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Some Thoughts on Iraq

Eleven Points

by James Leroy Wilson
May 13, 2004

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I saw an out-of-town friend I hadn't seen in three years who said that he reads my articles.  He asked me how long it takes me to write them, how I plan them, etc.  It takes me a shorter amount of time than he thought.  But I may not have been completely honest.  If "abortion" meant killing essays before they have a chance to be publicly read, I'd be the anti-abortion movement's #1 target.  Well, actually, I don't kill them - they are saved files that I can go back to later.  But eventually, a lot of them will be deleted.

Some of them go on for several paragraphs, finding me getting lost in tangents, unable to retrieve the main point - as opposed to my most successful style where I go into tangents yet am able to retrieve the main point.  And so I start again.  For me, it's finding the right opening sentence and paragraph.  After that, I am able to fly.  There was a spurt from February through March where I was able to post this weekly column, two additional sport-related pieces, and five pieces at LewRockwell.com.  Recently, however, it's been hard getting this column produced at all.  The past two weeks are indicative.  There were several starts and stops over several days before they were finally written.

I'm confessing all of this now, frankly, because I'm falling into the trap again.  In light of the Iraqi POW torture scandal, I've already started about five different pieces, containing different points. None were adequate, but I also couldn't cram everything I wanted to say in one column - that would be way too long.  (I'm already fully aware of how lengthy my pieces are compared to the Internet norm.)

And the thoughts keep coming, with no way of framing them or structuring them appropriately.  So I have chosen to just summarize them here.  If there's something you want further elaboration on, write a letter to the Editor:

1. Barbarism is endemic to government, not to culture.

2. The Pat Tillmans are, by design, the exception rather than the rule of the armed forces.  By this is not to disparage the character of members of the armed forces, but that intelligent young millionaires like Pat Tillman with limitless opportunities don't normally enlist.  Whereas many with far fewer natural gifts and economic opportunities do.

3. "Un-American" means eating dogs, playing cricket, celebrating Boxing Day, and arranged marriages.  But moral values and ideals are not affixed to nationalism.  America is a country, not an idea or an ideal.

4. This was not an aberration: the USA even has a school in Florida teaching Latin American agents the science of torture.  We've known this for a long time.  We vote for politicians who fund it.

5. The American public school system has made us a nation of uncritical idiots - and that might be the point of it.  Also, the authoritarian mentality of "zero tolerance" is the mentality of maintaining control in Iraq.  American schools fail; Iraq is failing.  Products of American schools are trying to keep order in Iraq.

6. Proponents of the invasion of Iraq should not be surprised that Americans willfully commit atrocities during war. They also shouldn't be surprised by "insurgencies" or that there were no WMD's.  The war is going as well as I thought it would, which is why I opposed it.  I am more surprised that more pro-war proponents aren't saying, "these things happen, but we must be patient."

7.  It is a contradiction to impose democracy and freedom through outside force.  The neo-con mentality that thinks otherwise is essentially an anti-market, anti-individual, communist mentality, that the State with good intentions and enough might, can make right.  You'd think that neo-conservatism was the creation of Marxists.  Oh, wait, it was.

8. Peace is the beginning of liberty and justice. 

9. Americans are too susceptible to "moral absolutes" or universal truths.  That is, extremism: the desire for simplistic abstractions to become social reality through force and law.  Which explains a whole lot, from the War on Drugs to our invading Iraq in the first place.  We are thus not unlike the Islamic extremists we are fighting.

10. I think "defeat," leaving Iraq in a humiliating fashion for waging an unjust war, will actually benefit America.  Does this make me "anti-American?"  

11. In the very thing the national government is fundamentally supposed to do - provide for the common defense, it severely underestimated the terrorist threat of Al Qaeda, and greatly over-estimated the threat of Saddam Hussein.  Why would anyone, of the right or the left, trust the national government to do anything else, like guarantee health care, determine the value of money, define obscenity, or even decide what is right or wrong or good or bad?  Why should we trust these guys over anything?

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Michael Orr from Ashville, North Carolina writes:
May 13, 2004
Very good points! This is my first visit to The Partial Observer and I must say, I see things on this site that I don't see anywhere else. Keep up the good work!

G. Washington from USA writes:
May 13, 2004
First of all, I agree with the first responder, that The Partial Observer brings a needed set of voices and concepts to the internet. So thanks to all the PO contributors and editor for that!

But on to a response... I have read many of the writer's 'Don't Tread on Me' articles over the months, and I have finally been inspired to challenge the author with 11 responses to the 11 points. Nothing personal.

1. If barbarism is endemic to government and not culture, how do you explain Cannibalism? Do you blame the African or South American tribal governments? Or do you think that Cannibalism is not barbaric?

