Sunday, January 30, 2005

Like Millions Of Iraqis, I Made A Long Journey To The Nearest Polling Place Today

--A brief note: as of March 1, 2005, excerpts and photos from this piece can be found in the current print edition of Maisonneuve Magazine. Use the store locator to find a copy near you.--


Unlike all those other Iraqis, I lost my freaking notebook. What follows is a true-as-I-can-remember account of our afternoon, with approximated quotes and absolutely no hope of recalling the names. Should you or anyone you know these people, please have them contact me...

I've had a guilty taste in my mouth since the inaugural protest's cocktail of adrenaline and pepper gas wore off. I haven't been able to shake the feeling that while the right is wrong, the left might not be right either. I looked around those protests and saw legitimately angry people who were well-fed and intentionally scruffy. Not to be presumptuous, but I didn't detect sadness and suffering ringing the eyes of most protestors. People were angry, loudly vocal, and legitimate in the depth of their feeling...but I didn't see anyone from the middle East. While I would guess that many people there had traveled, I doubt any of them had an Iraqi stamp in their passports.

This is not to discount the suffering felt by thousand of families and friends connected to those lost in the war.

Ever since I got ready to leave America, I've felt the country wobbling out of balance, like world events have been spinning out of control and America is right there at the center pulling the levers. I've needed the comfort that comes from answers and been really jealous of the righteous sense of stability that the religious right and Bush supporters and other stupid white people seemed to have. I took refuge in a knee-jerk liberal identity for a long time, but now it's threadbare and not as comfortable as it once was.

Tash and I are both terrifically loudmouthed critics of the Bush administration, she from an Australian perspective and me from a disgruntled American's p.o.v. We are also both white, young, healthy, and from lands that enjoy a vast degree of privilege, thousands of miles away from true suffering. We knew we didn't have the full story so we went out to the Iraqi Out-Of Country Voting poll on Sunday to get another truth and see ground-level democracy for ourselves.

voter

This man has lived in America on and off for the past seven years. Three of his uncles were murdered by Hussein's regime. He has been back and forth between Iraq and the U.S. during this war, helping as a translator and contractor to the U.S. military. His most recent project was to build a high school in Fallujah. When not assisting the United States military he works for the Republican party.

He is sort of smiling in this photo, but only because I told him to. He spoke carefully and slowly, in very subdued tones as I interviewed him, like someone emerging from shock. The skin around his eyes was a hundred years old, like the trauma that had passing through his retinas had burnt the skin around them and somehow weakened the strength of the tissue itself.

In his words,

"The insurgents and the people fighting the United States are the ones who were favored under Hussein's regime. They had land and houses when nobody else had anything. Now that Saddam is captured, they are fighting violently to cling to what is already gone. They do not represent Iraq. They are the chosen people of an evil, evil man and they have benefited for too long from everyone else's suffering. Older people in Iraq, poor people and the uneducated are confused right now because there is no order and the old ways are gone. But we all are hopeful,and we know that things will get better."

"Almost all Iraqis in America will vote Republican for the rest of their lives, as will their children and their children's children. George Bush has freed us and we are grateful forever for this. America has more power than anyone else in the world, and it is their responsibility to end the type of suffering that Iraq has endured. It is a terrible shame, the loss of life and suffering on both sides. Many good people have die. What Americans at home must remember is that this is war, and war is what it took to free us. When you go to war...when you go fishing, your pants will get wet. This is the way things are."

"Maybe Bush did not do it the way that the world wanted him to, but he has done a wonderful thing, and I think that the rest of the world will look to Iraq and America as a model. Syria, maybe Iran will hopefully do as Libya has and change their ways."

iraqi-mom

This woman is the man above's aunt. She has four living children, two of whom are under eighteen and were extremely disappointed to learn that they could not come and vote. The daughter who is no longer living was brutally murdered when Hussein's army bombed her house. Her husband died after the family moved to the U.S. While she has no plans to ever return to Iraq, she was bursting with nothing more complicated than sheer joy when she spoke to Tash and I about voting today. She thanked me repeatedly for photographing her and caring enough about her and her people to tell their story.

Having lived in Richmond, VA long enough to really stunt my career, I can tell you that a lot of Americans are obsessed with appearing tough. Tattoos, wallet chains, and pit bulls are all fashion accessories that Americans adopt to try and look real bad-ass. But you know who's tougher than like fifteen pop-punk fans with really expensive tattoos all wrapped up with wallet chains like some sort of weird Voltron?

This lady:
mother-kids

Even her little girl looks like she could jump out of that pink coat and show Mike Tyson a thing or two.

Here's another photo of the same woman, another proud Iraqi expat voter:

take-that-saddam

No matter how tough anyone on earth is, there's no way they can fuck with these guys:

inky-fingers

The guy on the left came to America from as a refugee, shifting from camp to camp until finally granted resident status. He was nearly killed in a 1998 uprising. His friend, in the green, was an officer in Saddam Hussein's army until he defected and joined the opposition in the late 90's. I asked him if the change was difficult, to which he responded,
"well, nothing in this life is easy. But if something is worth doing, and you have it as a goal, you see that it gets done, no matter how hard."
Why do I think that this statement applies a little more broadly than just losing ten pounds for bikini season? Because when he said it, I could feel the pain this guy has been through to do what he believes is right. I told him that I was no supporter of the Bush administration, but knew that I did not have the full story. I asked if there was anything he wanted to communicate to the world at large. His response, as I recall, went like this:

"What you see on the television is not the news It is nothing. The Arab media and the Arab world hates Iraq as well, and they portray us very unfairly. While we know that American news is still somewhat distorted, it is not run by dictators. We just want our voices to be heard. Saddam Hussein was a brutal, evil man who cared nothing for humans. I wish that I could tell all those protestors I see booing Bush to stay at home because he has done such a fantastic thing for my people. I know that I cannot because everyone can be heard in a democracy, but that is my wish."

You may think that you have felt dumb before, but let me tell you something: until you have stood in front of a man who knows real pain and told him that you are against your country's alleviation of his country's state-sponsored murderous suffering, you have not felt truly, deeply, like a total moron.

I still am no Bush fan, and I believe that America got lied to. I don't believe we should have gone into Iraq the way we did, and I think Rove is as evil as they come. But through all this deception and lying, through all this dismemberment and pain, America has wrought a beautiful, fantastic side effect: joy, freedom and a hope for peace. Does it take lies and misdirection to do this?? Is this what the other side of justice is? I feel like such a whiner and I don't know what to think anymore. Ultimately, in total defiance of my mother and grandmother's teachings, two wrongs have made a right and my moral compass is tired and busted.

I can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and I want a clear cut mandate, some lines to believe along. But there aren't any. There's just right and wrong and following your heart of hearts. And for the first time in my life, I can say that I was wrong to be compulsively critical of the current administration without seeking my own truth.

Some clear wrongs rise from this morass like an evil swamp monster, reeking of decay and crawling with filthy insect larvae. Puppeting a belief for social or financial gain, without seeking the truth within one's heart is real, real wrong. The level of discourse in America has plummeted to a name-calling ping-pong match with a turd for a ball. It doesn't matter how wicked the serve is, both sides are still smacking a bunch of shit around. Just like Ann Coulter and the Protest Warriors, those "Fuck Bush" signs hurt America and all that it stands for. Even though I don't know what it stands for anymore...but I am so glad those people can vote.

131 Comments:

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, I admire the honesty of your comments. What I admire even more, however, is your for the truth. Too many people are unwilling to even consider opposing views. You've truly gone the extra mile in trying to have an informed opinion.

Having said that I think you may be selling Bush a little short by insisting that America was lied to. Bush believed Iraq had WMD. So did the Clinton Administration. So did virtually every other intelligence service in the world. Being wrong is not the same as lying. I have yet to see any evidence that we knew Saddam didn't have WMD. In the post-9/11 environment I can't fault Bush for assuming the worst when dealing with someone like Saddam.

Further, keep in mind that this nation building is not an accidental side effect. Indeed, while the WMD argument was advanced more than any other Bush repeatedly cited the need to free the Iraqi people from tyranny. The following are some of Bush's remarks from a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Feb. 2003, before the war began:

"Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.

"The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein -- but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us.

"Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them.

"If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the hungry."

Having said that, keep up the good work.

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am impressed with your willingness to challenge your beliefs - everyone on either side of the issue should do that continuously. I agree with the previous post. The one thing I wonder is how, faced with what you saw in the voting station, you can still say "I know we shouldn't have gone..." I don't think those folks you talked to would agree that we shouldn't have gone. They seem to believe that sacrifice (including a terrible war) is worth the benefits of freedom from tyranny. What are your thoughts?
-MontyCat

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger Final Historian said...

"I feel like such a whiner and I don't know what the fuck to think anymore. I can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and I want a clear cut mandate, some lines to believe along."

You are honest with yourself, and that counts for a lot in this day and age. We all go through periods like this, and we can emerge better or worse for them. My advice is simple: Re-examine who you are, what you believe, and why you believe it, and then ask yourself this simple question: "who do I want to be?"

The rest is up to you. Good luck.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger leah said...

Jeff, you're on a great journey. I was once your age and as idealistic as you were, and as angry. Google the content of the Iraqi Liberation Act, 1998; passed by both houses of Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. George W. Bush had the balls to make it happen.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger TWM said...

I don't want to scare you, but I see a conservative in the making . . .

Come back from the dark side, Darth . . .

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect you for being willing to publicly admit your feelings of confusion on these topics.

I'd like to add my voice to that of the previous poster who said that Bush didn't "lie", he was mistaken. If you wanted to argue that Bush was mistaken about Saddam having WMDs, you would be right. But can you point to any evidence on the record -- any source that reasonable people can agree is probably valid -- that Bush knew there were no WMDs before the war?

And your statement that Rove "is as evil as they come" -- do you really mean that? Karl Rove is as evil as Saddam, Hitler, Ted Bundy, and the rest of the pantheon of evil? Can you name one actually "evil" act of Mr. Rove? He is a highly effective political partisan, no more evil than Michael Moore or any of the other partisans on the left or right. You cheapen your words and the impact of your essay by flinging around hyperbole like that.

Maybe those statements were just a sop to your reader friends who are big Bush-haters, so they won't think you've completely gone over to the dark side. I know that feeling....I grew up a Humphrey/Mondale/McCarthy liberal and around my 30th birthday began to question what I'd always believed. I'm now a libertarian with a great deal more sympathy for the conservatives than the liberals. For me, the old saying that "if you're not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at 40 you have no brain" seems to be true.

Again, I respect your willingness to question your beliefs. It shows that you are a person actually interested in the truth about the world rather than just being part of a trend or a movement.

 
At 4:52 PM, Blogger Robbie said...

Its so heartening to see someone without ideological blinders. You are rare.

I was fairly sceptical about the election, but as I read Glenn Reynold's links at Instapundit my eyes went a little misty. I just can't look at pictures of Iraqi's voting without being touched by it. All those pictures of men and women with ink-stained fingers raised in defiance and joy... may it become the symbol of our generation.

 
At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, be sure to Google the november 2002 congressional resolution authorizing Bush to go to war with Iraq. WMDs were on a list of seven or eight different reasons.

My own disafection with the democratic party came as a result of the 2000 election. I voted for Nader, and wanted Gore to win. But throughout those long weeks when the winner had not been decided, I heard so much BS from Gore supporters about how Bush was trying to steal the election which was clearly and completely erroneous that it really opened my eyes.

For me personally, going to Iraq was always about having this election. Good for us, great for the Iraqis. There really (I don't think) was never a non-violent way to get Saddam out of the way of those great people you met.

eman6101@yahoo.com

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger JZ said...

I also admire your honesty. But you still seem to be irrationally attached to some of your old "knee-jerk" positions. For example: "But through all this deception and lying, through all this dismemberment and pain, America has wrought a beautiful, fantastic side effect: joy, freedom and a hope for peace." Do you really believe such a thing is possible. This was no accident (or "side effect" as you call it), it was calculated and intentional. Granted, the centerpiece of the main argument used to justify the cost and difficulity of the war (but not the morality of it...removing tyrants is "good" in itself) was based on what turned out to be faulty information. But this lacks the requisite knowledge and motive to constitute a lie. The Iraqi elections were factored into the "downside" of the argument when the policy was was being considered:

Q: What if we go and the WMD's aren't there?
A: Then all we've done is free the country from a tyrant.

Q: What if we don't go and the WMD's are there?
A: Then America is screwed, and we look like "total fucking morons."

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger rivlax said...

How inspiring when a lefty kook lib pulls his head out of his ass.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Shannon Love said...

I really insightful honest post. Nobody is more intellectually brave than those who actively challenge their own assumptions.

On another note I am afraid that the observation that:

"Almost all Iraqis in America will vote Republican for the rest of their lives, as will their children and their children's children."...means that Iraqi-Americans will become a group hated by Left just like Cuban-Americans.

*Sigh*

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger tim maguire said...

Jeff: I have yet to hear one single coherent reason to oppose the invasion, and your article did nothing to change that, but your willingness to examine your views gives me hope.

Here and there (your site, for instance) I've heard some willingness by some liberals to open their minds and examine their thinking.

We need more of that if we are to become a two-party system again. Are you coming back or are you done with America? Our democracy needs you!

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger Kathleen A said...

Wow. That was the most honest thing I've ever read and I applaud you for being brave enough to first of all go meet Iraqis and second to admit that you weren't getting the full picture. I felt the same way when I fell upon Iraqi blogs and realized I only had a stereotype in my head of what an Iraqi is. Once you meet one - it changes your perception of a lot of things. I think if people would STOP and look at what they witnessed on Sunday - they would realize what happened was good for Iraq. I know everyone likes to see us as the enemy BUT not everyone in Iraq feels that way and I think that was demonstrated over the weekend. Thanks for being honest. I wish other people would try too on both sides. It's about America and other people being free - it's bigger than politics.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger TallDave said...

