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America’s Einherjar

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This past Monday was Memorial Day, a day to honour America’s Einherjar – the brave men and women who chose the lives of warriors and were called to their ultimate destiny as a result. They are rightly considered heroes.

Memorial day should also be a time for reflection – and for making sure that the Einherjar have not had their lives taken by wars that are fought for ill purpose, or are predicated on lies, half-truths, “bad” information or are otherwise decitful. In choosing the life of a warrior, these people are saying they consider the good of the nation to be of higher value than that of their own lives, and they then put their lives into the hands of our government leaders. Those leaders have an obligation to use those lives carefully – not just to “send a message” or prove how tough America is.

Yes, getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a good thing. He was an evil man and he treated his own people horribly. There is no question about this. Yet that isn’t why we fought this latest war. As has been noted by many others as well, if getting rid of evil dictators were sufficient justification for war, there are many other who deserve the same treatment, in many countries around the world, yet we aren’t going after them. And while we may have succeeded in getting rid of Saddam, as Senator Robert Byrd noted, we have hardly brought the Iraqi’s anything resembling “liberation”:

What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are “liberators.” The facts don’t seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but “liberation” implies the follow-up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of liberation, we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years. Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while US troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply. Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the United States steadfastly resists offers of UN assistance to participate. Is there any wonder that the real motives of the US government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

No, the war in Iraq was fought because we were told Saddam was more than just an evil dictator who treated his own people horribly. We were told he was an immediate threat to the US – that he had thousands of gallons of biological and chemical weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons as well. It was because of these weapons – and the liklihood Saddam would give them to al-Qeada – that was the justification for killing not only hundreds, if not thousands of Iraqi citizens, but which also took the lives of our soldiers – adding them to the ranks of America’s Einherjar.

Many in America seem to think that it’s no big deal if we never find these weapons or any evidence of their existance. They accuse those who opposed the war – and who still feel the war was wrong – of not being “patriotic” or of not supporting our soldiers. Yet it is their own attitude that dishonours the memory of our Einherjar, by trying to cover up the fact that they died in a war that – when judged by the reasons offered to us prior to the start of the war – has not been shown to have been justified. The weapons that made Saddam such an immediate threat have not yet been found, and unless they are, the lives of those soldiers were sacrified in vain.

What’s worse, the Pentagon is now talking about possible “regime change” in Iran, and the same people who told us that there was no question that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction are now telling us “[T]here’s no question but that there have been and are today senior al-Qaida leaders in Iran, and they are busy.

The Pentagon has proposed a policy of regime change in Iran, after reports that al-Qaida leaders are coordinating terrorist attacks from Iran.

But the plan is opposed by the US state department and the British government, officials in Washington said yesterday.

The Pentagon plan would involve overt means, such as anti-government broadcasts transmitted to Iran, and covert means, possibly including support for the Iraq-based armed opposition movement Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), even though it is designated a terrorist group by the state department.

The state department and Britain have objected to the plan, saying that it would backfire, undermining the moderates around President Mohamed Khatami.

We cannot allow this administration to make more Einherjar without first demanding unquestionable proof that, if al-Qeada are active in Iran, it is with the knowledge and the support of the Iranian government. If our leaders start to make claims about Iran having Saddam’s WMD’s (which they earlier suggested about Syria), we need to demand evidence that those weapons do exist and that they are, indeed, in Iran – again with the government’s knowledge and support. After the debacle in Iraq, we cannot simply take their word for it.

In honour of Memorial Day, let us honour the men and women who are willing to make that great sacrifice for this country by holding our leaders to a higher standard of justification before supporting futher wars (or other military action – regardless of how they choose to term it), and make sure that the war is truly needed, sufficiently warranted, and will not result in a worse life for the people who live in whatever country we target next. We owe them at least that much.

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  • Eric Olsen

    KJ, very nice, measured post with important thoughts. i am someone who was very pro-war who does care about finding the WMD. I don’t know WHY they haven’t found them yet, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t there, but it is critical that they be found, or proof of their destruction, to back up the administration’s claims to the world justifying the war.

    I don’t think there is the slightest possibility of military intervention in Iran – everyone I have heard representing the government has emphasized this.

  • It gets really old saying this over and over and over again. I keep hearing on the radio how anti-war folks are so smart, and yet so few of them seem to be able to grasp this very simple idea: We had more than one reason to go after Saddam Hussein.

    We didn’t go after him only because we believed he was in the process of developing WMDs. We didn’t go after him only because he’s a brutal dictator. We didn’t go after him only because he has defied the UN. We didn’t go after him only because his existence is the reason we had to keep troops in Saudi Arabia, providing one of the top recruiting tools for Al Queda. We didn’t go after him only for any one thing. We went after him because of all of those things, and all of those things were true of just one regime.

    Each country is different. Other regimes may (or may not) be just as brutal, but none of them fufill all of the conditions Hussein did.

