Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Micromanaging The Iraqi War

This is an article that I wrote between March & May of last year -- 2007 ("created" in March and last editing of the file done in May). I believe it still has vast relevance today!

Many Republicans of late have bandied about the term “micromanagement” in reference Congress’ involvement in the Iraqi war. They obviously feel that only the “macro managing” of said war ought to matter since government is best done -- once officials are elected -- from the top level down and not from the bottom, grassroots level up. Therefore, they feel that Democrats would do well to ignore polls citing disenchantment of the public with the Iraqi war and just let the President “do his job”. This is a strong argument. It is a well-known business axiom that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. That the “small picture” is ofttimes necessarily engulfed by the “big picture”. Macro therefore takes precedence over micro. So let’s take a closer look at the “big picture”.

The big picture is that our Founding Fathers chose a trifurcated government with built-in checks and balances to ensure that neither branch ever became powerful enough to overshadow either or both of the other two. Thus, for Congress to acquiesce to our continued presence in Iraq is tantamount to dereliction of constitutional duty. This Congress was elected with the mandate to remove our troops. Anything short of that would make them career politicians and not public servants.

I, for one, still believe in government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Anything else in clearly un-American. I, therefore, believe that Americans are seeking public servants, proxies -- and not career politicians -- to represent them, and our elected officials need to be mindful of that. We expect them to be savvy enough to figure out the “how” of “what” it is that we want -- not give eloquent soliloquies as to why we “really want” something else.

The big picture is that our troops were sent to Iraq to protect American interests. Granted, they are economic and not security interests -- but American interests just the same. Don’t be disillusioned, when President Bush says that this war is about “protecting our way of life”, he’s referring to our ECONOMIC way of life. And it is this very economic interest that many feel provides justification for “staying the course”. Even presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton -- though against the war -- has said that America needs some presence in Iraq to protect our national interests. When asked what interests we have there, she candidly replied that the oil in the region is vital to our economic security.

I find it ironic that, though many of these same people would not have opted from the outset to fight an “economic war”, they are now okay with the idea of fighting in or maintaining a “presence” in Iraq for the sake of OUR economic stability. But, moreover, these same economic war hawks don’t understand that economics is the very reason that the Muslims in the area will never stop fighting. They HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN that our invasion was for economic reasons and they feel that God is on their side.

And now that I have interjected God into the fray (as did Sen. John Edwards), does God really condone our killing to protect our economic interests? And what about the biblical prohibitions against killing, stealing, or coveting? Do these bible-based moral ethics only matter on the micro level -- where individuals are punished for non-adherence -- and not on the macro level? Is God on our side? What about the Founding Fathers insightful conclusion that all men are created equal? That they are endowed “by the Creator” with inalienable rights? That among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Sound familiar? Does America stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of the happiness of its citizens only -- and not others? Can America fathom the possibility that other nations might be happy with a theocracy and not a democracy?

All of America was appalled at the mugging and assault of the 101-year-old woman in New York seen in recent newsreels. But wasn’t the assailant protecting his economic interests? How can we condemn his actions and condone our invasion and occupation of Iraq -- FOR THE SAME REASONS -- ECONOMIC INTERESTS? I don’t think that God would differentiate, and neither should we. Just as we expect that mugger to live within his own economic means, we should live within ours! Just as it is would be wrong for ANY American citizen to invade and occupy a local gas station to ensure that he received HIS perceived fair price, it’s wrong for America to invade and occupy Iraq to ensure that it receives IT’S perceived fair price. And that’s because morality is the same on both micro AND macro levels! Doesn’t America extol the virtues of a “competitive enterprise economy”?

Surely on the “micro level” America would determine that the invader/occupier of the gas station should merely manage his money better, drive less, maybe organize a boycott, and, thus, engage the economic factors of supply and demand to bring the price of gas down. So, shouldn’t that be the same solution for America on the “macro level” if our Arab brethren raised the price of crude oil? Shouldn’t we, from a moral perspective, opt for economic and diplomatic means to confront an economic dilemma instead of military power?

