Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rudy & Mike & Nick: Dialogue on Iraq

This is something that I have never done before: posting on this blog an email dialogue I have had with a couple of my oldest friends.


So happy they got al Zarqawi, but now watching MG Caldwell's press briefing and, again, I am subjected to idiotic questions from reporters who do not know an IED
from an IUD.


As some retired general said on the BBC last night: we can celebrate that Zarqawi is gone now, but the (idiot) terrorists will replace him too soon, maybe with someone even worse.


Better the devil you know? Nah, fuck that; they're all devils over there and a few closer to home. Let's face it: those assholes are all over the world. That's one thing we have no shortage of.


That’s the bloody problem. This so-called “War on Terrorism” ain’t a war as we’ve previously defined “war.” It can spring forth anywhere and any time and is still going to be around in our great-great-grandchildren’s time.

I fully agree with Karen Armstrong’s book, The Battle for God, when she says that the fundamentalist Muslims are really not fighting a war against us—the U.S.A.—but against all modernity and all of contemporary Western culture. That means they’re also (and maybe primarily) fighting against liberal Muslims who have been trying to reform/modernize Islamic culture since Ataturk took over Turkey and made it a secular country, shaved the beards of the imams, and outlawed the wearing of the veil.

Turkey was first, but Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq (and to some extent, Egypt) followed. Not to mention Afghanistan under the Soviets, until they were driven out by the Taliban supported by U.S. dollars, arms, and the CIA. The bloody Taliban destroyed everything Western and modern in the country and tried to take it back to the bloody 7th Century. Then we had to go into Afghanistan and try to take it away from our former Taliban allies! And we haven’t succeeded in that yet! Like Christian Gnostics, who were supposed killed off by the church in the 4th and 5th centuries, the Taliban remain alive and well today.

Sorry for the spurt of rage! It just pisses me off that our national leaders are either ignorant of history and world religions theology or refuse to learn from them.


I share your frustration and I think most people do. Very few people actually understand what's going on. Our leaders aren't ignorant, they're arrogant. They ignore history. They even ignore current events that don't match their lofty notions. How many times do we have to learn the same lessons?


If we don’t learn those lessons soon, we’re going to go the way of the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire. I think you are right: “arrogant” is the correct adjective!


The only thing I would agree with is that Bush made the same mistake we made in Vietnam: Nation Building. It is a good idea, even a great idea, but itdoesn't always work. It worked for Germany & Japan, but it definitelydidn't work for Vietnam and it may not work in Iraq. If we can make itwork, it will be a huge victory for us and perhaps the beginning of the end for Islamic terrorism. IF it works.


The one thing I would remind you of is that you can't build a nation from nothing. Vietnam wasn't about nation building. It was about exercising the Truman Doctrine of stopping communism wherever it is in the world. It didn't work because the Vietnamese people wanted a nation, one that was not divided. They outlasted the Chinese, the French, the Japanese and us to get the one nation they had always felt they should have.

Germany has been a nation since the German federation was formed late in the 19th Century. We didn't do anything to make Germany a nation; we just helped them to recover and move on as other European nations were doing. We did a lot to transform Japan from the feudal nation it had been to a modern form of democracy, but they were already a nation.

The Iraqis have never been a nation. They have been a conglomeration of feuding tribes held under control by a series of dictators. They have never known nationhood as we would have them know it.

Read The Peace to End All Peace. It will give you a better understanding of the hopelessness of the situation.


Excellent insights, Mike.

When politicians sit around a map and draw lines on it to benefit themselves and the nations they represent without considering the needs and desires of the peoples who actually live in the “nations” they are creating, only chaos can result.

The Peace to End All Peace is an excellent book and, among other things, points out how the high hopes that people held for the Paris Peace Conference fell by the wayside as the “Big Powers” manipulated the world’s political map for their own advantage.

The actions of the Paris Conference really disappointed and turned off many of the solders who had actually fought in the Great War, not the least being T. E. Lawrence. Read the last chapters of The Seven Pillars of Wisdomabout the broken promises made by the British and French to the Arab peoples.

We in the West generally do not know that history or even that it took place. The Arab people, however, know it well and I would bet that many seven year old Arab kids could today tell you the story of the treachery and betrayal that their people suffered after the Great War at the hands of the victorious European nations.


  1. Yes, we are very arrogant. How can we try impose our way of life on people whose culture is so different from ours? How could we ever succeed in this? Except, well, people in high places and their friends are making a lot of money, of course.

  2. Good dialogue. Glad people are talking about it. But we (USA) are the world leader, so do you think other countries (military leaders) expect us to be full of brotherly love, generousity and NOT go after what we want financially and politically and still maintain our position as world leader? We haven't evolved that much!

  3. As for being the "world leader" the only way for an imperialist power to stay in the lead is to show it will kill anyone who stands in its way. That's what the Romans did, that's what the Brits did in their expansionist phase. When they let Gandhi thwart them in India, because the English decided they should have some civilised values, their empire was doomed. The U.S. used to lead by benificence; now it's going the way of the warrior empires. Unfortunately, that makes it no different to the USSR. But just like the Soviets were doomed by their own internal rot, so too will the U.S. collapse due to its debts, devotion of so much effort to military spending, and the hatred of the rest of the world. It might be good to be the bully who can kick everyone else's arse, but do you remember any of those people from school coming to good ends? Ditto for the U.S. Especially because it depends on so many other countries for its oil, imported manufactured goods and finance for its trade deficit. Iraq will be what breaks the eagle's back, just as Afghanistan was for the USSR.

  4. I have always liked this quote by Wade Davis:

    "The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit."

    They will never admit it, but I think the whole debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan goes back to the 19th century idea of what Kipling called "the white man's burden," the belief that God wants white people to instil order and civility on brown people. And of course if you can make a little profit on the deal…

  5. in re: to bukko in austalia: I am hopeful as an American that we will not let our economy be destroyed by this war in the middle east. But it will take all of us contacting our politicians, letting them know of our disaprroval and voting for alternative energy sources so we can get off our dependence on foreign oil. How do you get people to care?

  6. SQUIRL: I agree that we are arrogant. I think we impose our culture on others because (1) we can; (2) in our arrogance, we believe ours is better than theirs; and (3) our corporations profit from selling to others. And, yes, people in high places do make money—and remain in power.

    ANONYMOUS: I wonder why we consider ourselves the “world leader?” And leader of what? Is it because we, since the disarming and breakup of the Soviet Union, have the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons? Is it because—for the moment, at least—we are the richest? I understand that the talking heads are saying that our hegemony on wealth with be surpassed by a capitalist China within the next twenty years. Then what?

    BUKKO: Your read on history is good: The Roman Empire and the British Empire did use force of arms to maintain their place of power. Of course, they also used economics. The same internal factors that destroyed those empires are now working overtime on the United States. The “rot” has been in place sine the “Me Generation” of the Reagan years and become worse each year. The number of homeless in the U.S. continues to grow rapidly as do the people who cannot afford adequate health care. We have not learned the lessons of history.

    THOMAS: I fear that our arrogance prevents us from hearing what Wade Davis wrote. I am certain that our present warmongering does have 19th Century antecedents; however, I am afraid that they are more economic in nature than the depraved theology of the “white man’s burden.”

    ANONYMOUS: I am uncertain how one gets people to care. I know there are a few who do care about other people, our planet, and the future. However, at least in the United States, they seem to be in the minority. There is a sentence in the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in a Eucharist service that I pray every day: “We look forward to the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none.” At the present moment, that sentence remains just a prayer.