soldiers, sailors, and marines are very important -- and each has his or her own story and opinions. Blake Miller became famous through this photo by L.A. Times photographer Luis Sinco. His story is told in a thoughtful article by Jim Warren, "Former Marine is 'Marlboro Man' No More."
November 2007 update: Mr. Sinco continued his contact with Cpl. Miller, trying to save him from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He wrote "Two lives blurred together by a photo" for the L.A. Times, and was interviewed by Robin Young on WBUR.
For further thoughts about support for our troops in these troubling times, see the comments of Rev. William Sinkford, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
About "Bush Haters"
Critics of this war are often dismissed as Bush Haters, as if we only complained because we had some personal dislike for the man. In my case, I had no disdain for him prior to 2000 -- he has worked hard to earn my disrespect. When I lived in Texas, he was my governor. I did not vote for him, but I did not panic when he was elected. During the 2000 campaign, I considered him and Al Gore almost interchangeable, because they were in many ways. I did not vote for either one of them, but I did not hate either one of them either. I still do not hate either one of them, but I really began to lose respect for President Bush when his team -- led by Katherine Harris and Karl Rove -- stole the election.
Since then, a slim "mandate" has been used to leverage a series of radical domestic and foreign policies that are highly dangerous and offensive. The Bush White House has been the most political ever, and has implemented sweeping changes that maximize the financial freedom of the top 1 percent while minimizing the social and political freedom of most of the rest of us, all while engaging in an optional war at immense human and financial cost. I use the word "radical" instead of conservative, because I have nothing against conservatives, and I do not consider Bush conservative in any traditional sense of the word. Even Richard Nixon's attorney, John Dean, calls the current administration "conservatives without conscience."
Those of us who love this country have an obligation to protect what is left of it from these people! Almost 1,000,000 people have signed a petition to impeach the president. This is not because we do not like him; it is because he has broken his oath to uphold the constitution, and he has killed many thousands of with an optional war.
Citizens for an Informed Community
Find out what is being done locally in response to the war and terrorism. This local group sponsors debates and presentations on a wide variety of relevant topics. People with opposing views are always invited to attend and participate.
Supported by contributors, foundations, and government grants, NPR is a robust news organization that airs well-produced news programs from a variety of perspectives. All programs are archived and available online.
Boston's NPR affiliate provides NPR news programs and locally-produced programs. At certain times of the day it provides current news from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which sometimes provides a more independent perspective. WBUR's weblog on the war is quite useful.
This alternative to public radio is free of government and corporate sponsorship, and provides even more independent perspectives. Archived programs are available from the Pacifica web site; links to affiliate stations provide the ability to listen online.
|Peace starts with
See Pax Mundo for details.
|Follow these links for some more alternative points of view
about the rush to war .
Why is our opposition to Saddam absolute, when we are willing to overlook the faults of other regimes?
History matters. If we do not want to fight dictators, we should quit supporting and creating them.
This graphic may be considered too cynical. After all, issues other than oil are at stake. The dependence on imported oil cannot be ignored as a factor, however, especially when both the president and the vice president who are waging this war have been oil-company executives.
This site does not argue that oil was the only reason for the Iraq attack, but it does present evidence that it was a significant part of the equation. How could it not be?
Return to James Hayes-Bohanan's September 11 page .
Return to James Hayes-Bohanan's Environmental Geography page .
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