Monday, October 23, 2006

"Blame the vision, not the execution."

That's the punchline to a recent column by the London Times' Matthew Parris, who is commenting no less on the Debacle on the Desert that we call the Iraq war. Although the author is writing to a British audience about the UK's role in Mess o' Potamia, much of what Mr. Parris writes fits our own situation.

I am merely one obscure person (among many) residing in the US who had vocally opposed the whole notion of an invasion of Iraq when it was little more than a neocon wet dream. Those responsible for that wet dream tried to pass it off as a grand vision (rather than merely clean the bedding), and we're left to deal with the sticky mess that's been created. But I digress.

Although I may not have had the requisite credentials or expertise to grasp all the nuances involved in something as gargantuan as a full-on invasion and occupation half-way across the world, I had enough horse sense to figure that nothing good could come out of it. I certainly had enough horse sense to suss out that the war's main proponents in the White House and Congress (along with the usual think tanks) were being more than a bit disingenuous, and enough horse sense to recall that actions based on lies tend to lead to plenty of unpleasant consequences. Given the death toll (which continues to mount as we speak) - civilians, reporters, soldiers & fighters on all sides - along with the rampant corruption that characterized first the CPA and later the various puppet regimes that have been set up in Iraq, the gross violations of human rights in the form of torture, mass displacement of civilians made homeless, etc., it's safe to say that any of us who were opposed to the war from the get-go were vindicated long ago (the horifying scope of the human toll exacted by this war makes such vindication every bit as heartbreaking, as should go without saying: on this occasion there is no satisfaction to be had in being right). Not only was the outcome predictable from the usual 20/20 hindsight, but a-priori. Large numbers of protesters tried to sound the warning that this was a bad idea. The US government refused to listen. Many of our fellow Americans refused to listen as well - I remember the conversations (or, more properly, shouting matches) all too clearly. "Have patience, my little liberals" we were told in the early days of the invasion by the various pro-war flag-wavers.

It has indeed taken a great deal of patience and self-restraint to wade through reports and commentary regarding the disaster wrought by a war that was a bad idea from the beginning. It'll take even more patience and self-restraint to refrain from calling for show-trials and executions of all those responsible for causing the harm that has been wrought upon the Iraqis.

What I keep going back to again and again is that wars generally are bad ideas. If nothing else, look at the typical consequences: massive loss of lives, livelihoods, limbs, along with the sowing of seeds for the next round. Cycles of violence whether interpersonal or international are notoriously hard to break. At some point, someone finally has to say, "no more." We have long ago reached the point where it is time to say "no more."

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