Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Simple Question: Do you want US to win?

I had a conversation this morning with a colleague which started out with us discussing some particular aspect of the Iraq fiasco when, all of a sudden, the enormity of the "wrong" sunk in. GWB is guilty of war crimes, of crimes against humanity. He caused the U.S. to start a war, to invade another country, the cardinal sin for nations. He lied about the "reasons" for doing so. He attacked those who argued against this action. He lied to cover-up the lies for going to war. He screwed up the occupation such that civil war is raging. Thousands of people died because of his war-of-choice. He actively resists efforts to right these wrongs because to do so would force him to acknowledge that he was so hugely "wrong" in the ethical, legal and technical meanings of the word.

I have previously used the analogy, when talking about the American invasion of Iraq, of some guy who bursts into someone else's home because he suspects (wrongly, as it turns out) that the occupants posed some sort of threat and this intruder then proceeds to smash things and people with a baseball bat. In my analogy, in the resulting chaos, the surviving occupants start fighting among themselves as well as against the intruder. In my analogy, the intruder is also connected to "you" the listener somehow e.g. he's your father, brother, son, spouse, etc. When presented this way, it's easier to understand my perplexity when someone asks: do you want him (the U.S.) to win? Your dilemma is that you know that the person you care about has done something very wrong -- that he is the "bad guy". Do you want him to win...? That's just an absurd question. I don't even know what it means.

Do I still care about him? Yes. Do I want what's best for him? Yes. Do I want to make things right? Yes. Do I feel vicariously guilty or ashamed? Yes. Do I realize that he has to stop swinging the baseball bat? Yes. Do I understand that the occupants of the home are justifiably angry? Yes. Do I understand how difficult it must be for him to realize that he is the "bad guy"? Yes. Do I understand how embarrassing it will be for him to admit that he was wrong and that those who tried to stop him were right? Yes. Do I acknowledge that he will have to be held to account? Yes. Do I understand that this (accountability) will hurt him and, because I care about him, it will hurt me too? Yes. Do I accept that living under the rule of law and accepting the consequences of one's actions is important and right even if it hurts us sometimes? Yes.

Do I encourage him to continue smashing things and people so that he won't have to stop and admit that he is the "bad guy"? No. Do I blame the victims and say that it's their fault that he burst in? No. Do I say that the occupants should stop feeling so angry at him? No. Do I say that the occupants should feel grateful that he now wants what is best for everyone? No. Do I say that the occupants should not demand why he burst in? No. Do I say that the occupants should not ask for justice (punishment) for the break-in and the destruction and injury? No. Do I say that the occupants should shut up and start cleaning up their mess? No. Do I say let's start fresh now as if none of this had ever happened? No.

In the case of both Iraq and the home-invasion analogy, the first step is to acknowledge that it is a huge problem, that there is no clear, and certainly no simple, "solution" and that nothing will "put Humpty back together again" -- that the invasion and ensuing chaos can't be undone. But the way to start dealing with the problem (the chaos that GWB has caused to occur in Iraq) is straightforward. The President (and I cannot conceive of GWB doing this) must confess to having been wrong to have invaded and occupied Iraq and then throw himself on the mercy of the courts (in this case, impeachment proceedings in Congress). New leadership must then go to the world community and say: what must we do now? We can't make it right again, but what's the best we can do to undo what we can and atone for our sins. The consensus of the world community will direct the actions of all its members including especially the aggressor nations, as to what must be done in the way of punishment, compensation and reconstruction. Nothing can undo the death, suffering and destruction. It has been done. But we can stop contributing to it and start the slow path to reconstruction and healing. We must.

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