Monday, May 17, 2010

Student responds to "Why Do We Fight"

Reaction Paper # 2

Film- Why Do We Fight?

The film by Eugene Jarecki, Why Do We Fight, that we watched in class touched a sore subject with me. My family is a military family, including myself. My father has fought in multiple wars and my grandfather died in Desert Storm. I do not believe some of what the movie was broadcasting was true. For starters, people claim the United States spends more on the defense discretionary budget then anything else. This may be true, we do spent a lot of money on defense; but it is not always used in the most efficient ways when it gets to our fighting soldiers. In fact, many of the deaths on the American side during our current fight for freedom, are solely because we do not have enough or proper equipment to protect us from the enemy.

I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004-2005. While I was there, my platoon lost one female soldier because the truck she was in hit an IED. She would have survived with injuries had her truck been properly equipped with armor. We drove on the roads to and from Kuwait and Iraq for days on end without the proper truck armor for at least the first five months of my deployment. That should of never happened, if in fact we do spend so much money on defense.

Also, I did not like the fact that the movie pointed out, that we have no agreement on this question: Why do we fight? Yes, I believe when there is a reason to go to war to prevent attacks against the U.S. and our allies, then by all means go to war and fight for our freedom. But don't tell our citizens lies about why we are going to war. The movie showed children and adults defending freedom as the reason we went to war, but there were other reasons thrown out as well. For instance, people thought we were fighting Iraq to prevent other attacks on U.S. soil. But shortly after, there was word that we were fighting for cheaper oil, to catch Saddam, and to find weapons of mass destruction. The government lied to the people, and they continue to lie. Will we ever be able to trust the government again? Over a half a million extra people died due to government policy.

While I was deployed, I personally got to witness death and destruction. But I also got to be part of history. The year I was fighting in Iraq was the first year women had the right to vote, December 2005. But this was not true about the women in all Arab countries, but hopefully soon it will happen. I also learned the real reason why the Arabic people have been fighting all these years. They are fighting a religious war, over whose land belongs to who and where the boundaries are. I do not believe this war involves us at all. The government is just wasting money, time, and resources sending more and more troops to a fighting country that will never be happy. The majority of our troops that are dying over there is simply because we got in the way. The women and children that are dying in country are dying at the hands of their own people as well.

The main reason I show "Why Do We Fight?" is because it demonstrates the main competing type of government spending, which is military spending. We spend maybe $800 billion on Social Security, and then nearly $700 billion on health (Medicare, Medicaid, Centers for Disease Control, NIH, etc., and actually much more if we include state contributions to Medicaid), and we spend about $600 billion (actually a bit more) on defense (if we are including Homeland Security, Veteran's Administration, and various other benefits related to defense in addition to the Defense Department's budget). Combined state and federal spending on justice and law enforcement and corrections is perhaps $185-$200 billion. Public spending on education from preschool through higher education is a bit over $900 billion, although most of this is collected and spent at the state level without much of a federal contribution. If we want to allocate more money to social services, crime prevention, interventions to reduce recidivism in convicts released from incarceration, poverty reduction, health, affordable housing, or education, the natural target for cuts would be defense. But, as the film showed, there are powerful economic and political interests that give us policies that continue to fund defense at rates around $600 billion, which may be over twice what we actually need.

Clearly there was a rational argument to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. There were good rational arguments against each occupation as well. If people really believed Iraq posed a threat to us, and also believed a pre-emptive strike based on this perceived threat was justified, then such beliefs could be used to support the occupation of Iraq. I didn't believe Iraq posed a threat, and I rejected the notion of pre-emptive strikes against countries that aren't directly threatening us, so I demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq. But, even as I did so, I realized that in an ideal international system some sort of multinational coalition would coercively remove the Ba'ath Party and the ruling elites such as Saddam Husain from power in Iraq. I'd like to live in a world were a humanitarian coalition of powerful governments would combine their forces to remove the worst despots and tyrannies from power and give oppressed people a chance to gave better governments replace the totalitarian or murderous regimes that misrule them. So, from that perspective, even if Iraq posed no threat to us, I could hope for the best. But, I expected the worst, because it seemed clear to me that the powers organizing Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were incompetent, historically ignorant, culturally insensitive, and willfully stupid. I expected them to botch the occupation and alienate the Iraqi people, and many of my fears were confirmed. Thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives were wasted.

Women probably had a "better" situation relative to men under the Ba'ath regime in the sense that women and men were equally oppressed and enjoyed approximately equal freedoms and rights (what little they had of those). I think our success (and it's a fragile and shaky success, but I hope it takes root and gains strength) was to let Iraqis vote for their political leadership so that the government would be accountable to the people. In the long term, I hope Iraqi women can regain their standing of equality to men (which I recognize had been imperfectly attained under the Ba'ath regime), a standing I believe has been partly lost with the (hopefully temporary) rise of religious fanaticism and literalism and factionalism in Iraq.

I've just read an interesting book that seems to explain how American foreign policy could have much more success against the very real and dangerous threat of murderous death cults masquerading under the guise of Islamic Fundamentalism, and with your experiences in Iraq you might enjoy reading this book. It is An End to Al-Qaeda, and it's written by Malcolm Nance.

You are probably aware that women have been voting in meaningful democratic elections in Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan, and Morocco for decades. Women have had the vote, but elections are relatively meaningless, in most of the other Arab countries (e.g., Egypt, Tunisia), aside from those that don't even have any sort of reasonable elections because royal families or totalitarian single-party dictatorships rule everything (as in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, etc.). The Iraqi elections in 2005 you witnessed were meaningful, and I hope that soon the Iraqi people will be able to enjoy the fruits of universal enfranchisement and free and fair elections, and they will not give up this precious system, bought with so much blood and sacrifice by Iraqis, Americans, and others.

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