2. While we could agree that most who volunteer for the military do not have the specific sports/financial opportunities that Pat Tillman refused, wouldn't you say that there are many unsung heroes in our military who gave up, perhaps, other valuable things to serve our country? How about those who gave up a relatively good job opportunity, or time with their girlfriend, spouse, or family?

3. I'm sorry you didn't get taught this at school, but I think most people have been taught that America IS much more than a country. The nationalistic feelings around freedom and responsibility in America are ideas, ideals, and indeed are secular moral values.

4. I would challenge you to produce evidence that the USA (govt?, presumably the CIA?,) has a school in FL to teach the science of torture. I will believe it if you have proof. But if it is hearsay, let's not state it as fact.

5. I didn't want to be an uncritical idiot. That is why I'm writing a critical challenge to your article. You inspired me to do it.

6. On a scale of 1 to 10, Americans commited 2's and 3's compared with the 10 of that recent decapitation the Islamists commited. Americans didn't commit these atrocities because they were American or because their government was the US, they commited them because they gave in to inner temptations of evil, something all members of the human race do. Any yet, let's not forget that the vast majority of American soldiers behaved in civilized ways toward the common Iraqis, and behaved according to the Geneva conventions and the best military standards toward the Iraqi combatants. The fact that the majority behave is not an aberration.

7. You are far more critical of democracy and freedom than you are of Radical Islamic terrorism and hate. A greater contradiction is seeing someone who grows up in a great (not perfect) country, turn around and despise the very tenets of what made that country great.

8. Liberty and justice are the beginnings of Peace. You have it turned around.

9. Well, it sounds to me like you have an authority problem. What about the 10 Commandments? Moral absolutes for susceptible extremists? Or are they categorical imperatives by which humans can guage and correct their behavior?

10. Perhaps, but at the least, it makes you Un-American.

11. Trust issues, too, I guess. Personally, I believe the U.S. government was constructed by our founding fathers with a fair amount of suspicion built into it. Thus, the reason for 3 branches of government with checks and balances. Why should I trust our government with anything? Well, with a healthy amount of suspicion, I trust our government to a certain good degree, especially when I compare it to most other governments in the world. With me, the glass is at least half-full. Our government is made of people, the majority of which are good people. I trust them to do their best. I don't expect perfection. I'm disappointed sometimes. But I'm proud of them most of the time.



James Leroy Wilson writes:
May 14, 2004
G. Washington will discredit it anyway as being left-wing propaganda (as if I myself am a leftist), but as to the torture school, here's a link: www.soaw.org/new/.

Going to war without a formal Congressional declaration of war is a repudiation of every principle of liberty and the Constitution. Yet this is how we've lived since Truman. It is not the culture of a freedom-loving people, as our culture's decadence, agenda against God, and uncritical acquiescence to a growing police state attests. It is an insult to the real George Washington, the man who warned against foreign entanglements, to borrow his name as a pseudonym to pretend that our current government bears any resemblance to that established by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

I was taught the government school propaganda line about American ideals, but sheer logic persuaded me that the government propaganda school was itself a socialist enterprise in opposition to the very ideals of America. I prefer to love my country for its liberty, and hold it to the standard of liberty, instead of, after every atrocity it commits, say, Well, it's still better than other countries. People who do that are actually dragging our country down to the level of other countries.

G. Washington from USA writes:
May 15, 2004
Thanks for the response, JLW! I appreciate it.

I may surprise you right away by NOT discrediting the SOA website as left-wing propoganda, but rather to say that I'll check it out. I'm a little concerned that there aren't too many byline names connected with writing the material, but there is much to read. Interestingly, on my first venture into the site, I read from the Human Resource Exploitation Manual (1983), Part 1 pdf, and found that it begins (on page 5 of 67) with, The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law, both international and domestic: It is neither authorized nor condoned.

While you always make many good points, I have to take exception sometimes to either the unqualified nature of some of your statements, or the tone of some statements.

Let me give an example from your response above: ... a repudiation of every principle of liberty and the Constitution. I wouldn't have a problem if you said .. a repudiation of important principles of.., but to say 'every' is just too broad. Obviously, going to war without congressional authorization doesn't repudiate EVERY principle. Some qualifying language would help your arguments.

And in the 2nd paragraph, you write that people who say our country is better than other countries, even in light of attrocities commited by a minority of our people, are actually dragging our country down. I can't understand that, really. Here, the tone is one of hostility toward someone who is proud of the overall US government & country, even while recognizing that evil does exist in human nature, and that it does exist in Americans. Can't we be proud of our good majority?

I am tending to think that you are something of a Pessimistic Idealist, whereas I am something of an Optimistic Realist.

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