A Few Thoughts on Iraq

Just a quick post - Blogger is still weird on the computer I'm using here, so I'll do a much more extensive and cited post tomorrow when I get back stateside.

When the reports of torture started coming in, my first reaction was surprise at everyone's surprise. It's war. This is what happens in war, war is the worst thing people can do to each other and contains therein all of the specifically worst acts humans can commit upon one another. My sense was that, since it was a juicy story, the media was really running with it perhaps beyond people's levels of outrage about it - 'cause I mean, surely, people must understand what goes on in war, right? And I figured that whatever I was seeing in the British tabloids - so eager to jump on a juicy anti-American story, even moreso once the Brits themselves were implicated - was bigger than whatever was going on stateside.

I was wrong. This is much, much, much worse. Atrios links to The Daily Brew with the best, most succinct description of just what's happened - and excerpts this:

Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality. Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.

This election will thus no longer merely determine the Presidency. This election is now much larger than the office. The United State’s place in the family of nations is now on the ballot. This election will determine whether the United States will ever again have any standing or moral authority in the rest of the world. The United States cannot simultaneously stand against depraved sexual torture and the wanton abuse of human rights, while electing the commander in chief upon whose watch these events occurred. The seven hundred thousand or so viewers of Fox News may be able to rationalize such cognitive dissonance; the six billion people who make up the remainder of the world will not.

He's right. And I am ashamed, ashamed and terrified.

I have always, for whatever else I've felt about being American - anger, frustration, discontent, etc. - been also proud to be American. Always acknowledged the awful things done by this country, but also always been proud of the great things done, as well.

It's not that America or Americans are morally superior - we're not, we're just the same hairless apes as everyone else, with the same capacity for awful things, no more no less. But at the same time, America has taken seriously its responsibilty to try to do better - yes, at the same time as innumerable awfulnesses have been committed in its name. And we have been taken seriously in those efforts to do better.

But now - if Bush wins, it's all down the toilet. As Gov. Howard Dean was fond of saying (i.e., it was in the stump speech), America won the Cold War without a bullet being fired because people behind the Iron Curtain wanted to be like America and be like Americans. It was not just the material resources, the standard of living - American symbolized progress, freedom, the idea that people as individuals and as a society could do better.

Think that's what we symbolize now?

We already were in a situation where we didn't have any choice but to get rid of Bush - now we're really really REALLY in a situation where we have NO CHOICE WHATSOEVER.

Everyone go to John Kerry's website and/or call up his campaign HQ. Get all the talking points, on everything. Every time any one of us has a conversation with anyone between now and Nov. 2, we need to make sure, by the end of the conversation, that they're voting for John Kerry.

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