Too often Iraq is a confusing subject for many Americans and Mennonites to look at objectively. There seems to be only two prevailing views, both of which are imperfect at best and disastrous at worst.
James W. Skillen had some brutally honest things to say recently. He speaks of a "third way" by summarizing the misconceptions many Republicans and even Democrats have about the Iraq war.
"... first, America liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein; second, we returned sovereignty to the Iraqi people; third, sectarian violence tragically increased; and now, in the fourth phase, we are "deploying reinforcements and launching new operations to help Iraqis bring security to their people."
All of this is delusional. U.S. forces did not liberate Iraq; they wiped out its government, and the Bush administration then failed to exercise American responsibility to govern the country so it could be rebuilt and eventually governed by Iraqis themselves. We opened the floodgates to chaos, civil war, the death or flight of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and a continuing influx of terrorists whom our 'war' was supposed to destroy. That is not liberation.
He goes on to suggest, no, insist that if Americans truly realized the extent of destruction we have caused and are causing, we would pay any price and use all power available to us in an all-out effort of "doing everything necessary to bring real government to Iraq".
Before you accuse Skillen of being unabashedly partisan, consider that the above statement isn't exactly making the political right or left happy. Compare it to these statements made by other people (yeah, you've heard of these guys):
Hillary Clinton (2/17/2007): "[The Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act] calls for the phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. I've been pushing for this for almost two years. Now it's time to say the redeployment should start in ninety days or we will revoke authorization for this war."
Barack Obama (2/21/2007): "I've introduced legislation that would bring this tragic chapter in our history to a close. It's called the Iraq War De-Escalation Act. It makes the U.S. policy on Iraq crystal clear. It stops the escalation now and begins a redeployment to bring U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. If you want to cut through the political games and support a clear policy that will get us out of Iraq, sign on to support it now and spread the word...
George W. Bush (5/1/2003): "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the 'beginning of the end of America.' By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed."
Mitt Romney (1/10/2007): "It is impossible to defeat the insurgency without first providing security for the Iraqi people. In consultation with generals, military experts, and troops who have served on the ground in Iraq, I believe securing Iraqi civilians requires additional troops.
Skillen makes it clear that a hasty decision involving deep selfishness and only looking out for our good as an American people is a sign of a nation deserving of strong language such as "immoral" and "delusional" (as noted by McLaren).
Setting dates for an American military withdrawal while blaming the nearly powerless Iraqi government for not climbing out fast enough from the hole we dug for it is as immoral as continuing on the present course.
If the president really believes that a failure to win the "war" we started in Iraq will mean more 9/11s here at home, how can he possibly imagine that a "surge" of only 21,000+ troops for only a few months in Iraq could deliver security to Iraqis and keep us safe at home?
McLaren muses, "For those of us who supported the war, and for those of us who opposed it but failed to stand up and speak up strongly enough, this is not a time for reactive behavior. It's an opportunity, as Senator Obama recently said, to be as in careful planning our next steps as we were careless in planning our steps in the past."
And I can only add...those of us who pretend to be non-partisan, creative thinkers had better get our hands into the rotten mess that is burning in the kitchen and take out the cooks that are ruining the broth (which would be most of them). We need to teach the Iraqi people how to fish, yes, but we also need to tear down the dam that is blocking the fishing hole; we need to destroy the enormous sewer that is churning black poison into the water and killing the fish; we need to put hedges around the fishing pole shed so that the fishing equipment stops being stolen. We need to build new fishing holes and buy more people fishing rods. We need to turn the worms into bait. We need to change the rules about no fishing on Sunday. We need to tell expert fisherman and people who buy their fish in grocery stores about the deplorable fishing conditions in Iraq.
How can you help?