Many of us began to feel this way on 9/11.

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You may think that you have felt dumb before, but let me tell you something: until you have stood in front of a man who knows real pain and told him that you are against your country's alleviation of his country's state-sponsored murderous suffering, you have not felt truly, deeply, like a total fucking moron."

-Bingo! If only the goons from International A.N.S.W.E.R could come to the same conclusion you did here we'd all be better off. You don't have to be a booster for the Bush administration to know that yesterday's election was nothing but positive.

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush campaigned in 2000 against nation building. The fact that he is leading that effort in Iraq and did in Afganistan is a reflection of how much he has changed since 9/11. We all have changed since then, some for better, some for worse. I think your change is for the best.

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger Judith said...

Very moving. I will ditto the previous comment. I am a pro-choice, feminist, environmentalist liberal who voted for Gore in 2000 and voted for Bush this year. I would have preferred to vote for Leiberman and have hawkish foreign policy and liberal domestic policy all in one candidate, but more people felt differently.

Therefore I had a choice, and it was a no-brainer. Keeping up the momentum for demoratic change in the Middle East and continuing to take the battle to the terrorists is way more pressing right now than the social issues I care about. Now that Bush is re-elected I intend to defend those social issues, but it would be a lot easier if the scruffy protestors with "Bush=Hitler" signs were not the public face of environmantal protection, civil liberties, and abortion rights. You folks have set us back considerably, especially the hypocrisy of Western feminists who refuse to be enthusiastic about their Arab sisters' progress when a Republican makes it possible. Feminism should be bi-partisan.

If a lot more leftists were like you, then we could all have thoughtful dialogue about how to proceed. But the antiwar left is so snotty and sneering and narcissistic and hypocritical, and so WRONG about everything, that the right just dismisses you guys and all your concerns, which means some of my concerns get dismissed too.

The good news is that there is now a sizable constituency of "liberal Republicans" or "centrist Democrats" who voted for Bush but are not on board for some of the Republican agenda, and all we need is a label and some catchy slogans so people like you can find us and so we can build a movement. There are a lot of us out there and we can combine the best of left and right if we can identify each other.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really envy you your trip to the polling place, I would love to have visited a polling place myself but I live in Denver and none are close at all. I was enthralled with the images of Iraqi voters on TV and would loved to have met some in person to talk to them as you did.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, it was fascinating to read your struggle with all of this. Myself, I came to embrace Bush's foreign policy after some quite strong initial misgivings; I voted for him in '04 after not having done so in '00. This past weekend vindicated my reasons.

A poster above has explained why I do not believe Bush is a liar. But -- and I mean no condescension at all -- it would be almost inhuman to expect you to do a complete reversal in your worldview in an instant. You have been in that sector for whom Bushitler is The Source of All Evil, and yet the human beings of Iraqi descent who have been freed from barbarous tyranny moved you in your soul, and you are now doubting that you "know" all that you thought you did.

A similar, jarring transformation happened to me, but it involved religion (leaving one). It is a similar journey, tho.

Whatever else, I admire your ability to connect with the common humanity of those with whom you spoke and whom you photographed, however much psychic discomfort it may cause you. The world needs more of your kind, of every stripe.

Well done, and thank you for a moving essay.

--Mona--

 
At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading Mr. Simmermon's post I feel I'm watching an emergence from a chrysalis. God I hope he makes it.

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Louis said...

I am with you-- a staunch opponent of the war nonetheless grasping for hope at the good news of elections. But it's a big world, and Iraqis aren't the only ones who suffered under a dictator. Ask yourself whether all the people who are now cheering Iraqi freedom are ready to fire up the draft so we can take over Sudan, Yemen, Congo, North Korea, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria, Belarus, and Burma. Just because something positive MAY have resulted from Operation Iraqi Soaring Eagle Infinte Freedom, that doesn't make dissent or criticism of the administration's distortions and incompetence into treason! Remember Emerson: Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Many of the Americans cheering and gloating right now don't really care about the suffering of the Iraqis you talked to-- they didn't care when we were bankrolling Saddam mere decades ago. They don't care about history. They have a vested political interest in success of the theatrics put out by this administration.

 
At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a brave post. But I would like to ask all the 'I-told-you-so-ers' up there in the comments if they have gone to the same lengths to challenge their own views. For instance: how much of a moron would you feel like if you had to explain to a bereaved mother that you supported the war that killed her child and thought it was absolutely right? Sound easy? Don't get me wrong--I supported the war too. But it's always easy to make judgements from a distance, and it's not only the left that does it.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At 5:22 PM, louis" - The cocoon asserts itself.

 
At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wondered how long it would be before a all-or-nothing comment popped up. Yep, still bad people in the world. We cant help all of them. Why help any?

 
At 5:40 PM, Blogger Bob said...

Thank you for telling this story. The war in Iraq can't be reduced to 'Bush lied, people died'. The story has always been bigger.

You have seen for yourself another dimension. While you believe that two wrongs have made a right and are pleased but troubled by that, I believe that we have acted honorably through this difficult time.

I do not mind our differing views and am pleased that you have explored another angle. It is all either of us can ask of the other.

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger MisterPundit said...

It's ironic that I can hardly support Bush on any issue except the one that really matters most to me - freedom and democracy. I don't mind people being opposed to the war if they believe freedom could have been attained through diplomacy. While I may disagree, as the long as the ultimate goal is freedom, I can respect any point of view. What I can't stand however are those who, in their intense desire to one-up Bush, are now openly hoping for democracy in Iraq to fail. There is nothing reasonable, or human, about supporting the insurgents in Iraq. That's just political sour grapes at the expense of the Iraqi people who - after all - had NO choice in this war.

It seems like yesterday that I forfeited 3 months of student loan repayments to buy a ticket to South Africa to take part in an anti-apartheid demonstration, earning myself 2 days in a South African prison and a severe beating. I cried the day Nelson Mandela was released, and I cried yesterday.

Perhaps we should look at it this way. On the WMD issue the left scores 1 point. On the democracy issue the right scores 1 point. Now we're even, so let's call it quits. Pro-war or anti-war, the best way to honour those who have died in this war is to make sure that Iraq becomes prosperous and that it's fledgeling democracy flourishes.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Louis said...

Wait a little bit. The election was great. But aren't you suspicious at how happy it's making certain people? Not in a normal way, as in "thank heavens that the elections went relatively well. Now let's hope the rest does too." No, it's more like "god bless great America, how great are we, let's pat ourselves on the back just a little more, for giving these benighted Iraqis a chance, the brave poor bastards."

Why are people so eager to pat themselves on the back for being American? It's baffling. If Bill Gates publicly gloated about his philanthropy, he would be universally despised. Well, in this world, America is Bill Gates. It's not our happy generosity that should be highlighted. That is our responsibility! We own Iraq. You better believe that holding succesful elections was our responsibility and not a gift from our big kind hearts.

Does this attitude make me into a goon and a traitor? To be fair, I personally believe today's conservatives to be fatuous, self-satisfied and irresponsible. My two dinars.

 
At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday's Iraqi Elections for Democracy, the counter insurgency (IEDs), needs a song.

Therefore I drafted one of my own, telling the story that both Iraqi citizens and coalition nation builders can get behind, to the tune of "I'm On My Way" from "Paint Your Wagon."

Something jingoistic and inclusive.

I call this "Paint Your Finger, And Come Along":


Vote

Vote

Vote

Vote

Vote

Vote

Vote!

Vote!!

Gotta dream list,
Gotta song.
Paint your finger,
And come along.

Who did I vote for?
I don’t know.
Who got elected,
I ain’t certain.
Inshallah,
Iraq is on its way

When will we leave here,
We don’t know.
When will we get home,
We ain’t certain.
All that we know
Democracy is on its way.

Gotta dream list,
Gotta song.
Paint your finger,
And come along.

Who did I vote for?
I don’t know.
Who got elected,
I ain’t certain.
Inshallah,
Iraq is on its way

Charlie Atkinson
Cambridge, Massachusetts

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger Joe said...

An incredible post.

My personal thoughts, as someone about your age thinking through the same things:

I was a Pro-Kerry voter. I didn't think Bush was evil, or the devil - just incompetent.

I was against the Iraq war not because I thought it was a bad idea to liberate millions from the grip of a madman, but because at the time it seemed like there were so many things that were likely to go wrong, most prominent in my mind a fundamentalist overthrow of Musharraf in Pakistan.

I'm not sure I was "wrong" -- you make decisions with the information you have, and while in hindsight things didn't go nearly as bad as they could have, that's the benefit of experience. Luckily, things worked out, and we should now do all we can to support democracy in Iraq.

I've gotten a lot of comments from people along the lines of what you're getting - "A Conservative in the making!", they exclaim.

Reality's more complicated than such labels. Do you believe that the death penalty is a smart public policy? That we're a Christian nation? That there's something wrong with being gay? That consumer protections and environmental regulations are just hogwash put out by aging hippies?

..And that's not even touching the thorny moral issue of abortion, which ties into every major philosophical question about the nature of humanity that frankly I don't have an answer for, but I don't trust the Christian Right when they say they have All The Answers, either.

And let's not forget that one of the biggest obstacles to the successful prosecution of this war has been, along with the International ANSWER socialist-wing of the far-far-farther-than-us-left, George Bush himself.

It was a disastrous mistake to not see Fallujah through the first time we went in, and good men died for it. Our troop levels should have been a hell of a lot higher.


Freedom for millions is a beautiful thing, and we should support it and rejoice in it. But it doesn't necessarily mean the war was the right choice, given what we knew at the time.

 
At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You better believe that holding succesful elections was our responsibility and not a gift from our big kind hearts." You make responsibility seem like a bad thing - a penalty somehow.

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found this via Instapundit. Truly a remarkable article in that it is so unusual for someone on the left to recognize that the Iraqi people are immeasurably better off for the sacrifices made by the US military (& taxpayers). To the author: you may hate this idea, but I strongly suspect that you will be a Republican by the time you are 45 yrs old.

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger MotherofMany said...

Fascinating reading. Thanks for your honesty. I wish more liberals were like you. I would concur with others who urge you to consider the difference between lying and being seriously mistaken and misled. If Bush lied, so did Clinton and the U.N.
Now, there is a legitimate argument to make about the political cost Presidents might have to pay for allowing themselves to be misled, but just saying Bush lied is overlooking the written documentation we have in his speeches, UN documents, and the statements of former President Clinton.
On another issue:
You said:
"Almost all Iraqis in America will vote Republican for the rest of their lives, as will their children and their children's children."

And a commentor said that this "...means that Iraqi-Americans will become a group hated by Left just like Cuban-Americans."

This is so true- and it's already happening. I read the DU and see the Iraqi people who voted called 'puppets' and the killers trying to murder people *for voting* called 'freedom fighters.' Very Orwellian.

Let me share the story of two sisters, American women, middle aged, one slightly conservative, but mainly nonpolitical, the other a liberal who marches in all sorts of causes and peppers the rest of the family with constant harangues about those causes. Both sisters are relatives of mine.

The mildly conservative, nonpolitical sister has a personal friend who escaped from Cuba last year. She was sharing with me some of the things her Cuban friend had told her about life in Cuba. Liberal Sis was out of the room, but came in when she heard Cuba mentioned, and asked for the comments to be repeated. When they were, she informed us firmly, briskly, in a no argument accepted tone that she knew an American Professor who had visited Cuba for two weeks and found no oppression there, so she knew this wasn't any.

Mild-mannered sister, who *loathes* confrontation (and it is soley for her sake I have kept my mouth shut) asks in surprise, "You think your American friend found out more about life in Cuba in two weeks than my friend who lived there all her life and had to escape on a raft?"

Liberal sister: "My friend is very well informed and probably understands more about the intricacies of the political situation than your friend. I mean, really, what do you mean by saying she's not free. What freedom didn't she have in Cuba?"

Mild mannered sister- "Well, the freedom to leave Cuba by some safer method than a raft in the dark, for one one thing. And she----"

LIberal Sister: --- interrupts to roll her eyes and tell us again about brilliant Professor friend who visited the country for two weeks.

Mildmannered sister and I: just sort of begin talking about other things....

And I share that long story to get it off my chest (smile) and to suggest that there are more assumptions you might need to reconsider in your journey.

Oh, and btw, I also did not vote for Bush the first time, but after 9/11, I voted for him this time.

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I want to thank you Jeff for restoring some of my faith in the reasoning power of the left. I have been having a hard time lately watching people so consumed with hate for a person (President Bush),or rather a perception of the person, that they are blinded to the incredible progress the world is seeing under his watch.
When the people of Afganistan voted, I was moved to tears with the images I saw on the net, then I would turn on the TV and....crickets chirping....Then I watch act 2 in Iraq, cruise the lefty intenet sites and.....crickets chirping....(or worse).
I won't get into the "BUSH L-I-I-E-E-D" meme, it has been debunked so thouroughly so frequently, that to engage would be like arguing with the flat earth society regarding the sperical nature of our planet. I will just say that repeating intelligence that turns out to be wrong is not a lie. The WMD issue was one of several reasons stated to go to Iraq. About a month before we went in I read an interview with Paul Wolfowitz (probably spelled that wrong) that the reason the WMD asspect was being pushed so hard, was that it was the one point that the International Community could agree on. Ironic huh, the point that was universally accepted by the UN crowd (Saddam had WMD) was the one point that was wrong, and the reason "Bush lied".
The democatizaion of Iraq was not a "happy" accident, it was ,and, is the plan. Free countrys tend not to attack other free countrys. Iraq is a catalyst for the rest of the region.

Thank you again for your couragious honesty,
Casey Brown...former hippy

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Wyman said...