I am sick and tired of American politicians and newscasters-turned-political-pundits espousing spirituality on “micro” (individual) level issues like gays in the military, gay marriage, drug use, infidelity, pornography, and family values while exhibiting selfishness and demonic possession relative to “macro” (group) issues like economic vitality, health care, fair wages, treatment of the poor, and the “war on terror”.

At some point we have to reexamine the reasons why so many Muslims despise America. If we do, we will find that the root cause is that we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. The Bible says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22, KJV). It also says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith BY my works” (James 2: 17-18, KJV). The bible says that God is love, and my dearly departed mother always admonished me that love is what love does. Invading a country to protect our own economic interests is not love -- it’s selfishness.

So if we can agree that morality is the same on both micro AND macro levels, let’s examine the probable consequences of that hoodlum and his cohorts invading and occupying that mythical gas station -- killing some of the attendants and establishing a “new management order” for the remainder. They would be eventually seized by the SWAT team and charged in a court of law. They would be charged with robbery, unlawful interference with enterprise, murder, felony murder, fraud (they falsely claimed to be “liberating” the employees and that the prior owners had “weapons of gas destruction” that they were intent on using to contaminate the city’s gas supply), kidnapping, and conspiracy. Therefore, shouldn’t Bush, Cheney, and their cohorts be similarly charged? At least impeached? Our Constitution calls for impeachment of a President who is guilty of treason, high crimes and misdemeanors. Isn’t Bush guilty of high crimes?

The “career politicians” and political pundits keep asserting that Congress doesn’t have the votes for impeachment but I believe the American people want President Bush impeached. I don’t believe we are concerned with whether or not Congress is successful in removing Bush. I believe that we necessarily want to take note of the elected officials who refuse to be our proxies -- and vote for the removal we desire -- so that we can remove them from Congress. We want Bush impeached. And he really should be subsequently remanded to the custody of an international tribunal to answer to charges of war crimes for his fraudulent invasion and occupation of Iraq. I know that’s not likely, but in America one can still dream can’t he?

Not only does the bible say that God is not a respecter of persons (“of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons”, Acts 10:34; “For there is no respect of persons with God”, Romans 2:11; “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons”, Colossians 3:25; “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work”, 1 Peter 1:17), our Pledge of Allegiance conveys the same sentiment by ending with “liberty and justice for ALL! Doesn’t this administration deserve justice? Shouldn’t we at least impeach Bush -- and maybe Cheney?

The big picture is that hordes of our proud military personnel have returned to us physically and psychologically maimed and many are suicidal. Undoubtedly the suicidal ones have had assaults on their conscious. You see whether or not it is clear to the American public, killing is not a normal activity for most of people. Therefore, we feel a need to justify doing so and killing for economic viability -- and to line the pockets of select corporate moguls -- isn’t enough justification for most of these soldiers. One such soldier recently hung himself because he couldn’t wait in line any longer for someone to talk to about his problems.

It is pathetic that our government, first uses our proud honor-driven military as hired mercenaries, and then skimps on the therapeutic and psychological treatment they need for engaging in the immoral killings that force them to compromise their integrity. These soldiers follow a code. They are trained to follow orders. They don’t question the orders because they know that their survival demands that they be of one accord. They “fight for they right, without question or pause”. They are “willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause”. It is, therefore, no more than right that we ensure that they truly fight for that “heavenly cause” -- and not a demonic cause. We at the very least owe them that much.

