29 January 2012

A Strange Encounter Part 3

The Iraq War

"Were you in the military?" he asked.

"Unfortunately," I replied.

"What branch?"

"Air Force."

"Well I believe," he continued, "my son died defending our freedoms against Islamic Terrorism. The war in Iraq," he went on...

"Was based on lies," I said.

"You don't think after they attacked us on September 11 that we had to go in there? To liberate those people?"

"Iraq didn't attack us on September 11. And the reason given was to deal with the supposed pressing issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction which all turned out to be lies."

It got kind of tense. He insisted the weapons were there and they were smuggled out through Syria. I couldn't believe that almost ten years later I was still hearing these same old tired arguments which were proven false long ago.

The folks that make these arguments and he was no exception demonstrate their ignorance in lumping all Muslims into one monolithic group. They can't grasp that Saddam Hussein's Baath party was secular and completely at odds with a group like Al Qaeda. They can't fathom the very deep Shiite-Sunni divide. They don't know that Alawite dominated Syria has largely been tied in with Iran...Iraq's enemy representing an internal and external threat due to its large Shiite population in the south. It's all rather tangled and many show no understanding when they just give a knowing nod and suggest the weapons went to Syria.

"Let me guess," he said. "You watch NBC, CBS, ABC...."

"No, I don't watch any of those networks but I also don't watch FOX news."

"Oh I see," he said with disgust. "Let me guess, you voted for Obama."

"No," I replied. "Just because I'm being critical of George Bush doesn't mean I like Obama."

This recurred several times. In his mind since I was hostile to Bush...I therefore must like Obama. I guess life is pretty simple for some folks. I'm constantly pleading with people I talk to as well as people who read what I write...don't accept the categories the Establishment gives to us. Just because I dislike George Bush and the Republican Party does not mean I’m pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, anti-family, and anti-Christian.

We then argued about The Bush Doctrine...and I pointed back to the insanity of 2002 when the Iraq war was being sold to the American people and the buildup to war was at full speed. The Fear Machine was in high gear, poison pens, plots in every cupboard and every corner, and the threat to the world posed by a broken and crushed country. Apparently, this poor guy believed all the propaganda from that time...the numerous threats were all real and viable…and even worse today.

Al Qaeda was active in Iraq he insisted. Saddam was backing them. He encouraged me to read Bush's book 'Decision Points'. I did pick up a copy and could barely stand it. I went to the chapter on Iraq. It's a pack of lies, patently so to anyone who has watched the news or read anything. It does not harmonize with history, the current events of the time, nor the testimonies of those present in the White House. Bush may indeed have been ignorant of much that was happening. He certainly has given the impression that he’s not a person who pays a great deal of attention to details. His idea of management is to let his underlings more or less run the show. Whether Bush was a victim of Neo-con machinations or a willing participant is open for debate.

Like I said I just couldn't believe this guy was still insisting on the same arguments from 2002. Even many of the pro-Iraq War people have left these arguments behind. Powell's presentation at the UN was completely debunked. It's a black mark on Powell's record to this day...but for this guy, no, no, it was all 100% true. I brought up specific points as we talked. I followed all of this very closely. I remembered exactly where I was during Powell’s UN speech. I was remodeling a bathroom, pulling wires through a wall, shaking my head in disagreement as I listened to his presentation.

He started to tear up when telling me about meeting Bush a few days before he left office in January 2009. A group of American families who lost their soldier-children in Iraq traveled to the White House and met with him. This guy really likes Bush, he got real emotional.

Of course to me...the irony is that is Bush himself who killed his son. Bush thanked this man for his son's service. This is where it gets hard for me. Here's this very deceived man, but he's still a father that lost his son. How can I not pity him? I can't even imagine losing a child. And then to have to wrestle with the why? This wasn't a car accident, a disease. This was a death resulting from his son carrying a gun while invading another country.

Did he die for nothing? For lies? Did he die because he was trying to steal other people's land and livelihood and they fought back and refused to allow him to do it?

I couldn't tell this guy to his face that to me his son deserved to die. His son was a murderer and got his just desserts. I can't feel sorry for soldiers killed when invading another country.

If the Chinese invaded the United States and ten years later a Chinese father was telling some middle class American guy about how his son was killed in a firefight…would the American feel pity? On a human level sure, but not on an ideological one.

On one level I can feel sorry for them...that they were deceived by lies and believed they were doing the right thing. In this case this young man believed he was serving God by being patriotic and going to fight for Holy America. I burn with wrath towards those who promote this, but I can feel sorry for those who are deceived by it.

That ultimately sums up my feelings toward this man...pity and anger. I feel sorry for him but I'm also angered that he continues to promote this Hellish doctrine.

to be continued...


Anonymous said...

I have had similar conversations with a few friends who are still militarily involved. Of course I have been invited on more than one occasion to leave the country, because I don't bow down to the " we are fighting for your freedom" line, then it degenerates even further when they offer to buy a ticket, and I accept the offer. Sadly due to youthful indiscretions, I am unwelcome in most other countries as well. It is truly an exciting time to be alive, and a trying one as well.

Much patience and grace is called for when speaking with these folks who are deluded by those who take advantage of them for earthly gain.

I too was a flag waver for much of my adult life, and it is always reduced to pride when you look at things in totality, just like most other things that trip us up.

Jim C. said...

Without a doubt the most shocking part of this post is when you say that his son deserved to die for being a part of an invading military force. Even those who are intensely critical of the war nevertheless reserve their respects for those whom they believe exhibited selflessness in their decision to join the military and fight for their country and ideals, even if it was based on lies spun by politicians and think-tanks.

