Back When

So the 10 year anniversary of our entering Iraq has come and gone, and there are posts everywhere in examination – both self and of others. My turn.

I’ll say first that I wasn’t sure offhand what position(s) I’d held. I know I have changed, I’ve grown, learned, and a number of other things and could not recall for certain where I’d been. Fortunately, I’ve been blogging for a while. Oops, earliest blog was the beginning of 2004. Well, I still have emails going back – holy cripes, I do save a lot of junk. And with certain private list discussion groups at that. (which means I’m not sharing, sorry.)

Simple view first. I thought our action in Afghanistan was right. Looking back, I still do. I thought our action in Iraq was… ok, here’s where things get messy. See, I was uncomfortable with it. I had a lot of things on the side with which I was massively uncomfortable (get there in a minute) but I hadn’t quite reached the stage prior to the invasion of accepting that My Government’s Leadership was lying to get us into a war. No, let me go further.

I trusted the bureaucracy.

See, unlike a lot of people I like bureaucracies. Yes, they keep things from moving fast, they’re resistant to change. That’s their strength in an extremely powerful system – they’re what keeps nuts from racing to doom. This time, however, they failed. I’m not sure why. No, really, I do not know why none of the brakes worked. If I had to guess, however, I’d guess it was the same thing driving a lot of the rest of us: fear. We’d been OMG HURT.

Two lies. First, Saddam had nukes – or rather an active and soon-to-mature nuclear weapons program. Second, that Saddam had been actively involved in the attack on us.

Now I was uncomfortable with the actual invasion. First, I expected Iraq’s military to be a lot more effective in the fight. I learned a lot about analysis in that result – things to look at to try and identify a paper tiger. (digression: North Korea – paper tiger. Iran – not a paper tiger.) But I “knew” the attack was going to be a lot more difficult.

Second, I kept being bothered at how we were ignoring what Blix was saying. We were simultaneously getting the message that Blix was lying, incompetent, and in collusion. So we changed investigator and got the same result. It made me wonder about the evidence for a nuke program – but again I wasn’t quite ready for “they’re lying to start a war.”

Ironically, it was in the middle of the actual invasion that I got, not necessarily proof but strong confirmation that the government was lying. As I mentioned there were a few other fronts on which I was adamantly against the government action. There was the rush to secrecy, hiding all the formerly publicly accessible information that let us know who our government was an how it worked. There was the dilution of the Geneva Conventions, creating the false “third category”. And there was the USAPATRIOT ACT.

In the middle of the engagement itself I realized that some librarians with which I regularly corresponded were no longer discussing that act. Any discussion that brought it up saw them just disappear. Now take a minute and think of your friends. Think of the one that talks ALL THE TIME, and has an opinion on everything. Now, suddenly, on this and closely related subject they just suddenly go silent. They don’t try to change the subject, they just hang up, leave, disengage.

And rumors filtered in the library community that we’d been served – several of us. “Hi, we’re the FBI/DHS/Secret Service. We want to look at all your computer records. Oh, and here’s a gag order – you cannot appeal this, you cannot tell anyone about it, you can’t discuss it in any fashion.” Ashcroft got up and said the rumors were false – specifically, “We have never served a library.” Turns out Ashcroft lied, just like Wolfowitz and Cheney and Bush and the rest.

So here’s the deal today. I generally trust my government, still. But it’s no longer total. And never when it’s “just trust us” or “that’s classified” or “we’ll tell you later.” Because the thing is while it was mostly the Republicans that were doing this, there were Democrats complicit in it. And there are, I think, Democrats taking advantage of the openings made under the Republicans.

So this rush to war with Iran? Really untrusting. Continuation of the USAPATRIOT ACT? No trust. The government wants to use an extension of that act to examine financial records? I’m voting no. You get the idea.

Because back then I didn’t say no, I said, “Well…., I guess.” And I got burned.

The really sad thing about me saying “I guess?” I had specific point objections to a wide range of things that should have had me saying no. I just didn’t want to… I am a vet. Some of the bureaucrats, some of the officials speaking were people I knew, either directly or at first remove. I LIKED some of them, trusted them at levels due to shared experiences. I did not want to put the evidence together. It makes me rather surly, sometimes. Because I knew enough and had the skills to put it together and didn’t. Wouldn’t. Whatever.

So, that’s my mea culpa. I was lukewarm, neither strongly for nor against. Both sides can rightly condemn me for my stance – never mind how I stood on other issues. I was wrong, and I’m sorry, and it won’t bring a single damn person who died back to life.

These days I’m seeing a push for Iran. My resistance is part of my apology. Oh, I’m trying to watch to see I don’t go wholly stupid the other way, but… yeah, I don’t think so. It’s the same handwaves, the same smoke and mirrors. Associations that turn out not to be so, production that turns out not to exist, activity that isn’t, and a constant “we have to before they do us” drumbeat of… fear? excitement? I can’t really get my head around it, I just know it’s there.

I just don’t want to add to this particular mea culpa.

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