Of course it should surprise no one that -- considering how its military is treated -- the American government has turned a deaf ear to Iraqis who, having assisted our military, are now in need of asylum. These trusting souls are now hunted by their own countrymen for helping the occupiers and our government’s response is merely that they are needed to rebuild Iraq and they should, thus, tough it out. Is there any wonder why many Muslims call America “the Great Satan”? Our actions are satanic! And if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

And aren’t the actions of the Iraqis who are killing those who aid and abet the enemy -- however morbid -- truly understandable? If America was overrun and occupied by a nation with a stronger military than ours, wouldn’t our citizens count those aiding and abetting OUR enemy as turncoats and traitors? Wouldn’t we fight those traitors with the same veracity and resolve with which we would fight the occupiers? Would we merely accept the “political spin” that we were a threat to the occupiers’ security when we know that we aren’t -- and that the occupiers were really only after our coal? It’s a lot harder to take the high road when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot, isn’t it?

Of course, all sectarian violence in Iraq doesn’t stem from loyalists fighting traitors. There is a great deal of factional fighting as well. Sunni Muslims who were in control under Saddam Hussein are hunted by Shiite Muslims put in office by American officials and Sunnis are retaliating. Al-Qaida forces have entered Iraq to fight our soldiers, though they had no pre-war presence there. And, undoubtedly, seeded within the Iraqi national police, some of the same Shia militia groups that are hunting Sunnis give at least tacit and covert support to Al-Qaida. But the bottom line is that WE are the catalysts. ALL of the fighting emanates from our invasion.

Understand that I am truly a “card carrying” American. While it is true that, as an Afro-American, America has not always been America to me, I have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the fabric of Americana. Twelve years of public education, four years of college, and three years of law school have served to completely instill the ideology of America into my psyche. That’s why I can so readily recall all of the “catch phrases” -- life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; we hold these truths to be self-evident; in order to form a more perfect union; let freedom ring; all men are created equal; liberty and justice for all; in God we trust. These words resonate in the core of my being.

For this very reason the soulful renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and America The Beautiful, sung by such talented artists as Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Tichina Arnold, Jeffery Osborne, and others always gave me goose bumps. They reminded me of the "possibility" of America. As Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "my dream is deeply embedded in the American dream." But I want America to BE America. I want the respect of America on the world stage to be restored. And that restoration can not come unless America’s moral actions mirror its moral rhetoric.

And speaking of “in God we trust”, America must realize that the very basis of our moral imperative derives from religion. We are therefore afforded, not freedom from religion, but freedom of religion -- atheists included. Though many atheists will disagree with that statement, the point is that America was founded on religious principles and not religion per se. That is what breeds religious tolerance. The focus is on the principles and not the religion. This mindset allows for the accommodation of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, atheists, etc. We, therefore, do not fight religious wars domestically and we should not engage in them abroad.

Religious ideology is embedded in, forms the basis of, America’s ideology. It is as much ingrained in the fabric of America as democracy, competitive enterprise, and self-determination. This phenomenon applies equally to atheists reared in America. They may not believe that a God directs the cosmos, but they are just as indoctrinated into the principles of religious thought -- the golden rule, reaping and sowing, etc. As a matter of fact my own faith was tested once upon not hearing from God in the audible voice I felt was necessary. I briefly became at least an agnostic myself. But I still believed in the core principles. They are ingrained. I, therefore, toyed with the notion of starting an agnostic group reflecting this status using the acronym ATARI, standing for Agnostics/Atheists That Adhere To Religious Ideologies.

So a return to core American values demand a return to the core religious values that the Founding Fathers deemed universal to all religious principles -- basic stuff like doing unto others as we would have others do unto us. This restoration of moral imperative is necessary not only to cleanse our international image, but to literally stave off the destruction of America. That’s because the law of reaping and sowing is not a mere Christian precept. Buddhists call it karma. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity determined that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Self-help gurus admonish that one gets out of life what he puts in. So whether one approaches the issue from a religious, scientific, or social perspective, the conclusion is the same -- what goes around, comes around.

