"The central issue at stake, far more than any spin about Halliburton or Vietnam or 'rush to war', is the future of civilization on this planet."
Do you agree with David Saperstein or Marc Fisher?
Tell us your thoughts.
I want to respond to Mr. Saperstein's epistle regarding the Iraq war -- while I respect principled dissent, I think Mr. Saperstein has many things all wrong on the issue of the Iraq war. Chiefly, it strikes me that he's made the same mistake many others have made by focusing on the minutae of the Iraq war without thinking about the larger global picture. For background, I am a Vietnam Veteran myself (Central Highlands, 1968-69) and I have voted on both sides of the political spectrum in the past. Unfortunately, it's my belief that the Democratic party of Harry Truman and John Kennedy has surrendered its once great principles of hope and dignity and has prostituted itself to the same radical Far Left which lied about my fellow veterans and spat on us when we returned from Vietnam -- the same anti-war group of which John Kerry was a leader in 1970-71. As long as this holds true, I will not be voting Democrat no matter how much I may differ with President Bush on social issues.
(I will cite Mr. Saperstein's statements in italics, with my direct response immediately following)
Once again the so-called media has let us down and disgraced itself. It seems it is more important for them to babble on incessantly about some disgruntled "Swift-Boat" sailors still fighting the Vietnam war.
Let's stop right there. The media has actually tried hard to ignore the Swifties (certainly they've gotten less airplay than any of George Soros' many 527 money sinks), and the Kerry campaign has even written threatening letters to television networks attempting to squelch the Swiftboaters ads. I'm sure if the Bush campaign had tried to do that to Michael Moore's movie the outrage from the Left would have been ear-shattering. In contrast to the media brown-out on the Swifties, it's interesting that a major news network was so eager to damage the Bush campaign that they accepted forged documents without fully checking them out. I smell a double standard.
That said, the Swifties are only responding to Senator Kerry's insistence that his campaign be based on almost nothing else but his own service in Vietnam (14 mentions of Vietnam during his acceptance speech). In fact, the Swifties have written at least two letters to Mr. Kerry that I'm aware of, explaining that if he were to publicly apologize for the lies he told after the war they would suspend their campaign. The Senator has refused. Kerry brought up Vietnam, thinking it would give him credentials as a wartime leader since his 19 years in the Senate offers nothing to recommend him. If he had anything else on which to base his platform, I'm sure he would have focused on that instead of Vietnam. But it is not accurate to claim that the Swifties are somehow stuck in a time warp. The media has, however, disgraced itself in its slanted, sensationalist coverage of Iraq. It is my belief that many 'journalists' (quotes intended) have been looking to make a mark with Iraq the same way Peter Arnett and Walter Cronkite made theirs with Vietnam. Sadly, a closer reading of history shows that Arnett was responsible for the myth of "bombing a village to save it" (didn't happen), and according to North Vietnamese General Giap, the North Vietnamese were close to negotiating after their defeat during Tet, 1968, until Cronkite announced that they'd won. Is that the kind of legacy these modern journalists really want?
Make no mistake when you hear the mantra that "The Media is Liberal". It is NOT. It is right wing, slanted, bought and paid for by big corporate money and special interests.
I suggest that Mr. Saperstein read an excellent book on this topic, written by a man who was actually on the inside of the media for years -- Bias by Bernard Goldberg. In it, Mr. Goldberg says that while he doesn't believe the media is consciously biased, he does think that they allow their personal prejudices to infiltrate their work. What personal bias would that be? S. Robert Lichter (former professor with George Washington University) did a groundbreaking 1980 survey of the media elite. Lichter's findings were confirmed by the American Association of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in 1988 and 1997 surveys. The most recent ASNE study surveyed 1,037 newspaper reporters found 61 percent identified themselves as/leaning "liberal/Democratic" compared to only 15 percent who identified themselves as/leaning "conservative/Republican." As Goldberg cites chapter and verse in his book, too often they project their personal views on the news they're reporting, believing themselves 'impartial' and yet very few of them have a clue as to what life is really like for the average American.
