Fredwitz on War

He Doan No Nuffin'

September 26, 2004

A columnist has a peculiar perspective on things. He sits high above the intellectual plain and has mud flung at him from all sides. He probably deserves it, but that is not my point here. He sees a world in which everyone has the correct answer except himself. He also sees that everyone’s correct answer is different from everyone else’s. Oh well.

There follows an explanation of our invasion of Iraq as understood by my email.

(1) We invaded because Saddam Hussein was a royal sonofabitch.

The characterization is hard to dispute. I note that no one cared what he was until 9-11. In any event he is no longer there, so why are we?

(2) We wanted the oil. There isn’t enough for both us and a developed China. Grab while the grabbin´s good.

Plausible. But why not, say, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with smaller populations and far less capacity for being difficult?

(3) Saddam had really nasty atomic bombs and a gazillion gallons of nerve agents and was going to attack New York and kill orphans and widows.

If this had been true, at least the possession-of atomic-bombs part, destruction of the atomic facilities by whatever means necessary would have been reasonable. Control of nuclear weapons by one person isn’t a good idea. But we knew he didn’t have them. Iraq after Gulf I was perhaps the most watched real-estate on earth. We had spy planes, overflights, a tight embargo, and half of NSA pointed at Iraq. A third of the Iraqi population consisted of Mossad agents. Tall Iraqis were sometimes decapitated by low-flying satellites. (They wear helmets now.) We knew there were no A-bombs. Anyway, there sure aren’t now. So why are we there?

(4) It was a Jewish plot, a lot of the Neoconservatives, who pushed for the war, being Jewish.

For this to work, the war has to be beneficial to Israel. Is it? I dunno. The Israelis are said to know a lot about the Middle East. (Reportedly they live there.) They would presumably know that an invasion would turn into a mess. When—if, I mean, if—the US bails out, will Israel really be in a stronger position? Or will Iran? I dunno.

(5) It’s an Islamic plot. The ragheads have been out to conquer the United States since 622. It’s a war of civilizations. If we don’t stop them in Baghdad, we’ll have to fight them in New York.

This view may embody an exaggerated notion of the powers of the Islamic Navy. I picture Bedouin camel pilots around the campfire at night, with desert winds soughing over the sand, toasting each other, “Next year in Washington.” But if this is a war of civilizations, why doesn’t Europe stop giving them visas? And I note that about the first thing Shrub did after Nine Eleven was to charge off to a mosque. I dunno.

(6) It’s a Baptist plot. Bush and his religious-right crazies want to blow up the Middle East on orders from God.

I’m not sure why God couldn’t do it himself if so inclined. But here I’m completely out of my league. Bush is beyond my powers. I didn’t much like Bill Clinton, but he was neither evil nor hard to understand. I liked Hillary less, but she was neither incomprehensible nor against habeas corpus or the right to an attorney. I have no idea what runs through the mind of Bush. It worries me. These days so much can occur in a confined space.

(7) Iraq is the first part of an American world empire. We’re going to rule the world.

Geographically, it’s a peach of a beginning, which supports the argument. Most of my correspondents who avert to the coming empire are libertarians, and against it. Howsomever, there is a sizable undercurrent of, well, cautious satisfaction with the imperial approach. “It would, gee, be kind of neat to rule the world but you can’t say it so, nudge, wink, we’ll just do it, haha, and who’s going to stop us, and anyway the world would be better off if we ran it.” I gather that a lot of people would be happy if it worked, but don’t want to be in favor until it has.

(8) The bastards killed a lot of us, so we want to kill a lot of them.

This idea is not often stated plainly, yet it is widely held. (It was certainly my first response after Nine Eleven—blow´m all up, nuke´m, salt their cities, make´m watch Oprah.) There is a tremendous anger out there toward Moslems. It is unreasoning, the writers having no interest in whether particular Moslems or particular governments had anything to do with New York. The notion that we are there to help the Iraqis, rid them of an evil master, and give them democracy seems to coexist with the view that they are the enemy and should be killed if they don’t shape up.

I also read polls saying that today forty percent of the population believes that Iraq committed the attack on New York. People so dim-witted presumably do not read columns. At any rate I don’t hear from them. I note that support for the war comes from such a large part of the public that blaming it uniquely on Baptists, Jews, Big Oil, or any other small group doesn’t work. Conservatives are much more pro than liberals, to judge by my correspondents. (Maybe it’s a conservative plot.)

People seem to be, with occasional exceptions, starkly polarized over the war and eager to avoid ambiguity. Those who favor it often point to the beheadings, for example, as evidence that “they” are barbarians and deserve no mercy. It does not occur to them that bombing residential neighborhoods, because a guerrilla might be there, seems to those in the neighborhood to indicate that the Americans are barbarians and deserve no mercy.

Those who oppose intervention in other countries shy away from confronting a serious question: Should unstable nations, or those ruled by one man, be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons? To what lengths should one go to prevent the acquisition? The government was lying about Iraq. Is it lying about Iran? To what extent? What if the choice comes down to nuking or invading?

I get mail saying that if Israel has nuclear weapons, why should not Iran be permitted to have them? Easy. Because Israel, whatever you think of it, is unlikely gratuitously to nuke a conventionally armed Iran. If Iran has the Bomb, or is about to get it, things will get dicey. The question is not one of abstract fairness. The appeal of having hostile, desperate, angry, and nuclear states in a strategic part of the world is not up there with that of, say, glazed doughnuts.

I’m going to Mars. Land’s cheap and they got golf carts.