A moving piece of writing. Come on in, it wasn't just Republicans and Bush supporters who deserved credit here. I am amazed the Democrats want to distance themselves from this. Tell us how you think it could have been done better, please. Be the loyal opposition.

It is hard for conservatives to discern the legitimate criticism amidst the cascade of hatred. You're a start. Speak.

 
At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

louis, we should not refuse to end evil where and as we can simply because the U.S. made some questionable alliances during the Cold War. Opposition to the evil that was the U.S.S.R. did drive some decisions to embrace non-communist dictators and/or thugs. Whether this was right or wrong, justified or not, does not impact on whether it is NOW right for the U.S. to liberate suffering peoples when doing so is in confluence with our own interests and is within our abilities.

We cannot always do it, and should not try to. But a stable Middle East became crucial on 9/11, and this past weekend lays the groundwork for that (as does Afghanistan). Yes, some cads easily resort to patriotism, but so do many decent folks. Holding that it is good to aid those who yearn to breathe free may reek of American civic cliches, but it is also true. We gave Iraqi citizens a great gift, and I am one very proud American for our having done so.

I admit to becoming tearful seeing the photos on this site and others, depicting smiling, ecstatic Iraqi men and women, young and some very old, holding aloft their ink-stained fingers. Those blue fingers choke me up, they do. It should not be unhip and embarrassingly "patriotic" to admit it.

A left that pooh-poohs such joy, and will spew all manner of vile bilge about those who think enabling democracy via military removal of tyrants holds moral merit, is not a left I can listen to. I'm a libertarian, and so share some views in common with the left. But it has been pushing me further and further into feeling more comfortable talking only to the right. If the Dems want to keep losing hawkish libertarians in droves, it should continue with the "Bush Lied!" and is just like Hitler, Iraq is all about Halliburton etc. ad nauseum.

But I'd prefer a left/Dem Party that gave me a choice. Right now, I don't have one, and even tho I'm not a theist, I almost went to my knees praying that Bush would be reelected rather than see Kerry in the Oval Office. Now Lieberman, or a Zell Miller Dem, they may well have gotten my vote. But only Bush's steadfast foreign policy vision, or a similar one, is in order at this moment.

Honest, true humanitrians on the left such as the author of the post giving rise to these comments may lead the changes the left must make. Or, our author may evolve into someone who finally decides he is no longer a man of the left; a Hitchens-like evolution. I am bookmarking this site as I'd really like to see what else he says in the coming days and weeks, and what his compatriots in turn have to say in light of his decent soul-searching. This will reveal much about the left.

--Mona--

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Dan said...

You've ripped out of your prison. I did the same thing starting in about '99 or '00. I hated the Repubs for what they did to Clinton. I still do, a little. A very little. Because mostly as I look back I see that they were right, at least in that Clinton was and still is an oily scumbag.

Your journey will be complete when you realize that Bush DIDN'T "lie", at least in the commonly accepted usage of the world. He said something that turned out not to be true. So did all the leading scientific lights of pre-renaissance Europe who scorned people for suggesting that the Earth wasn't the center of the cosmos, or that Kings did *not* have a divine right to rule. Were they "lying", or simply "unenlightened"?

If Bush lied, he was backed up by all the intelligence agencies of the world, including those of countries who bitterly opposed the war. Bush isn't nearly the demon he's been made out to be, just as Clinton isn't the demon his opponents painted him as, and just as Reagan was more great man than boogeyman, and on and on.

You may end up as a conservative or remain a liberal, but thanks for showing that SOME of you guys at least have an open mind. Very, VERY refreshing.

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At 5:12 PM, Judith said..."

Judith, I had the same recent voting pattern and views as you expressed. If you are looking for a term to describe this consider "South Park Conservative" it seems to mesh with me quite well.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/131vxnun.asp

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger Louis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Adam Gurri said...

I know that many people have probably told you this already, but I think that, just based on this entry, I'd have to say that you're one of the most excellent human beings writing today.

How many of us, especially in the world of blogs, end up in our own little worlds; espousing doctrines and ignoring much of the criticisms against us? I can honestly say that I myself often fall in that category.

Likewise, total conversions from one side to the other are not unheard of.

But questioning one's own beliefs, while not just carelessly throwing them away, is something that's just so rare nowadays.

I mean, personally, I don't believe that Bush lied to us. But I don't think it's appropriate to try and debate that point with you here and now--I'm more interested in the fact that you know that you could be wrong, and I want you to know that I'm well aware of how possible it is for me to be wrong, too.

You're an inspiration for us all.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo!

I knew there had to be some real Liberals left in the country, people who celebrate freedom and are not afraid to question dogma.

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is rarely spoken throughout the multitude of debates these past three and a half years is the notion that some Americans have felt for well over the last two decades that the rot and decay of tyranny and terror found not only in Iraq, but all over the Middle East in general, was a danger to our country and our world yet was for too long ignored for the sake of Western culture's stabilty

From my perspective, these last decades have been quite frustrating to live in a nation so rich in liberty yet so selfish in helping to spread this liberty. When President Bush set forth his doctrine to bring freedom to the Middle East he reflected what I felt, not the other way around. After two decades, I finally found relief from a leader who understood what I had felt all these years.

The Genocidal 'Peace' we had grown accustomed could no longer be tolerated and, thanks to the real dissident among world leaders, we no longer are forced to tolerate such inhumanity. I have great admiration and respect in President Bush for taking such a risk despite the heavy weight of misguided opposition.

President Bush did not lie to America, the self-appointed Big-Brother watch-tower of news and information lied to America and has been doing so for quite some time. That said, fake will never be considered accurate again.

I cannot not help but add this rather sarcastic remark: Some Hilter the Chimp turned out to be, giving all those people in that country we invaded the freedom to vote and choose their own government beholded to the people. For an evil super-power imperialist colonizer, the Chimp did not live up to the numerous proclaimed accusations.

 
At 6:51 PM, Blogger daycruz said...

Thanks for writing such a great piece man. This is what people need to do- get out of this damn hype that everyone feeds us. Bush isn't God but he isn't the devil either. Let's look at the world with pragmatism. Great article, keep it up.

 
At 6:57 PM, Blogger MisterPundit said...

Boy, this "Louis" fellow sure is making the rounds today. Look like he's going to all the blogs linked off Instapundit and unloading a decade's worth of pent-up horeshit. Oh well, as long as he doesn't grab an Uzzi and go all "Che Guevara" at the local supermarket I suppose it's therapy.

 
At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this post, as well as the insightful and thoughtful comments by others, to be remarkably refreshing. I would like to echo the comments made by others above and compliment you on having an open mind and on your admirable quest for the truth. I think you've discovered that truth is not always black and white, or distillable into simple catch phrases about one side or the other.

One other quick note: It's so frustrating to think that if the anti-war people and those who supported the war could agree that they each take the position that they do out of concern for humanity, then they could have a much more productive debate on the tactics of how to achieve those ends without all the oversimplification and demonization of each other.

Of course, one problem with this is that it seems like many people in the anti-war crowd have alternative reasons beyond concern for humanity for taking that position.

You, are obviously not one of those, and for that, I regard your dissent from the war as a more legitimate point of view. Cheers.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger lostingotham said...

Welcome to the right side of history.

Bush is surely no saint and he's made his share of complete screw-ups, but the decision to liberate Iraq wasn't one of them. When I put that in the scale on the other side of the Patriot Act, and gay marriage, and John Ashcroft, and the exploding deficit, the balance still swings in his favor. When the Democrats nominate a candidate who has the courage to do the right thing for the oppressed people of the world--regardless of what the 60s-nostalgia crowd think, I'll be his (or her) biggest supporter. Until then, I'll vote GOP every time.

 
At 7:05 PM, Blogger Jay said...

To paraphrase this famous quote from Jacob Bronowski, when people believe that they do not have absolute knowledge, and test their knowledge against reality -- this is how they behave.

God bless you, sir.

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Captain Mainline said...

You are on the right track. The hard part is over. Once you face the mental disconnect- you are over the hump. Welcome to the real world!

 
At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever I think that maybe one of these "social issues" is important enough to raise a stink over I imagine myself at a protest surrounded by swastika-wearing moonbats waving "Chimpy Bushitler Halliburton" signs.

Interrupting my righteous stand for gay marriage I imagine one of the protesters in a Bushitler t-shirt asking me about "Chimpy's War for Oil", then having "fascist!" screamed in my ear when I give "The Wrong Answer" (you know, the evil "D" word: "Democracy").

Something like that sort of happened, except it was at a party and she was drunk, so it wasn't really so bad. She was also really hot when she was angry; she panted and her cheeks turned rosy and her eyes flashed and sparkled and she pressed herself close so she could get right up in my face, make sure I would hear clearly the word "fascist" ...

Damn, I was going to write a "serious" comment, but there's just no way I can do that any more. :P

Was it the moonbat pheromones or just the pachouli talking?

Was I pathetically clutching at any shred of social acknowledgement ("Oh rapture, she's not ignoring me! She likes me enough to hate me!"), or was I projecting my male ego into a domineering power-relationship fantasy? ("Fascist? I'll show you fascist!" "Take me, Moussolini!" Bwhahahah!)

Maybe it was all her. Raving moonbats as a general rule are unattractive. A moonbat raving at YOU, while pressed against you, looking into your eyes, burning with passion while you stare her down with what you hope is a look of bemused nonchalance while your heart races and your palms sweat, standing rock solid while she bucks and sways and rants, a swirl of tye-die and pachouli and quick stabs of her finger into your chest ... that's attractive, there's just no way around it.

Maybe I oughtta just ask her out. We're friends now, but she has never talked about politics again (how I wish she would! I've never wanted to hear anyone scream, "Halliburton! Halliburton!" like I long to hear it from her lips!)

Obviously there's some attraction on her end, I mean, would she be friends with a "fascist" if there wasn't? Talk about redeeming qualities -- I must be loaded with 'em to make up for my being a Minion of Evil and all ...

Sigh. Should I keep hanging around the alternative bookstores and wholefood markets sniffing the pachouli or unleash my inner Bushitler and boldly throw aside the burka veiling our hidden passion?

Maybe she's just a Kofi-tease ... but I'll never find out if all I do is sit around UN Headquarters making resolutions.

 
At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must thoughly respect you for taking the time to see things from the Iraqi standpoint.

I agreed strongly with liberating Iraq, ever since the situation was brought to my eyes during the first Gulf War. For which ever reason (Saddam not liking the color pink was enough) I felt Saddam needed to be removed. The people in Iraq were dealing with something that NO human should deal with. It went against the very core of what I though was allowable to another human being. No matter which party line, pre-war Iraq (and other nations) are a stain on humanity. Why those crying out to save whichever situation didn't support this whole heartly actually surprised me.

For me it was enviromental and moral issues. It was a confusing time for me also, since we often go out looking to bolster our beliefs, even to the point where we will take the one opinion/factlet in our favor as shielding from the rest of any disent or truth. As human as it is, sometimes it will not be enough.

I think the Iraq's you met simply were to much for your beliefs. Don't expect any easy resolution, or any complete answers. I am still a bit confused as to where I stand concerning the issues sometimes. But I stand back now from the protests, the name calling, the slinging.

Thank you for your comments-

Josh

 
At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a pro-choice, environmental activist that voted for Bush. Why? Well, when I was in graduate school, I spent three months living in a third world country under a dictator. We Americans don't really understand evil just like people who have never met a psychopath cannot imagine what it is to have no conscience.

Sadaam was a psychopath...he was worse than almost every other dictator. And, we have to free the people of the Middle East or they will eventually be seduced by fascism.

I want to vote for the Democrats but I cannot until they realize that the terrorists are caused by not having freedom. I had to think long and hard to realize this.

One Iraqi blogger...an Iraqi liberal calls Bush, "the avenger of the bones".

 
At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forget who said it, but it was about neo-Conservatives, that they are liberals mugged by reality. Truth in reality is a slap in the face to tell us that truth isn't pronouncements but in actions. And the people who you can trust are those who are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to protect you. Many people were ambivalent about George Bush in 2000, and even up to September 10, 2001. But consistently, he has shown that he may not be a sophisticated politician like John Kerry, but that he is a shrewd leader of the people.

If you step back and see what has transpired over the past three and a half years, you'll see that the world that we all knew here in America has changed. But not just our nation, but the world too. And if it was not for the courage and single-minded commitment to do that which no other politician would do, Sadaam Hussein would still be in power today. No election would have taken place, and more than likely the election results in Afghanistan would be more at risk that they actually are today.

What is hard to understand is that liberals/leftists are today's conservatives. They are the ones who want virtually no change. They live in the comfort of a diplomatic detente that allows them both to protest without having to place their lives on the line for change.

If we look at the political landscape that existed prior to 9/11, you'll understand better why Bush is the true radical, the true progressive, the true revolutionary, and, unlike Che, Mao, Lenin or any wannabe revolutionary tenured professors, what he has done is bringing change that will last longer than a generation or two. Because at the heart of Bush's action is a belief in the self-determination of people to decide how they are to live. And for that to work requires freedom for people to govern themselves. It is a noble principle that is as fundamental to human life as air and water.

Watch, be objective, look past the rhetoric of the media and the politicians to the actions of people, and write to clarify in your own mind the grand shift in world history. This is change that only comes along a few times in a milennium. So watch carefully and be a witness for those who will follow.

Thank you for honest reporting.

 
At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all I commend you for trekking to a polling site and talking to people who were affected by Saddam. We all get hit with so much "spun up" info everyday that it's hard to really determine what is true. I think you got to the heart of the matter by interviewing those Iraqis.

You sound somewhat confused about your political leanings now that you have new perspective. You also sound fairly young which is when a lot of people are very idealistic and have all that youthful energy to pour into your ideals. You hate racism, poverty, and corporate greed. Conveniently the object of your hatred is the republican party who have been spun to be the party of racism, corp greed and poverty creation. I'm not slamming you, I fell for the same shit.

