"Hate cannot drive out hate...the chain of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the abyss of annihilation."
There are many reasons why we shouldn't invade Iraq but there's one that matters most to me: my three-year old daughter, Laura. Will she be safer or more at risk if America sends its missles, bombs, and tanks into Iraq?
I wish making the world a safer place was that easy: just shoot the bad guy and everyone lives happily ever after.
How are terrorists are created? How is that people come to hate America? Are they told lies about how evil and immoral we are, or do we give them valid reasons to think so? Surely it doesn't help to kill people. I look at Israel and the Palestinians. Jeepers, nobody is tougher than those Israelis. Harm them, and they shoot you, then bulldoze your family's house. Do the Palestinians back down? Does their rage cool to reason when they see how futile it is to keep sending suicide bombers into Jewish crowds, how each evil deed brings ever greater retaliation and pain? Instead, killing leads to hate. Hate leads to more killing, and on we go. There is no logic to it, just the continuous cycle of hatred and revenge.
I remember watching the second plane go into the Tower that morning, live on television, with Laura playing so innocently and unaware on the floor beside me. I saw the black smoke rising and slowly realized that people had died and were still dying right in front of me, right as I stood there. I started crying while Laura looked up at me in bewilderment, and I thought, "My God, what a horrible world!" I felt the helplessness of knowing that it was my little girl, much more than me, who would have to live in that world.
Why is it that almost everyone I ask says they are against invading Iraq, yet so few speak out publicly? Are we that meek, that stoic, or just so used to violence on the TV that it all looks like some kind of video game to us? How can we be so ambivalent about people being burned alive, decapitated, carbonized? Roger Waters, after the last Gulf War, wrote a song calling our attitude "the bravery of being out of range."
Just love those laser guided bombsSo we're going to invade Iraq, who might be able to develop a nuclear weapon someday and is allowing arms inspections, but we won't touch North Korea, who have expelled the inspectors and already have nuclear weapons. Iraq is not Afghanistan. It's not Grenada or Panama. It's not even the Iraq of the last Gulf War, where we shoved Saddam back out of a country he had invaded. We don't have any real business there, just bad blood and claims about connections to terrorism that can't be proven and look less likely every day. This is a new concept for me, an openly declared "pre-emptive war" for which no real justification seems to exist beyond the fact that we are strong enough and rich enough to do it and to hell with what the rest of the world thinks.
And I feel it again, that same helplessness of September 11, standing here with my hands clenched, angry and sick to my stomach--except this time the perpetrator is my own country.
I despise Bush with the same passion that some of my friends displayed in hating Clinton and Hillary. God knows he gives me enough reasons. Now I can't shake a gut feeling that he wants nothing so much as to prove that he can do something his daddy couldn't. What an incredible ego trip to have the most powerful army in the history of the world--tanks and jets and aircraft carriers--all waiting for you to give that command. Sure, Saddam is a monster, one of many out there in the world, hell-bent to prove that he can stand up to America no matter what the odds. He'll go down shooting. But when the gunfight is over and we've "won" the war, the two blustering personalities behind the Great Grudge Match of our generation won't matter. What will matter is what the people of the Middle East will feel if the estimates of thousands of innocent people killed prove true, what the watching eyes all over the world will think, and what their children will grow up believing. Is America the good guy, or just the world's biggest bully?
I know there is evil in the world, and I know that there are causes and battles worth fighting for, and dying for. There are some I honestly know I would die for myself. But Saddam is not Hitler, and my heart tells me that kicking his ass, "taking him out" in the words of our eloquent President, will in the end cost more a lot more than the hundred billion or so dollars we'll have spent.
I want a President who is famous for making peace, not war. I want my daughter to grow up in a world that is safer because it has less hatred, not more. I want her to be proud to be an American.
January 31, 2003
See also: Chris Hedges Iraq Essay. Shine on me, baby, 'cause it's raining in my heart.