You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

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Location: Vancouver, WA, United States

There are some things going on in this world that bother me ... that offend me ... that don't make sense, and never will. I dedicate this site to those who seek truth even where it is difficult to find, and who are willing to agree and disagree in principle, while steadfastly refusing to let irrelevant detail overshadow core truth.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burr Under My Saddle

What are we thinking (War on terrorism, Iraq, etc.)?

For months, years in fact, we've been listening to our politicians and bureaucrats and, let us not forget the news media, on the subject of the war in Iraq. Even now, front running politicians of the party that hopes to win back the Presidency next year are differentiated largely by the degree to which they agreed with initiating the action in Iraq in the first place. One says he never agreed with it; others say it sounded like a good idea at the time, but doesn’t anymore – and, by the way, they were right then and they are right now; still others say that while it seemed like a good idea then, they were wrong. Who cares? Not I … not really. Do you (virtual show of hands, please)?

Throughout these years I’ve told myself, “You’re just one person; what can you possibly hope to do?” After all, more money is spent on just one tank deployed in Iraq today than I will pay in a lifetime of income taxes. I have no clout, no position of power … no leverage. In the meantime, our news is overwhelmed with polarizing messages, like the hundreds of billions of dollars that have already been spent on this war, and to point out that more than 3,000 Americans have sacrificed their lives fighting in unrighteous war. There was even a recent blog revealing the grim truth that more Americans have now died in Iraq than did during the 9/11 attack. (In comparison, we lost nearly three times as many Marines in one week on Iwo Jima than were lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor; and twice as many as have died over four years in Iraq.) That very same article goes on to say that we’re not even fighting the same enemy that attacked us, splitting the hair because Al Qaeda is not based in Iraq.

What are we thinking? Another virtual show of hands: how many of you reading this opinion – and that is exactly what this is, an opinion – how many believe that it is OK for someone to strap 60 pounds of explosives on his back and walk into a large crowd of innocent people to blow himself up? Anyone? I don’t think so. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we’re fighting … not Al Qaeda, not Sunnis or Shiites, or Moslems or Atheists, not the Republicans or Democrats, not even people. We are fighting a belief system inbred over centuries that says it is OK – no, it is necessary – to kill hundreds or even thousands of innocents (actually, I think they call them non-believers) to please their percept of God. It’s illogical and it is wrong - wrong from every possible point of view; and it has been wrong for thousands of years. The only difference now is the weapons that they are using to impose these atrocities against their fellow man.

We won’t solve this overnight or even by fighting a war in any one country, no matter how many lives are sacrificed. Does that mean we should simply stop what we’re doing right now, pull back our troops and come home? Maybe - maybe not. Suppose we did stop. Another virtual show of hands – but I warn you, this one is a tougher question than the last one: Does anyone believe that if we did stop, the various factions would eventually quit killing one another? Does anyone believe that there would never be another attack on us like the one carried on September 11, 2001? I don’t see anyone’s hand raised, because no reasonable person believes either of these to be true. We all agree that it’s wrong, and in our hearts we suspect that if we don’t take some action to stop it, it will continue well into the future … until there is no more future. Yet we act as though we would rather defer any action to our children and grandchildren. We put our heads into the sand and pretend all is well.

I, for one, just think we’re going about it wrong. Today, despite what the politicians and news media would have us believe, there is no single cure for this disease that infects us. There may be a collection of remedies that can slow it down, quell its momentum, while we muster the ultimate cure and eventually eradicate it altogether. If you accept the disease analogy, consider polio and tuberculosis, or even the disease of smoking. It took a concerted effort on all fronts including medical research, marketing and a considerable amount of education to turn those tides; and it did not happen quickly. I tend to prefer to compare terrorism to the behavior of a forest fire, but I won’t belabor the point here. Just think about it.

The point I would like to make here is: we’re spending a bunch of money, money we really don’t have, fighting an ever increasingly unpopular war, with very little to show for it. And it seems to me we’re even doing that wrong, with ground troops going from building to building, chasing down leads from potentially unreliable sources. Close your eyes; think of our own War for Independence more than 200 years ago. How do you picture the enemy? Redcoats you say? Yep; but in Iraq, we are the Redcoats and we are trying to fight the enemy with traditional tactics. Again, what are we thinking?

We have the technology to do so much better; why aren’t we employing it? Surely, many of you saw the recent demonstration of the iPhone by Steve Jobs of Apple computer. During that demo, he showed Google maps where he pulled down and zoomed-in on an aerial photograph of the Washington Monument. Although commercial use of satellite photographs is far less detailed than can actually be obtained, you can still see the streets around the Monument, cars and busses on those streets, even little dots that he said were people. So, how much would it cost to put a satellite over Iraq, one with sufficient resolution to show every street, every path, every vehicle, and every pedestrian moving anywhere in Baghdad, or even in all of Iraq? A far lot less than $200 Billion, is my guess. How long would it take? Less than the 4 years we’ve been in Iraq, I’d bet. Now, when a car explodes in a square, we could pull up the pictures taken in the minutes and hours preceding the event and track that car back to its origin, to where they loaded up the explosives. Even if, in the meantime, the people responsible had moved to other locations, we would have pictures of that movement as well. Ultimately, there would be no place to hide. Put another satellite or two over Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Iran; trace the influx of explosives and weaponry. What are they going to do, shoot the satellites down? They don’t have that technology to do that yet. OK, I’m a little guilty of a gross over-simplification of the solution, but there are greater minds than mine who are capable of making something like this work. What is stopping them?

Suppose it did work and we were able to eradicate these terrorist cells, one-by-one. This is tantamount to tamping out those little splinter fires that frequently jump out of the main body of the conflagration. It is necessary, but it is also insufficient, and only has merit if it is part of a greater plan; one that simultaneously attacks the main body of the fire. This cannot be done by fighting people with bombs and bullets, it has to be done by capturing their mindshare; something that can only achieved through massive input of information and long-term re-education. Remember, the real enemy is the instilled belief that killing innocent people is, somehow, righteous. One does not kill an idea or belief with a bullet. It can only be accomplished by changing the belief system … through education ... and that takes time. There is no quick fix here.

Still, doing nothing is wrong. Continuing to do what we’re doing now seems to be equally as wrong. I, for one, won’t cast my vote for anyone who spends another minute trying to convince me that what he or she did 4-5 years ago was right or wrong. I don’t care … it’s a waste of time. I will vote for the person – male or female, black or white, that can look me in the eye and talk to me straight – make me believe that he or she has a viable plan and is capable of acting upon it. Show of hands (votes) – anyone with me here?