After 46 years the best I can tell is that this country is setup on the basis that each person will act in their "own selfish" interest. Hence the balance of power of the gov't. That we need a government at all is a failure of people to act in the groups best interest. I believe it was Jefferson or Paine who said that. Selfishness also explains most people's behaviour in our country and the world.

The paradox of the selfish thing is that it ends up benefitting a greater number of people. The greed to make money, not some altruistic act leads to better medicines, more patents. I don't believe we invaded Iraq just to liberate Iraqis. Nope we did it to keep them from handing off a weapon to some psycho. I also think we are pushing the democracy thing because in the long run it benefits us, not them. But that's okay because their benefit is huge anyway. That stupid paradox keeps happening.

Here's the other side of the selfish argument. Take communism, in theory it's beautiful. The problem is that it can't work with humans because their nature is to be selfish. It involves way too much trust and not enough checks. Such a great theory but they have slaughtered millions in Russia, China, Romania and Cambodia. Look at N. Korea, that commie ethos is just not working.

If you look at the US we are really a blend. I mean we can own the means of production yet some of our earnings are taken away and given to someone else. The economy is somewhat controlled. If it was laissez faire capitalism my power company could charge 10 X what they do now because no one competes with them. They are regulated by the gov't, are we socialists?

Personally I don't trust either party, but the one that says we are about business and about being greedy is the one that I generally vote for. The one that sez they want to help me and do things for me, well I'm sorry but I can't buy it. I guess it sounds cynical but that's just what works for me. I'm no longer disillusioned.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Michael said...

What you are experiencing is called cognitive dissonance, meaning that the mental picture you have formed, based on the mantra and propaganda of the "hate Bush" crowd, no longer fits the reality of your eyes. This causes you great confusion and stress and is a force for change. You will either make that change so that both pictures line up, or you will go crazy. Hopefully, you will opt for change.

But just remember, that confusion is because of this dissonance, nothing more. Rethink things, do research, study and bring your two pictures into alignment. Reject anything anyone tells you that does not square with what you are seeing. One caution though, you really shouldn't try to change the picture you are getting from your eyes...that one is real.

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely written post on your struggle.

It's good to see *someone* is getting creepy about this type of attitude: http://villagevoice.com/blogs/bushbeat/archive/000696.php

You're headed in the right direction. They will be on the wrong side of history.

 
At 10:07 PM, Blogger Maggie45 said...

Wow, you touched me deeply with your willingness to question yourself. I went through this after 9/11. I did not vote for Bush in 2000, in fact I was very upset when he won. But boy was I glad he was in office when 9/11 occurred. I'm a lifelong Democrat who changed my registration to Independent this year at age 59 and voted Republican because I know that Bush is on the right path with foreign policy. Like Judith said, there are a LOT of us.
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your day with us.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger EddieP said...

Congratulations Jeff, on this phase of your journey. To perform the simple act of interviewing people who have actually been there seems to be almost too obvious. However, reading blog comments from most Left leaners, I rarely get the impression that they look past DU, Kos and Atrios.

The world is a complex place and there are no simple answers, but you can boil Bush's vision down to two easy to understand positions.

AAA. We, as a nation aren't going to take it anymore. We've been shoved around by tryants and terrorists from around the globe for 30 years and always rationalized it instead of doing something about it. After 9-11 he simply drew a line in the sand. He looked at the world and said OK we've got to start somewhere. Afganistan is first and unless Saddam comes clean about his WMD he's next. The Axis of Evil follow along, and at somewhere we reach a tipping point where the ME along with NK and some other places fall into place.

BBB. Our nation's long term interests and viability depend on there being a lot more peoples determining their own futures and a lot fewer dictators and tyrants running personal fiefdoms and blaming the US for their problems. There is no need for us to gin up the draft and invade all the places one of your commenters suggests. Each of those places need and will be changed, but most of them will be changed from the inside out once they see Iraq as successful.

The notion of preemptive strike is a very powerful tool in the diplomatic attache' case. I don't expect we'll have to use it again, but all those SOB's in the world don't know that and aren't going to want take the chance. See Khadafy.

If the Left would just come in from the fringe and observe the world as you are doing, we could begin to have those rational discussions and disagreements we desperately need. The idea that us red staters are toothless, sister marrying evangelists is not the place to start the discussion. Regards

 
At 10:22 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

Man, that's all that we've been asking. Look at the reality - see what's there for yourself and work to understand it, not let everyone else interpret for you what you're seeing. And the meanings of a lot of what you see may be unclear. However, after this I think you'll be willing to dig for the truth of what you see, not take the easy way out with a simple 'Chimpy Bushitler Did It All For Halliburton' interpretation. That, as you've seen, conveniently discards a LOT of the hard truths you've glimpsed and are starting to realize.

The world is a very complex place, and while it's nice to be able to choose your heros and villans by your own criteria, you occasionally have to check to make sure the labels are correctly posted and that you haven't got things switched around. Because, as you've found, sometimes things aren't what we think they are.

I salute you, sir.

J.
USAF 1974-1984
USAFR 1989-2003

Milblog.Org

 
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well young man, as someone who grew up dirt poor and without a family to guide me through the troubling times of youth, I have been blessed to provide a good and stable godly home for my family in this wretched country you so like to hate. You live in the greatest nation at the most incredible time yet you and your ilk are so spoiled. The men and women who have sacrificed to preserve your right to spew your hatred must surely be disgusted at the antics of this countries ingrates. I hope you grow up soon and realize what a precious country you live in.

One very proud American

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Jim Ventola said...

I, too, salute you. As Orwell (and sometimes Christopher Hitchens) and now you prove, one can be a man of the left without being blind to the obvious.

I think your inner conflict comes from the simple fact that leftist politics is at its best about ordinary people and FOR ordinary people. The contradiction on the "left" today is precisely that they have abandoned the left. Where the left should be for individuals, they are for racial quotas. Where the left should be for open speech, they are for speech codes. Where the left should be willing to fight for what's right, they are for procedural purity and legalism. Who faced with today's "left" wouldn't be conflicted?

 
At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog.

I think the left side of the spectrum missed a wonderful chance to say "Bush maybe liberated Iraq, but we can show how to make a democracy work." imagine how wonderful it would be to see Harry Reid doing all he can to promote Iraqi democracy, saying "we'll do it even better than Bush."

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post. This is the kind of stuff that I read blogs for.

Townleybomb

PS: You do realize that if you guys had stopped acting retarded like two years ago that Shrub wouldn't be president today, right?

Just saying is all.

 
At 12:12 AM, Blogger redvase said...

Very moving post, and I can do nothing but admire your self examination. If we all could but do that, no matter what "side" we're on.

 
At 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a moving and inspiring post! It takes REAL courage to examine one's own beliefs with such honesty. I wish my own lefty friends had such insightfulness--and I hope I do too.

One other thing: Your grandmother remains correct--two wrongs never make a right. I think that some of the things you still think are wrong may not be so.

Good luck to you, and thanks for the photos, too.

 
At 12:57 AM, Blogger MisterPundit said...

Anonymous :

I think the left side of the spectrum missed a wonderful chance to say "Bush maybe liberated Iraq, but we can show how to make a democracy work." imagine how wonderful it would be to see Harry Reid doing all he can to promote Iraqi democracy, saying "we'll do it even better than Bush."I think you hit the nail on the head there. It's one thing for people like Ted Kennedy to demand a troop withdrawel, but he should at least come up with something logical and realistic as an alternative. Then people will listen. I know I will. And it would really help if he didn't sound so bitter and condescending all the time. It's getting old. Now he's just preaching to the choir, and sounding like a sore loser while he's at it. Not really a vote grabbing performance.

If the best plan for an exit stratgey is in fact to keep troops there until enough iraqi's are trained (as Bush and Rice contends) then for God's sake acknowledge it and support it. Work with each other on the details. Whatever. There is no shame in agreeing with the Pubs every now and then. In fact, it would be downright refreshing. That would be a vote grabbing performance.

Now today we hear that Dean has said he "hates Republicans and everything they stand for", or some such. You see, it's shit like this that is going to motivate the fringes, and piss off everybody else. Why, can't the Dems see that? I really don't understand it.

 
At 12:58 AM, Blogger nick said...

sigh
1 end does not justify the means
2 the invasion was ILLEGAL

3 if you want to be logical we will now invade Iran, N korea, and perhaps England to make sure they have the kind of government we want

But I know you dont get it!

 
At 1:13 AM, Blogger Joel said...

You may survive your 'Capito Penitus Podex' stage of life. that is TBD. You still have many steps to take.

But seeing the truth with your own eyes and not letting anyone, and I mean anyone, spin it for you is an fundamental first step.

 
At 1:38 AM, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Fine post -- maybe you'r ready to join Reality, rather then just using it as base for Bush-hate.

There are two types of gov't.
By ballot box.
By death squad.

Bush has said that tyranny is the root cause of Islamofascist terrorism -- do you agree with this?

Was WW II worth fighting? How about the Civil War (Lincoln's war to impose his morals on a South that wanted peace)?

When is fighting evil worth it?

Bush has called Sudan "genocide" -- but the UN teams no. How many must be murdered before it's genocide?
(look at Michael Totten's site; you'll like it)

 
At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Humility is the beginning of wisdom.

 
At 4:10 AM, Blogger Dick Eagleson said...

Jeff, you are correct to question the accuracy of your moral compass. I recommend a thorough housecleaning with particular attention paid to getting rid of any MoveOn.org or Howard Dean refrigerator magnets you may have lying around. That moral compass will come back to true North like gangbusters.

Seriously, I went through a similar transformation 30 years ago over many things, but mainly over the Vietnam War. In college (late 60's to early 70's) I was against that war, but the closer I got to the "leadership" of the local lefty groups, the more put off I was. These were seriously un-nice people.

I moved to California in '74 and, wow, here was Hollywood Mack Daddy Tom Hayden everywhere you looked. Then South Vietnam fell and a year or two later, boat people started showing up. Mr. "power to the people" Hayden wanted to ship them all back to the "re-education" camps and killing fields. They were all "secret police" of the late South Vietnam sez he.

Well, the head of the last junta to rule South Vietnam was among the refugees, for sure, but so was the former commanding general of the Viet Cong. Seems communist "solidarity" didn't stretch very far once the North got what it wanted - namely, its hands on the South. Both of these former generals wound up running convenience stores in the same "Little Saigon" neighborhood in Westminster. It's an ironic world sometimes.

I drifted into Libertarianism for awhile, but dropped out when it became apparent that so-called "moral consistency" was actually the highest Libertarian value - not Liberty.

All taxation is theft, you see. Now, given that nobody in Libertarian circles has ever figured out a way to pay for a real military on an entirely voluntary basis while also beating that pesky free rider problem, well, it was therefore necessary to assert that a military was unnecessary to the defense of a free society or that all-important consistency would be lost. As a corollary, anything requiring actual use of a real military is also automatically impermissible as a matter of "Libertarian principle." The ideology's the thing, man! Moral consistency uber alles! Without our sacred consistency, what would we have to feel morally superior about and look down on everyone else for lacking? Can't be having a pesky little thing like reality messing up our perfect, shiny ideology!

Change the specifics, my man, and you have the modern Left. Change them again and you have the so-called Far Right. I strongly advise you, when re-evaluating your current belief system, to be especially vigilant for those places - and, believe me, you'll find plenty - in which your current friends on the left have elected to try covering huge reality-based holes in their worldviews with big gobs of moral/ideological spackle.

The road to wisdom is long and without end, but the trip's the thing, man. Bon voyage.

 
At 4:57 AM, Blogger Judith said...

LOL. I was also a libertarian for awhile. Very good description.

 
At 4:59 AM, Blogger Judith said...

"People were angry, loudly vocal, and legitimate in the depth of their feeling...but I didn't see anyone from the middle East. While I would guess that many people there had travelled, I doubt any of them had an Iraqi stamp in their passports."

Iraqis have not been welcome at antiwar protests, an irony which has completely escaped the antiwar left. This is only one example:
http://www.nationalreview.com/script/printpage.asp?ref=/comment/comment-taheri022603.asp

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger Da Goddess said...

While I admire your journey to better understanding, I question your claim that Protest Warrior hurts the U.S. For all intents and purposes, Protest Warrior simply ensures that ALL views on America's position are heard. Just as protesters have a right to free speech, so do those who believe in what America is doing. You cannot say that one group deserves a say and the other doesn't.

 
At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff,

In case it makes you feel better, two wrongs still don't make a right. There were not two wrongs here. Keep doing what you are doing and you will figure it out.

Nice piece BTW.

 
At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Came over from Instapundit. Your observations are spot-on; the ping pong match is a great analogy.

I'm glad to see that you can put aside whatever disdain you have for the Bush administration and just be happy for the Iraqis. It's more than a lot of high profile talking heads could do.

Keep on keeping on in your quest for truth. :)

~FL Mom

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Leslie said...

Thank you for having a genuinely open mind, Jeff. I'd like to ask you to have an open mind about Protest Warriors, too -- I read your description of that group and could only shake my head in disbelief that you could possibly misinterpret the people and their goals so very very badly. Tell you what: go over to the Indepundit's blog, read up a bit (perhaps do a search there for his Protest Warrior posts) and then come back and tell me he fits your description (as a hint, he was there "in the sandbox" when we went into Iraq). Many many Protest Warriors are military/ex-military folks and their friends and relations. Including folks who've served in the Iraq war, like LtCmdrSMASH (aka the Indepundit).

You want the truth from people whose boots have been on that ground? Start to read the Milblogs, you'll be up to speed in no time. Read up on Spirit of America and all the good that organization has done. Read Chrenkoff -- scroll down till you see the links to "Good News From Iraq" there on the right (and read his other stuff too).

