Confession: I was pro-war. I believed the Bush administration. On March 20, 2003, I was in my home cheering on the beginning to one of the most disastrous military plans ever devised: the Iraq War. Cheering for war! I argued with friends that the war was just and that I supported our invasion of a sovereign nation. (One of those friends is probably reading this right now. Thanks for sticking with me friend.) I felt a sense of relief that we were finally going to hammer those monsters into the ground.
Relief. I shudder.
I am haunted by these memories even now. How could I be so blind? Why didn’t I know innately that what we were doing was wrong? After all this time, I still have no answers.
I have excuses. I could tell you that many people in the world of news that I admired lead me astray. I could tell you that the powerful testimony of General Colin Powell propelled me into War fever. I could say that most of the people I knew then were also for the war, because they were.
Excuses are all I have. I had blood lust. I wanted someone’s head on a pike. Anyone’s. I was angry at the world. I still had nightmares about the things I saw on September 11, 2001.
Somewhere in me, there is a switch that turns off reason and logic, and, dear reader, that switch is in you, too. You may balk at that, but history says it is so. We are all fighters and anger can propel normal good people into atrocious behavior. We have to be vigilant against our base instincts.
I vow to never slip again. I vow. I promise. I sincerely hope that I can stick to that.
Let’s travel way back in time, all the way to 1789, the French Revolution was afoot. No one would argue that the French people were wrong for rising up and taking their country into upheaval, would they? Surely not. People were starving to death. Squalor and disease were rampant as the people of the court enjoyed lives of relative ease and importance.
Revolution was inevitable. It had to happen. Who would argue otherwise? During that revolution, the vox populi started with propaganda aimed squarely at Marie Antoinette. “Let them eat cake” was part of that. She probably never said such a thing, but the papers had cartoons that say she did. Propaganda is powerful, so powerful in fact that with all the evidence to the contrary people today still believe that Marie Antoinette walked out on her balcony and said, “let them eat cake.”
Propaganda is powerful. See paragraph 4.
The people of the court were systematically driven out of France and those who were captured making a break for it endured hell on earth. They were dragged into the streets and were beaten to death. Many of the women were raped so viciously in the streets that the injuries they sustained in the rapes are thought to be what killed them. Men endured the rapes, too. The monarchs were taken from their palace and put into prison along with their young children and servants. Eventually, the King and Queen were beheaded.
Princesse de Lamballe, one of Antoinette’s closest and dearest friends, was captured and imprisoned. During the September Massacres, she was dragged from her cell, beaten viciously, murdered, and mutilated. The crowd put her head on a pike and paraded it past Marie Antoinette’s prison window.
Were the people of France justified in their Revolution? Yes, without a doubt. Did they have to be propaganda machines and barbaric in order to fight back? I am not so sure. Some might argue that the viciousness was justified. An eye for an eye. In 2003, I was in line with those people.
There is a switch that turns us from civilized to barbaric. We have to acknowledge that the switch is there in order to fight against ever flipping it to the on position.
Back to Iraq. Will we ever escape the consequences of the Iraq War? I am not so sure we will. Let’s take a look at some statistics published in 2013 in Business Insider.
Statistics are cold but necessary.
655,000: Persons who have died in Iraq since the invasion that would not have died if the invasion had not occurred.
189,000: Direct war deaths, which doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands more that died due to war-related hardships.
4,488: U.S. service personnel killed directly.
134,000: Civilians killed directly.
2.8 million: Persons who remain either internally displaced or have fled the country.
I was pro-war. I shudder.
Those numbers shock the mind but the humans behind them make me weak in the knees and I cry sometimes without warning. Mothers and fathers are in those numbers. Children are, too. Men and women fighting because we said so. Dying because we approved of their deaths. We justified some loss of life for a supposed greater good.
The consequences of the Iraq War are spreading across the globe like a virus. I am reminded of an old movie, perhaps a somewhat corny movie, that tried to show us what that little switch in each of us can do to the humans that inhabit this planet.
War Games. If you have never watched it, do. Yes, it is dated but the larger point is not.
The only winning move is not to play.