The Other I

January 9, 2012

My big mistake

Filed under: Political thoughts — theotheri @ 3:50 pm

One of the biggest errors of political judgement I have made in my adult life was in relation to the Iraq war.  Despite the fact that my husband, friends, and most colleagues were against the U.S. invasion from the beginning, I was influenced by my legacy of World War II.

As a result,  I was much more sympathetic to the idea of a just war.  It seemed to me there is a time when nations must do whatever is in their power to do to stop a government-directed rampage of genocide.

I still cannot dismiss this conviction outright.  I still think that when we can, each of us as individuals and as societies must do what we can to eliminate injustice.  “What we can,” though, is a much more difficult reality to assess than I ever realized in my naiveté.

The death and destruction, or what Rumsfeld called “shock and awe”, that are achieved by modern weapons of destruction is one thing to remember.  Is Iraq really better off now, are people living better lives in greater security and peace, after ten years of U.S. occupation than they were under Saddam Hussein?

But the error I made in first supporting the Iraq war was not to under-estimate the destruction of modern weaponry.  Or even to over-estimate our ability to bring peace to Iraq once we were there.  Rather it was to believe what our governments told us.  I can hardly bring myself to admit it, but I believed them when they said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction of sufficient range to attack Europe and even Britain.

And what I fear is that they are at it again.  This time it’s Iran’s purported nuclear arsenal and potential weapons of mass destruction.

Oh but I’m sure it’s not oil this time like it was in Iraq.

I’m sure it’s not power.

Oh I’m sure that this time the government isn’t exaggerating or distorting or burying information.

I’m sure that this time the government is telling us only the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But.



  1. Read something by John Dear SJ. He has a column in NCR! It always makes me feel sooo sad to find out I have been lied to. I actually cried during Michael Moore’s movie on health care!


    Comment by kay lent — January 9, 2012 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

    • Kay – thank you so much for your kind words. Rather than sad, I’ve been more apt to indulge in feeling rather stupid. And certainly a lot less trusting of my own judgments of the political scene out there. On the other hand, there are the Republican candidates for the presidency… I will join you in breaking down in tears. Terry


      Comment by theotheri — January 10, 2012 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  2. It’s an old tactic, isn’t it–the imminent threat (“Czechoslovakia is a dagger pointed at the heart of Germany!”) we seem to fall for it every time. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The Maine. Who knows what else?

    I saw that 60 Minute interview with Madeleine Albright again the other night where she is asked if the death of 500,000 children in Iraq was worth it. She was asked twice, and she barely flinched before stating that, yes, it was. When we have reached that stage, I think we’ve passed some critical line. And we seem to reach that line and pass it every time we go to war, even in so-called just wars. They seem to turn into killing almost for killing’s sake (see Slaughterhouse Five).

    Heinrich Boll said that every killing in every war is a murder. I’m not sure he was very far from being right.


    Comment by pianomusicman — January 16, 2012 @ 4:17 am | Reply

  3. Unfortunately we live in a society where those at the top, wether it be finance, pharmaceuticals, media, and food all exist for the purpose of getting nations no matter communist, socialist, or capitalist into more debt. Debt that is and never will be able to be repaid as this debt is passed from generation to generation.

    War is the ultimate way of creating more debt and the “mainstream media” war propaganda will not cease for any reason.


    Comment by aldo — January 21, 2012 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

    • Aldo – Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. Personally I agree with part of what you say but suspect not all of it.

      First of all, the down side of debt and its relationship with war: One would have to be living in another world than this one to miss the destruction that out-of-control debt has caused. And it is galling to see those who designed the disaster continuing to rake in huge bonuses, sometimes just for leaving the sinking ship. And yes, war is often the means by which governments get a stalled economy going again. I think there is little doubt that World War II contributed significantly to ending the Great Depression. It’s something that makes me worry — how tempted will governments today be to engage in a war they think will get the factories running a full capacity, and unemployment back down to acceptable levels?

      On the other hand, we’ve been fighting wars for tens of thousands of years. Debt or debt relief is not the only case of war. Eliminating debt isn’t going to solve our propensity to go to fight.

      I suspect you think debt is always bad and banks are always run by greedy people with no other aim than personal enrichment. I think the evidence is that both debt and banks can make a useful – maybe even essential – contribution to our welfare. They are rather like fire – potentially extremely destructive on the one hand and potentially constructive on the other.

      Which is why they must be regulated rather better than they have been for the last 25 years. They cannot be allowed to let rip on the grounds that they will not self-destruct. What we see is that if they are allowed to let rip, they will eventually take chances with other people’s money that will be so terrible that governments will dig them out rather than let them fail.

      But if properly regulated, access to credit (ie debt) can change a person’s world. It can enable small businesses to get started, it can make it possible to buy a house, a car, or to get an education. The small-loans to villagers in India have been extraordinarily successful in helping creative, hard-working people transform their lives. The increase in living standards in the third world that has taken place in the last 30 years could not have happened without credit. And it cannot continue without credit. In fact, even the standard of living we have achieved in the U.S. will deteriorate without a functioning banking system and the credit it facilitates.

      I’d love to hear further what you think about this. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to discuss it. I hope so. In the meantime, any further thoughts you have are seriously welcome. Thank you again.



      Comment by theotheri — January 22, 2012 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

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