Good luck figuring things out!

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger shotgun john said...

Jeff, nice piece there. I enjoyed reading it and thought your quest for 'vertias' quite admirable.

I see you struggling with an outcome that you did not believe possible with the inputs that we had. You phrase it as 'two wrongs did make a right'. I ask you now: what was 'wrong' with any of the actions taken by the US in Iraq?

We were "lied" to? No. Over and over you have been told that every administration was aware of Hussein's love of and possession of Chemical and Biological weapons. You know he gassed the Iranians during that nasty war in the '80s, the Kurds in the mid 90s and could have done it to our troups too. That we didn't find huge stockpiles immediately after the war (1)doesn't mean Hussein did not have them before, and (2)could not have hidden them so effectively than we have notyet found them - in another country perhaps? Logical thinking cannot discount that possiblity.

I was just wrong, no matter the reason? That is the number one fallacy of the so-called 'peace' movement. I guess the idea is that it is better to live as slaves with the absence of armed conflict; that freedom is not worth fighting for. I just cannot agree. I would rather be dead than to live under the conditions that these amazing Iraqis have recently endured.

Last, I as a question, a rhetorical one I suppose: Exactly how would you have removed a brutal, force-loving dictator without the direct application of military force? All the hand-wringing about how 'wrong' we have been fails to counter the current method with productive and useful ideas. I suspect that is because such wonderful ideas (1) either haven't worked in the past, or (2) are so unlikely to work that they don't bear serious consideration.

Jeff, last question, really. Do you deal with the world as it is, or as you think it ought to be?

John

 
At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being wrong and lying are two different things. "Bush lied, people died" is just a ridiculous slogan. The administration accepted the intelligence available at the time as accurate. Go back and read statements from the Democrats, many of them believed the intel as well. Being wrong does not a liar make.

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger Leslie said...

ps: Also, that was a fantastic bit of reporting on the election! Very inspiring! Thanks!

 
At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's tough. It was a while back when I realized that the "progressive" movement I was so fond of was not progressive when it came to anyone who didn't have white skin. I was profoundly sad when I realized that the ONLY people who cared whether the brown folks had indidividual rights and were willing to do something about it were the Republicans.

I've been Republican now for twenty years, sometimes more Republican than others. But in the last two years, it's been hard not to be totally committed to a policy that is guaranteed to lift the heel of oppression off the throats of millions of people at the minor expense of sending the Euros and their brainless supporters into hissy fits.

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger Uncle Mikey said...

Good for you, and congratulations. You are the first antiwar person I have ever heard of who actually did some research of their own. We could all use a bit more of what you have.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger AFSister said...

I got here via The Castle Arrrggh! and I'm glad I stopped by. When I first started reading, I thought, "Oh no- another war protestor looking to start a fight". Thankfully, I was wrong.

We may not all agree on how Iraq has won their freedom. We may not all agree that America had the right to invade as we did. We many not even agree that our soldiers should still be there, but when you meet these people and hear their stories, you can't help but to think that we have done a great thing. President Bush stood his ground and got rid of an evil, vile man, and regardless of why you think he did it, it was the right thing to do. You cannot look at these Iraqi voters and think otherwise.

I praise you for your honesty, and for announcing "And for the first time in my life, I can say that I was wrong to be compulsively critical of the current administration without seeking my own truth." We all owe it to ourselves to seek the truth before being compulsively critical. Hell, I did the same thing when I started reading your post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for seeking your own truth about these elections.

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post - thanks for being so open-minded. Since this is comment number 80-something, I really hope you read these few thoughts I had:

Although you decry Saddam as evil, and love the joy and courage the Iraqis express by voting, you still said "we shouldn't have gone" to Iraq in the first place. Consider these two points, and the explanation that follows: 1) Saddam had to be removed sooner or later, and there was no good reason to wait, and 2) no one could remove Saddam and rebuild Iraq faster, better, cheaper, or more efficiently than the US.

Here's why:

Saddam was making a fool out of the UN, defying 17 consecutive resolutions, he HAD WMD before the first Gulf War, and every intelligence agency in the world (including others in the Middle East) thought he retained that capability. With almost 400 mass graves to his credit, his pathological brutality cannot be questioned. Saddams sons, who would take over after he passed on, were by all accounts even worse than their old man (particularly Uday Hussein). Economic sanctions were beginning to lose their effect as russia, China, France and Germany began striking covert deals with the regime (and we were beginning to realize that it mostly hurt the regular Iraqi citizens, anyhow). Saddam was manipulating Europe and the UN while raking in billions via the oil-for-food mess...money that could go to finance Palestinian suicide bombers, revamp a WMD program, etc. All of this goes to show that in a post 9-11 world, the price of inaction seemed to great to ignore...Saddam would have to be fought sooner or later. To do otherwise would invite the same criticism Winston Churchill made of former UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler: "He had to choose between war and dishonor, chose the latter, and got the former as well." Which brings me to my second point:

The Iraqis were simply not powerful enough to do it alone. We couldn't sit back and try to cheer Iraqi dissidents into overthrowing the regime. We tried that in 1991 and the brutal repression of the uprising cost over 70,000 lives of marsh Arabs in the south and Kurds in the north. By all accounts, a bloodbath.

Could we possibly hope for another Mid East country to go to war with Iraq? Perhaps Iraq-Iran part deux? that would be even more bloody (over 500,000 died in the war between them in the 80's), and the result would almost certainly be another Arab dictator to replace Saddam, worst case an Islamic hardliner like in Iran or the the Taliban.

So it seems obvious that if war is inevitible to get rid of someone who is definitely evil, and seems dangerous to us, too, we can't sit on the sidelines. Any other country would have taken months if not years to defeat Saddam's Army - at the time (2003) it was the 4th largest in the world. Tens of thousands of soldiers would be lost on both sides, not to mention the horrific civilian casualties that would of course be inevitible (who else has such impressive smart-bomb capabilities that keep civilian casualties to record lows?). The fact is, there was only one military force in the world to do the job if you wanted it done as quickly, cleanly, and efficiently as possible - The US. And who has more experience than the US when it comes to tearing down evil tyrannies and turning them into peaceful, productive democratic countries? Ask Germany and Japan.

I'm glad we're in Iraq. I'm proud we're helping free people from fear and repression. I salute the brave men and women - US and Iraqis - who are working together over there to make this whole thing a success. And I hope you're coming to this same realization as well. God bless.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Thomas Hazlewood said...

Regarding your personal moral/ethical bemusement, if you keep getting an answer that you don't expect, check your premise.

I say this as a former liberal American.

Regards,

 
At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful blog post followed by fruitful commentary. I'd like to offer my .02 on the merits of libertarianism, and defend the reigning, sane version of it.

The Libertarian Party is populated with kooks. As noted above, Ideological Purity has driven them into untenable positions. However, there are we lower case libertarians, and we are not only sane, we have in our ranks brilliant thinkers such as two Nobel Prize winners (economics), Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek. Especially the latter has set forth, in copious writings, a defense of liberty tempered by reality. For his part, Friedman not only eschews "all taxation is theft," he has proposed the "negative income tax," an idea whose time has more than come. (Friedman, who is not anti-military and who rejects isolationsim, persuaded Nixon to end the draft, btw.)

Then there is Richard Posner, a prolific author who also sits on the federal appellate bench. He is a libertarian, but pragmatism is his guiding principle.

Taxation is not theft; but it is coercion. Not all coercion is avoidable. Rational libertarians only seek to hold it to the minimum necessary to meet the legitimate requirements of government, including a potent armed services.

Libertarians of the reasonable variety abound on the Internet. Glenn Reynolds sure seems to be one, and he caused the Instalanche here. Libertarian blogggers like Reynolds -- pro-gay, sometimes pro-choice, and pro-Bush's foreign policy -- are a major online presence. To get a grasp of how people like us think, read the very mainstream and respectable magazine Reason. This is not the LP libertarianism that is fixated on, say, the right of the states to secede; we do not refer to the American Civil War as The War of Northern Aggression.

Christopher Hitchens gives serious consideration to the Reason version of libertarianism as he is drifting from the hard left, and just wrote the forward to CHOICE, a collection of the best of that magazine. My point is that this branch of 'tarianism is sophisticated, sensible, and not a political niche for ideological fools.

--Mona--

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to see for yourself. The greatest problem in the media today is not bias but lazy reporting— journalists who either do not go see for themselves or who approach a story with a storyline already in place. (I have been involved in both classes and media at a professional level, and that is a trap all too easy to fall into.)

Just remember, if you verify what is going on yourself, you cannot be fooled. And, quite honestly, you'll probably be happier as well, because finding out the truth is fascinating and often uplifting.

B. Durbin

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger alyssa said...

i admire the steps you've taken to see the POV of the "other side." i'm sickened, however, by the GOP supporters that have come here and thought, "aha! he's one of us now!"

i have no doubt that we have changed millions of lives for the better, but at what cost? what made is the missionaries of freedom? americans still don't have jobs, or food, or healthcare, yet we're riding in on our humvees to save a nation that didn't ask for our help.

have we helped them? likely, we have. could we have done it in a better way? i have to believe that. should they, and everyone in the world, be free? yes. is that why we're there? no, it isn't. i hate to quote osama bin laden, but i don't hink he was lying when he said he'd continue to harm us if we continue to soil their sacred land. i think more people want freedom than don't, but that's really not what this started as.

bush's war agenda has changed by the day. as each of his "reasons" for going has proved untrue, he's just found another platform.

i bless our soldiers every day, for being there and fighting so hard for something they believe in so wholeheartedly. i wish they were fighting for us at home. i wonder if america would be behind this war if our children had been drafted for it.

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger alyssa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aylessa, et all...
Not to pull this discussion down, but I've got an opinion from a combat veteran Marine, who spent many years asking himself "Is it worth it?"
Or rather: "What do America's children (our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines) think of this?"
It reminds me of when my mother used to try to climb back into the saddle of "momism" after I had been in the Corps for a while. It seemed that she was still trying to let go, while I, a Marine Infantryman, went looking for those rites of passage that young men seek; in my case, it was earning the title of "Marine", and trying to have an impact (hopefully positive) on my environment, while shucking the trappings of youth to be my own man.
"America's children" aren't in the fight. Young American men and women, who volunteered to serve their country, are in the fight. They are serving either out of a sense of duty, out of a sense of history, or because they knew the rules of the game, and were ordered into the fight. These aren't kids, these are well-trained citizens, adults, who are over there. To trivialize them into the view of "children" is insulting.
And when one of these war-fighters sees some good come from his/her efforts, they feel vindicated, and it doesn't matter why or how they got there, but once on the ground, they will do whatever they can to advance that which they hold in their hearts is "the right thing to do..."
It takes all kinds to make the system work, and whether your left, right, liberal, conservative, it is important to have the ability to be introspective. I am pleased that our author has exercised that ability. I hope that he, and all of us, will use our intellect to find ways to better ourselves and our nation.

 
At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos for acknowledging that the Iraqi elections are a good thing.

But I do have a bone of contention.

Restoring the sovereignty of Iraq to its people has always been a goal of ours.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030319-17.html

I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Mr. Simmermon:

I also came to this post via Instapundit... I'm so glad I did. Your photos are another wonder in a day of wonders and your allowing us into your mind and heart as you consider the effects of the US's presence in Iraq is a gift. Thank you.

I hope you continue to look around and to listen to those most intimately involved in this and other struggles. I hope you continue to write about what you find, because I've bookmarked you too and am looking forward to what you have to say.

Some information that may or may not bear on your feeling about the war in Iraq, building on the comment at 11:24AM: The population of Iraq is about 2/3 women and children; according to the Iraqi Health Ministry (via strategypage.com, which is also where the previous stat comes from), 9% of those killed in combat operations in Iraq are women and children - tragic, but pointing to precision in urban warfare the likes of which could not be matched by any other military and would not even be bothered with by a military such as Saddam's. Having committed to the course of regime change in Iraq, we deliberately did it "the hard way" and have cost ourselves 1400 lives so far, because our aim is not domination but liberation. Truly. For pragmatic reasons as well as idealistic ones.

I hope you and your spiritual brethren can recapture your party.

 
At 6:30 PM, Blogger TmjUtah said...

Thanks for a very moving essay, and the glimpse into that Iraqi polling station.

By the way, I arrived here via Roger L. Simon. I wrote a post on my own blog this morning about the Mark Brown column, and my reaction to that. I'm updating that post to include a link to your current essay.

Yours will be the first overtly "not on my side of the fence" blog I put in my blogroll.

Not because I think you've achieved a right and proper catharsis to some correct worldview, or even skipped happily over to my side of the political street. Instead, you dare to publicly question yourself honestly, and honestly report the results in spite of the contradictions with what you may have thought before.

That's the act of a citizen.

Here's the link where I cite your essay and welcome you to the Purser's List. I put this here only because you haven't enabled trackback. Yet. *grin*

We don't agree on much. We both agree that freedom is a good thing. That will do for a start.

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the exchange of letters between you and Citizen Smash and had to come read the whole thing, as they say.

Thank you for such a rational post, which is no small thing in these days of emotional rants. Your kind of questioning is the best hope we have to get back to talking about our differences instead of continuing the childish name-calling.

As for going forward, I'd suggest visiting Citizen Smash's site and following some of his links to other blogs written by serving military members and, even better, read some of the Iraqi blogs, they're the ones in the thick of it. Iraq the Model is particularly thoughtful.

Retread

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to say something about politics but mustholdinBushlove.

Anyway, I think it's incredible how you want to see things and have accepted them as they really are. If you don't like Bush, you don't have to like Bush - Bush is not the War in Iraq.

But no matter what you believe about the war, America, American politics, or life in general, it's a good day when just one person has an epiphany about the truth - discovers the truth. Especially when it goes against one's personal beliefs to start.