    President Bush has been preaching the same message since roughly September 12, 2001 (give or take a few days), and whether you agree with him or not, Iraq was part of the war on terror, the parameters of which he has never been shy about.

    Sigh. I’m pretty sure I’m wasting my time.

  • 1. Having done nothing, all of the listed situations would have gotten worse forever, as they have for the last 30 years. Even if they only stopped getting worse, that’s an improvement.

    2. However, I dispute your claim that things aren’t any better. Saddam Hussein’s regime is no longer sending hefty piles of money to support suicide bombers in Palestine. We know for a fact that he will not be producing WMDs at any point in the future. He will not be handing them over to be used against America or her allies or embassies around the world. It’s funny that you mentioned looted nuclear sites, as all of the reports I’ve seen say that those haven’t contained nuclear material since the first gulf war. If you know otherwise, let someone in the government know, because that’s a smoking gun! The other irony is that one wonders if these sites were “looted” any more effectly than the museum, which wasn’t.

    2. I can’t believe you even asked such an inane question. Things are better. Even Salaam Pax, no friend of America, says “Everyone expected a civil war, but now that’s not happening. Actually, the situation is much better than we imagined before the war… People who before the war sold tomatoes now suddenly offer satellite phones on the open street…”

    You say “Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator, but…” and that tells me already that you have not spent much time reading up on Saddam’s history. Don’t you read stories about grown men hiding for 20 years? About people fed into plastic shredders? Raped and murdered and tortured for daring to speak their minds? If you want to compare body counts, things are better. If you want to compare fear levels, things are better. By almost any objective comparison, people are already better off, and it has only been a few months. Any formula you come up with that doesn’t take into account the possibility of being rounded up by the local goons and beaten to death is broken.

    News flash: We have a democratic Republic, or however you want to phrase it, and we won’t allow an Islamic government either. Banning the Ba’ath party is like saying that Nazis couldn’t hold office in post-war Germany. Not only sensible, but the only moral choice to make. Is that contrary to democracy? Hardly – those people are criminals, and felons can’t hold office here, yet most people still consider this a democracy.

    Define your terms and think things through before you judge America’s choices.

    3. There you go again. I said only that it was one reason among many, one for which I personally don’t give a wet slap. Besides, there is a world of difference between stalling on dues or invading Iraq and directly defying 12 orders, refusing to comply with any of them and lying about it in order to threaten your neighbors.

    4. Pure speculation, not borne out in the real world. Haven’t you heard? Palestinians are protesting Hamas terrorism in their streets! Saudi Arabian newpapers contain editorial criticizing and calling for an end to Islamic terrorism! Far from inflaming average Moslems, America’s overthrow of Saddam has shocked many of them into wondering why on earth they spent so much time and energy supporting such an evil (and non-Moslem, incidentally) dictator.

    Bin Laden never complained specifically about our presence in the region, only specifically in the holy city. That our presence in Iraq might be irritating to some is true, but on a completely different level from our presence in SA.

    There were a number of reasons to go to war again Iraq, the combination of which was unique to Iraq, which was my point. I don’t see how we’ve made any of them worse. Some are about the same, some are better. All will take a lot more time than a few months.

    Your entire post was based on the idea that WMDs were the sole justification for going to war. I’m pretty tired of point out that isn’t so, especially to people who are so determined to find fault with America’s actions that they deny all available evidence to focus on things that haven’t gone smoothly.

    It isn’t “may have been”. There were. All of this has been clearly stated since day one. People on the ground in Iraq right now who don’t even favor the US rebut Byrd’s statements and your own fears of civil war. Reports on NPR tell me that things are improving. Slowly, too slowly for 21st-century American patience to stand, but improving.

    I’d personally be happier if some of the morons who keep claiming that Iraqis can take care of themselves would (1) realize that they’d done a pretty bad job of doing so for the last 30 years and (2) start actually taking care of themselves. Why is it America’s job to do everything? We can take care of what we broke, but we’re being asked to fix everything, and I’d like to see some Iraqis pitch in to help. It’s their country, right?

    And of course, some are, but they’re too busy working to whine to the press.

    P.S. Having said all of that, you hit a hot button with me by starting up with the same old ideological song and dance. However, I too am upset about the idea that there were no WMD programs. I don’t understand how it could be, why Iraq didn’t offer up evidence of their destruction (instead of just “I’m telling you, it’s true“), so I’m confused and worried about it. The possibility that Hussein lives and made off with some raw materials bothers me. The possibility (probabilty) that our government was so incredibly inept that they believed huge amounts of fault intelligence bothers me. Lots of things about the fact that we haven’t found hard and current WMD evidence yet bothers me.

    But the rest of your post is just ideological nonense.

  • Other reports from people in Iraq (as opposed to those relaxing in the relative comfort of Washington D.C.) are also positive.