Saturday, October 30, 2010

Inconvenient Memories

People often seem to have very short memories about things that are really quite important, and that's troubling. For example, in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the United States, along with dozens of other nations, defeated Iraq after it invaded Kuwait without provocation. It wasn't much of a contest, as the Iraqi military was spanked badly, pushed quickly out of Kuwait and then chased all across western Iraq. It was a mismatch, really, as thousands of Iraqi soldiers - many of whom, apparently, were forced to serve and didn't want to fight - were slaughtered, Iraqi armaments left burned out all along the routes leading to Baghdad.

Baghdad: the capital of Iraq and the resting place of its wicked dictator, Saddam Hussein. As U.S. and allied troops were pushing towards Baghdad to finally wipe out Hussein's elite Republican Guard and get rid of Hussein himself, people started urging restraint. Iraq's military was out of Kuwait, clearly defeated, and unlikely to form any kind of threat to anyone again, they said. Meanwhile, continuing the push into Baghdad would kill thousands more unwilling Iraqi participants and, once in the city itself, result in murderous street-to-street fighting, causing the deaths of countless thousands of innocent civilians. To what end? Hussein and his army were finished! Let's be civilized and merciful, and not rub it in unnecessarily while further risking the lives of our own military boys and girls.

So said American leaders in editorials and newscasts. So said people across the globe, both our allies and enemies. Political leaders, religious leaders, people on the street - in the U.S., in Europe, in Asia, in South America, in Africa. Actually, the tone was that of pleading on humanitarian grounds: "PLEASE stop the needless slaughter! PLEASE don't subject our troops and Iraqi civilians to the horrific warfare of invading Baghdad." Few voiced the opposite opinion: let's go in and finish it, even if it means many thousands of more deaths.

Yet a few years later, Hussein was back in business. He had killed thousands of his own people (the ones who opposed him) using chemical weapons earlier; now his scientists were developing even more heinous "weapons of mass destruction", or WMDs, according to his own admission after being captured in 2004, and was seen as a huge threat to overall Middle Eastern peace. Additionally, he was firing missiles at US and allied planes that tried to enforce the UN sanctions against Iraq, and was even suspected of plotting attacks on U.S. citizens. Why, the vast majority of Americans wanted to know, hadn't our incompetent President George H.W. Bush taken him out back when we had the chance in 1991? What an idiot!

I guess the majority that thought Bush blew it in Iraq weren't the same people who begged Bush not to take Hussein out a few years earlier. Where were these second guessers in 1991? Where were the mercy pleaders a few years later? Or did everyone simply forget the situation as it actually was in 1991?

Fast forwarding a few more years, another George Bush was the U.S. President. The nation, and the world, was nervous about the possibilities of devastating terrorist attacks in the wake of 9/11. It was feared that Saddam Hussein, furious at the west for his defeat in 1991, might allow some of his chemical/biological weapons to be used against the US and its allies. And so the U.S., under Bush's leadership, launched an ugly, costly (lives and money) war that was opposed by most of the world and which, after all, turned up no significant signs of extant WMD. Bush was declared a lying war-mongerer, out only for Iraq's oil, and an idiot to boot.

I guess people forgot that Saddam Hussein was a brutal, murderous dictator of a Muslim country who openly admired Adolf Hitler and who intentionally killed at least tens, but probably hundreds, of thousands of his own people. No serious sources deny these facts, even today, by the way.

I imagine that people forgot that the U.S., with the consent and presumably the support of many other nations and the majority of Iraq’s people, had tried for years to find a way to remove Hussein from power, using less than peaceful means. And that Hussein had, and had used, WMD (against Iran and against dissident Iraqis) and had been trying to expand his WMD arsenal, including the attempted development of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps people forgot that Hussein had employed a number of deceptive, bullying, and outright illegal maneuvers to prevent U.N. inspectors from determining his WMD capabilities throughout the 1990s. These were widely reported in the media over the years, and were the basis for the U.N. passing increasingly critical and threatening measures against Hussein, up to and including authorizing the use of military force against him.

Apparently, people don't remember that virtually every knowledgeable source believed in early 2003 that Iraq possessed significant quantities of WMD – including those who opposed the war against Iraq. Among those who firmly believed that Iraq had WMD were all key players of the Clinton administration, and the leaders of Germany and France (Schroeder and Chirac - opponents of a U.S. attack on Iraq). President Chirac of France, one of the strongest opponents of a U.S. attack on Iraq said, shortly before the war began: “What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad's regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs.” Even today, President Clinton, Bush's arch-enemy, has refused to say that the attack on Iraq was a mistake, given the situation at the time.

Yet today most people think Bush lied about the whole thing, there was no reason at all to take out Hussein, and we went into Iraq "just for the oil." You know, being against an attack on Iraq is one thing, and I understand that. But how stupefyingly cynical it is to say the President went in ONLY FOR THE OIL, ONLY to benefit his Texas oil buddies! How unfairly and ignorantly dismissive of all the other issues involved! It's almost as if these people never knew about all the other stuff, or perhaps conveniently decided not to remember it....

Lastly, let's consider President Obama and the nation's current economic problems. Blame for the mess we're in lands squarely on the shoulders of his predecessor, George Bush, with healthy chunks of responsibility also for Congress, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, uber-greedy Wall Streeters, mortgage lenders, asleep-at-the-wheel regulators, spendaholic Americans, and others. But little if any of it is Obama's fault, in reality.

During the election, it was clear that the country was on the precipice, in danger of falling into a genuine and catastrophic depression that might make the 1930s look kind by comparison. Nobody had any illusions that we'd turn things around anytime soon, that it wouldn't take many hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of federal spending to avoid a disaster, and many months, if not years, to turn things around. Few, if any, respected economists, business leaders, or politicians were arguing that the government just let the big financial firms collapse, taking the rest of us with them. Do you remember anybody suggesting that as a prudent policy? Similarly, most every expert thought it was obvious that the unemployment rate was headed into double digits: 10%, maybe 12% - even 15% if we weren't lucky. Sure, lots of people hoped the government's plans might cause the unemployment rate to top out around 8%, but nobody was seriously betting on it.

But now, a year or so later, unemployment's at 10% and the deficit is over $1 trillion, and Obama's a) a reckless spender, destroying our nation (if you're a conservative Republican), or b) hasn't done nearly enough because unemployment's above 8%! (if you're a liberal). I guess the Republicans forget that Bush was the original ridiculous deficit spender, that he pushed through his own $700 billion economic rescue package just before Obama's election, and that he, not Obama, appointed Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner (whom the Republicans love to hate today) to the Fed. Meanwhile, I guess the Democrats forgot what a huge mess Obama inherited, and forgot that it's not the kind of thing you turn around in a year. Is it Obama and his policies that have changed since the election, or the public's short attention span attitude that's changed? Hint: this is what's called a rhetorical question.

It's frustrating to live in a world of short memories. What everybody clearly understands one day, the next day they don't even seem to remember. And so politicians are always corrupt bums, idiots, and sell-outs because - wait for it..... - the answers are always just so simple, to everyone who's not in a position of power.


Nadia said...

I am sad to say, that prior to reading this blog I was one of the people who believed what they heard and thought Bush had invaded Iraq for oil. This blog was well written and informative and was able to better inform me of events that affect present day conflicts and disagreements.

drew said...

These events in our past ARE inconvenient, but we need to lookbat it on retrospect and ask why we went in and if we Telly need to stay. Sadam Hussein was a murder and there is proof of that, so entering Iraq in the first place was justified. But in my opinion staying there wasn't necessary, I think maybe that could have been for the oil. I think we need to get out now. There are unnecessary deaths.