I still congratulate you and envy you at the same time. You could look past Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative, and what not and decide "this is how I feel on an issue - no matter if it follows my political platform or if it's supported by a man I hate". I couldn't do that myself, I've become too caught up in politics.

But still, I congratulate you and I hope that you are one of many.

I'd also like to thank you. The war in Iraq, though I have no personal connection to it, is very dear to my heart. Everything I've believed and supported in the war - the freedom and hope and the new lives - was proven to me. I knew it before, but it's more to see their pictures, their stories, and their own thoughts. You've made my day. Thank you for using your time to give me and so many others something special.

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Kudos. The quality of thought nurtured by the freedom of thought is one of the really cool things about being American, and why I have faith in liberal democracy, even when I doubt everything else. We don't need to agree - after all, the world and humanity on which we base our thoughts are bigger than any of us.

Like others have commented, I am constantly surprised at the pervasive misperception that nation-building and reform of Iraq was dishonest, or even a shift from pre-war US policy. Perhaps, they have been re-emphasized given the WMD discoveries (or lack thereof), but from the beginning, we pursued the more-vigorous enforcement policy over Saddam's Iraq for more reasons than simply WMD. Given our American 20th century history, even if nothing was said about nation-building Iraq, it should have been implicit in our popular understanding of the war and post-war. Especially, if you are, as I am, a progressive liberal.

Read these presidential statements, from both Clinton and Bush Jr, excerpted from my blog:

President Clinton Perspective, or where we were with IraqPresident Clinton's Operation Desert Fox speech, 1998 President Clinton signs Iraq Liberation Act, 1998Former President Clinton supports Operation Iraqi Freedom with Larry King, 2003President Bush Jr Perspective, or our goals in the War on Terror* Tom Junod cites the first speech in his excellent August 2004 Esquire article.
President Bush Jr speech about the War on Terror, 2004* In the second speech, it is notable that while WMD stockpiles was the centerpiece, it was only one of the reasons given to move forward with UN Resolution 1441.
President Bush Jr explains the case against Saddam, 2002Make no mistake, President Bush Jr has pursued the War on Terror, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, with a definitive LIBERAL strategy. That strategy was not new, but developed from the policy positons laid out by President Clinton in the late 90s after years of Saddam's non-compliance. Liberal-to-liberal, give this President that much credit, at least.

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger Eric said...

/\ Sorry for the messy formatting. Blame it on an imperfect cut/paste from my blog. Trust me, there are 3 Clinton links and 2 Bush links in that mess. Or you can just go to the 'my blog' link in my comment and click on the neatly laid out links.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger songstress7 said...

As a conservative Republican Christian, I have to say this: I totally respect you. I have seen so much hatred and bile spewed by the Anti-Bush crowd... this post is a breath of fresh air.

You may not become a Republican, ever. We may never agree on most any issue, you and I, but with people like you who are willing to open your mind and challenge your preconceived notions, all is not lost in this country.

Thanks for being honest with yourself, and with the rest of us.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Brown Line said...

Thank you for a fine essay; and thanks, too, to the thoughtful comments: the signal-to-noise ratio here has been remarkably high. As Dr. Johnson observed, a reasonable man has more in common with the reasonable men of the other party than he does with the fanatics of his own.

War is always a terrible thing. Anyone who doubts that should visit his local VA hospital. But we must remember that Saddam Hussein already was waging war, both against his neighbors and against the people of his own country. More than a million men died in his war with Iran; nobody knows precisely how many. Tens of thousands died in the Shi'ite revolt of 1991 - a revolt that we encouraged and then, to our shame, failed to support. The choice two years ago was between either walking away and letting Saddam continue to wage his endless wars; or fight to overthrow the dictator and, just possibly, end the tyranny and the killing. Perhaps I'm wrong, but when I look at those purple-dyed fingers, I think we chose right.

But don't take my word for it. Trust your own eyes and ears; listen to the testimony of people who have lived through the tyranny and the war. And always, always, always speak the truth as clearly and forthrightly as you possibly can. If you do that, then you cannot go too far wrong.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Eric said...

If we Americans can't agree on the value of democracy, well heck, what can we agree about?

 
At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff,

I can only say, "Welcome to adulthood." There are no absolute moral roadmaps in life, nor are there any total rights or wrongs. In the final analysis each person has to search his or her own soul and make the decision that they each feel is correct. This requires a harsh and honest introspection.

Until now, you have not realized this. It speaks volumes about your character that, not only do you now do so, but even more impressively, openly admit the change.

You and I are no doubt political opposites. Never the less, I respect your integrity and the enormous courage you exhibit to question yourself, your beliefs and to understand the importance of doing so.

It is not nearly so important that we agree politically as it is that we - you, myself, everyone - come to our conclusions and beliefs through genuine, honest and, to some measure, dispassionate, rational thought instead of knee-jerk reactionism. Only through this process can we hope to overcome our differences, actually communicate with each other and find a positive common path to the future.

Congratulations again on your newfound self-awareness. May it continue to serve you well in the future.

Malcom Griffith - malcomg@aol.com

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Dick Eagleson said...

I'll second what Mona had to say by way of extending my previous remarks.

Here are a piece of advice and two observations highly useful in the assessment and construction or remodeling of your worldview:

1. Always check your premises. - Ayn Rand

Ms. Rand was, in many ways, a raving loon, but she nailed this one dead solid perfect.

2. There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong. - H.L. Mencken

3. A thing should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. - Albert Einstein

Anyone looking to work on their ideas should have a box of the best tools available.

 
At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The world is neither all black nor all white, but an infinite number of shades of gray.

You have voiced a powerful observation - that one of the greatest losses our country has recently endured is the loss of civil discourse, the willingness to at least listen with an open mind to an alternate point of view, and if necessary, agree to disagree in a civil manner and most of all - that life is a compromise, and those compromises should be focused to the greater benefit of the NATION, not the individual, not the party, not the idology, dogma, or religion.

You have just "grown" a significant amount - good for you!

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger Deena said...

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for your post and your introspection and honesty. Like you, I've seen the terrible divisions in our country, and I'm worried. I probably disagree with you on a ton of political views, but reading this, I know that you are honest, you are thinking, and that you care about this country. There are plenty of things that have given me stomach butterflies about my own votes, so I know how you feel.

I'm proud to consider you my brother in American citizenship, and though we probably disagree, I know that this country is better off for having you be part of it.

Deena

 
At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff,

You know, it says something about conservatives that they've treated you with such respect. You sure didn't deserve it prior to your epiphany.

It shouldn't have taken seeing these Iraqis to make you wake up. Finding yourself supporting fascist suppression of free speech should've done it for you.

As you ponder all these "thoughtful, intelligent" posts, look at this outrageous crap you posted in just the couple of days before your epiphany, about the ProtestWarriors:


On January 20th, a small party of these self-sacrificing retards crashed DC's massive inaugural protest. You can read a much better written, more factual story here, but the upshot of it is this: these bozos came to a large gathering of angry, disaffected liberals with intentionally inflammatory radical right-wing rhetoric posted on signs and shouted through megaphones.

Shortly after they were noticed, a small army of black-clad "anarchists" encircled the group and *** violently escorted them from the park, ripping signs and kicking these poor little protest protestors *** as a crowd chanted a good old-fashioned "na-na-na-na hey hey hey gooood-bye..."

I am usually not a fan of people that call themselves anarchists. Nearly 100 percent of America anarchists never had to sleep in the woods and eat crickets as children because warlords had their parents killed in a tribal feud. *** However, I totally support that beatdown. ***



You also, apparently, thought that a guy with a serious heart condition wearing a parka was good reason to despise your country.

Take a look at some of the protest signs you've supportingly posted on your blog, full of infantile vulgarity which shows about as much depth of thinking as a dessicated slug. So let me guess, "F**K BUSH" is eloquent and refined thought, but "Except for fascism, communism, totalitarianism and slavery, War Never Solved Anything" (a typical protestwarrior sign) is vapid, thoughtless "inflammatory radical far-right rhetoric"?

Methinks you need a couple more little epiphanies, you know, like realizing that the scars you saw on those Iraqis were brought about by the very same mindset that "fully support" the "beatdown" of people who think they've got as much a right to free speech as you do.

Am I glad you've finally had a single spark in your brain? Yes. Am I glad you're being treated with respect? Yes. Maybe you can come around. But the fact that it's a good thing doesn't mean that you deserve it. You're getting forgiveness. Forgiveness is a good thing, but it's not automatically deserved. If Republicans were like you, or like what you think (thought?) them to be, then what you'd -deserve- is the same kind of very real violent physical "beatdown" you happily supported for others for the crime of thinking that their speech had a right to be heard as much as yours.

I see from your recent posts that you're still determined to hold onto your liberal identity, that you're not switching any sides. Fine, have it your way. But I'd pay attention to Mark Brown's article, where he mentions that if in fact you just might have a whole lot of penance to do. From your posts, it's pretty clear you got a whole lot more penance to do than he did.

Qwinn

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Malevoces said...

Your post is very thoughtful, but I would hope you might take the next logical step. You say that "America was lied to" and that from "two wrongs has come a right", and that you do not understand that. So I am moved to ask, why can you not take the logical step and simply consider, what if America was not "lied to"? What if what we did was RIGHT.

A lie is an intentional deception. The Bush administration has said over and over that the driving factor in our foreign policy is the fact that in a world with WMD's, certain types of tyrannical regimes with links to terrorism cannot be tolerated. Not for what they will do today, but for the city we are otherwise destined to lose tomorrow. As an adjunct to that, the freeing of their population from tyranny is an absolute good.

EVERYONE believed Saddam had WMD's. Everyone. No exceptions. Even his troops had gas masks. Our troops kept putting on MOPP gear as they advanced. That wasn't for show, the army *expected* to get gassed. It is a mystery as to where the WMD's went, but he certainly had them when he gassed the Kurds. We *did* go in to prevent the deployment of WMD's against this country, and also to create a bulwark of freedom in the Middle East. We succeeded in both cases. There is no longer a regime in Iraq that had both used WMD's and would consider giving WMD's to terrorists. There is also now a bulwark of liberty in the Middle East.

That was not an accident. That was by design. That was what George W. Bush wanted. Just as Ronald Reagan spent a lifetime trying to bring down the Berlin Wall. Just as FDR saw the rise of the Nazi's and brought America to the aid of liberty, perhaps before most were ready.

You are very like the Isolationist Republicans on December 8th 1941. It is not that your position was evil or even ill-considered, it was simply factually untrue.

Those that hate George W. Bush so much that they can wish ill on the Iraqi people are driven by evil intentions. You and those who now realize the real effect of the current policies will break into two camps. Those who are willing to admit that the President *intended exactly this* and was correct in this case if in no others, and those who will not even give him that much.

This is America. We are a wonderful nation and our leaders *always* mean well. They have been wrong, but I would hazard to say that none have been motivated by evil.

Since George W. Bush has been saying that this was his objective from the beginning, give him the benefit of that doubt. Say to yourself, "if I never support another thing he does, I know GWB meant well and performed well in this case, and as an American, I can be proud of that."

There are too many who hate so much they cannot ascribe good intentions to their political foes. Intentions are not as important as outcomes, but they do matter. Start by thinking of those of us on the other side as meaning well, and then you, as a fellow American, will have a part in our successes. You and those like you will be the voices that kept us from being carried away. You will be the people who guarded the Republic from the heady brew of victory that exalts into fanaticism.

This, in truth, is why our nation is good, as well as great.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Jimmie said...

"I can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and I want a clear cut mandate, some lines to believe along."

I can give you one to think about: "People don't deserve to live under tyranny. It ought to be the job of every free person on the planet to do everything in their power to see that no one does".

 
At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, great post and great exchange with Lt Smash, who is a really interesting figure (I go back to when he was Indepundit before he went over to Iraq, and when as Lt Smash we didn't know who he was.)

But the exchange, and the link by Instapundit, were very moving to me. You are right: We can't dehumanize each other, because that eliminates the need to argue logically and factually, and eliminates the possibility to disagree honorably.

Keep on truckin'

Bill Ehart
wjehart@comcast.net

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff:

I want to congratulate you on an excellent post, that is all at once so rare, dynamic, and brave.

I'll not talk down to you while welcoming you to an ideology ,nor will I argue that you have lost your way. The kind of reflexive and critical thinking that you show here is apolitical. Understanding individual people and the singular events of their lives is not a red or blue thing.

The world is simultaneously beautiful and terrible; virtuous and despicable. Living within it shows that virtue can come from vice, and from vice, virtue.

You find yourself wishing for good guys and bad guys and clear-cut mandates. I think that this is mistaken. Your post shows the kind of perception, thoughtfulness, decency, compassion, and ethics which do not need such easy demarcations. These are shortcuts for thinking. Why would you want that, when you can think hard?

Bravo.

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I read your exchange with Lt. Smash. I added you to favorities. Your exchange with him made real the cliche--- "let us reason together."--

That is what is missing from today's political discourse. You can steal that idea if you like. I've got more.

 
At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

I kinda know how you feel about this whole issue, the confusion after being told what you have been told by people you however I have some alternate perspective for you. The people you spoke to were directly affected by Saddam the thug, these people were able to escape the tyrant and did not have anyone directly in the way of american bombs. Think from the point of view of someone who now has been directly affected by the American actions, the 6 year old girl whose parents died in front of her eyes, the family of bride and groom whose wedding was incinerated due to bad intel or shear madness or stupidity, the cases are endless - just think about it from these people's perspective and see how much they would appreciate the freedom juice.

If you must, would you accept french running USA for any period of time even if a genocide loving racist person gets elected president of USA and declares emergency to disolve both houses and starts rounding up people with dissent?

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger Ray said...

Bravo!

