Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October in Iraq

How many deaths will it take 'til we know, that too many people have died?
by Charlie Leck

I remember the day in autumn of 1964 (Or was it during the winter months of 1965?) that I decided I had to go out on the streets to protest the war in Vietnam. I was sitting in an ethics class in graduate school. Our ethics professor was highly admired for his fairness and openness. He didn’t make sweeping judgments and pronouncements; but on this particular day he was troubled and his mind seemed in chaos. We had spent the previous two weeks or so talking about Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian and pastor who had stood bravely up to the policies of Adolph Hitler. It had been an emotional study and a tear was shed here and there when we considered how Bonheoffer had been executed in a German concentration camp only a few days before American troops had arrived to liberate the prisoners.

Our professor rose to the lectern on that extraordinary day and announced that he wanted to outline a history of the current war in Vietnam. He proceeded to present us with all the evidence any thinking man would need to determine that several Presidents of the United States (Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson) had made ignorant and foolish decisions about the involvement of our nation in the civil struggles in that faraway Asian nation.

I and my fellow students were held spellbound by the lecture. I hesitate here, wondering if I should outline the extraordinary statement of that day. So many of my readers are young and don’t remember the diplomatic mistakes and misjudgments that led us into the internal affairs of the Vietnam nation. The French, before us, had made serious misjudgments about Vietnam and, somehow, they convinced us to pick up their fallen and failed strategy. It was Eisenhower who agreed, but John F. Kennedy picked up the misguided Eisenhower policy and ran with it as well.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House on that day when I sat and listened to the kind, Herr Docktor arrive at his own conclusion that war was not only misguided diplomatic policy but that it was totally immoral. We had no right to be propping up such an unscrupulous and dictatorial regime as the one that ruled in South Vietnam.

“Only cowards – and I have been one – could support in mind and in action such an unfair, unjust and destructive war policy as the one being conducted by my own nation – the United States of America.”
What makes me think now of that day 45 years ago?
The war in Iraq has taken an ugly turn in the last few days. Many brave, young American soldiers have been slain. October has actually been the “deadliest” month for the American military since the war began. So far, just this month, 53 military personal have died.

I will never forgive President Bush for dragging us so unnecessarily and foolishly into this war. I am quite certain that there was a high degree of dishonesty involved in justifying our invasion to the American public and to the international community. The questions in Iraq are as complicated as were the questions in Vietnam. Basically, however, they come down to: How can we now leave? What happens to the nation we have so badly battered? Will the leadership that assumes power be even more cruel and selfish than the one we displaced?

If you are old enough you will remember the same questions were asked about Vietnam. The war dragged on for years, and thousands and thousands of more people died, as we debated just those questions. Today, in a peaceful Vietnam, beauty and order have been restored. It is a prosperous nation and its future is hopeful. In America there was an unspoken confession that we had chosen the wrong approach. We had allowed the ghost of communism to frighten us far beyond the realms of reality.

Is the same thing happening in Iraq? Is there an American leader courageous, bright and moral enough to step forward with a call to end this preposterous, ignorant and immoral war?

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind – the answer is blowing in the wind!”

“How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.”
[Bob Dylan]
And then, there is Afghanistan! What kind of nation are we?

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