It is in my nature to be an observer. It is in my nature to listen and process information. As of late I have been moving more to the side of action, taking off my ghostly onlooker mantle. At the same time I have not stopped being an observer who listens and processes information.
"Current Events Are Making Me Tense" was the title of a song recorded by Joe King Carrasco and The Crowns in the 1980s. I decided to dredge an old cassette tape out of my dusty collection and listen to the song. It was an upbeat and manic song that touched on events of that day. It reminded me that things have never been perfect but that you can still dance.
In listening to and reading more points of view than I can shake a stick at, I came down to a few very key points that remained after boiling away the rhetoric, pot banging, flag waving, insults, and general bullshit. There are key points made by both those in favor of the current action in Iraq and those who are opposed to it. For the most part, they actually agree on most points, but differ in their approach and how they feel situations need to be handled.
- Saddam Hussein is a very bad man and needs to be removed from power. Aside from some very uninformed crazies and outright radicals with an undefined agenda, no one supports this man, his methods or his treatment of Iraq's population. They differ on whether direct military action is the correct path for dealing with him.
- National and International Security. Opinions differ on whether Saddam Hussein's regime is a threat to International Security and the security of the United States. Endless streams of information can be found to support either point of view. None of it is conclusive. It is impossible to be conclusive on something like this. Until then it is all conjecture, which is why it is such a debatable topic.
- Countries are acting on their own self-interests rather that doing the "right thing." This has been true since the dawn of civilizations. People love to cite examples from history to illustrate their points. It is far more rare to find examples to cite of the leadership of a country doing things against their own interests. I feel this is a very moot point that gets talked about far too much.
- War is wrong. War is often necessary. There are those who are genuine pacifists who believe that war is always wrong. There are those who feel that war is needed only in situations where there are no other options. There are those who feel that in some situations, such as the present one in Iraq, war is necessary as the only real means of dealing with a special type of situation.
- "You're either with us or against us." Following the events of 9/11 and the strong statements of U.S. leadership after those events, there was a major world shift. Some see the present situation in Iraq as a necessary part of the strong response to those events. Others see those events being used as an excuse to react with force to any perceived threat. Some see it as necessary for national security while others fear any attempts at peaceful resolution will be shelved when peaceful means do not bring immediate and satisfactory results. This also brings into the light the idea that the United States will act without world support against other nations regardless of world opinion. This has caused a rift in international relations and a rise in worldwide anti-American feeling. The leadership of the United States is seen by some as disregarding and often openly deriding the opinions of other nations. Others see it as avoiding past obstacles to achieving necessary goals.
- Patriotism. Some believe that when your country is at war you need to support your country and its soldiers regardless of how you feel about the conflict in question. Others believe that if your country undertakes action you believe is wrong that it is your duty to remind them that you do not support those actions. Some feel you can continue to support those doing the actual fighting while continuing to not support and protest what the government is doing in your name. A smaller faction believes that you cannot protest the war and support those fighting it and will not support the fighting men and women themselves. This is the point of the greatest conflict.
- "You are lucky you have the right to your opinion." It is a red herring in the debate, but warrants mention here because it has become so widely used in arguments about current events. To state that you shouldn't speak your mind on an issue because you have the right to makes little sense. There are plenty of red herrings on both sides of the debate, and they generally derail the usefulness of the debate. Message boards all over the web are filled with quick little pronouncements by people with strong opinions who think they have just found the right amount of cleverness to silence those who don't agree with them. "You would never be allowed to protest against Saddam because you'd be tortured and killed, so keep your mouth shut and be glad you live in America, whiner!" is a favorite of many of those who support George W. Bush's decision regarding Iraq. Many of those protesting the war have an arsenal of red herrings. Everything from "No Blood For Oil!" to "Bush didn't really win the election!" and so on and so forth. They also defend their position by pointing to the more extreme opinions and statements of certain individuals and groups on "the other side." These things kill any kind of reasonable discussion of real issues and are very popular with those who have made up their mind and have stopped wanting to listen to anything other than their own opinion.
- The United Nations. Much debate has been fueled by the value of the United Nations. Almost all agree that it is of questionable effectiveness. Some believe it needs to be scrapped completely. Others feel it is in need of reform and change. Some argue that the United States and its closest allies have a mandate to bring peace and prosperity to the world by insuring that all nations become democratic free market systems. Others believe this goes against the right of self-determination amongst individual countries. Can an international collection of nations be effective in preventing war, human rights abuses and the ever present threat of terrorism? Is it time for the United States to take action in the name of its own national security and that of the world because of claims that the United Nations is impotent?
- Answers, not complaints. A growing position of those in favor of the current military answer to the situation in Iraq is "Why don't you come up with an answer to these problems instead of bitching about them?" Indeed, it is often true. When the war ends, where will the protesters be? Will they go back to sleep or will they come up with coherent answers and ideas to stop something like this from happening again? Or will they wait until it does and go back to making a lot of noise about something they didn't really try to do anything about?