A principled progressive is one who holds that liberty from tyranny and dignity for the individual are among the highest ideals. Much of the Left has forgotten this in their rage over Bush. They cannot see that it is this administration that has put forward a radical vision for human freedom that is making dictators quake in fear. That Qadhafi gave up his WMD program is a direct outcome of US policy, as are the elections in Iraq. Now many in the Arab world ask "Why are the only Arab elections being held under occupation?". But for too many on the Left, it is better to make common cause with the stoners of gays and the beaters of women than to admit that Bush's radical promotion of freedom, even at times by the force of arms, can improve the human condition and shape the conduct of the world for the better.

I am glad to see that you are not part of that large segment of the Left that has become morally bankrupt.

 
At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We definitely did them some good. I'm still in Iraq, and people are sporting ink-stained fingers even now; days after voting day. Ends justified the means over here.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to get the REAL "other side" of this story. I find it annoying that people on both sides of the fence are too quick to point out the "failures" or celebrate the "victory"" instead of focusing on the reality of the situation - the election was the first major step down a long road.

BTW, one thing I find disturbing is how quick liberals are to label Bush and his people "Evil". Bush, Rove, Rumsfield, etc are NOT "Evil". Nor were President Clinton or any of his people. Disagree with them all you want, feel free to call them backwards, close minded, deceiving, etc., but they do not come close to fulfilling the label "Evil"! I find it especially interesting that the people who so strongly appose "labels" are so quick to apply them to those they disagree with...

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Nice post.
I find myself in the odd position of being a staunch liberal posting after a raft of staunch conservatives have proclaimed victory in the battle for your soul.
I'm not sure you'll even get down far enough to read this.
I live in Michigan, which has the largest population of Iraqis any state, and got to see what the election meant to them.
It was beautiful.
I am an interventionist (and I remember the anti-NATO action conservatives of the '90s), but I was opposed to the war. And for a fairly simple reason: I thought it would be conducted poorly, with rhetoric and gesture politics, and I still see deep, deep flaws in the way that it was conducted. That was one of the reasons that I voted for Kerry: I knew that he would not withdraw the troops, but I felt that he would have a better handle on making effective use of them. I still believe this war is being prosecuted poorly, and still feel Bush is a terrible leader, lacking in all qualities save smugness.
Despite the rationalizations and tu quoques of the conservatives here, we were still lied to about the rationale for war. That Clinton (who was not a liberal, despite being a Dem) believed the line does not make it true or justified. I resent being manipulated, and I would hope that you do too. If Bush had said that the primary goal for going into Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people, I would have supported him. He did not. (I could cite Strauss's belief that the people need to be lied to as a condition of neoconservatism, but this is already likely to be longer than you'll see).
And so, I am in a similar position to you: being cheered by the election, being skeptical of the President and his coterie, having to concede that good things can come from bad acts.
I am still dubious about the prospects of Iraq. As nations like Ghana can show us, merely switching to democracy and free markets does not guarantee prosperity. But instead of secretely hoping for democracy to fail, I hope that it succeeds. I hope that it prospers. I hope that the liberal ideals of universal rights extend to the Iraqi people and they are able to become a modern society. Perhaps like Sweden of the Sands.[ ;) ]
And I hope that I, and other liberals, can take this as a moment to crystalize our actions, to throw off the isolationism that makes us Buchanan's bedfellows and move toward acceptance that military interventionism can end up good for the people of the world.
There are times that I wish that we had not invaded Iraq, so that we would be more able to deal with the crises in Sudan or Nepal or Columbia, where it seems to me more people are dying. But I realize that this is an opportunity for the left to deman muscular policies of combatting injustice and tyranny. Certainly, I do not think that Bush is up to the task, but that means that people like you and I have to be.
Recognizing the beauty of self-determination doesn't make you a conservative. Perhaps those other posters might want to rexamine their own precepts and decide to become liberals. After all, we're the ones who believe in fighting injustice, aren't we?

 
At 5:09 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Josh,

As I said to Jim, I am continually surprised at the misperception that the 'liberation' argument is somehow a lie, added after the WMD discoveries (or lack thereof), or even that it is a new policy by President Bush Jr. Ding, ding: even the mission itself is called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'. The mischaracterization of the 'liberation' aspect of the mission is no less than revisionist history, and a barely sophisticated one at that.

'Iraq Liberation' was codifed as US policy by President Clinton in 1998. It was Clinton, not Bush, who made the executive decision that Saddam Hussein and his regime, and not the possession of WMD in itself, constituted the primary threat and problem. (Which is not to say I believe Clinton was wrong in doing so.) Given the hype that Bush lied to us about the 'liberation' goals, if you read the actual history leading into OIF, I think you'll be surprised to discover how little President Bush Jr actually added to the case for war in Iraq. In fact, President Clinton declared war on Iraq in Dec 1998; it's just to Clinton, 'war' amounted to a few cruise missiles and no follow-up.

In addition to the Clinton Iraq material, read President Bush's October 2002 (ie, pre-OIF) speech. It's the speech Kerry referenced in the first debate.

LINK: President Bush speech outlining Iraqi threat, Oct 2002Certainly, WMD was the center-piece argument but the 'Iraq liberation' goals were always an essential feature. As I also said to Jim, given our own American 20th century history, the 'liberation' aspect of the mission should have been implicit even if neither Clinton nor Bush Jr had repeatedly emphasized the goal.

 
At 7:21 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Eric- Reread what I said. I did not say that the liberation argument was a lie.
And despite your attempts to put this on Clinton (you know, a tu quoque fallacy, like I mentioned), the reason why we had to invade before the weapons inspectors could finish was because Saddam was supposed to be an immediate threat. (Otherwise, under UN charter, the action was illegal).
Clinton would have been just as wrong to tell us that we needed to invade because of yellow-cake uranium or Al Qaeda ties (neither of which was ever substantiated).
Perhaps that's what I find so troubling about conservatives: they have such low standards of behavior for their government.
Liberating Iraqis was the right thing to do. How it was done was wrong. I don't think that I can make it any simpler, and I'd prefer not to have a fight on a stranger's blog.

 
At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is happening alot these days.

It's sort of an "Inspector Javert on the Bridge" moment, the sudden realization that one who has been the enemy has really been, just maybe, the good guy all along.

But what's happened is really this: the political parties in the United States have turned so ugly to each other that they no longer oppose the other's ideas, just each other's existence. While pouring out the hate, they freely adopt each others's positions.

It makes it hard to be in the middle. So if I support rights for gays, abortion, immigration, environmental protection, public school and even some degree ofaffirmative action, but I also think the United States, for its own protection and the protection of all that is good in the world, has a duty to destroy terrorist supporting regimes, by force if need be, and then build non-dysfunctional societies, which side am I supposed to be on? It gets very confusing.

The irony is that the left and right have borrowed each other's positions so completely that they seem to reversed. Once upon a time, the right would support any regime, no matter how despotic, if it opposed communism. The left was with the "people". Now, the left will support any regime, no matter how despotic, as long as it opposes the Republicans. And the Republicans back the "people". The whole purple finger thing- a mass grass roots democracy solidarity symbol- that's the sort of thing the left should be FOR. Good freakin lord, if Chileans had shown their support for Allende's election with purple fingers, every student and faculty member from Columbia to Berkeley would have had his/her finger dyed purple too. Meanwhile, hundreds of "Human Shields" turned out to protect Iraqi hospitals from American bombs, not a FREAKIN ONE turned out protect an Iraqi polling place from fascist bombs- they should be ashamed. The bravery of the "human shields" turned out to be false, because it vanished when there was real need and real danger.

So, at least on the global stage. the right now does the things the left should be doing. The world is upside down. Even the whole concept of "regime change"- the real purpose, I'm convinced of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (Just like those sneaky Bushies to conceal the actual intent of an invasion in the public NAME of the invasion) should have been a left wing idea. Think about it. Hasn't the left been telling the right for decades that crime is a social problem, and that instead of locking up more and more criminals, we need to fix the societies that are creating them?

So the war on terror comes along, and all of a sudden, the left wants to do it the "right" way- lock up all the criminals! and much to our surprise, the right has a better idea- "start remaking the societies the terrorists are coming from!" Freaky.

Isn't the left the side that's been telling us how social factors breed violence and hate? Can't we see, now, that the social structures in much of the middle east- based on tyranny, religious or military or both, ARE THE PROBLEM? We really do have a "clash of civilizations", and the fact is, it will end when Saudis have no more issue with "infidel" tourists in Mecca than Italians have with non-Catholic tourists visiting the Vatican.

In the cold war, Saddam and his kind were not overthrown. All a tyrant had to do was say "I will stand against communism" and he was on our side. And the left, rightfully, criticized. Now that old dynamic is over. We do the things we should have been doing- and the left, for reasons they themselves do not understand, criticize. Fixing a society is the LEFT way of thinking, people- the RIGHT WING approach would have been to "bomb them back into the stone age."

What if we all became Republicans, and in the next presidential primary, put on the ballot someone who is lookign out for our rights on the one hand, and willing to do what's needed to bring justice into this world on the other? Does such a person exist, or do you really need a gutsy right wing idealogue to have the strength of will to re-align the middle east the way Reagan re-aligned Eastern Europe?

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Josh,

"Despite the rationalizations and tu quoques of the conservatives here, we were still lied to about the rationale for war."

Okay, I won't quibble. I'll just ask you - again - to reread the same Oct 2002 (ie, pre-war) Bush Jr speech that John Kerry cited in the 1st debate.

I don't "blame" Clinton for supplying the case and rationale for war. I do blame Clinton, Bush the father, and Bush the son for allowing the 91-03 UN Iraq mission to fester for 12! years. In addition to supporting democracy, liberals are NOT supposed to support a corrosive foreign policy that rendered us complicit in the suffering of the Iraqi people and upheld a tyrant - who we had already defeated. It's like we had fought WW2, won, and then left Hitler and Hirohito in control. How long were we going to continue our pre-OIF policy over Saddam's Iraq, Josh? What were the alternatives? I'll tell you: A, continue the pre-OIF 'containment' and sanctions policy indefinitely, or B, leave Iraq with Saddam in power, victorious. That's it. I say this not as a 'neo-con' and not as a conservative, but as a humane, 'internationalist' liberal - who actually paid attention to the cost and who protested our policy on Iraq thru the 90s. If you opposed the war, then you supported the indefinite continuation of the pre-OIF policy, and THAT is monstrous, and highly conservative.

Another correction. You're contextual understanding for the start of the military invasion is wrong. First, a non-negotiable dead-line was set, not the least reason was the practical military timetable. Second, Saddam wasn't on 'innocent until proven guilty' status, he wasn't even on probation; he was already guilty. Therefore, third, the burden of proof was on Saddam (to that end, he never fulfilled the proscribed conditions - look them up) and not on the US, it was a zero-tolerance standard, and that was necessary in order not to repeat every other inspections failure of the preceding 12 years. The dead-line was reached, and the same pattern of obstruction and delay was emerging when Bush made the call. Remember, while WMD was the popular focus, it was never the only condition Saddam had to fulfill to a zero-tolerance standard: ending his form of 'governance' and ending violation of the oil-for-food program were also non-negotiable conditions, among other conditions. Within the timeframe given, Saddam failed to fulfill the conditions he needed to preclude enforcement. As Bush Jr says in the Oct 2002 speech, if Saddam met all the conditions, by necessity, he would have been forced to change the nature of his regime - a peaceful regime change. Bush gave Saddam a chance to avoid war, and Saddam didn't take it. That's the context you're missing, Josh. The decisions that were made weren't from the 'lies' of one man or even an adminstration. They were arrived at from a 12 year path that first went wrong when Bush the father made the horrible mistake of leaving the tyrant in power in 1991. History bears out, dogmatic war-aversion, whether by conservatives or liberals, carries a heavy price.

On the minor issues, Putin has said he warned the US that Saddam was inspired by 9/11 to use his own assets to commit terror attacks on the US. The reports say that an active collaborative relationship wasn't found between Iraq and al Qaeda, but 'diplomatic' talks had certainly taken place. Numerous non-WMD military violations existed. Links have long been established between Saddam and other terror groups, which was problematic in itself in the changing transnational terror climate. We know after the fact that Saddam's WMD program had severely degraded. Before the fact, all the reports, not just ours, were either 'he still has 'em' or 'I don't know what he has', which leads back to the burden of proof, which was entirely on Saddam and not the US. The conditions he had to meet, on WMD and other military apps, on oil-for-food, on his form of governance, were transparent. He easily could have avoided war. Saddam chose not to, or he simply couldn't.

If we had chosen to avoid war by repeating the same pattern of the preceding 12 years, Saddam would still be in power, unchanged, and we would still be complicit in a provocative, harmful, failed - indefinite - policy, that was used to vilify the US for years before OIF. In fact, Osama's 1998 declaration of war was centered on US mistreatment of Iraq.

Things were F'ed up, Josh - you and I agree there. But far less is Bush's fault than you think. The mess of the corrective process has been years in the making, from the European reaction, to the wrong military force structure, to a confused American populace. Bush inherited a situation that was bad and getting worse.

I give you a liberal's perspective, Josh. If you are a liberal, then you should you also understand why Iraq has, and had, everything to do with winning the war on terror. For my part, on 9/11, 2001, when I as a citizen asked this President to send our troops into war, and an unknown number of them to their deaths, I asked him to make their sacrifice worthy by solving causes with global liberal solutions, and not squander their lives on revenge. Any thoughtful liberal should have understood, without the President explaining, that to win the war on terror, it couldn't just be about the Taliban and al Qaeda. Given where we were, we had to solve the Iraq problem, 10 years earlier let alone continue the same policy through 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and beyond. I don't like Bush much, he's never been my first choice for President, and I can see his shortcomings, but I know an ugly, unpopular, misunderstood job when I see it. I can appreciate the guts it takes to make hard, necessary decisions in that climate. What standard do I hold for elected officials? Well, I'll put it this way. If 9/11 hadn't happened, and changed all the cost/benefit equations, I have ZERO doubt Bush would have passed the buck on Iraq - like the politician he was. When he took on the mess of Iraq, as well as your criticism, he became a real leader. Perhaps, he has failed a politician's standard, but he's done much better by a leader's standard.