Having said that, I'm glad you made this point anyway. Is there anyone, whether they're in the military or thinking of joining, who doesn't have access to all the information available from multiple perspectives on this conflict? None of them have any reason to not know what's going on in the Middle East. It's a topic that's been addressed ad nauseum. Perhaps back in 2002-03, when we had less to go on, the ignorance of those setting foot on Afghan/Iraqi soil was understandable but today? After all this time? Anyone who's gung-ho has to have been living in their basement watching action movies or playing Call of Duty or something along that trajectory.

On a similar note, a while back I posted a response to your article about MLK and evangelical revisionism containing a link to a BBC documentary about how the efforts of missionaries and British imperialists in the 19th century contributed to the near-extinction of blacks in Africa and New Zealand. I was wondering if you had a chance to watch it and if you saw a link between the thinking of that time with the thinking of today regarding American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Protoprotestant said...

Yes I guess that can seem shocking and yet once you step outside of the Americo-centric way of looking at things...it's not. Who feels sorry for the Iraqi Arab defending his country? His motives are no less sincere? Or going back in time, the Vietnamese trying to fight of French and American invaders?

I don't doubt many are sincere in their motivations in joining the American forces, but it doesn't excuse them. I'm sure many 18 year olds joining the German army in the 1930's really and truly believed they were being selfless and doing the right thing.

Nationalism, war, the young dying, this is never going to stop. It's part of life in this fallen world. But when Christians promote it and willfully blind themselves to it...that's something else.

No doubt there's more information available today. Few would in 2012 suggest that the 2003 invastion of Iraq was the right thing to do. But there were many of us who were saying the same thing back in 2002 as well. The information was there, but because of our media, our educational system and frankly the error rampant in the Church, few Americans and even fewer Christians had the tools or ammunition (so to speak) to realize and argue against the massive propaganda campaign.

The crime of the war should be pinned on the architects, but the footsoldiers also need to bear some of the burden of guilt.

Using the extreme example, Hitler was the great criminal, but he couldn't have done what he did without the millions of Germans who followed orders and supported the troops.

While the American Empire is perhaps not as heinous as the Nazi version, even that BBC documentary shows that massive amounts of blood can be spilled and evil acts committed without deliberately trying to inculcate a Final Solution. Millions of Indians died as a result of Imperial Capitalism and the subsequent bad leadership which was there to support the system. All these systems will look for arguments to bolster their ideals and individual notions held by people who wield power can also help shape the outcome. Even if the viceroy in the 1870's hadn't been affected by Eugenics, I don't think the outcome would have been that different.

Protoprotestant said...

Watching that documentary it outrages me when I hear British Christians continue to look back on that era with nostalgia and hold it up as some kind of period of greatness.

It was sick. All Empires are evil...there's no such thing as a benevolent empire. There's no such thing as a Christian Empire.

The genius of the American Empire is that it is the most powerful in all of history but because of the way it operates...it's hidden to many, it has a narrative that denies its very existence.

I have to hand it to the architects and maintainers....Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Jim said...

"I burn with wrath towards those who promote this, but I can feel sorry for those who are deceived by it."

Proto - this should be the heart of every saint. I am glad you included it in your discourse here.

in Christ -Jim (fb)

Protoprotestant said...

That's a hard balance and that's what struck me as I'm talking to this guy. I'm very angry with him and yet I feel sorry for him.

I guess it's called loving our enemies?

Protoprotestant said...

Back to Jim C....

Chalmers Johnson argues in The Sorrows of Empire that race has always been a key element to all Empires. Cultural superiority, however that's framed drives the impulse.

It made me think of the Christian use of American Exceptionalism and the whole Christo-American narrative.

I was also thinking about how Empires make a few people obscenely rich, it benefits the middle for a time with the new markets and cheap goods, but in the end proves disastrously expensive. The tax payer ends up having to pay for the mess.

The wealthy who made their money...they don't care. They ride off into the sunset.

As long as it doesn't lead to a massive system-collapse like it almost did in 2008. So now it's all cleaned up and again the people who caused the thing, they don't care...they already made their money.

The British Empire imploded after WWII. The wealthy classes had grown rich beyond their wildest dreams and already before the World Wars it had been getting very expensive to run the whole thing. The war broke its back as the common people had no means to pay for it anymore. The wealthy lost some...but their losses were nothing compared to the middle classes and poor in Britain...

let alone the colonials who are still dealing with the fallout today.

Johnson in the book I referenced talks about the empire of bases, the elitism and racism within the military, especially stationed overseas...in the way they interact with the local population and so forth. I definitely saw this when I was in Europe. I didn't spend any time in Asia but it made me think of conversations I had with people who had been stationed in Japan and the attitude they expressed regarding the Japanese people. It was pretty bad I have to say.

Protoprotestant said...


you're right it is an exciting and trying time to be alive.

I wouldn't mind leaving but that's not really an option at present...so we live where Providence has called us.

I'm sorry but these people are wrong to thing the folks who fought in the Revolution and other past wars would support what's happening today. I think the dream of 1776 didn't really last very long. Certainly 100 years later it had all gone in a very different direction than what anyone in 1776 would have hoped for or been fighting for. And by 1976, the 200 year anniversary...the US had become the thing the Founders had fought.

Your family has been here since the 1600's. You have as much right to be here as anyone else. These people have hijacked what the country was supposed to be and what previous people fought for.

That doesn't mean we have to agree with the previous people (our ancestors) and the wars they fought...but it doesn't mean the modern Imperial faction is right either and they have no claim to the past.