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Easy Answers to Complicated Questions
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Twenty-Three
by Brian S. Wise
18 July 2003Muchroom Cloud

Brief examinations of soldiers dying in Iraq and the State of the Union debacle.

Newsweek has produced evidence suggesting the attacks against American soldiers in Iraq (beginning May first) have been part of a contingency plan devised by Saddam Hussein and company, to work like this: In the unlikely event an incompetent, third world toilet regime for some reason found itself incapable of crushing the advancing infidels, Hussein loyalists would come down in ways similar to the recent attacks and target Americans.  There are other reports that al Qaeda are crossing over into Iraq from Iran and Sudan to do the same, meaning that the number of average Iraqis opening fire on American troops is smaller than originally thought, quite an interesting thing.
But none of that takes away from the fact soldiers are still dying, so the discussions as to why will continue until either the killings stop or the topic ceases to carry political weight, either real or imagined.  There is a certain laziness in saying “Why must our young men and women die, Mr. President?” when the answer is especially easy to identify, if uncomfortable to say.  There has never been a major military conflict in which human collateral damage has not existed; it is sad to say, but nonetheless true, that these fallen soldiers are human collateral damage.  (The killings still average fewer per day than the number of homicides in New York City, and yet there are no outraged cries of protest calling for the figurative head of Michael Bloomberg, unfortunately.)
The second part of the answer is still harder to admit because one casts a particularly bad light in saying so: even though recent sweeps have proven productive, not nearly enough uppity Iraqis are being killed to make a difference in the ultimate safety of our soldiers.  As allied forces (all right, American and British forces) swept into Iraq, many of the Iraqi troops said to be on the frontline of the country’s defense went home, some because they did not want to fight, some with their weapons in hopes of fighting another day.  It is correctly said that these are people who would not necessarily mind giving their lives in the course of striking the Evil Imperialist Power, but it is far better for those who would attack our military to be reduced to rubble, before anything gets too serious, than for another American to die.
Next, the State of the Union mess.  The situation is fluid and hard to cover at fair length one day in advance, but this much can be said safely: Democrats would be wise to remember that the president of the United States does not rise and function at the behest, or for the sole satisfaction of, the opposing party, no matter their stated motivations (i.e., stated motivations versus actual intent).  Ultimately the president is accountable only to the American people, which is why he should support the idea of public hearings into the matter, given even that he runs a fairly secretive operation, given even that Democrats will go far out of their way to make mountains out of whatever mole hills.
Likewise, Republicans should not be so quick to defend the president and lose touch with what matters.  We know the uranium information cited by the president in the State of the Union speech was at least problematic (a phrase used to denote the current knowledge; there is wiggle room for whatever turns out to be the exact truth, and no matter what happens it can at least be said it was problematic), and “According to British intelligence” is not the sort of disclaimer that can clear the speculative air around this war.
Accordingly, there is nothing unreasonable in wondering why something so important was botched so badly; if we are talking about some sort of miscommunication between the CIA and the vice-president’s office, or the CIA and the White House, or a combination of both, fine.  Then say so.  Those who believed in the Iraqi War, who have championed its existence since the conclusion of the Gulf War, will continue to believe despite the difficulties.  But if we are talking about something wide ranging and sinister, we are obligated as citizens to know the exact motivations and demand such a thing be remedied, never to be repeated.  We have instead been treated to the exact sort of breaking down and spreading around of knowledge we have come to expect, and loathe, in our elected officials and pundits.  End it, and let us learn the truth, no matter its form.

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