There's also a natural tendency, which I touched on yesterday, to make it all about us -- to consciously or unconsciously treat the Iraqis like extras (or worse, bloody mannequins) in a Mad Max remake produced and directed by Americans.
I'll also admit that I've become progressively less attentive -- not more -- as the death toll has climbed...
Everything I dreaded has come to pass -- for the Iraqis, if not for us.
The point deserves frequent repetition: We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures.
But one can fully accept America's moral and legal responsibility for unleashing this barbarism and still not have a clue as to what can or should be done to stop it. Would a U.S. military withdrawal reduce the bloodshed or worsen it? I don't know, and I think anyone who says they do know is either lying or as deluded as Bush. But my intuition tells me that either way, whether we stay or go, thousands more, maybe millions more, are going to die.
A certain hoplessness, you see.
For someone in my shoes, though, hopelessness can become an excuse for not thinking about unpleasant truths. But there was something about Riverbend's quiet despair that forced me to think hard about my own moral responsibility as an American for a genocide caused by America -- because of a war started in my name, paid for with my taxes.
I've opposed this war since it was just a malignant smirk on George Bush's face. I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.
But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.
I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.
But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.
here's what i wrote in july:
"i have a confession to make. i'm not necessarily a part of the 'out, now' crowd. i dont fully subscribe to powell's 'pottery barn' rule - but he was kinda on track. i can't remember when i first realised that there literally arent any good outcomes for iraq - but it was at least 18 months ago. the only question for reasonable americans (and others) is how best to minimize the level of fucked-up-ness.there were lots of good comments to that post.
i understand why many am.lib bloggers point to 2500+ dead am.soldiers, and the weekly price-tag, and the incremental terrorist-creation and so on - but these arguments are merely political issues (ie persuasive to some particular goal.) However, the decision making process ought to be primarily centered around the proximate moral issue - i.e what is the best thing to do by iraq (and, relatedly, the rest of the world)
the options seem to be a) get everyone out b) keep every one in c) add more grunts d) hang out over the horizon. frankly, i have no idea what can or ought be done - but the decision making framework ought to be framed around what is best for iraq (or more precisely iraqis) and best for the rest of the world (eg the risks of the war spilling over into other countries etc)
i've long argued that the presence of am.troops actually contributed to the war and the concomitant death and destruction - and im kinda confident that i've been correct all along. and i've always argued that the stupid americans in charge are too stupid (or too corrupt, ideologically or otherwise) to do anything properly. Nowadays, I'm still confident that they are still too stupid and/or corrupt - and i'm pretty sure that they should get out of iraq - but i think the responsible thought process should consider specifically why they should get out - and whether iraq will be a better place because of it. 'reasons' like 'its costing us $6bn a month' and '2500+ american soldiers are dead for lies' are specious. (the good side of) america has a responsibility to do the best that it can by iraq - and if getting the hell out of there is the best idea, then lets make sure that the argument is something other than 'it costs (us) too much'
again, i'm not arguing that america should stay in iraq - the clusterfuck is so enormous that there arent any good alternatives - and i presume that the best idea is getting the hell outta there (presuming that this doesnt free up am.troops for an invasion of iran or something stupid) - but i think it'd be best if we open up the discussion with full transparency and accounting and such - "out now cos it costs us too much" isnt a particularly justifiable argument (altho it might make sense politically)."
I've been meaning to write a follow-up post about the stupid fucking inanity of the 'argument' that gets bandied about every day by the out-now component of the punditocrisy (sic) that, as best as i can tell, goes something like this:
we need to map out some withdrawal plan so that maliki et al don't get too complacent by our protection and so that they actually try to come up with a plan to solve the problems in iraq which they apparently aren't otherwise interested in.fukkers, all.