But our leaders who sent them, ill prepared, ill equipped, undermanned and without a plan to secure the peace, are neither brave, nor heroes. The proof is clearly before us. We are mired down in an urban war without enough troops and support to win. We are without the strong allies we once had.
One thing at a time. Our troops are actually better-equipped and better-trained than at any time in our history. That is not the problem. Are there enough of them? General Tommy Franks thinks so, as does the current commander, General Abazaid. I can think of no military leader who has ever turned down additional troops, of course, but we do have enough on the ground to get the job done right now. The addition of some 120,000 Iraqi security forces (with more to come) is helping immensely.
As for 'strong allies', I can only assume Mr. Saperstein is referring to France and possibly Germany. Though both of these nations are helping in Afghanistan, it would also be true that their objections to the Iraq War were based more on economic self-interest than anything. France, Germany and Russia all had secret sweetheart deals with Saddam that a war would undermine. Naturally they opposed us. Who is left? Thirty two nations, including Britain, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Netherlands. We have strong allies. Even without the Iraq war, I would hesitate to ever call France a 'strong' ally.
Mr. Saperstein is, unconsciously or not, echoing a strong pacifistic sentiment that tends to run through this nation of ours. The feeling seems to be that war is inherently and always evil. Our Anti-war tradition goes back to the colonies when only one third of colonists favored war with England. Phoebe Spinrad, an associate professor at Ohio State University, wrote in a 1994 paper called "Patriotism as Pathology". Referring specifically to the post-Vietnam attitudes of this country, her words are equally apt when applied to the current anti-war sentiment in this nation: "Of special note is the assumption that a mentally healthy nation... is by definition opposed to the war, and that the war itself is a pathology, one that alienates, dehumanizes and divides." What I'm hearing from him (and again, I will allow that perhaps it isn't intended) is the same media-promulgated fluff that would have us believe that no war is worth fighting, anytime or anywhere. Even those who today claim they support the war against the Taliban were, at one time, citing fear-driven prophecies about hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilian casualties and how we could not possibly do better than the Russians. They were wrong then, and they are wrong in Iraq today.
The fact is, some wars are worth fighting. Some causes are worth dying for. We will move on to the reasons for invading Iraq in a minute, but let us not lose sight of the fact that we have liberated 42 million people by usurping the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have put an end to the horrors those tyrannies inflicted on their people, and while the struggle will not be an easy or a short one, the end goal is to create an historic watershed in one of the most primitive, illiterate, superstitious and violent areas of the world - the Middle East. Nothing else we've done until now (including multiple attempts at an Israeli-Arab peace under Carter, Reagan, and both Bush administrations) has altered the culture of destruction. Mr. Saperstein mourns for the 1,000 dead Americans, and I join him in that sentiment. But I also mourn for the thousands of Israelis and Arabs who have died to suicide bombings, chemical munitions attacks, mass executions and torture rooms across that region of the world which are the direct result of blind racism and runaway religious zealotry. We were given a reason to act on September 11, and it is not enough to simply capture Osama. We must alter the cultural landscape of the entire region if we ever hope to live in peace. Iraq is one logical battlefield on which to effect that change.
1-Why are we not allowed, as a nation, to mourn our dead soldiers? Why are their bodies brought back unseen and unwelcome by those who sent them to war?
You are certainly entitled to mourn the dead. However, you are not entitled to invade the privacy of those soldiers' families. The vultures in the media have no moral compunctions about shoving microphones into the faces of grieving mothers and widows, and on this issue I side with the Department of Defense. None of us has a 'right' to stand in the graves registration hangar looking at bodies
There is not martial law in this country. Why is the Secretary of Defense allowed to suspend the First Amendment?
The First Amendment does not give you the right to invade people's privacy. It says nothing of taking videos of caskets.
2-Why are we not allowed to grieve with the families and loved ones of these fallen heroes?
