Tuesday, April 8, 2003


For those of us in opposition, the after has always been a critical issue. It has also been a central part of the Bush promise – creating this new beacon of democracy in the Middle East. This is the really tough time, time to take a look at what this conflict has wrought. If part of what bothers me is the dogmatic assuredness of those who feel they possess the absolute truth, then I can't be sucked into the same arrogance of rightness. At this point, I haven't changed my mind about this war, but I will be watching the results and hoping for the best, not the worst.

After. It's hard not to be moved by the bodies — individuals who died for a cause in which they believed, the many, far too many, caught in the crossfire. But none of that is unique to Iraq. It is the horrific nature of war, and part of why some of us try so hard to avoid it, see it as a last resort in an absolute not relative sense. Bodies of people who, assuming they are survived, will be missed by parents, by wives and husbands, by children and by the community of which they were a part. They are brought home to Any-Town USA and we cry. We strain to hear their individual tale, the only way we can prevent their becoming a statistic. But none of them are statistics, they are people and there are Any-Towns in Iraq as well. The high cost of war.

After. Then there are the photos of smiling faces, cheering crowds, finally emerging from the shadow, ostensibly welcoming liberation, their dream and ours come true. Is it real? We all hope so. They show us where they were tortured. It too can't help but move, make us think that perhaps it was worth it. Again, we hope for the best. But that isn't all we feel. It's sobering to know that these halls of horror are mirrored in other places, in the back corridors of so-called friends and allies and in places that we don't think about, much less care about. Selective war, selective relief. It's hard to overlook that, and worrisome to think that there are some in Washington who would take us further into conflict, make other selections — selections because the reality is that we couldn't possibly address them all without imploding ourselves under the strain.

After. These are complex issues in what appears to be an increasingly complex world. But of course that's an illusion. It's no more complex that it ever was, it is only that with our technological reach we're seeing it, often for the first time. When Tommy Franks was challenged very early on as a planning bungler and Donald Rumsfeld as an interferer, both pleaded for patience. Ah patience, the one thing Americans don't have whether waiting to pay a toll, judging a company's quarterly performance or getting our food, fast (and unhealthy). Not being a military expert, and not wanting to be one, I can't comment on patience in the battle field. But what of after? There I know we need patience. We must take the time to see if this worked. The instigators need to prove, without doubt, that they were right. The doubters, like myself, need time to be convinced that we were wrong. Oh do I hope they were right and I was wrong. We won't know for a while and we shouldn't "jump the missile" and move on to other things or back to our insular comfort until we do.

After. It must ultimately be in their hands — those on whose precious land we intruded, sooner not later. They require not imposition, but support. They need it to come from the many not from few, from the community of nations not from a single superpower. They need it and if we look at in a historical context, so do we, perhaps even more urgently.

After. We're all waiting, we're hoping and many of us are also praying.

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