I supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq when it occurred in 2003. I voted for Bush twice. I put up a sign in my yard showing my support. The war made a lot of sense to me. Saddam had lost a war with us in 1991, and as a condition of his surrender he had agreed to disarm. All the intelligence agencies indicated that he wasn't disarming. Also 5000 children were dying every month due to U.N. sanctions that deprived kids of medical supplies and food. Starvation is a terrible way to die. I'm a person that is saddened by this type of suffering. I was willing to spend my tax dollars to help. Also, I believed this action would make the world safer. I believed Islam was a little bit crazy. Their doctrines for some reason led them to do strange violent things for seemingly irrational reasons, such as what occurred on 9/11. We needed to stabilize that region.
This was my starting paradigm. But slowly over the next few years certain facts started to undermine this paradigm. The first thing that I recall was the success of the Iraqi soccer team in the 2004 Olympics. I was pleased that they did well, knowing that they wouldn't be taken home and beaten for failure, as would likely occur if Saddam were still in power. President Bush expressed his pleasure at their success. But the players' reaction to Bush astounded me. They attacked him and American foreign policy in Iraq vitriolicly. They seemed to hate us. Those ungrateful bastards!! How can they speak of us this way after all we've done for them? Would they rather be going home to be beaten by Saddam? This made no sense to me. Within my paradigm, that is.
The next step in my shift resulted from contact with some Muslim people. I became friends with a colleague at work from Pakistan. At this point I had abandoned my previous Christian faith, but I said to my Muslim friend "I have to tell you, if I were an alien from another planet and I came to earth and picked a religion simply based upon the behavior of the adherents, I would take Christianity over Islam. Pat Robertson may be crazy, but he's not violent. Same with Falwell or Benny Hinn. You guys are violent. You must be in the wrong." My friend responded by asserting that I am looking at a very narrow window of history. It is true that Islam today appears more violent, in that Middle Eastern countries seem less stable. But consider the last 14 centuries. Islam looks very good in comparison with Christianity when considering that window. Also look at the teachings of the Qur'an. There is no reason to conclude that it is more violent than the Bible. He provided me with some resources to consider his claim. I looked into it.
I found a couple of good PBS documentaries (available at the library) that seemed to confirm his claims. These were Islam: Empire of Faith and The Crusades. Christianity doesn't look so great in comparison to Islam in these videos. I also scoured the internet looking for violent teachings from the Qur'an. I challenged anti-Muslim friends of mine to likewise show that the Qur'an is inordinately violent. There are a few things that aren't great, but certainly no worse than the Bible. One example critics often point to is Sura 9. If you'll look at my comments here, this doesn't really work.
The next component in the evolution of my thinking involved the failure to find WMD in Iraq. Ultimately we want to take military action when there is a threat to our own national security, and WMD was that threat. Without the WMD I started to wonder if this had been a mistake. It was great that people were able to be free, but perhaps if the goal is to make the U.S. and the world safe maybe the half a trillion would have been better spent elsewhere. But I can't blame Bush. The whole world thought he had WMD, as did the Democrats. Perhaps he was wrong, but it wasn't a lie. Bush probably thought he did have them. Still, I have to be unhappy about what Bush did. He may have meant well, but he's the top dog. He has to share some of the blame for this huge blunder. But regardless, we're in Iraq now. We have to finish the job and make the region stable.
My confidence in my Republican president was shaken, but not destroyed. Anybody can make a mistake, and this was an understandable one. Then I watched another show on PBS. Bill Moyer's Buying the War. This was an eye opener. He showed with video clips that this was more than incompetence. This was an effort to persuade us to go to war without good evidence, and the media itself was complicit.
This was very depressing for me. Now I started to think that Bush wasn't just honestly mistaken. He was at best incompetent, and at worst intentionally misleading us. He had gotten us into a war for the wrong reasons. And this war wasn't going well. Deficits were skyrocketing. And there didn't seem to be any good solution. I'm not sure we can afford to continue to fight this war, yet we couldn't just leave. Could we?
Enter Ron Paul at the South Carolina debate. He claimed that they don't attack us because we're free and prosperous. They attack us because we're over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. How would we feel if China built military bases in our country? How would we feel if China overthrew our legitimately elected leaders and installed their own? We need to look at things from the perspective of how we would feel if these things were done to us.
This was a complete revelation. Is he right? I had to look into it. I started to dig into things and Paul's assertions seemed to be true. I learned other things I was unaware of. One fact hit me pretty hard. It was about the starving children in Iraq. It was the U.S. and Britain that had forced this issue. Apparently Madeleine Albright was asked on 60 minutes in '96 whether the half a million dead children (at that point) was worth it. She said it was. This statement, which received widespread coverage in foreign press, was barely mentioned domestically.
And here was the real kick in the crotch. While I was unaware of this until it was needed as an excuse for war, Michael Moore, who in my view was a leftist crackpot, was well aware of it and was breaking laws smuggling food to these poor starving children in the year 2000! How is it that he, as a liberal crazy person, knows about this and is risking much to do something about it, and yet I as a supposedly more enlightened conservative was so in the dark?
What else am I in the dark about? If I'm wrong, someone please correct me, but there are a few other things I stumbled upon that the press didn't talk about that I think they should have talked about.
1-The U.S. initially may have given Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait
2-Bush the Elder justified the war with complete lies about babies in incubators
3-There is a lot of history worth knowing unknown to most Americans regarding our dealings with Iran that truly justifies their hatred of us
4-The U.S. has killed a lot of people without provocation. Consider tiny Laos, an impoverished country. We dropped more bombs on them then were dropped during the entirety of WWII, forcing residents to live in caves.
Due to this and other revelations, my old paradigm had crumbled. Our supposed free press, which in my opinion had to be amongst the best in the world, in fact could not be trusted to inform the people of what the real issues are. The politicians that I had supported were starting wars for reasons that weren't in fact being made clear at the time, and the real motivations simply weren't noble. The country I thought I lived in didn't really exist. I liked thinking that life was as simple as saying that they're the bad guys and we're the good guys. I liked thinking that we were the greatest nation in the world and the world's hatred of us was jealousy and irrationality. That vision of my country is gone now, and it's a sad, sad day.