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The view from here: Iraq 2003-2008

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Perhaps it is too cliché to talk about Iraq. After all, we’ve been talking about it for five years. I’ve started to believe, however, that there may be a problem in how we are talking about it.

I have my own political issues with the war in Iraq. I was a strong supporter of it when it started in March 2003 and held to those feelings for several years. But as the years have dragged by and every day it seems that the whole mess gets more and more muddled, I have begun to see the problems with the whole situation.

Imperialism is generally a bad idea. The American way of doing things is not always the right way – and it certainly isn’t the only way. The US spent $604 billion so far in the war on terror. The United States had more political capital than it has since WWII right after Sept. 11 – all of which has been squandered by its little adventure in Iraq.

These are the problems. I know them, accept them, and would dare say that they are almost universally acknowledged. However, this is not the dialogue we need to have.

We need to have a dialogue about Iraq that isn’t about the budget deficit, that isn’t about George W. Bush’s approval ratings, that isn’t about whose plan to get troops out the fastest will get he or she presidency in 2008.

I am so sick of the politics of war and the disconnect between Washington, D.C. and Baghdad. If one more congressman, one more senator, one more person tries to exploit this war for their political gain, I may expatriate. If one more incompetent Congressman tries to legislate what is happening on the ground in Anbar and in Basra, pretending that they know anything about military strategy, then we need to not reelect them.

Maybe Bush did make a mistake. Maybe he didn’t. You have your opinion and I have mine. But the one thing that I hope we can all agree on is that we are sick of the politics of it all. There are people in Iraq suffering. Shouldn’t that be the bottom line? That the United States government has done almost nothing to mitigate the massive refugee crisis facing Iraq’s neighbors today.

I remain an unbridled idealist. There is some obscure part of me that cannot help but still be proud of my country for going into a place that was fraught with oppression, torture, and poverty and tried to make it better. You can argue me up and down on this issue – heck, I can make a pretty compelling argument against myself. I know that the US did not invade Iraq to make the lives of Iraqis better. I know that. But a dictator was deposed. Freedom became a goal, not just a dream.

There are more than 400 American diplomats working in Baghdad today. There are roughly 130,000 American soldiers. If we are to sustain their spirits, if we are to expect them to make a difference and to change the lives of Iraqis for the better, then how can we demean the work they are doing by talking constantly about how terrible it is? I know that most people against the war are not against the soldiers, but truly – how many times a day can we say that “this war sucks” before they start to get discouraged?

Maybe the US went in for the wrong reasons. Maybe the US really screwed it up once its troops were there. But maybe – just maybe – some good can eventually come out of it?

So complain about our president. I don’t care if you do. At least you have the right to – Iraqis didn’t have that option before 2003. Complain about the war. You can. I just think that it is time for the dialogue to change. For us to remember that Iraq is a place and a people, not just a policy.

February 28, 2008

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