That last point unfurls and winds upwards through the points above. It is much easier to complain and to protest than it is to take action. I remember being involved in protests in the 1980s, when they were not very glamorous or widely covered by the media. Our protests involved careful attention to ongoing government foreign policy, particularly in Central America. At that time it was a case of the government politically and financially supporting very nasty regimes because they were seen as being able to prevent the Soviets from sponsoring communist regimes. Neither side in the Cold War played particularly nice, especially where the "pawns" of Third World nations were concerned. We didn't march or protest out in the streets all that much. Mostly we worked to learn, educate, find groups and political candidates that were "on our side" and support them. We were very active. It was very difficult. I burned out by the end of the 1980s because I just couldn't do it anymore.
The thing was, we had answers, we had suggestions and we had ideas. We didn't just say "This is wrong. Stop and do something else." When we didn't have an answer we went back to the drawing board and tried to come up with one. I was a political science major in college. At one time I was supposed to become a political speechwriter, but the money ran out and life got in the way, so I kind of quit after three years to get a real life education. Someone once told me I had no right to make a political statement because I dropped out of college. Red herrings run amok.
So, is there a solution? First, you have to know what you are protesting against. You can't be protesting against vague notions about right and wrong. There are no solutions to vague notions. There are only more vague notions.
So, why am I against the war in Iraq and the policies surrounding it? Let's keep it simple for the moment. First of all, I am not a pacifist. I believe in peace, but I also support revolution as part of my strong belief in the right of self-determination amongst the people of a nation. I also believe that war is necessary when one country attempts to invade another country because I believe in the right to sovereignty. My very strong stance against current action in Iraq is based on a fairly simple foundation. I believe that a "strike first" pre-emptive war against any country without the support of the rest of the world equals invasion. I believe invasion is wrong, regardless of who or what is in power in that country. I protest the international method of diplomacy exhibited by my president and his advisors. I don't see any method at all other that the "You are either with us or against us" mentality that boils down to, in my opinion, "Do what we say or go fuck yourself." I feel this further agitates an already fragile world balance and brings us closer to chaos. I believe in respecting and listening to all opinions. Name calling and finger pointing do not diplomacy make. I remember taking a class in college called "Comparative Politics" with a professor from India. It was about the differences in political systems in different countries and how culture and other factors impact those differences. During a discussion about the political system in another country, one student asked, "Well, aren't they wrong?" because the ideas presented were so foreign to him. This is a danger I see. That was twenty years ago and we still see too much only from our own point of view.
Solutions? Oh, yeah, that was my point, wasn't it. How do we protect international security, keep dangerous tyrants in check or remove them when necessary, minimize the need for war, and promote international cooperation and friendship?
Build a new international body for the modern age. Easier said than done, but not all answers and ideas are easily put into motion. Politics is a tricky business. Certain nations are very resistant to allowing an international body to meddle in their affairs. The United States is rather famous for it and this gives other countries the impression that we feel we are "above the law." This is a big part of growing international resentment against my country.
Equal and fair representation would be needed. Similar to the United States Congress, I would suggest nations be represented both individually and based on population. I'm sorry, but it is rather absurd for Belize to have the same representation as China. These houses of international representation, both serving to represent nations and their people, would serve as overseers of committees set up to address specific issues. One house would concentrate on the position of the nations and their rulers. The other house would focus on issues of the people of all nations. A Committee on Human Rights, for example, might consist of fifteen representatives selected by the world from represented countries. Those selected by the board would be reviewed by both houses with the requirement being the exposition of a superior record in that area of concern. In our human rights example, those representatives would have to be from countries showing an exemplary track record in human rights over the past twenty years. To go back any further would be absurd. Countries with human rights abuses on their record more than twenty years past who had taken it upon themselves to address the issues and eliminate the problems that brought about those abuses would likely make better representatives. Those who overcome a problem are more likely to know how to deal with that problem. Sort of like the best person to help you overcome alcoholism is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for a long time.
No one would hold this international body hostage with a phantom veto power. All nations would be equal under international law and those who violated international law would face the judgment and wrath of their fellow members. Leaders and governments who violated international law, Saddam Hussein for example, would be subject to a trial at a world court that was overseen by the international body of nations. If he refused to submit to the trial, the international body of nations would have the power to arrest him for contempt of international law and use any means necessary to bring him to trial. That would include the ability to forcibly, by means of war, bring him to stand trial. I would prefer to see an international police force, put into action for this purpose only, detached to Baghdad to bring him to justice while the entire arsenal of the world surrounded his country and demanded that all persons lay down their arms or face invasion by the entire world. This would make it clear that you were protecting your leader, not your country, and that he or she would face a fair trial. Of course, all those who followed and committed atrocities and violations of human rights as part of the regime in question would also be subject to the world court.
Yes, the world court was already brought up and was shot down. The current balance of power in the United Nations favors some nations and is tilted against others. This is why it doesn't work. There is also the problem of certain nations feeling they are by right better than others. My own country would protest China having more population representatives than it had, even though it professes to believe that all men are created equal. I protest against forgetting that. Yet, I do have suggestions and I do have ideas. I've never been much for chanting slogans, especially ones I cannot defend and do not understand.
These are just ideas. From an American point of view. The rest of the world could help shape them into a different flavor. I suggest the U.S. model not because it is the only one I know, but because it gives the U.S. less reason to shoot it down. Something to do with that what's good for the goose is good for the gander business.
Yes, this daylog is way too damned long.