Tuesday, June 28, 2005

President Bush's speech about Iraq

The President's speech about Iraq left me very discouraged. Early on he repeated a declaration that I have always found disturbing: that it is better to fight our enemies abroad than at home. My discouragement grows when I think about how many Americans take comfort from that statement. I do agree that it's better in the short term, for Americans, if our battles are not fought on home soil and they take place abroad. But "abroad" is not some unpopulated place. We're fighting in someone else's back yard. If another country, China for instance, said that it was better to fight its own enemies in America rather than in China, we would instantly see the injustice of it. We would tell the Chinese to go home and take care of their problems their own way, with our assistance if we saw fit to give it, but not on our soil.

I do believe that Iraq is a battle of world-making significance, and that it should be won -- by Iraqis, over the long term. I sense constantly that President Bush's opponents lack passion for this battle, and vision; I once supported the invasion of Iraq, and I do not easily find common ground with those who opposed it. But it disturbs me when our country can find no better way to fight the war than to pitch tent in someone else's home and to fight there. If those people had started a battle with us, as Al-Qaeda's leaders did while being harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan, that is one thing; it was right to strike at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in their stronghold, though certainly it was wrenching and fatal for thousands of innocent Afghans. But Iraq is another story. Iraq did not harbor anyone who committed the 9-11 attacks. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the United States, but not one who could strike at us; and those who, like Al-Qaeda, could in fact strike the United States, had been wanting for years to overthrow the dictator in Baghdad themselves. Afghanistan was our battle, and we went there, but then we went to Iraq -- and we told those who lived there that their backyard was fair game, despite their never having loved Saddam Hussein or Al-Qaeda.

I long to live in a country that did not speak so selfishly -- one that was not able to say, "Better your back yard than mine."

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