Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thoughts on Iraq for a Gannett Newspaper

Iraq Car Bomb

John Andrew Prime of The Times is working on a story about the Iraq War and asked me a few questions. The opportunity made me cohere my thoughts into something short and sweet.

Here’s what John asked:

  • Do you think the public’s opinion on the War on Terror and the War in Iraq have changed over the course of the past year or so, and why?
  • Have your views changed? Why or why not?
  • What do you think this nation should do with regard to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Will anything change under a new administration after the ‘08 election?

And here’s my response:

Over the past year, measured public opinion about the war has remained relatively constant. Only about 35 percent “approve” of the war. The rest express various degrees of “disapproval.” Locally, more people support the President’s policies than that, but his support is rapidly waning.

Essentially, what’s left is a hard core of supporters pitted against growing opposition. The rhetoric from both sides will get worse.

Regardless of our Iraq War opinions, we can all agree the war merits civil discussion. We can treat each other respectfully in disagreement, and rhetoric of the right-wing-talk-show or leftist-rant ilk only puts us further from a solution.

My personal opinion about Iraq has remained constant since it started. We should withdraw all of our forces, abandon plans for permanent bases, turn control over to the Iraqis assisted by a regionally-based coalition and begin reparations payments.

I don’t think a massive conflagration will erupt if we withdraw. The same prediction was made of Vietnam and proved to be gross exaggeration. Iraqis can manage their own country better than we can manage it for them.

Profiteering corporations should be booted from Iraq, particularly oil companies and mercenary armies like the Blackwater forces. The growing trend to use these mercenary armies is troubling.

In Afghanistan, we have a better prospect. Our conduct there, while not exemplary, has generated some goodwill to build on. The people there are ready for peace. There is ample opportunity for coalition building if we respect all interests. I think we can manage with our special forces aiding indigenous forces. We must settle the Osama Bin Laden problem finally and unequivocally.

The Democrats are just as much a war party as Republicans. Regardless of who wins the White House, the next president won’t withdraw from Iraq entirely. A Democrat might withdraw some forces, but the plan of opening permanent bases will continue, the oil companies will still get their due and mercenaries will still operate without oversight.

The main problems in ending the war comes from two areas. First, we spend so much money on the military that the war industry dominates our polity. And we've built a propaganda machine that constantly trumpets how great our nation is because of that military spending.

Anyone who challenges the war machine is either ignored or ridiculed. But I think soon we'll be discussing these issues seriously. I hope that’s the big change this election -- getting the nation to really look at industries supporting and profiting from war and what that means for our way of life.

I don’t know what of that, if anything, will make it to the final article, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to comment. We’ll see what happens.


JaneDoughnut said...

Wow, Kevan. Intelligent, concise, and no waffling. You make us all look good.

Kevan Smith said...

Thanks, that's very kind.