January 29, 2008

Unmitigated Disaster

There were some fair questions raised in response to my last post, and it made more sense (in terms of length and content) to respond in another post. I should say first that nothing in particular "brought this on." After all, I didn't make the video, I just saw it and posted it. On a deeper level, the person who thought this was worth posting grew up going to churches where the seating consisted of metal folding chairs set up in a converted gymnasium. I can't help glancing around when I walk into an American church and wonder how much money went towards the thick carpet, stained-glass windows, padded pews and whatnot that could have gone to . . . I dunno . . . orphans in Latin America (just to pick an example completely at random).

So, if I raise these questions about relatively small amounts of money spent on churches, how much more am I going to question billions of dollars spent on funding a war? Answer: A lot. To say nothing of the fact that, with each passing day, larger and larger segments of the population are realizing this particular war was a huge mistake (that adjective is so hopelessly inadequate).

Considering your past statements of disdain for cries of "think of the children", it seems a bit odd for you to post a video essentially dedicated to that. You might say that in this case, it's a legitimate point. But sometimes, other people bringing it up have legitimate points, too.

I have two things to say: 1) My disdain for "think of the children" is limited exclusively to those who advance the cry on the basis of "protecting" the kiddies from whatever book, TV show, movie, video game, song or painting offends or threatens their touchy, loud-mouthed parents. On the one hand, I find it ludicrous that these people think such issues amount to anything worth throwing such a wall-eyed fit over, and on the other hand I find it offensive that they demand the entire world be dumbed-down, watered-down and made over to match their own narrow, hysterical worldview. The difference, to my mind, is this: That's a stupid, reactionary wingnut issue and this is a legitimate quality of life issue.

2) To be perfectly honest, as a childless young adult who is married to a teacher and is up to his ears in debt for school loans and house payments, I wasn't giving "the children" the bulk of my attention in that video. I was more struck by the number of homes and home improvements the war could have paid for by now, as well as the hundreds of thousands of college educations and teacher salaries. Sure, children are involved in some of those considerations to one degree or another, but not exclusively by any means. A far more apt phrase would be "think of the people."

This is largely an appeal to emotion. There's little in the way of facts or numbers, just "how much we spent", and "cute little kids pictures."

This is the one place where I think you're way off-base. "Little in the way of numbers"? Seriously, did we watch the same video? Sure there are pictures, and most of them even have a cute kid, but the impact is all in the numbers. This is how much we are spending on the war every day. This is exactly what we could be doing instead. This is how much more good money went after bad while you sat and watched us tell you about it. The photographs are not particularly maudlin, merely visual representations of the numbers. Does the presence of the pictures really drain all of the common sense out of the presentation of those cold, hard figures? The video didn't appeal to my heart, it appealed to my bottom line. Don't mistake passion for emotion.

How many lives have been changed for the better in Iraq? How many people live free of fear now, live better lives? All we hear about from the news is death. There's so much country there, there has to be life, too. Are you saying that American lives are more important than Iraqi lives? Haven't you taken the opposite of that idea in the past?

This is probably going to be the biggest sticking point, but I think that these are very important questions. My answer, in a nutshell, is this. I don't know how many lives we have changed for the better, or how many live free from fear . . . but the word on the street is "Not as many as have been changed for the worse and not as many as now live in fear and/or with a decreased quality of life." My research suggests that the war we have waged against the country for the past almost-five years has claimed more Iraqi lives than are attributed to the atrocities of Saddam Hussein during the previous 24 . . . to say nothing of the fact that we were directly involved in his rise to power and supplied him with his first list of human, even civilian, targets to eliminate.

As I've discussed many times, our country has failed (at a terrible cost) to learn from any of its foreign policy history of the past 60 years. We have developed an idiotic habit of ignoring long-term consequences of our actions in achieving short-term goals. I have no doubt that even after we are finally out of Iraq (if we ever pull it off), there will be fallout down the line that no one but the people in power have the slightest inkling of yet (and they are too stupid, stubborn and short-sighted to care).

Of course I'm not saying that American lives are more important than Iraqi lives. Far from it. That's why I care that estimates number Iraqi civilian casualties in the several hundreds of thousands since the invasion began. And really, what do you think we're doing with the money that is not being spent on Americans in America? Do you seriously think we're over there building schools and homes with it? We haven't even managed to bring most of the country back up to pre-war levels with regards to basic services like water, electricity and medical.

The best thing for Iraq is, and always was (stretching back to those first days in 1963 when the CIA pulled one of its famous "regime changes" that put Saddam Hussein's political party in power), that we leave it the hell alone as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Our war budget should be diverted into more peaceable channels, immediately. And you can take that to the bank.

In conclusion, have another video:

Warning: Too tired to give this a proper proof-read.

Posted by Jared at January 29, 2008 03:34 AM | TrackBack