Go ahead. Grieve. I join you. So, for that matter, does President Bush, who made it a personal vow to visit each of the families (if they're willing) and express his own sadness and the gratitude of our nation. He does this in private, however, away from prying eyes.
I am also deeply offended by the saber rattling and frowning war masks on George Bush and Dick Cheney who had the opportunity to serve their country and go to war when their generation was called, but chose to use influence and be safe in the National Guard, or get five deferments because of "other priorities". All the posturing in the world cannot remove that stain on their records. They ran away and John Kerry didn't, no matter what some rich oil tycoon in Texas tries to sell you via disgruntled sailors.
There is nothing dishonorable about serving in the National Guard. Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders were a Guard unit. However, in defense of former President Clinton who dodged the draft, I will also add that some of our worst Presidents have been former war heroes. Ulysses Grant, Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower come to mind. Not even George Washington could be called a 'great' President. Heroism does not guarantee the qualities required in the Oval Office. On that note, however, I would also suggest that John Kerry's despicable acts of treachery and political axe-grinding after his return from the war have earned him the disrespect of every veteran who served in Vietnam and call into question his ability to be a strong leader. How does that salvage his character over a Vice President who didn't serve?
4-Why do we have so few allies helping us in Iraq?
We are not "alone" as Mr. Saperstein claims. I've already addressed the 32 nations who are helping us, but I will also mention that the United Nations has agreed to assist with the upcoming Iraqi elections in January. NATO is training Iraqi security. We're not alone. If anything, the rest of the world seems to be waking up to the need for a peaceful, stable Iraq.
We are alone because this administration, impatient to go to war over what we are now told was VERY BAD INTELLIGENCE, namely weapons of mass destruction and ties to 911, lied to the American people, the Congress, and the world. The American people, distraught over 911, stupidly gave the administration a blank check. I believe the facts bear out that they never intended to let the UN do its job.
President Bush was not the only one who believed Iraq had WMD. So did the rest of the free world (including France and Russia) along with virtually every Congressman who sat on the Intelligence Committee (including John Kerry, when he actually attended). The leaders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia personally told General Franks before the war that they knew for a fact that Saddam had WMD. The troubling fact is that the lack of evidence of any such weapons does not in itself prove they never existed. The U.N. inspection teams knew of over 6,000 chemical warheads and a ton of VX gas that had never been accounted for -- and still are not accounted for. Saddam's pre-invasion report to the U.N. did not disclose the fate of these weapons. We have found a few weapons, but we have not found any documents proving that the rest were destroyed. We have, on the other hand, found the remnants of Saddam's programs. We know for a fact now that Iraq was seeking yellow cake uranium right up until the invasion. The existence or non-existence of 'vast stockpiles' is now moot. Saddam had already demonstrated that he was fully capable of pursuing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. He also demonstrated his willingness to use them, both against the Kurds and against Iran. To claim that the lack of WMD puts the entire war effort to the lie is disingenious -- it was never the sole reason we went to war nor can we be sanguine about Saddam's willingness to build and use them.
4-Why must America and Americans bear the brunt of the cost of this adventure in Iraq?
Mainly because no one else sees the same urgency as we do. No one else has been attacked like we have. Yet, in the final analysis, this is a dirty job that someone had to do. By virtue of our status in the world, we're elected. In view of the changes to the political landscape in Europe since the fall of the Soviet empire, I don't think we can realistically expect Europe to automatically subsidize our security any more. They are now our competition, not our allies and GW Bush had nothing to do with that political sea-change.
And so we are in record deficit that will continue well into the future. Our children and grandchildren will also have to pay for this madness. Interest rates are beginning to climb. We have had a great, heavy, financial stone slung around our necks - it is called WAR! And we must pay for their game.
Unemployment is at a miniscule 5%. The economy is growing at a robust 4.5%. Our national debt as a percentage of GDP is 39%, far below that of many other countries. Mr. Saperstein is focused on the wrong issue here.
