Monday, April 23, 2007

Washed in the blood of the lamb: Iraq in retrospect

"So, Jane," someone just asked me, "what have you learned from your trip to Iraq?"

What have I learned? That coming back to Berkeley was a let-down? I always thought that Berkeley was the hot-gossip epicenter for the entire universe but now everything here seems to fall flat. Who even CARES if the same tired old feuds are still going on and X isn't speaking to Y and both X and Y are still going out of their way to avoid Z?

And when I went to my housing co-op's board meeting the day after I got back and watched the same old group of self-interested slobs compete to see who could benefit most from being on the board of directors at the expense of the residents and HUD, I just yawned.

Did the Fox News interviewer cut me off in mid-sentence when I stated that the assault on Iraq by Bush and Cheney was as criminal an act as that shooter's assault on Virginia Tech? Yes he did -- but did it really matter all that much? In Iraq, I had looked directly into the terrified eyes of a woman all covered with blood. After that, who can worry about the niceties of being polite on the air and pretending that the men who run our country are anything but pond scum?

Sure I had a good time in Iraq. Cruising the Green Zone in a humvee, flying by helicopter over the countryside, meeting top-quality reporters, being impressed by dashing young officers and enlisted men who knew what they were doing and did it well? And eating dessert at the D-FAC! What's not to like?

But the bottom line is this -- the same shroud of sadness that hangs over Virginia Tech these days also hangs over Iraq.

And right now I am feeling like Lady Macbeth.

There's got to be a better way to solve human conflict than to blow everybody up.

Sure, America has to pull its troops out of Iraq. It has to -- but not for the deeply moral reasons that I would feel so proud of my country for honoring. Nope, we gotta pull out for a more practical reason. We can't afford it!

Currently, America is like some college kid who's been sent a new credit card in the mail and, holding it in his hot little hands, is now drooling over the possibility of using it to buy a new Mercedes-Benz. Sure, it's a lovely car. Sure the kid would love to own it and drive it happily for the next umpteen years. But can the kid afford it? Will his new credit card allow him to buy it? No. End of story.

Why has no one in America yet realized -- aside from possibly Harry Reid -- that we cannot AFFORD to continue to stay in Iraq? All of us pay our bills and balance our checkbooks every month. We all know the facts of life. If you ain't got the cash, they cut off your electricity. Can America afford to continue to pay the credit card bill on Iraq month after month after month? Ask the USSR for the answer to that one. We are going to HAVE to get out. But I digress.

Without American troops, Iraq may or may not sink into chaos. The whole Middle East may or may not sink into chaos. Terrorists, as a result of the U.S. troop withdrawal, may or may not arrive on our shores and start blowing up things here too. Life's a crap shoot. Dookie happens. But so does good stuff. So does good stuff.

Are we so absolutely certain that if we don't go on killing people in Iraq and across the globe that our world will fall apart?

I've been to Iraq. It made me feel unclean. And I want to feel clean again.

PS: This coming up Friday and Saturday I have tickets to go see the Dalai Lama give a rare two-day seminar over in San Francisco. I'm hoping that maybe he has some answers to the question of how good-hearted and honest men and women can free themselves from being dominated by the world's bullies and barbarians.

"The raider-warriors will always be with us," a wise man once said, "and they will always want what we have. And they think that what they want from us lies in our bodies and that if they can only control or destroy our bodies, they will own what we have. But our greatness doesn't lie in our bodies. It lies in our souls." And they can never take that.

PPS: I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine in the Green Zone. "Jane," he said, "guess what? I was just watching FOX News (almost the only channel allowed on the Armed Forces Network) and there you were -- the Activist Grandmother, Kevlar and all. And I agree with what you said, that Cheney and Bush need to be put in jail -- but let's make it Abu Ghraib."

I immediately e-mailed my friend back -- don't you just love the internet? -- and asked if HE had any suggestions regarding what to do. Here's his answer. "What do we do next? I just hope the Democrats have guts and cut off funding altogether. The only way to protect the troops is to bring them home. The war is finished in Iraq and the Shiites have won. They will rule now no matter what happens next. While not fully aligned with Iran, they are of the same branch of religion. It is too late to put it all back into the bottle -- and the Sunnis, with our help, are out of power. I doubt if there will be any more of a blood bath than is already occurring if we leave. It may accelerate the stabilization by more killing sooner but it will happen eventually until the Shia-Sunnis balance is obtained. They do not want us, so why stay? Except the American public can be led around like sheep and the 'born-again' group only have eyes for Israel."

Good grief. There's that Israel/Palestine question again. "The only real area where we can do any good is with the Palestinian-Israeli solution," said my friend, "and unfortunately we are further from being on the 'right' side of this issue at this moment than we are on the Iraq situation. And what is going on in Iraq just gets more ridiculous as the days go on. Now the US is forcing wall construction around communities while al-Maliki is telling them to stop (and four more communities are in our plans). That is about as stupid as we can get. Forget about the Berlin wall, they only have to look to the north-west a short distance to see the Israeli wall and then be associated, by inference, with that wall. We cannot do anything correct in the Middle East."