Innocence Lost: The Travails of a US Citizen


The war in Iraq has left me with muddled thoughts: I originally supported the war, now I oppose the reasons for entering it, but support completing what we started. The war has left me feeling betrayed, exhausted, vulnerable. In other words, politics as usual.

I feel America’s leaders have lied to us; either through gross incompetence or sheer deceit. I am leaning towards the latter. I thought President Bush spoke the truth when he said Saddam Hussein represented a real threat to the Middle East and Western civilization. I believed Colin Powell’s remarks to the UN about the strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction (and I think Powell believed them when he said them). I believed it was a necessary evil to use military force in Iraq – even if it would distract from the on-going efforts in Afghanistan. How idiotic of me.

Had Israel not destroyed the nuclear reactor in Iraq in the 1980s, then history may have been different. However, they did. We did not invade Iraq for humanitarian reasons, as politicians today try to re-write the reasons for the invasion. We nominally did it for security reasons. I now believe it was for a single reason: Oil. How could I have been duped so?

We squandered the good will of our citizens, the international community, and the resources in fighting the real battle against terrorism. All for what gain? Could I have been any more stupid?

I cringed at the so-called “Patriot Act”, because of how it impinged civil liberties – yet I did not actively oppose it. I thought it necessary in the wake of September 11 and our need for counter-terrorism. What I fool I have been.

The words of The Who resonate with me: “I get on my knees and I pray, we won’t get fooled again“.

I watched the Watergate hearings on television when I was young. Then, there was an aura of innocence lost. If the president could be so deceitful, what hope was there for integrity in any political process?

The feeling I have today is strangely reminiscent of that era.

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  1. You’re way too hard on yourself. If one takes the cynical view, you and millions of other Americans were exactly what Dick Cheney was hoping for. For the first time since Pearl Harbor, we had a MAJOR attack against our country. For many of us (in our 30’s and 40’s at the time) we didn’t have any experience with being attacked. We were terrified. We looked to our leaders to keep us safe. They betrayed our trust.

    This has happened before. A Germany, badly demoralized after WWI was ripe for someone to come along and stir them up and create a nonexistent enemy (Jews, the disabled, etc.) to blame all their troubles on. I don’t blame Germany for the holocaust. I blame Hitler. I don’t blame America for the Iraq war, I blame Cheney. (I’m not sure I even blame Bush, whom I think was too damn dumb to know what he was getting into.)

  2. I love this comparing Dick Cheney to Adolph Hitler.

    Talk about playing the politics of fear….

  3. I assure you, when it comes to Dick Cheney, be afraid, be very afraid. My only fear now is that McCain will get elected and get us all killed with more Bush-like tough guy rhetoric.

  4. My view of Iraq in a nutshell: On 9/11 America was like a guy who had been jumped on the street. We beat our attacker to the ground with ease (the invasion of Afghanistan) and then noticed an asshole we had fought before (Saddam)standing across the street giving us the finger. We walked across the street and kicked him to the ground.

    Only then we went and took both those guys to the hospital, then paid their bills and bought them a new suit.

    America was not in the mood to call the invasion of Afghanistan the end of our war on terror. This is why the invasion of Iraq was authorized by the Senate and the met with almost 75% public approval in April ’03 around the time Saddam’s statue fell. The absence of WMDs was a major embarrassement, but considering that the intelligence services of many different countries outside of the U.S. thought he had them(France, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are a few examples) and even Saddam’s top generals thought he had them (documented in Foreign Affairs), and Saddam himself acted as though he had something to hide, I don’t believe it was any conspiracy of lies but a simply a major mistake that we thought he did.

    Regardless of the WMD issue, leaving Saddam in power after the Gulf War was a far worse blunder. After throwing the Iraqi military out of Kuwait we were in a position to impose any terms we wanted. We called on the Iraqi people to rise up and then had our military sit and watch as Saddam slaughtered them with helicopters that the cease-fire agreement specifically allowed him to fly. In the meantime 90% of the public approved of the war and America dislocated its collective shoulder from patting itself on the back so vigorously. Great war – and with a ticker tape parade at the end just like everyone likes.

    We won the Gulf War brilliantly but lost the peace stupidly. Leaving Saddam in place made a second war with Iraq inevitable.

    I would not have ordered an invasion of Iraq if I were President in ’03. However I had been waiting for a second war since ’91 and I thought that upsetting the established order in the Middle East to create the possibility of change was worth a try. My biggest concern was that the war would loose public support as it dragged on and became a guerilla campaign. But I never expected that the guerilla campaign would largely consist of Iraqis targeting fellow civilian Iraqis in a horrific, morally indefensible fashion.

    Because I supported the invasion, albeit with strong reservations, I have felt a sense of personal responsibility for what has happened there. As much as I hate the war there’s no reason to believe that abandoning Iraq to violence and terrorism is going to be any kind of solution. America would like to simply wash its hands of the situation and pretend the whole thing never happened.

    Only now that violence has been on the decline I wonder if what’s going on there can really be defined as a war. It will come as a great relief if troops can gradually be withdrawn as Iraq becomes more able to defend itself. I doubt that even Obama would want to quickly pull all the troops out and then preside over what he must know would be a disaster. If Iraq continues to stabilize, however, he may actually inherit a managable situation.

    We would like our wars to be short, victorious, low cost and conducted with European approval. I doubt we’ll be seeing many of these in the future, and indeed we haven’t had a whole lot of them in the past. World War I was considered a disaster with good reason (100,000 U.S. dead in a 1 1/2 years followed by a failed peace); Korea was unpopular (50,000 dead, massive costs and the worst defeat in U.S. military history suffered while being thrown out of the North); Vietnam (speaks for itself). There will be more wars, but I’m not expecting them to be much of anything to cheer about.

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