Good Reads, Politics

More Iraq, and More Iraq

Jesse lost his non-paying job last week, so I bought him an abundance of beer. I drank enough beer that I don’t remember much of the actual beer drinking, but he did lend me a book I had long wished to read. It’s a biographical account of a Marine Corps grunt who made it through the Gulf War in one piece. I’ll share a couple of paragraphs from Anthony Swofford’s _Jarhead_, along with my own commentary. Here we find him marching through a valley filled with bombed-out Iraqi equipment, and dead, burnt, and surrendering Iraqi soldier:

This is war, I think. I’m walking through what my father and his father walked through — the epic results of American bombing, American might. The filth is on my boots. I am one of a few thousand people who will walk this valley today. I am history making. Whether I live or die, the United States will win this war. I know that the United States will win any war it fights, against any country. If colonialism weren’t out of style, I’m sure we’d take over the entire Middle East, not only safeguard the oil reserves, but take the oil reserves: We are here to announce that you no longer own your country, thank you for your cooperations, more details will follow.

More than illustrating a high point, a moment of victory, this excerpt also touches on a real problem of America’s ambivalence. Are we the colonial empire, or aren’t we? What responsibility do we have beyond having great military power? If we are to conquer, should we also rule?

Which is why I favored the second invasion of Iraq … the first time around, we were afraid to rule, to expropriate, administer and engage in prolonged occupation — we were unable to own up to the imperial ambitions that put us there in the first place. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t bother going to war for the sake of domestic economic stability, but once we bomb the heck out of a country, we ought to finish the really hard work of trying to put the pieces back together, as best we can. Yes, occupation is far bloodier than the invasion itself, but without occupation, the invasion itself is pointless. We are the imperial authority in Iraq, the conquering, hopefully benevolent empire, and beyond the fact that we are a lesser evil than the rule that preceeded it, the people there owe us no love.

Swofford’s next paragraph sums it up:

Our rucks are heavy with equipment and ammunition but even heavier with the burdens of history, and each step we take, the burdens increase.

A long hard slog, indeed, long delayed, and all the worse for it.

I hope the frustrations and the blood that will continue to be spilt in Iraq will discourage the Americans at home from engaging in further military adventurism. Syria? Iran? France? Not worth it. They can regime change themselves, as we can regime change ourselves, since none of us are especially encumbered by economic sanctions and a regime that controls the UN food rations, as a consequence of our previous militaristic dalliances.

The hope that one dubious bloodbath will deter future bloodier, even more pointless massacres, is the ultimate hope that we took from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My reassurance is that after the Cold War we are more concerned with Global Warming than Nuclear Winter.


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Categories: Good Reads, Politics

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