Monday 24 March 2003

The Lords of Vengeance

by William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt We have become, with a sudden jolt, a divided nation in this time of war. Demands that Americans leave aside protests, accusations and anger in order to support our military work in Iraq have gone unheeded by great segments of the population. Millions of people have poured into the streets of virtually every city in the country to demand that the bombing be stopped, and that the troops be brought safely home. Those protests have been met by equally enraged citizens who see these protests as an aid to terrorists and an act of treason. Americans scream obscenities at Americans across lines created by armored police.

This will only get worse, as both groups are hardened in their opinions and beliefs. In the final analysis, questions of who is right and who is wrong fall by the wayside, as both sides stand secure in their rectitude. In such a polarized situation, right and wrong will be determined between these groups when one side quits.

Caught in the middle is a group far larger than the combined mass of the citizens described above. This group may be unsure, may fall to one side or the other on a daily basis, but essentially support the war. It is to this group in particular that I address my words.

I understand why you support this engagement. At bottom, you do so because you are loyal. The President has said it must be so, and so it must be so. The loyalty of this nation's citizenry is now and has always been our greatest strength. Many of you who support the war are veterans of other conflicts, and so your support is based upon a desire to stand with the troops now in harm's way. This is more than honorable.

Many of you believe this must happen because you have been told, time and again, that Saddam Hussein possesses an awesome arsenal of mass destruction weapons that he will gladly give to terrorists for use against us. Your belief that this is so stems from your loyalty – the President has told you it is true, and so it must be true. It is fearful indeed to consider weapons like this in the hands of terrorists.

You must know, however, that no proof of either prohibited weapons possession or connections to terrorism on the part of Saddam Hussein has been offered by the administration. They have made many accusations, and offered chunks of evidence, but over the last weeks and months each and every bit of evidence put forth has been debunked. Sometimes, the press has proven them wrong, sometimes the weapons inspectors in Iraq proved them wrong, and sometimes our own intelligence services proved them wrong. No proof offered by the Bush administration has stood up. None.

Likewise, many of you support this war because of the deplorable suffering Saddam Hussein has inflicted upon his own people. There is no denying the barbarous nature of this dictator, and no one worth a damn would ever lift a finger to defend his actions. You have been told that the Iraqi people will be freed by this conflict, that democracy is coming to that tired and torn nation. For many of you, this is more than enough reason to support this action.

Unfortunately, it is all but certain that the Iraqi people will see neither freedom nor democracy because of the cultural divisions within that nation. Iraq is divided into three groups: Shia, Sunni and Kurd. The Shia make up over 60% of the Iraqi population, and are ideologically and theocratically aligned with the hard-liners who rule Iran. Should we bring western-style majority-rules democracy to Iraq, we would be setting the stage for a debilitating alliance between Iran and Iraq. The Kurds will never be allowed to rule Iraq or anything else; we have already promised Turkey this. Only the Sunnis remain as the viable future leaders of Iraq. Saddam Hussein is a Sunni, and the tribal politics of the Iraqi Sunni guarantee that whoever replaces Hussein will be as bad as he was to the other Iraqi groups, or worse.

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