5-What has happened to the war against the people who actually attacked us?
We still have over 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. Elections in that nation are ready to proceed apace alongside those in Iraq. 91% of Afghanis have registered to vote -- a figure that should make about half of American voters hang their heads in shame. Our efforts with Pakistan have paid dividends as that nation has reformed its security service (the one that assisted the Taliban) and has actually been finding many of the top al Qaeda people. Three fourths of al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured, many of them in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I would remind Mr. Saperstein that one of the 9/11 masterminds, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was captured after the fall of Saddam.
But then we suddenly went off point and started a war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not attack us. He did not have the weapons we were lied to about. He was not part of Al Qaeda. We were lied to. Lied to. Lied to. Say the word. The media hasn. t the courage to do that. Politicians make excuses not to use it. We must.
But, Saddam did attack us. His missiles have fired at our planes in No Fly zones on an almost daily basis for the past 12 years. His fingerprints are all over the 1993 World Trade Center bombing which killed 6 people and injured over 1,000. (The toll could have been higher if the cyanide used in the bomb had not been incinerated in the blast.) Ramzi Yousef (Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's nephew) was the mastermind in that attack, and afterwards he escaped back to Baghdad on an Iraqi passport. Saddam also gave sanctuary to Abu Abbas, the man behind the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking during which American Leon Klinghofer was pushed overboard, wheelchair and all. Saddam also attempted to assassinate a former President of the United States -- and despite the petty jokes over that matter, even President Clinton saw it as sufficient challenge to our national sovereignty to bomb Iraq in response. The insinuation that Saddam was no threat to the United States is a purposeful untruth. He openly declared himself our enemy, and in spite of his past behavior there are those who want to paint him as benign. Saddam was anything but benign.
The people who want to kill us live in many countries, and many of those countries support and nourish them. The people who attacked us on September 11, 2001, came mostly from Saudi Arabia. They were funded by Saudis. Their leader is a Saudi. He smiled and praised the attack. And he is still at large. And the Saudis still fund the terrorists, and in their Madras. s (Islamic Fundamentalist schools) teach children all over the world to hate American; to hate other religions, especially Christians and Jews; to hate Israel; to hate democracy. They teach that killing us is what God (Allah) wishes them to do. The enemy is called Al Qaeda, Wahabbists, Islamic Fundamentalists.
On this, Mr. Saperstein is correct. However, I suggest that if he believes the invasion of Iraq has anything to do with oil he should examine the ultimate outcome of any overt move against the Saudis. They are the keepers of the most holy sites in Islam, as well as more oil than just about anyone else in the world. Any move - diplomatic or military - against Saudi Arabia would have devastating consequences for us. Another oil embargo would wreck the economies of the West. We would risk really enciting the entire Islamic world against us -- whereas now there are pockets of moderation that are being drowned out by the extremists, an American invasion of their holy land would swallow what moderation remains in a sea of Muslim outrage.
Does that mean we're powerless to do anything? Of course not. First, we have already been working to alter the Saudi position - and belatedly, the royal family is beginning to understand that they are the next targets of the terrorists. Moreover, the rise of a democracy in neighboring Iraq is liable to have a ripple affect through the entire region, as other people begin to realize that the Iraqis are now free to speak their minds but they are not. Yes, we do need to do more for our own oil independence and I believe that includes opening ANWR for exploration. We have the technology now to minimize environmental impact, but we are hesitating because of a few of our own extremists. We also need major efforts in the area of alternative energy sources, but this seems to be a political football no one has seen fit to pursue energetically.
6-How did this enemy grow so strong? Will it grow stronger because of our current policies?
