Right now, in February 2002, the United States of America seem poised to attack their old enemies, using the "War against Terrorism" as an excuse. George W. Bush's speech about the "Axis of Evil" has irritated many, particularly the Europeans, allies of the US.

Since World War II, the US have used war as a tool of exterior politics, to a frightening extent. The US government seems to care little for the suffering this causes. Why?

Recently, a possible answer to this question popped into my head: It is because the US have never lost a war. 1 Because they have never been bombed, invaded, occupied. They have never experienced being on the losing side, so they do not know the horror of war in one's own country. And that is why they attack other nations with little remorse: they simply do not know what they are causing.

In contrast, all European nations have had such experiences in their past. Take Germany, for example, which has been defeated, bombed, invaded and occupied twice in the last century. And the memory of that does live on, because of literature.

There is a period of post-World War II literature in Germany, called "Trümmerliteratur" (approximate translation: Rubble Literature). Authors like Heinrich Böll and Wolfgang Borchert detail the horror and insanity of the war in these books. There are also such books about World War I, for example "Im Westen nichts Neues", by Erich Maria Remarque.

It can be expected that in Germany, at least one such book is read in by everybody in high school, dispelling any illusions about war being something glorious or justified.

I do not think that there is anything comparable happening in the United States, which is why the US has a different, and in my opinion, wrong, stance on warfare.

1Excepting Vietnam, where the United States can be said to have lost. But the US was never attacked on its own territory, which is the point I am trying to make here.
The fairly obvious exception to this are the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, where the US indeed was attacked on its own territory. I think that the extreme (but understandable) reaction of the American people was precisely because it was taken for granted that the US would not be attacked.

A few comments:
  • I am serious here. This is not trolling.
  • This is not meant as an attack on the American people. Nor do I seek to justify the terrorist attacks on the US.
  • This is a theory of mine, not a conviction. I am willing and eager to discuss it on a rational basis.
  • I am not a simplistic pacifist, but I think that the United States is going too far.

About the softlinking comments to the War of 1812: Granted, but that was a long while ago and a different magnitude of devastation compared to the World Wars.

I will eventually change this writeup to re- and deflect the points made in the two new writeups.

Rebutting the rebuttal

Many people opposed to the impending war in Iraq, including myself, are not necessarily pacifists. I believe that there are times when force is justified in solving a conflict -- examples of these include the American Revolution (to establish an independent American state), the American Civil War (to end the tyranny of slavery) and the Second World War (to stop the Germans and Japanese from dividing the world between them). Even the recent conflict in Afghanistan is justified because 1) Al Qaeda was based there, and 2) The Taliban were providing material support to Al Qaeda (and vice-versa).

However, the war in Iraq is a very different ball of wax. Unlike Al Qaeda, Iraq never attacked the United States. While Iraq has links to supporting terrorism, it does not have any documented links to Al Qaeda. Although nearly two thirds of Americans believe there were Iraqis amongst the 9/11 hijackers, this is not true -- the hijackers were Saudis and Egyptians, not Iraqis. Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction should only be a concern if Iraq uses them against another country. It’s interesting to note that these weapons weren’t a concern to the Reagan administration when they were used on the Kurds or the Iranians -- that they only became of interest 20 years after the fact when talk of invasion began. Of course in the 1980’s, Iraq was an ally of the United States -- and the U.S. has a proven track record of looking the other way when its allies violate human rights.

Regarding Iraq’s fascist treatment of its citizens -- many other nations in the region, including our “staunch allies” the Saudis, use similar tactics against their people. If it is in our interest to overthrow governments that oppress their people, then why is it that the Bush administration is not interested in dislodging the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Egypt? If fighting fascism is our goal here, then why don’t we eliminate fascism across the globe? Why single out Iraq? Because fighting fascism isn’t the goal, cheap oil is.

Regarding modern warfare -- don’t be lulled into thinking that “precision” weapons are a panacea to stopping the horrors of war. Civilians are still killed by precision weapons (well-documented accounts in Afghanistan back this up, as do accounts of Israeli “precision” attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza).

President Bush and members of his cabinet have done their best to obfuscate these truths, making it appear to the American people that Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States. Meanwhile, the real enemy -- namely Al Qaeda cells operating within the continental United States -- continue to issue threats to American citizens both domestically and abroad.

If America were to invade Iraq, the Islamic world -- which is already furious with the United States -- runs the risk of becoming radicalized. Seeing Muslim civilians killed as “collateral damage” could prompt moderate Arabs to sign up with Al Qaeda and other global terror networks, making life even more dangerous for American civilians. An American occupying force in post-war Iraq would be a natural target for terror attacks.

Which brings me the subject of an American occupation of Iraq. It has been established that General Tommy Franks will be the de facto leader of Iraq while an interim government is planned. I believe -- as did the founding fathers of the United States -- that America should not be an imperial power, controlling the destinies of the citizens of other countries. We certainly shouldn’t be in charge of the natural resources possessed by another country -- I can only imagine how excited American fuel companies are at the prospect of getting favored access to Iraq’s vast oil reserves (note: it's been established that if the Iraqi National Congress gains control of Iraq, they will cancel all previous contracts for Iraqi oil and give preference to American and allied companies).

If Saddam Hussein poses a risk to his neighbors, then I believe he should be disarmed under the auspices of the United Nations. Under international law, America does not have the right to unilaterally invade another country that has not attacked it. Which is not to say that we haven’t done that in the past -- Korea and Vietnam being prime examples of America insinuating itself into conflicts that don’t involve it.

Again, I am not opposed to war as a rule -- just this one. I think it distracts us from the true war against terrorism and opens us up to greater attacks domestically. I do not trust the Bush administration -- they were not elected to office and did not even get a majority of the popular vote. They do things because it benefits their own interests, not because it benefits the American people or the world. I desperately hope that the next election cycle sees the Bush administration removed from office and replaced with a more moderate administration with a realistic view of foreign policy. I fear that our country is about to fall into a vast abyss -- an abyss that will drown us worse than Vietnam, worse than the Cold War.

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