This morning I had a nanosecond of my allotment of fifteen minutes of fame. I was supposed be the "No" voice in a discussion on MSNBC of whether or not we are on the right track in Iraq. The "Yes" voice did not get to her studio in time to do the full segment, but she came fully prepared with a statement: "we are fighting for democracy. . .I trust the president completely. . .the military is full of 'checks and balances' to make sure things are done right." I didn't see the segment, but I hope the camera caught my eyebrow going up to high arch. The Yes voice, whose name I don't recall, was proud of her brother who just returned from Iraq. She supports our troops 100% because they "know more than we do and we should just leave them alone to do their job," by golly. She pointed out that "these people want to kill us" but thanks to President Bush, we were killing them "over there instead of here." If you read the right-wing press (and you do have to have a strong stomach to do so), you will recognize The Message and its racist and xenophobic subtext. I think The Message is photocopied weekly and handed out at churches and yacht and gun clubs all over the nation.
I was asked to respond to a poll that revealed that 50% of Americans believe that Iraq will be under a dictatorship within the next decade or so. Why all the pessimism, the anchor asked? I wanted to point out how many Americans think America will soon be a dictatorship, but I didn't want to be accused of being "negative." I wanted to talk about our soldiers and what they are experiencing and why I am against the ongoing occupation of Iraq. I wanted to point out that the war itself was based on lies and bad intelligence, hubris, and a complete disregard for international or domestic opinion. I wanted to explain how dangerous it is for us to have a president who refuses to reflect, face facts, reassess, admit mistakes, or change course. I wanted to plead for an end to the occupation, to call in an international relations repairman, and to form a more intelligent response to terrorism than a bombing lottery in the Middle East. Maybe TV just isn't the medium for my message.
I think we should have our own Message, and here are my suggestions: (1) The war is unjust and has already cost too much in blood and treasure. Ask the moms of soldiers who have died or listen to the anguish of an Iraqi whose family member was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. (2) Our 138,000 kids are facing extreme heat, exposure to depleted uranium, substandard medical care, censorship and intimidation in the ranks, and 20 million people who desperately want them to leave. (3) There is no clear end to our mission in Iraq and no useful measure of its success. (4) Our soldiers face multiple indefinite deployments, extensions, and stop-loss measures, the uncertainly of which heighten the already stressful circumstances of war and occupation. (5) If the news from Iraq was all good, our kids would be able to speak freely about what they are doing and would not be expressing confusion or dismay about their role in Iraq. Top generals are beginning to speak out about how badly Bush has managed his neocan fantasy.
The argument that "casualties are the cost of war" is invalid. This war was unprovoked, illegal, and immoral. If the Bush family wants to walk its talk, they can send the twins, Barbara and Jenna, to Iraq to risk their lives. (Only one member of Congress has a child on active duty in the military.) The argument of "but look what they did to us on 9/11" is uninformed. Almost all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis and even Bush has admitted that no evidence has been found of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. When we are being mau-maued to "support the troops," we need to point out that no one supports the troops more than those who speak out for their proper use, fair treatment, and safe return. No one supports the troops more than those who fight for the medical care and counseling they will need as they return to civilian life. The people who are making the decisions that affect our soldiers' lives and ours have no love for them or us. And we need to look for opportunities to say so.