By Damon Krane
Monday, March 31, 2003
The Athens News
Having already spoken out against the war, Editor Terry Smith’s March 20 column expresses the hope that he’s been wrong all along. The hope is admirable, but the course of action Smith and some other liberal “moderates” are now promoting is awful.
Writing of “minimal death and destruction,” Smith declares, “I would send George W. a signed apology if it meant that Iraqi civilians had largely escaped harm and American troops had suffered few casualties after our invasion. He would hear my appreciation for boldly acting in the face of adversity.”
Yes, fewer casualties are better than more. But what amount of casualties is an acceptable cost for an unjustified war? To present “minimal” casualties as not only satisfactory, but cause to applaud the Bush administration and renounce one’s earlier opposition to the war, is a very bad idea.
First, it decreases the pressure on the Bush administration to minimize casualties at present and to avoid similarly unjustified wars in the future.
Second, if not racist, it expresses an extreme double standard for human life equivalent to racism. War supporters have accepted the certain destruction of countless Iraqi lives to make themselves feel safe from the unlikely possibility that Iraq could pose a threat to Americans. Imagine the situation reversed: If Iraq was the invading superpower and the U.S. its victim, would we commend Saddam Hussein for only killing the minimum amount of our fellow citizens necessary to overthrow the government? If our answer is “no,” then it is impossible for us to support this war without appraising Iraqi lives as substantially less valuable than their American counterparts.
Third, we do not support U.S. troops by supporting this war. Soldiers check their consciences at the door. They agree to do what they are ordered, under the assumption that those orders represent the will of their country’s population. It’s my understanding that those of us who have been fighting to prevent the lives of U.S. soldiers from being risked and lost in this war have been supporting them better than anyone else. By continuing to oppose the war now, we do the same. If we cannot win their withdrawal, we can make it harder for the government to send Americans to kill and die under similar circumstances in the future.
Smith says he’s “cheering for the Bush team’s success because its failure is too terrifying to conjure,” and adopts the same staples of pro-war fear-mongering he once argued were unfounded: “A pandora’s box unleashed from Saddam’s munitions bunkers and laboratories… an anti-American Jihad, terrorism flourishing.” Thus he advises, “we should join in supporting a quick, clean and successful conflict.”
A “clean” conflict? Being unjustified, the war is already dirty. And as much as it might comfort us to think otherwise, a bad decision becomes no better simply by virtue of having been made. If you want to support U.S. troops, improve human rights abroad, and defend democracy and security at home, the best place to do so remains in the anti-war movement.