The sort of yellow ribbon magnet that I’d be willing to affix to my car would need really small lettering: “Support the troops, but not if they’re committing atrocities, or acting as if the Iraq conflict were a war rather than the occupation that it really is.”
Yes, it’s getting harder to support the troops. What bothers me the most is the attitude, promulgated from the President on down, that we’re engaged in an “Iraq war.” That was only briefly true. Now its an Iraq occupation.
Most of the insurgents that we’re fighting are home-grown, a nationalist reaction to a foreign occupying force. Yes, some are Al Qaeda. But its wrong to consider that every Iraqi who resists the American occupation is a combatant in the war on terror.
That leads to indefensible atrocities like Haditha. Now, I can hear neo-conservative apologists saying, “Don’t convict the soldiers before they’ve had a fair trial.” I’m not. The conviction has already taken place, because no matter what happened at Haditha, it is indefensible.
Either the soldiers knowingly killed innocent people. Or they unknowingly killed them, as the soldiers’ defense lawyers are claiming. They say that the troops entered a home where insurgents were thought to be hiding and went room to room, tossing in grenades and spraying gunfire without checking to see who was inside.
That was allowable under the rules of engagement. Apparently it’s permissible to kill indiscriminately when you’re at war. But if the Iraq conflict were to be considered an occupation, or a police action, it’s hard to see how what happened at Haditha is anything other than negligent manslaughter, if not murder.
What bothers me the most is how unbothered I’ve been about what’s going on in Iraq. Along with most other Americans. We read the news every day about another bombing, more civilian deaths, shortages of essential services, physicians and other needed professionals fleeing the country.
And then we turn the page. On to the comics.
This poem from the June 19, 2006 The New Yorker issue speaks to our distractions. I liked it a lot. Can’t say that I understand it. But that’s the beauty of poetry. Ambiguity.
A PARTIAL HISTORY OF MY STUPIDITY
Traffic was heavy coming off the bridge
and I took the road to the right, the wrong one,
and got stuck in the car for hours.
Most nights I rushed out into the evening
without paying attention to the trees,
whose names I didn’t know,
or the birds, which flew heedlessly on.
I couldn’t relinquish my desires
or accept them, and so I strolled along
like a tiger that wanted to spring,
but was still afraid of the wildness within.
The iron bars seemed invisible to others,
but I carried a cage around inside me.
I cared too much what other people thought
and made remarks I shouldn’t have made.
I was silent when I should have spoken.
Forgive me, philosophers,
I read the Stoics but never understood them.
I felt that I was living the wrong life,
while halfway around the world
thousands of people were being slaughtered,
some of them by my countrymen.
So I walked on—distracted, lost in thought—
and forgot to attend to those who suffered
far away, nearby.
Forgive me, faith, for never having any.
I did not believe in God,
who eluded me.