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The Tentacle


August 13, 2010

Middle East Morass

Roy Meachum

Dictionary: “morass, n. 1. An area of low-lying, soggy ground. 2. Something that hinders, engulfs, or overwhelms.”

 

Both The New York Times and The Washington Post front pages this week reminded that our Middle Eastern forces are scheduled for drastic reductions at this month’s end.

 

Columns criticizing the buildup for the invasion of Iraq found me accused of a lack of patriotism, my nearly seven years in the Army swept aside. Frederick friends shunned me, as I’ve written before. But that was in the post-9/11 patriotism that swept the country, hyped by politicians cashing in on the popular feeling. Furthermore, both The Times and The Post encouraged the military elimination of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

 

Many Americans believed, along with President George W. Bush, that the Iraqis would instantly submit to his planned “shock and awe” campaign; they were only brown-eyes, brown-skin Arabs, after all; smaller than our normally ethnic European body-frames. In addition, they followed a “very strange” religion, Islam; they didn’t even know how to say God’s name, we heard.

 

The invaded people did not comply with the White House script; as their ancestors of centuries, they fought back. Washington made it ever so much easier by disbanding the Iraq Army, on the pretext it was manned by too many adherents of the dictator. Young Americans paid with their blood and their lives – despite vastly improved medical services and head and body armor. (Grandson Christopher Meachum fortunately survived a combat tour unharmed, driving an Army tank.)

 

This administration announced shortly after Inauguration that all combat forces were pulling out at the end of this very month; 50,000 soldiers will stick around, but only for another year. By September 2011, Iraqis will handle the supply and training missions performed by coalition troops since the March 19, 2003, invasion.

 

Front page Washington Post and New York Times stories spelled out Wednesday how much the pullout date might be endangered; the State Department lacks $400 million to fund projects they should undertake next month, from the uniforms and Defense Department contractors. Meanwhile, the Baghdad government swirls around-and-around like a Kansas whirlwind: the varied factions argue constantly on who should be prime minister. That’s been going on since the March elections, almost six months.

 

Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces, has a real problem: if nobody answers the front door, why bother to knock? With no chief of government, who is he supposed to turn over responsibility and authority to? For anyone in Iraq, the presence of foreign troops underlies all political disputations. Sunni and some Shiite sectors anticipate eagerly the disappearance of all outsiders. For their own purposes, other groups want U.S. bayonets to stick around, to maintain them in power.

 

In other words, Iraq has turned into the exact mess I warned against: a situation that “hinders, engulfs, or overwhelms.” The same dictionary definition applies also to Afghanistan.

 

One certainty that comforts insurgents in both countries is that all foreign armies will go home, eventually. Terrorists hope to hasten the departure by fostering atrocities that kill men, women and children who want to go about their daily lives in peace.

 

Furthermore, the United States’ deficit would definitely improve if the Iraqi vortex dries up. Muslim radicals lose by removing the cause for their chief sources of finance.

 

Selfish pride stands against the possibility of evacuation, especially among generals, industrialists and politicians who have benefited immeasurably from the war.

 

All along, my gravest worry was for my country and its people. The same motivation propels columns against the anti-Muslim movement, except in this instance I fear for the very document they cite frequently, the Constitution.

 

In defending religious minorities among us – although Islam counts more believers than all Christianity – I am upholding the rights formulated in James Madison’s Bill of Rights. The principles were trashed by Know Nothings rioting against Irish and German immigrants, overwhelmingly Catholic, on the basis the new Americans wanted papal power enshrined with autocratic rule in this country. The Ku Klux Klan fiercely fought African Americans’ rights to full equality, as all readers know.

 

In standing up for Muslims, I am not propagating against the Christian culture but accepting all human beings are different, exactly as Thomas Jefferson articulated in the Declaration of Independence. Still other people say I am Un-American because I don’t harbor hate against the people they detest.

 

Go figure.

 



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