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Monday, March 24, 2008

Five Years On: Living with Iraq

It has been five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq. This prompted a conversation between me and a very good friend who lives in America over the Internet recently, who is in US politics at some level. He has graciously allowed me to print our conversation almost in full, which I have just tidied up for grammar and punctuation purposes.

Windows Live Messenger ConversationsMe:
So you think America going into Iraq was still the right thing?

MSN Buddy:
We had to go in to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Me:
That's what Bush says now, but five years ago he was talking about weapons of mass destruction.

MSN Buddy:
Details schmetails. We had to go in for the greater good. You'll see, a lot of good will come out of this bad.

Me:
No I don't see. I only see the details. Details such as women and children dying.

MSN Buddy:
Weren't they dying under Saddam?

Me:
So them dying under America is in some way better? Please don't tell me they are dying for a more noble cause.

MSN Buddy:
Yes they are.

Me:
You know how much I love you as a friend, right? Well let me tell you something, I am not sure what is going on around us or where it is we are heading. But I do know good men that speak in such absolutes at their heart have a dangerous fierceness, like the bare sword of justice. They hold humanity, mercy and charity precious above all, but not first. In the long run the concern is the absolute good, ahead of all else. Isn't this is as fanatical as the fanatics you are chasing? Like old Crusaders - like certain groups in every belief - a cold determination you share with the enemy?

MSN Buddy:
That was a great long Ali speech, but yes I still believe the ends justifies the means.

Me:
Well at least you know that there are even good Americans who are getting hurt in the pursuit of good ends.

MSN Buddy:
You don't understand. You're not American. It is a job that we have to do. We didn't start it.

Me:
Nothing begins in a vacuum. And what is more worrying, have you considered that your replies may not differ so much than of your enemy? They too possibly believe that the ends justify the means, even going so far as to go against their own religion by distorting it.

MSN Buddy:
So are you saying we deserved it?

Me:
No one, not even those who commit violence, ultimately deserve it, because the begetters of violence were beget by violence. It is a vicious circle. But we have to distinguish ourselves from it. Otherwise what makes us different?

MSN Buddy:
The cause, the side we are on makes us different.

Me:
In intent only, but not in words and action? I was taught many a good intention paves the way to hell.

MSN Buddy:
Could we be free to talk like this in an Arab world?

Me:
You know there are some that believe that in this crusade, the atmosphere in America is becoming just as prohibitive. Just swap blasphemy for being unpatriotic.

MSN Buddy:
All I know is that terror of Islam is rising. Very soon nothing will stand in its way if we don't stop it. And if that should happen there'll be no question of warm charity or cold absolute good existing AT ALL. Charity, mercy and humanitarianism you speak of is necessary for us to live in peace with one another, but in war we can't make use of them. This is war. We are fighting for life or death.

Me:
Are we talking about Iraq now?

MSN Buddy:
What do you mean?

Me:
Are we still on Iraq?

MSN Buddy:
Yes.

Me:
I don't think so. When did 9/11 equate with Iraq but until after the Allies invaded? The other side hijacked a war America had no need to start. Iraq has been singled out, and used as a battleground, with its people as collateral damage. But no one asked them if they would mind, or if they would just shut up and die quietly, knowing proudly it was for the greater good. Most Iraqis outside of the north just want bread and running water. All they know is they had this under Saddam, but no liberty. Now supposedly they have liberty, but are starving, except outside of the north. You and I might be able to fill our stomach on our principles and that you've saved a minority - but that's our choice. You can't expect others to starve for them, too, especially when it isn't by their choice, and while they watch a previous minority fill their bellies on their country's demise.

MSN Buddy:
None of us are doing this by choice.

Me:
Oh I think we had a choice. A long time ago, at the very beginning. Instead of a knee-jerk reflex, it could have been taken another way. Then there was the other chance of taking Bush out of office, and that wasn't taken either.

MSN Buddy:
That's in the past. We have to make a new world now. We have to make Iraq work.

Me:
With American vision? And American rules?

MSN Buddy:
The vision we are fighting for is a global one.

Me:
But will we all get it? As you say, we are not all American... Because I don't have such lofty ideals. I wish I had. I just get a stomach ache when I see a child crying in hunger, crying orphaned, crying blind. Allied soldiers looting villages, killing entire families, raping and torturing civilians, you are happy to build a great new Iraq on this foundation? This doesn't mar your vision? It doesn't dim your eternal flame a little? Please now don't come back with to make an omelet you must break eggs. That's already gone down in the history books.

MSN Buddy:
Haha you know me so well.

Me:
I do. I know you're a good man. But there's another thing I know my friend. That you may win the war - and I hope you do - but you can't impose your vision. Know that your victory will be just a military one, and which military victory has never been the epitome of an oxymoron? Because when the battles between you and your adversaries are done, and their sons are lying in their graves and so are yours, in the end the fate of the world will not depend on this outcome. It will depend on the "little people" who most see as so small in the grand design of things, and on how many of them are good or bad, stupid and wise. And it will take a far greater man than I to foretell what they will do once the dust settles with their world. Our world.

MSN Buddy:
They will follow by example.

Me:
Example? You mean that the strong should dictate the terms? That the ends justifies the means? That you can always break a few eggs? As long as the goal is a good one? Maybe we should have tried to give them other examples to follow by. Bush calls himself a Christian, well Christ gave him many different examples and he ignored every single one. Like Bin Laden, too.

MSN Buddy:
Hey, are you trying to say Bin Laden and Bush are the same. You have no right to say that!

Me:
Is one better than the other, when one attacks innocent Americans for their twisted ends, and another attacks Iraq? We aren't in an Arab state now as you remind me. What I'm saying is that neither one can hold a moral high ground with me, both have too much blood on their hands. I care about the people, the children - not my people, not my children - I care about the ones that don't know I exist, and don't care I do. I care enough to see no one has the right to make another's home the standing ground to your bullies, if ultimately it will mean that there's nothing to stick around for afterwards. Kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?

MSN Buddy:
It's unnatural to care so much about everyone. It is in human nature only to care about our own survival and the survival of your own tribe. America is mine.

Me:
And humanity is mine. I care about you, as I care about the next person.

MSN Buddy:
And that my friend, is why I respect your damn opinion so much.

(End of Windows Live Messenger conversation)

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