13 November 2005

What if they gave a war and everyone went home?

We watched The Daily Show from 7 Nov last night (it takes the pixels a few extra days to arrive in Australia). John Stewart had Barak Obama, Democratic Senator from Illinois, as a guest. Very funny, very charming, damn good-looking. He seemed very fresh, very smart and very energetic. That there are people like him in public office gives me hope.

Then John Stewart asked him, "If Barak Obama was in charge of the Iraq policy, what would we be doing right now?"

Obama replied:
Well, y'know, Iraq is sort of a situation where you got a guy who drove the bus into the ditch, you obviously have to get the bus out of the ditch and that's not easy to do, although you probably should fire the driver. <Lots of laughter from the audience.>
He continued on, next stating his credentials as having been against the war from the start, even before he was in office. Then he said:
Now the question is how fast can we get our troops home without causing all out chaos in Iraq, and I think that you're looking at Dec 15 as the date for the next Parliamentary elections. That has to be a benchmark where we say to ourselves, we're not going to have a military solution to this. We can't replace the Revolutionary Guard of Saddam Hussein in holding this country together. If the Iraqis are serious about keeping the country together, then we should be able to start phasing out our troops by next year. And we've got to have specific benchmarks to do that. (italics added)
It wasn't until later that I realised that I've heard that line so many times without other alternatives being offered that I've just sorta assumed it was true. But is it?

(I want to be careful to make it clear that this is in no way a criticism of Obama. I've heard the rationale a number of times. Damn, I've probably even said something like it myself. He's only the most recent.)

But how about this: what if we were to leave immediately? What if we stopped being an occupying force? Well, obviously we'd stop being a target. Would the attacks slow down or even stop, or would the country descend into civil war? Would the local law enforcement still be viewed as collaborators? Or would they be viewed as local law enforcement rather than enemy combatants?

I do know this: human nature being what it is, had we not been there to shore them up, the drafters of the Iraqi Constitution probably wouldn't have had the audacity to change the wording in the 11th hour so that boycotting the vote counted as acceptance, rather than rejection. The Constitution would have likely been rejected without this change, creating opportunities for more negotiation and more options for satisfaction for the Sunni minority. Maybe democracy, that elusive dream, would have broken out.

Anyhow, I have a lot more questions than obvious answers, and I can't look forward and compare two alternative histories. I do know that civilian Iraqis are being killed by our troops daily, and that virtually no Iraqi family is untouched. What was touted as a "liberation" would seem more and more an invasion to any Iraqi whose son, mother, sister, neighbour was killed or knew someone who was killed at the hands of the combined U.S., British, Australian forces.

I don't know what would happen. But I know that I don't want my government to kill any more Iraqis. And I think that maybe, just maybe we can trust sovereign peoples to govern themselves without our "help".

Not to follow a faulty metaphor too far, but sometimes you just gotta leave that ol' bus lying in the ditch, and bring the passengers home.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elissa,

I think it's amazing that America even elected someone named Barak Obama. That's kinda heartening...

- Rachel

8:17 pm  
Anonymous lin said...

Yes we should fire the driver, the mapmakers who provided direction (???), and those who encouraged the driver to take that route.

But who are the replacements? No detailed plan has been presented by any leadership, regardless of their name. Of course, we went in there without a clear plan, and it is quite obvious how that worked out.

Additionally, I find it amazing that Condi Rice is still talking about how important it is for "free" people to have electricity! (Just had to get that in there, as well as the fact that - completely off the subject -the man who totally botched the emergency relief efforts in New Orleans, Brownie, is still making $160,000/year from his government salary.)

Instead of complaining, I should be writing to leaders who I believe might be able to help and encouraging them to create and execute a plan to help all that are suffering from the results of this horrendous invasion brought to us by those who espouse the culture of life!

1:42 am  
Anonymous novarse said...

i went to a talk given by this visiting iraqi workers union representative, whose name i completely forget. he was there to describe the situation of the workers in iraq and how it was affected by the u.s. occupation. i asked him what were the benefits if any of the u.s. occupation. he replied that it was a good thing that they came and disposed of saddam. that that had to happen. but now there was no point that he could see for them staying any longer. he felt that because of their presence, a terrorist uprising had come to take hold, which was the cause of many iraqi civilian deaths. more so than those deaths caused by the u.s. forces. that the occupation was an excuse or justification used by insurgents for the uprisings and violence. if the troops left, then that excuse would be gone.
i thought that was an interesting perspective, one i hadn't heard before

10:12 pm  
Blogger shane said...

Rachel: Ahh, but have you seen the man smile? Ya can't not vote for a smile like that.

On the point: Well, it looks bad. I know that's a really weak argument for staying in a war but effect on America's/our reputation worldwide is worth considering and even if it does no more harm, just up and leaving looks a lot like "Uhh, bad news dude. We broke your bus. It's out by the highway somewheres. Good luck with that."

No-one else will ever let us near their public transport. And we've sold off all our own.

Whether things would get worse is an important question though, and maybe that is a useful baseline for anything choices and actions we take in future. "Can we expect results better than just getting the hell out of Dodge?"

Which brings us back to Lin's observation that *no-one* is offering a plan. Except this one.

1:01 am  

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