I personally don’t feel that it is our military nor our economic clout that keeps America as the world’s preeminent superpower. I believe it is our belief in godliness. It is our belief in a God-force that watches over us no matter what name we call him/it -- and even whether or not we believe in his/its existence. A God-force who is only concerned with whether or not we follow its principles. Admittedly, my perspective isn’t shared by followers of most organized and proselytizing religions, but life’s experiences have brought me to this conclusion. Again, whether or not one believes in a creator or “intelligent designer”, the immutable laws of nature cannot be denied. Once more, what goes around, comes around.

Of course everything that America does on the world stage is not self-serving. We do a lot of good as well. Still, it’s important that we not let the selfish acts persist. Selfishness and covetousness are two qualities that cultures worldwide admonish their children against exhibiting. That’s because there is a global recognition that the eradication of these behaviors enhance mankind. But America can no longer merely deride selfishness and covetousness. We must remove them from our motivational cache.

We must remove these qualities because the advent of world news agencies coupled with satellite and internet availability has made people of the world more in touch and aware of each other than ever before. Thus, we can no longer merely espouse altruism, we must manifest altruism. We can no longer put our “spin” on an issue via corporate-sponsored newsrooms and expect it to be accepted as gospel. There are a plethora of news sources available. The proof now is definitely in the pudding and all trees shall be known by the fruit that they bear.

And what are the fruits of the tree called “Iraqi invasion and occupation”? Well they definitely include: 1) hundreds of thousands dead, 2) hundreds of thousands maimed and mutilated, 3) increased hatred of America worldwide -- even by those who feign admiration to gain economic and political favor, 4) a growing thirst for retaliation against all Americans, and 5) an Iraqi civil war that will continue long after our departure.

So how do we end the war, as most Americans want? Well Bush obviously doesn’t give a rat’s rump as to what America wants. He can’t be reelected. There’s no preeminent issue to send the cause before the Supreme Court and it would take too long anyway. Therefore, Congress is our only avenue -- and it must cut funding for the war. It’s an unpopular stance according to the political pundits, but ending the war is the mandate Congress has. Fund cutting is its only tool.

If this action compromises the safety of any soldiers, i.e. via the lack of proper equipment or training, etc., they should refuse missions or even deployment. Yes, they may endure court-martials and possible incarceration until we are rid if the tyrant, George W. Bush. But Congress and the next President can rectify that and restore back pay. At least they will be alive and well. We will have protected them the only way that we can and put an end to the war the only way that we can.
This is all Congress can do -- pass laws and authorize or refuse funding. We understand our government. We know the powers of each branch. We know what we are asking Congress to do. So they can either be our proxies or face early retirement.

So what about the condition this resolve would leave Iraq in? Well, though I don’t quite agree with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assessment that “if you break it, you own it”, I do believe that when you break something, you are obligated to fix what you can. But, the conclusion has already been reached by top military personnel that there can be no military solution in Iraq and that our presence actually exacerbates the violence. We, therefore, must use diplomacy and economic help or sanctions to achieve stability there. It’s what we can do.

On both micro and macro levels reactions to wrongdoing should be the same. You repent and make whatever amends you can. At the 1988 Democratic National Convention Reverend Jesse Jackson quoted 2 Chronicles 7: 14 in saying “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”. The same can be said existentially or pragmatically. If America, which adheres to religious principles, shall humble themselves and meditate, seek to do good, and turn from their economically disenfranchising ways, then will God, the cosmos - or “natural law” - consider its new karma, overlook its past bad deeds, and bring honor and continued prosperity to its people.

It is time for our elected officials to understand that their job is to be extensions of our will. They need to realize that they are proxies elected to represent the citizens -- the shareholders, if you will -- of this vast country/corporation. It is time for Americans to demand the ouster of “career politicians” whose concern with political cronyism trumps their duty to serve their citizens/shareholders. It is time for campaign finance reform -- even if it means free commercial air time to candidates -- so that elected officials can represent the American public and not the lobbyists/business moguls who finance their campaigns. It is time for true government by proxy. It is time to get out of Iraq.

H. E. Barrett, Jr.

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