The Bell Is Tolling – But Is Anyone Listening?

Today is the first day of Spring! The emotions and memories that we feel and remember because of that celebration are, for most people, quite positive. But today is also another, much less pleasant anniversary. Today is the fifth anniversary of Bush’s war – the anniversat of the US invasion of Iraq. And the emotions and memories of that are. for many Americans, far less pleasant.

For the families of many of our military personnel, emotions and memories run the gamut from fear for their safety to grief because a family member was one of the many deaths. For those of us who are not family or friend of someone who is serving or has served in Iraq and Afganistan, the emotions run the gamut from fierce national pride to extreme outrage. This war has divided this country like no other foreign policy issue since Vietnam.

And that is a nice seque to a discussion of the memories we revive today.

For those of us old enough to have been politically aware during Vietnam, it’s deha vu. There are so many of the same issues being debated in Congress and on the streets and almost anywhere else that people meet. The issues being debated are the same: the politcal necessities, the morality of the war, the economic impact, the political diviseness that has resulted, and our image internationally.

For those with shorter memories, the emotions and memories are more about how thinfs were six or seven years ago. Gas prices were half of what they are now. The housing industry was booming and people were able to pay their mortgages. The stock markets were doing well. The economy was robust, not at the point where it appears to be on the brink of collapse.

The emotions that these memories raise are fear, anger, frustration, and uncertainty about our own futures and the future of this country. To me, it appears the country is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket. I am not sure that it isn’t too late to reverse the decline. We may have to bottom out before we can climb back up.

Was the war against terror – Bush’s justification for the invasions of Iraq and Afganistan – worth this price? Have we accomplished anything? Let’s see.

We managed to depose – on a very permanent basis – a dictator in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is gone as are many of his cronies. The Sunni minority in Iraq is no longer in control. The Shi’ite majority is. That sounds good on paper, but to paraphrase Mel Gibson says in “The Patriot,” have we traded one dictator for 3000 dictators? Iraq is still not really a democracy and now the coutry is racked even more by religious, ethnic, and political violence than it was under Saddam.

One of the underlying, less-than-ethical, and less-spoken-about reasons for the invasion of Iraw was to guarantee that the US would have adequate oil available that was not subject to OPEC control and that those oil reserves would provide gasoline for Americans at resonable prices. Well, that objective failed miserably. I’m not sure the latter half of that objective was ever very important. I think oil company profits were more important than what you and I pay at the gas pump, and that objective has succeeded admirably.

Another objective was to stop the Islamic fundamentalists. And to capture Osama bin-Ladn. Well, it’s been five years and Osama is still out there thumbing his nose at George and the fundamentalists in Afganistan and Turkey are more active than they have been for quite some time.

The levels of ethnic violence in the region has escalated to levels much higher than five years ago. The Hurds are still talking secession from Iraq, but this time they don’t have to fear the brutal repression of Saddam, so they might actually succeed and that has caused the Kurds in Turkey to get involved to the point that Turkey sent troops into the Iraqi part of Kurdistan to suppress their Kurdish rebels.

The ethic Albanians, who tend to be Muslims, in Kosovo, where they are the majority, have declared their independence from Serbia, and yje Bush admibistration has given Kosovo independence its blessing. But the issue has created diviseness in the European Union. If the Serbians, who do have a nistory of resorting to military intervention, decide to take a firm stance on their claims to Kosovo, we could see further diviseness in the EU. And with Serbia, rather than allying with the EU, allying itself with Russia.

For those of us who are students of history – or at least remember what we learned in school, this is deja vu as well. It is beginning to sound an awful lot like the situation that led to World War I. And, if our involvement in Afganistan and Iraq leads to World War III, then perhaps we might learn a very important lesson that we seem to have forgotten – ot ignored.

John Donne, some 300 years ago, said “No man is an island.” That goes for countries even more. What one country does has ripples that will affect other countries, and when that country is the USA, the ripple is more like a tidal wave.

Donne concludes his poem with the line, “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Something all of our politicians need to remember.


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