Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The T Word

Donald Rumsfeld uttered the T word in his press conference yesterday. He called Iraqi soldiers who shed their uniforms, pretended to be surrendering civilians and then came out shooting, terrorists. Clearly these guys were breaking the accepted rules of military etiquette and civilized war. But aren't those oxymorons. War is the least polite and the most uncivilized thing we do. What is a soldier who is outgunned and outnumbered but still believes in his cause to do? What would Rambo have done? There is nothing wrong with believing in your cause (and I have no doubt that those who support this war believe in its rightness), but it's critical to understand your opponents' point of view – to envision how they see the world. Only then can one understand what they will do and why they will do it. Isn't protection of home an hearth a basic right that we Americans espouse, even to the degree that ordinary citizens can fire registered weapons against invaders? Think about an Iraqi soldier who twelve years ago was ousted by an outraged world for invading the sovereign and far less powerful nation of Kuwait. What is he thinking now when a huge world power invades his home? Don't tell me our Special Ops and CIA people are walking the streets in Baghdad in full dress uniform or that they have never engaged in any military act in civvies. Are they terrorists? Of course not. Terrorism is not part of this war equation. Name calling doesn't help the situation.

You many not agree with Don Rumsfeld, but his brain power is undeniable. He is perhaps the smartest and most articulate of the entire Bush team. Rumsfeld doesn't use words lightly and his press conferences are vehicles for getting the Administration's point across, selling them if you will, much as he did during the Afghanistan conflict. Those of us who questioned this war did so because we were unconvinced of its necessity. The Bush administration put forth a series of arguments among them the immediate threat of weapons of mass destruction and the brutality of the regime that demanded liberation for an oppressed people. All their arguments required a leap of faith. I am not saying their contentions were wrong, only that they never demonstrated the proof necessary to commence a war. The weakest of all their arguments was in making a connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, between Iraq and 9/11. The more you repeat something, the more you can convince a portion of the population, especially in a society which relies on and is so influenced by often repeated advertising slogans. But repetition doesn't make it correct. That said, it works. A recent poll suggested that 61% of the public believes our March into Iraq does have a 9/11 connection. So the introduction of the word terrorist into mix was intentional supporting a strategic marketing purpose. Calling these desperate soldiers terrorists confirms and supports the unproved theory that Iraq is a partner in terrorism. It's calculated to put fire in the belly of an unnerved nation.

Some may be disturbed to read my continuing critique of this war now that our kids are in harms way. I understand that, but like many other Americans of my age, it took me far too long to oppose war in Viet Nam. My enthusiasm for Camelot and my pain at my hero JFK's violent death, clouded my judgment. I have always regretted being a laggard. I won't make that mistake again. That's especially true since we now lack voices like those of Martin King, Wayne Morse and Bill Fulbright. I feel for the troops, fear for them, want them to come home safe and soon. They are our nation's children and I can't even imagine what it would mean to lose one of my precious sons. I love my country and no less the world in which I live. I fear for both. My father delivered one of the principal addresses at the 1963 March on Washington. His message was clear: in the face of what you think is wrong, silence is the worst of all crimes. Silence in this instance is simply not in the cards.

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