Tom Barnett, another 'liberal hawk', sums it up well in The Iraq election and other things.

 
At 2:03 AM, Blogger just me said...

Bet you never thought you'd get this many comments on one post! :)
Your honest with yourself, or at least becoming so, and that's what really matters. We can agree to disagree on many things, IF we're willing to look at the FACTS, not just listen to the retoric.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Eric-
Again, I'll keep this brief as to not fill up another man's blog unduly.
First off, you have stuffed my position with straw in order to beat it. If you read, you know, the words that I had typed, you'd see that I said I was a pro-intervention liberal. Pro-intervention means that I am, generally, in favor of meddling in other nations sovereign decisions, with force if necessary. I hate to condescend to you, but you didn't seem to get it the first time.
Your A/B is a false dichotomy there, Eric. The options were not "invade immediately" or "let Saddam fester forever." That's a fallacy, and one that the right is particularly prone to. The option C, the one that I would have prefered, would be to invade on the grounds of humanitarian intervention, with a full and capable plan for the reconstruction. If we had waited until, say, 2003 to do so (if coming up with a cogent plan took that long), or if we waited longer in the interest of doing things correctly, that would be infinitely more justified than a trumped-up charge of WMD and a rush to topple statues and pose for pictures.
So, wow, it's almost like someone can be in favor of intervening and against doing it poorly. Kind of like how someone can be in favor of arresting criminals, and be against a police state. Do you see the distinction?
And the use of force was predicated upon the continuing violation of UNSecCon resolutions, not on Oil-For-Food or Saddam's regime. Perhaps you're not familiar with the UN charter. The use of legitimate force can only be authorized by the Security Council (except in cases of self-defense), and despite authorizing "serious consequences" (which, when applied to Israel or Libya meant a ceasation of diplomatic ties) there was no authorization of force. That means, in order to be legal, there had to be some credible threat to the US. Hence, the WMD argument.
Again, if the reason had been couched in going to war in order to rectify human rights abuses, I would not have as serious a problem with it.
As for the "burden of proof," you seem (along with most hawks) to have forgotten a central tennet of logic: you cannot prove a negative. Saddam could not prove that he had destroyed the weapons, because he did not have the weapons. And, in case you forget the context, this was pretty well-known before the invasion (with a lengthy article coming out in Feb. 2002 in the New Yorker about how it was widely believed within the CIA that the weapons Saddam was charged with having constructed had never been built, rather that his scientists and underlings had simply lied to him).
Further, Eric, though I respect your talking points, there is no war on terror. You can't have a war on a feeling. You can't even have a proper war against terrorists, as they are disparate groups united by ideology. You can combat an ideology and the actions of those united by the ideologies, but fighting a war on terror is merely a hollow bit of jingoism.
And that bit of jingoism is overly simplistic. Can't you agree that Al Qaeda does have some legitimate points? And that, under the rules that the US, Israel and Russia have chosen to engage their opponents, that places like the Petagon and World Trade Center (including a CIA office) were legitimate targets?
Again, before your ire gets up and you try to spin this as an apologea, note that I think it was a terrible thing that happened on 9/11. But the problem with ideologies is that each side priveledges theirs over the other's.
Which is, again, one of my central objections to the unilateral vigilante spirit which you, and other conservatives, seem to embrace. The US is continually excoriated for having such a high portion of its population in prison, and for continuing to use the death penalty. Should we be invaded for that? What about our complicity in the deaths of the Kurds in '89? Should we have been invaded for that?
I supported invading Afghanistan back in 1996, when they had first taken over and the waves of repression started. Unfortunately, we were in the former Yugoslavia at the time, and it seemed to be on the back burner. I also support rebuilding Afghanistan far more than we have done, since we've left it in such a precarious position (despite elections) that it is again a terrorist breeding ground and a place of resentment over US policy.
I support the removal of Saddam Hussein, and think that we shouldn't have supplied him with weapons during the '80s, and that we probably should have tried a little harder to remove him under Bush I. That does not mean that I support the way in which this particular operation was handled or that I support the way in which it was pitched to the American public. I can support the ends without supporting the means (just like I can support Saudi Arabia punishing theives, but can't support them cutting off hands).
I am not against war, except needless war (and you might remember that a desire to leap too easily into war has brought nothing good either), I just believe in a higher ideal for America, one in which we are open and honest, and one where we truly do act in ways that command the respect of the world through admiration, not through bullying. If we are to be the best nation on the Earth, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethics on the Earth.
But alas, there doesn't seem to be a place for people like me in the debate over the war... Because either you're with us or against us, right? And dissent is unpatriotic...

(Oh, and for the other commenter who facetiously asked why us liberals can't just believe that the Operation Iraqi Freedom was summed up in its name... Well, maybe because of the Clear Skies initiative, which weakened coal regulation, or the Healthy Forests initiative, which undermined DoI enforcement, or the No Child Left Behind act which left quite a few children behind. This administration has been nigh-Orwellian in its naming shenanigans, so you're going to have to cut us some slack if we don't drink the Kool Aid quite as quickly as you do. There is, occassionally, a reason for skeptisism regarding the Bush White House).

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger Chap said...

I came here from Smash's site.

I am struck by the power in these people, and of your photos and descriptions.

The world is complex and tough, indeed, and I appreciate your honesty in trying to deal with that complexity in such a forthright manner. I know you and I would disagree with some things political. However, we are clearly working with some common principles.

In my own life I've spent some time working as part of one group paired with another group--Korean and American submariners, European businessmen and American military, and so forth. I have learned that the important thing to success is to find what's common, while holding on to one's own core beliefs, and move forward together on those common things.

May I also be able to be as clear and honest on my own site.

Thanks very much for the inspiration.

 
At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so its all a success because of an election, one which marginalises the sunni population, will probably install a puppet US regime to a backdrop of mayhem and death. in fallujah bands of dogs roamed the streets eating the corpses littering the streets, not only of "insurgents" but of women and children killed by US soliders.

this is democracy? a "shining beacon of hope for the world"?

if america is truly about spreading democracy i wonder why saudi arabia isn't on your list, or china or burma. you bring "democracy" when it suits you, when it really means trade liberalisation in americas favour. when there is no economical or military advantage america could not give a hoot for peoples lives under a dictatorship. if you want to be distracted by the smoke and mirrors of this administration thats up to you.

as for the next misadventure in iran, the next step in your path to making america the most reviled nation on earth, don't be suprised when the rest of the world declines to join you no matter what lies are presented to us.

 
At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Jeff,

I'm another person that voted for Bush, although I did it holding my nose. I'm a federal employee and tend to do better personally when Democrats are in power, not that I'm especially deserving of the benefit. Call me a "Swarzenegger Conservative" in that I tend to be fiscally conservative and otherwise pretty liberal, and President Bush doesn't seem to be pinching many pennies. That seemed to work for me until 9/11, when I had to reconsider all of my opinions.

What you wrote was very inspiring and I admire your honesty. I, too, was inspired by the Iraqi elections, and those ink-stained fingers brought me to tears. I have long admired the founders of our own nation, and wonder who will be Iraq's Washington, Jefferson, and Adams? History will tell, and I am glad to be alive in such momentous times.

But the dialogue here gives me pause. I see all the accolades from the "other" side, and a few qualified "good jobs" from the less zealous liberals, but I also see phrases like "the most reviled nation on earth" applied to our country by people with very selective ability with the "shift" key.

I'm new to this medium and I'm not sure if I was reading the first or the last post, but I'm not sure that anonymous turd-hurlers benefit the discussion. On the other hand, there may be "diamonds in the rough", so I wouldn't want to squelch the whiners too much.

I did want to address the "WMD Lie" issue from a perspective I haven't seen here. I work in the "community" and I know very well the sources of bad information. The media seem to think that the intelligence community is made up of super-men with super-powers. It ain't so. They all put their pants on one leg at a time, and they all need to please their bosses to keep their jobs. That means covering their as***. It is much easier to say "there MAY be WMD's" than it is to say "there are NO WMD's".

I'm constantly amazed by people who think the "government" is hiding aliens from Roswell. The "government" couldn't hide a donut from a blind man.

The President, and the Congress (who, BTW, also must put their pants on one leg at a time) are at the mercy of an enormous, self-serving, self-perpetuating, bureaucracy. That's where we need to start reform.

Calling each other names won't do it.

csnarl@earthlink.net

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all fukking bullsht.

US put Saddam in power.

US put the Shah in power.

Bush's dad should be in prison with Saddam.

Or are middle easterners the only ones who's crimes we're supposed to remember and we're supposed to demonize?

 
At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Arthur Dent said...

Jeff:

Great article!

But now that your eyes are open you need to look around a bit more.

You left a post at www.lastsuperpower.net objecting to a comment there that the three hardest words in the English language to say are "Bush was right".

In that comment you refer to that site as "part of the rightist blogosphere".

Why did you assume that? Simply because it points out that you still can't admit that "Bush was right" - in a comment praising your "gutsy" article.

That indicates you simply haven't come across the view that Bush was lying about WMDs and had a different agenda, worth supporting on liberating Iraq - just as you hadn't come across the actual views of Iraqis before interviewing them. So find out more about what others have been saying.

That site took it for granted all along that Bush was lying about WMDs and attempted to initiate a debate with Noam Chomsky in May 2003 about whether Bush's real policy was "draining the swamps" after supporting the invasion of of Iraq on those grounds while Bush was still lying about WMDs.

It has links to the "left blogosphere" which you should also explore. But its specific position is more "hard left", and specifically revolutionary communist than the rest of the pro-war left.

Here's what you wrote there (link is the URL for my name).

Actually, I think you misread my blog.

I didn't say that Bush was right. I actually said the three hardest words ANYONE can say: "I was wrong."

Read the comments on that article, and you'll see an overwhelmingly condescending tone coming from the partisan conservatives on there...it's pretty gross. I've got news for you and the rest of the rightist blogosphere--once you get done drying your tears of joy at my openmindedness, it's your turn to open your minds and admit some wrongs yourself. My side's not the only one that draws caricatures and jams its head in the sand.

Read this:

riverbendIt's poetic, real, and no more in favor of Saddam than the US. Read it and then see if you have the guts to concede its validity as well.
No I don't concede that riverbend is right, though I'll be happy to discuss that with you (as somebody else has in a reply to you there).

But I have no trouble "conceding" that Bush was right because he is now saying what people on the left have ALWAYS been saying.

The condescending tone from conservatives here is indeed gross. Their inability to admit that Bush was so obviously lying about the aim of the war when he pretended it was about WMDs explains why it was necessary for him to lie.

Whether or not there were any WMDs in Iraq (and Bush may or may not have thought there were) it would obviously have been impossible to persuade these conservatives, let alone the US Congress to authorize spending over a billion dollars a week on a war aimed at reversing the traditional US policy of propping up tyranny there in the name of "stability".

As soon as the war was launched, Bush started publicly admitting his real agenda and naturally conservatives, being what they are, proudly and patriotically went along with it. They still cannot admit that they actually got conned into launching a revolutionary war for democracy, because after all, what kind of conservative would advocate that? It had to be launched with rhetoric that would scare them into it because conservatives are into fear, not liberation.

(I should concede however that some on the right, specifically some neocons, did indeed openly support a revolutionary democratic position while most of the "left" were still in total confusion and the Bushies were still trying to avoid admitting the complete bankruptcy of their own foreign policy establishment)

Anyway my point is that you still have some blinkers on if you assume that an obviously "left" site which takes it for granted that Bush is a liar must be part of the rightist blogosphere because it is willing to say the three words that you still won't.

Taking off those blinkers won't make the smug conservative "patriots" look any better than they do now. But it will enable you to understand why the Bush administration had to lie to them and you'll see a lot more with the blinkers off completely.

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Wow. What an interesting blog, and what an interesting discussion! The people who want to confine the great questions of foreign policy to an elite are wrong, wrong, wrong. There are lots of smart people out there, capable of going beyond simplistic rationales for war, or peace.

 
At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jan 30th 2005, I was in Mosul, Iraq, watching the elections as I rode around in my tank, supposedly trying to make people feel safe.

Wasn't necessary. It was a three-day party, every street had football games as there was no traffic allowed (One had a volleyball game, the net blocked our tanks, we picked a different road), and you could just see the sheer happiness of people voting. Only thing was, nobody told us about the purple finger thing, so we had no idea why they kept showing us their fingers.

Even if the rest of my year was a bit of a waste, that one day of voting made it seem worthwhile.

 
At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Rosie said...

These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

 
At 6:33 PM, Anonymous dearherb said...

You have a very short view of history. But if you ask your computer to inform you of the bloodlines and the Nazi connections.
You don't really know the present, If you know little, of the past.
Do a search connectioning Bush Rothschild I G Farbin International banking.
This will give you a better prospective and perhaps a revelation.

 
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At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for trying to find a way to find some reasoning, when things have to get done, people want things done but dont want to take the responsability of that action, you cant end war, it is like the begining of time but we can hope for a better future and be more open, those people deserve freedom, women deserve freedom, i pray for all in the war, especially my american troops who through it all did the best they could for a country of americans who couldn't support them and call them murders, those are the same people who let murders out of jail, and rapists back on the streets, and helps pediphiles hide next to our schools. good luck to you, I also wouldn't want the job of the president, to be hated and loved all at the same time. people sometimes hate the wrong things in life, and spend to much energy on hateing, and not the energy for understanding, which is the hardest!!!!

 
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