A Rebuke From The Past

I’ve been haunted by an image this week. I read somewhere (unfortunately, I can’t remember where exactly) a comparison between our invasion of Iraq and the Spanish-American War. The author said that both were launched on fauly evidence (some say outright lies), and quoted some famous Americans who were against the Spanish-American War. There was one passage from an article written by Mark Twain that’s stuck with me, that I’m unable to forget or leave behind.

And our flag — another pride of ours, our chiefest! We have worshipped it so; and when we have seen it in far lands — glimpsing it unexpectedly in that strange sky, waving its welcome and benediction to us — we have caught our breath, and uncovered our heads, and couldn’t speak, for a moment, for the thought of what it was to us and the great ideals it stood for…

And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one — our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.

The image of that flag, red and black stripes, with the skull & cross-bones in place of the stars. It’s chilling, and I can’t help thinking how unfortunately appropriate it is. Iraq is a mess, because we didn’t go in with a plan for getting out. Our soldiers have committed atrocities in our names, under our flag (and apparently under orders from the commanding officer in the region and possibly civilian leaders in the Pentagon, all of it vetted by the Justice Department). We’ve killed thousands of non-combatants, lost several hundred good young soldiers to combat and terrorism, allowed the few treasures of the country to be plundered and looted, and changed course more times than a ship lost in a gale. All of this done in the name of bringing “freedom” to the Middle East.

I don’t know what the Administration’s true reason was for going into Iraq. I don’t know why the insisted on lying (or continue to keep lying, only to have a member of your own Administration contradict you) about Saddam’s connection to Al Qaeda. I don’t know why they relied on intelligence they knew was faulty… And now, with the abuse, we’ve given an excuse to every madman we go up against in the future to torture our soldiers the way we’ve tortured the Iraqis (most of who were either covered by the Geneva Conventions or later proven innocent). Our government even lied to us about the war on terror, and now has to “concede it made an error“. How does this happen? How did we get here?

It’s time to drop partisanship and look deep down into our hearts. What has happened is wrong. There should be a Congressional investigation into the torture memos, see where they lead, and punish those responsible for ordering it – no matter how high it goes. Today, it looks like our government is guilty of war crimes. Are we going to do anything about it? Are we going to stand by and let this be carried out in our name, under our flag? I’m disgusted by my government. This has gone on long enough, and it’s time for the few honest people left in the Administration and in Congress to put a stop to it.

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