Let me phrase Mr. Saperstein's question in a different way. Other than abandoning the one true democracy in the Middle East, what could we possibly do to avoid being the object of extremist angst? My answer is, "Nothing". We cannot allow the opinions of a few zealots to inflict national self doubt on us. We support Israel and that is not going to change, yet that is the root of much of the terrorist problem. The short answer is that the terrorists have been angry with us for a long time and will remain angry with us until the day that the last one is hunted down and captured or killed. But like the Zealots of ancient Israel, their fingerprint on lasting social change in that region will be insignificant because they offer nothing lasting or uplifting. In terms of social evolution, they are the Neanderthals of modern Islam
And because we have been so distracted, and our resources have been diverted, they are rising once again in Afghanistan. But what do you hear, read or see about Afghanistan these days from our so-called media? Nothing.
I'm going to insist on sources for this one, because it defies all the other information available. I doubt that the Afghani registration drive would have been so resoundingly successful had al Qaeda been as strong as Mr. Saperstein believes.
We have been pumped up into a state of fear. The president and vice president now tell us that if they are not reelected we will surely be attacked again. They tell us they are the only ones who can protect us. That is fear mongering and blatant opportunism.
It is election year polemics, but there is an element of truth lying therein. What kind of leader do we need for the next four years? One who cannot seem to convey his ideas clearly and concisely? One whose platform is not even clear to the majority of those who plan to vote for him? Or one who says what he means and does what he says? Wartime (and yes, this is wartime) is not a time for nuance or 'sensitivity'.
I believe this ill conceived war in Iraq will result in that country, and perhaps much of the Middle East, being torn by civil war for years. This means more death and destruction, and a training ground for thousands of terrorists who will hate and target America and Americans.
I'm going to end this overly-long response with this comment, because it points to something that I've wanted to discuss from the outset. The central issue at stake, far more than any spin about Halliburton or Vietnam or 'rush to war', is the future of civilization on this planet. The crossroads came decades ago without most of us realizing it. It arrived with the slaughter of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972. It continued with the downing of Pan Am flight 103, the Marine barracks in Beirut, the embassy in Tehran and on until that black day in New York in September of 2001. The issue, you see, is a great religion being hijacked by a group of zealots who truly believe that the future course of Islam lies through murder, suicide and world domination. They are fully willing to sacrifice their own lives to that end. When this administration refers to it as a 'culture of hate', they are exactly right. What is the solution to this broad, deep, far-reaching cultural problem?
Internationalism has finite limits. The United Nations today has proven itself to be a corrupt, ponderous bureaucracy whose decisions are often contradictory to our own national security interests (such as their resolution equating Zionism with racism, and their one-sided condemnation of Israel without equal condemnation of Muslim anti-semitic terrorism). This is the organization that put Sudan on the Human Rights Commission and could not find the heart to act while Rwanda was undergoing a massive genocide. This is the organization we want to rely on for our security?
The fact is, events in Iraq are not nearly as bad as our American media portrays. Coalition officers estimate the size of the insurgent groups at between 5,000 and 10,000 men (in a nation of 24 million) most of them actually foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. This is not a civil war sized insurgency. It's not even a legitimate insurgence since most of the fighters aren't even Iraqis.
The International Republican Insititute (no relationship with the American Republican Party) recently conducted a poll in Iraq and found that 68% of Iraqis support President Allawi. Over 50% have a positive view of the future of Iraq -- a figure that no doubt exceeds the number of American liberals in optimism about that nation. (The poll is at http://www.iri.org/09-07-04-IraqPoll.asp ).
For the first time in history, Iraqis are operating their own private radio stations free of government interference. For the first time in history, the Iraqi soccer team did not have to fear beatings at the hand of a tyrant's son if they failed to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Yes, there is good news in Iraq though you and I will never hear it from U.S. media sources. Freeing the Iraqi people will not be cheap, nor easy, nor bloodless. But this is the right war at the right time, and the long term benefits to our own national security may well include a world where terrorists cannot find willing recruits among free peoples who are already empowered to determine their own destiny. The most powerful terrorist sales pitch stems from fear and powerlessness, and the most powerful antidote to those emotions is freedom. It's not an imposition of alien culture -- it's the simple act of setting human beings free to decide their own future. That goal is worth the price.