Thursday, August 25, 2005

For America? 

I don't blog about politics usually because it typically sparks fruitless, simplifying, polemicizing, mean-spirited remarks. But I have to raise this one question. I was watching the evening news and, as has been the custom of late, there was a story about Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq who has been protesting the war outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, TX. The story was not so much about Ms. Sheehan, as it was about the movements she has sparked, both for and against her. It seems she is now an icon, of sorts. Signs are going up on front yards - "Cindy Sheehan speaks for me!"; ""Cindy Sheehan does NOT speak for me!" One lady who was interviewed was livid with Sheehan as she exclaimed on national television, "She's saying America's not worth fighting for! How can a person say that?"

I did not realize we were over there "fighting for America". Has the war come to our coasts? No. In what way has the U.S. led invasion of Iraq affected American living? To contrast, in what way has it affected Iraqi living? As a friend of mine recently put it, in his most Harvard politically correct way, "Iraq is permafucked." No, I don't think we are "fighting for America", nor do I think that Cindy Sheehan is saying that America is not worth fighting for. Indeed, it is. America is my home and I want my shores defended as much as anyone else. But let us not confuse the issue. Invading Iraq was not fighting to defend America. To give the most credit possible to the administration that has led us to this war, one could say that invading Iraq was "fighting for democracy". And that's giving a lot of credit. But, not "fighting for America."

Nor do I agree with all of the war protesters who say we should pull out of Iraq now, that we should get all U.S. presence out of there. No, that would also be wrong, at this stage in the game. It is challenging for my pacifist self to say this. Iraq is more dangerous now than ever it was under Hussein's dictatorship. We created a big mess and we need to clean it up. I hesitate to say this, but I think even the President is coming around to realizing that. So, let us call a spade a spade; let us take off the rose colored glasses; let us remember the real battles that were fights for America. To call this war a fight for America does a grave disservice to those folks who actually gave their lives winning us our freedom, actually defending our country -- and I don't want to be a part of that.



It looks like Ryan is okay with "fighting for America" and nothing else. Were we "frighting for America" in Korea, or in Europe twice in the last century or in Viet Nam? I remember a time when America fought with itself in the 1860's, and when America fought with the Brits a couple times... on our shores, so that was ok? It seems to me that this women with the son who was killed is following an unjust path of logic. Each death is terrible and to be deeply regretted; but, it occurs that the son volenteered to fight, and that it was his decision not his Mom's and that he was HIS OWN MAN, not the properity of his mom. Read somewhere recently that "ownership" of the child ends at birth, "responsibility" continues for some time. I can imagine no pain worse than the death of a child, but this lady is a political pawn and is being used by the media and the politicians. I am surprise to hear that Daniel Shore of NPR has not blamed Pres. Bush for the lastest hurricane!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:20 PM  

Dear Anon.,

"It looks like Ryan is okay with "fighting for America" and nothing else."

Now, I've not said that at all. Not one iota. What I have said is that this woman who was interviewed about Cindy Sheehan put words in Ms. Sheehan's mouth and unfairly and, I believe, untruthfully, declared that Sheehan believes that America is not worth fighting for. Allow me to repeat myself. I don't think Sheehan has ever said that. I have also said that I don't believe that the current war in Iraq qualifies as "fighting for America". I did not say that some things are not worth fighting for, besides the strict defense of America. Certainly, among the examples you have provided, WWII was a war that needed to be fought. What I am calling for is a more careful use of rhetoric. Not all wars are "fighting for America" and thus, we don't need to say that all wars that involve American soldiers are such.

"..but this lady is a political pawn and is being used by the media and the politicians."

Whether she started out as such or not, she likely is now. See my remark where I referred to her as an icon, of sorts. 'Pawn' might be the more pejorative way of communicating the idea I was getting at.

Thank you for your comment. Please do me and the other readers the courtesy of signing your name next time. Peace be with you.


By Blogger Ryan, at 5:07 PM  

I think it's safe to say that most reasonable people would consider fighting "for one's country" to be a justifiable reason for going war. After all, when the chips are down and the fight isn't just on your doorstep but in your own home, it's rather difficult to justify waiting for the worst to happen. However, the trick in establishing some kind of opinion on foreign policy is deciding how far "one's country" extends. That's a good question, and like all good questions it doesn't have an easy answer. I like having America be its own country instead of some sort of England: the Sequel, but I also like living in a world where Nazis are a fringe group at best. We've fought very justifiable wars in the past to make these things happen, yet they comprise the two different ends of the "for America" spectrum, and I can see no reason to consistently label either kind as "bad."

As for the current situation, the most I can say is that to bring soldiers and families of soldiers into the public eye and vilify them is, bluntly speaking, to completely miss a point made in eighth grade civics courses across the country. These people sign up to serve their country, not to create policy or decide whether a conflict is just or not. Anyone who disagrees with the war has a conflict with the President and Congress - not the Army.

By Blogger BrotherBeal, at 5:40 PM  

To anonymous:

Actually, in Korea, both world wars, Vietnam, the two wars against the British, and our own Civil War, the reason given was that we were fighting for America.

In Korea and Vietnam, it was because of the so-called Domino Theory. In the two world wars, we entered extraordinary late in the game, because we had to be sold on the personal risk of allowing Germany to win. The two wars against the British were certainly on our own land, fighting for America (the dream of America in one, then some of our land in the other). The Civil War was fighting for America, to keep it together, rather than have two countries.

The current Iraqi war was also sold on the premise that it was "fighting for America." Bush claimed that there were weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam sponsored terrorism. It just turns out that Bush lied to us (which should have been obvious to anybody paying attention at the time).

According to the history of our foreign policy, the only (official) reason that we ever go to war is to fight for America, to defend ourselves. Gulf I was the first case were that was not the case (or at least, the first overt war where that was not the case, ignoring all of the coups that we started in Latin America), then there was Kosovo.

Let's look at some cases were we did not intervene/have not intervened - Rwanda, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo. All good cases were we could be protecting people.

Then there are cases were we send a few troops, like Haiti, but nothing substantial that could actually be effective.

I think that Ryan is completely justified in arguing that we should only fight to defend American (if that is what he is saying, which he did not say). He would simply be following the American tradition.

However, if we want to fight for something other than America, how about we start creating a framework, a set of criteria, about proper intervention. I'll begin - genocide. The US has a moral obligation to intervene in self-defense and genocide. Please add to the list if you want.

About Mrs. Sheehan and her son - yes, he was his own man, but when the president lied to us and to her son about the reason why we are there, she is justified to be upset about it, and to remind us that there are real families being hurt by this war that Bush started. Especially since we cannot view the caskets coming home.

The ad hominen on NPR is unfounded.

Another Anonymous

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 AM  

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