Wednesday, May 26, 2004

So I was sitting here, trying to get myself to write, when (most unfortunately) I remembered when an old political science teacher of mine a while back showed the class slides of deformed babies in Vietnam. Being the thin-skinned, weak-stomached person I am, this has been a repressed memory for a while. It was a graphic picture of (WARNING: graphic description, highlight to view) a baby with a ceond head coming out of its crotch. I couldn't even imagine how that could happen (of course, when you're born, one minute difference in your DNA can really fuck you up), and then what you would need to fix it... dear god, could a baby TALK with that mouth? What would happen when he grew up? How could a body divide its systems between two seperate heads? How could you grow up? Would your second head atrophy? Or perhaps you would just die painfully at two years old because no person in the world can possibly grow up that way?

So I wrote this. As I say in it, this does not just bother me because I have a weak stomach, or a strong conscience, this bothers me because I am a human being and I have a line drawn between "collateral damage" and cruelty. Read.


How could anybody in the world be so cruel? I would hope that, in this day and age, everybody can agree on one thing, and that is that baby deformations are bad, that people going hungry is bad, that preventable deaths are bad, and that the world’s richest nation has a moral obligation to do something about it.

I would also hope that, in this day and age, humans could cognate the fact that food is cheaper than bombs, and as much as you want to argue that bombs can potentially save lives, food could save a lot more lives at no cost. It is the United States military’s obligation to protect the American people, but not to go around trying to fix other people’s problems with guns; that can only make things worse. Civil war should not be a surprising outcome of the Iraq invasion.

Rather, we knew all along that Saddam was a brutal dictator, that his interrogators raped and tortured suspects, that he gassed legions of Kurds out of his political reason, and it took no distortion of the facts to say this. We did not need to justify invading Iraq with phony stories of weapons of mass destruction. If Bush had said from the outset that this was a humanitarian intervention, I might be more willing to support him.

What he would need to back his war up, though, is a reason why replacing him will get us any farther than where we started. No matter how evil Saddam is, there are a thousand people in line to take his place. Did we have a plan to rebuild Iraq, give it a functioning economy, and establish democracy (as was the goal of this war according to the conservative pundits)? Either no, or not a good enough one to work. Instead, we have sold Iraq’s public assets to American companies and given the Iraqis a hand-picked US-friendly government with troops gunning down civilians with impunity. Criminal justice allows for no due process or even a guarantee that you won’t be murdered. As soon as the Iraqis find a spiritual leader in al-Sadr, America promises to capture or kill him. We have established no middle ground.

So this shouldn't just bother me, the Bleedin’ Heart Liberal, and my hippie friends out in Poseidontown who wear tie-dye and are allergic to deoderant. This should bother everybody with a conscience. It should also bother everybody with a conscience that war is destroying the environment, that depleted uranium litters every battlefield it is used in and causes birth defects for generations, that the United States has military installations in 140 of the world’s 180 nation-states and, as the Iraq war has shown, acts without any consideration for the world’s peacekeeping bodies. If the United States is the world’s policeman, it is one crooked cop, with us, the civilians, paying the price.

I do not doubt Saddam Hussein deserved to be captured. I am very glad that he is in US custody, and as Bush eloquently (serious) put it, “is about to face the justice he denied millions.” Let that be the standard the US sets. No more “at least we’re not as bad as al-Qaeda” apologizing. We need to be, as Gandhi might put it, the change we want to see in the world. We need to be the preeminent force of peacemaking and democracy on planet Earth. We are Americans, and it is not only our birthright to lead the world, it is our responsibility.


(And by lead I mean, by example.)
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