Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bedtime Stories

Our sixteen year old daughter came into our room after eleven o’clock last night to ask about the war.

“Is it a war on Iraq or a war on terrorism?” she asked.

In general, we have at least ten times more conversation about volleyball with my daughter than about anything political. Apparently she had been talking about it on the phone with her boyfriend (it’s still hard for me to use that phrase) and they’d gotten in an “argument” about how to define the war. Neither of them supports the war, but I’m not sure that they’d talked much about why they don’t support it.

We took a few minutes to go through the list.

1) It’s not a war on Iraq right now because the United States controls the current Iraqi government.

2) It’s not a war on terrorism in the sense that “terrorism” is a way of pursuing political goals through focused acts of violence without an army controlled by a government.

3) There are terrorists in Iraq, but they’re not the same terrorists who carried out 9/11.

4) We originally invaded Iraq because Saddam was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction that he might share with terrorists.

5) The weapons of mass destruction did not turn up.

6) There’s really no way to fight a conventional war against the concept of terror.

7) The President hinted strongly at the time that Iraq was tied to 9/11, but that was largely to convince America to go to war.

8) Even though North Korea really does have WMD, we haven’t invaded there. This might have something to do with oil or their lack of it.

9) One reason we went to Iraq was to spread democracy through the entire region.

As we talked about the differences between the real reason the U.S. is in Iraq and the nominal reasons given at various times, it occurred to me that it’s not easy to explain. It also occurred to me that a number of things have now been revealed and are well established, e.g. the lack of WMD and the lack of ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda that make the whole thing even harder to understand whether you’re an adult or a teenager. This became even clearer to me when my daughter then asked me the question, “Why do we stay there and what is it that we still expect to accomplish?”

We went down that list.

1) Saddam is out of power.
2) There are no WMD there.
3) There still seem to be a lot of terrorists in the world whether we stay in Iraq or withdraw.
4) Democracy is not spreading in Iraq much less the entire Middle East.
5) Gas costs a lot more than it did before the war.
6) The Pentagon just asked for another 100 billion dollars to continue the war.

She changed her question slightly to “What would it mean to win the war now?”

When I was sixteen years old back in 1971, it occurred to me that I had the same questions about Vietnam. We were just starting to learn that the Tonkin Gulf incident had largely been faked and that official statements about that war didn’t match reality. The question had not so subtly shifted from “Can we win or are we doing enough to win?” to “How do we get out?”

When my daughter was young enough not to have a boyfriend, bedtime stories were supposed to have happy endings. I'm left with a few thoughts. First, how in the hell did we let this happen again? Second, why are the people directly responsible for this still doing in office and making the decisions? Third, why is so much of the truth about the reality on the ground suddenly hitting the media and being acknowledged after the election? Doesn't it mean that the president et al. were simply lying for all of 2006 and much earlier about the state of things in Iraq? Finally, where does all of this leave my daughter when she gets to be our age?



At 12/24/2006 07:59:00 AM, Blogger inkyhack said...

All very good questions. My daughter and I have had similar conversations, only to realize the whole mess just really frustrates us because it just seems so pointless.

At 12/24/2006 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to beat on this one drum, but I do find that people can grok the obscene amounts of money being hijacked from your & their daughters' futures when we think of it as spending $820,000 per minute on the Military Budget and an additional $216,000 per minute on Iraq. [derived from L. Bilmes Iraq numbers]

A billion is a dirigible word -- it floats up there vaguely huge, but empty. Even tho it's an astonishing amount of money, one billion is still 'one' of something in people's minds. It isn't as truly shocking as the sums broken down.

Hurray for your daughter for asking.

At 12/26/2006 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mr. Pogblog,
you love beating on this one drum. But I only want you to stop doing it for the right reason, that being the day we stop spending all that money on a war.

It really surprised me to find how hard it was to explain it. I'm not sure what the President tells his twin daughters or what the vice president will be telling his soon to be grandchild.

At 12/27/2006 10:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your daughter having asked about this forced you to really think about the situation, something which most people (and even our government) haven't done. It is a sad situation and it happened because normal people are very susceptible to the fear and hatred tactics used by the current administration. We're also not a very financially savvy society, so a hundred million dollars here or there doesn't matter and neither does debt. It's just a part of life. That's why people run up credit card debt. They don't understand how much they're getting screwed over.

At 12/27/2006 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I have a relatively conservative sister in law who was up for Christmas. She started a conversation about the war and it was a reminder that it's important to think political matters through every now and then and also to discuss them with people who don't necessarily agree with you.
It's not so much that you change anyone else's mind, it's important now and then to go through the steps and remember why you think what you think.

She kept falling back to Saddam was like Hitler and isn't it right to try to stop Hitler?
it took a while to unwind that one....While there certainly were mass graves in Iraq in Saddam's time (there are now too after Saddam's time), it's interesting to try to track down the actual numbers.

There's clearly been an effort to understate the official number of civilian dead since the US invasion of Iraq. Several weeks ago I started to research the number actually killed by Saddam, something which he clearly did, and found that the number had been wildly exagerrated in the US media. It often includes deaths during the Iran-Iraq war and/or deaths due to the international embargo of Iraq which he has some responsibiity for, but it's not fair to say that he killed the people who suffered from the embargo. If you used the same measures, George Bush has personally killed several hundred thousand people and one might just as easily compare him to Hitler too.

At 12/29/2006 07:21:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

Thanks for this post and the subsequent comments. I've had a hard time understanding the points that led to this war and why it continues. This puts some things into greater perspective.

At 12/29/2006 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks. For a couple years now, I've been looking at the actual reports coming from the Department of Defense etc. Despite all the spin, it wasn't very hard to tell that something's been seriously wrong in Iraq just from reading the text of the reports.

I believe that politics is a kind of internalized mythology that can be surprisingly fact proof at times. People believe certain things because they desperately want to believe them. That's played out in a very tragic way in the last 4 years.


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