Ranting and raving and carrying on

Just a few random thoughts about random stuff. Warning - may contain profanity

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Location: Toronto-ish, Ontario, Canada

Just a guy... Bit of a geek, but who isn't these days?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Stepping into a pile of ..it

Okay, about Iraq. I'm not American, first off. Didn't vote for Bush, or Gore. So I'm pretty apolitical in that respect.

There's a lot of debate right now about the war in Iraq. Was it right? Immoral? Illegal? Well, as a low-ranking officer and ex-grunt, let me give you my perspective: get the job finished first, then debate it. There's still crud going on over there every day, and if you walk away from it too soon there'll be a power vacuum. But, if the troops over there get too caught up in this particular debate, it will distract them from their mission, and they'll screw up. People will die. It's hard to concentrate on watching for ambushes if you're wondering if you will be tried as a war criminal later on.

Also, remember that the press has, shall we say, an "interest" in showing the bad stuff. "If it bleeds, it leads," as I recall. They would rather show firefights and bodies and so on, instead of talking about how the epidemics that the critics were saying would sweep Iraq didn't occur.

As for the rationale for the war... This is a thorny issue. There has been some evidence of "WMDs" found, a few shells here and there. No huge stockpiles, but stuff was found. So, suppose the police raid a house on suspicion that there's a huge cocaine-dealing operation there, but all they find is a small stash for "personal" use. Do they say "Oops, sorry", or do they charge the owner with possession and take him to jail? The legal principle should be pretty much the same - stuff was found that they shouldn't have had, that the UN said they shouldn't have, and that they claimed they didn't have. How much would be "enough" to rationalize the war? One shell? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? I can't answer that question. I don't think any of us can, although many will try. Something else to consider... There's been lots of reports of "huge chemical agent" finds in Iraq, which always seem to turn out to be pesticides. Do you know the difference between pesticides and nerve agents? It's not much different - the treatment for exposure to an overdose of insecticide is similar to that for exposure to nerve agents , including atropine injections.

In short, I'm not coming out for or against the war. (How typically Canadian! I'm on the fence!) What I am saying is, now that the job is started, make sure the troops have the tools and support they need to finish the job. Otherwise, what rises from the ashes of Saddam's Iraq could be far worse. The job, by the way, is handing Iraq back to the Iraqi people - which apparently the "bad guys" don't want to happen, since they keep bombing and attacking Iraqi-controlled police stations, army recruiting centres, etc. If this is really just a "get the Americans out" movement, why are they attacking their own people too? Just a thought.

My only real, non-theoretical problem with the Iraq war is that it defocused attention from Afghanistan. People are still fighting and dying there, and the Taliban is still trying to get back into power. The US, like every other country in the world, has cut its military manpower since the cold war ended. They really can't effectively fight multiple large-scale wars at the same time.

The rest of the world should be stepping in in Afghanistan to drag that country kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Why? Several reasons. First, poppies are still a cash crop there - prevent that and you'll significantly cut down on the world heroin trade. (Which gets into the drugs thing - look, you do what you want, I don't care. Just remember that "organized crime" and (increasingly) terrorist groups get a cut on just about all of it.) Second, Afghanistan has been pretty beaten up in the past - they have a long history of being invaded by just about everybody. If we allow a generation to grow up knowing peace, it just might catch on. Third, the Taliban (remember them) want back in, and they have had links to Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda, in turn, hate pretty much all of Western civilization. Groups linked to Al-Qaeda are known to be in Iraq as well (even the press have acknowledged this).

Any way, a lot of this is just my opinion, I'm sure a lot of you don't agree. That's your right. The freedom of speech (which I'm exercising) and the freedom of dissension (which you are exercising) are both pretty fundamental rights, which a lot of people in this world still don't have. The Iraqis do, now. So do the Afghanis. And isn't that worth just about any cost?