Saturday afternoon I got caught up in the re-run of CSPAN's coverage of last April's L.A. Times Festival of Books. One segment included a panel of journalists and scholars, each having written books on the war in Iraq or aspects that greatly affect Iraq, came together to discuss the Bush administration's Iraq blunder, the role that corporate America plays in why we're doing what we're doing in Iraq, and our complete lack of dipomacy and lack of understanding of the Middle East. The panelists included Chris Hedges, William Langewiesche, T. Christian Miller, and Robert Scheer.
The highlights of the panel discussion included listening to Langewiesche expound on the notion that someone is indeed benefitting from what we're doing in Iraq, and its not the Iraqis, the American people, nor our soldiers who are fighting and dying for causes that have nothing to do with our national security. Langewiesche did not contain his criticism of our whoring ourselves out to corporate interests to only Bush and the Republicans. He also sent a shot accross the bow of our major Democratic candidates for 2008 as well.
I also thought Scheer's comparisons of the arguments against pulling out of Iraq to the arguments against pulling out of Vietnam in the 1970's. As he pointed out, Republicans argued that leaving Vietnam would be ceding southeast Asia to communism. Instead what happened was Vietnam and China went to war over a border dispute. Communism did not run rampant throughout the region. And, in fact, today capitalist ventures like McDonalds and Wal-Mart are doing quite well in both China AND Vietnam. As for fears that leaving now would mean that American casualties will have been inflicted in vain. As Mike Gravel says, their efforts were in vain the moment we attacked a country that represented little or no threat to us.
Scheer went on to use this analogy for our situation in Iraq. It's like a burgler who needlessly broke into someone's house and then refused to leave because of a fear that his victims can't survive without him. The Iraqis clearly want us to leave. Putting the best face possible on our forray into Iraq, if it was just to take out a tyrant like Saddam, we accomplished that. It's time for the Iraqis to have a chance to go about rebuilding their country and their lives.
But Chris Hedges was probably the most controversial, and maybe the most poignant. Having lived and worked for a long time in the Middle East, he has friends in Iraq and Iran. These friends are not government officials, and they have nothing to do with the military of either country, or any radical militia. They are simple ordinary citizens of their country, just as you and I are here. They are the ones that are caught up in the power struggle involving our governments, which sometimes do not have the best interests of the average American, Iraqi, or Iranian at heart. He says we owe these people an apology. First for invading the region in 2003 without provocation, and secondly for our failure to do anything about it by re-electing Bush in 2004.
Hedges goes on to say that he thinks that Bush should be impeached, despite his short time left in office. It's his opinion that it's the only way that the U.S. can restore its moral and legal authority as a world leader. He says that the Bush administration has broken both national and international law. And he's definitely correct in saying that we have created more enemies in this world since 2003 than we've killed or detained.
Hedges went on to renew his pledge that if we go to war with Iran, he won't pay his income taxes. Lets just hope that it won't come to that.