Why don’t we follow our hearts and minds?
On March 17, 2003 President Bush declared that Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to leave Iraq, as we were entering into combat operations. Since that day, when we declared War, we have been occupying a country, with the stated mission of "winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people", to "liberate them" and "bring democracy".
Almost 5 years later, we reflect on a brutalized conutry, and a brutalized coalition force. There is now a war being faught directly against the civilian population, after we destroyed their cities, interrogated the people, arrested and detained the people of Iraq for questioning and interrogations. We sent hundreds of people to Guantanamo Bay, many (and in some cases all) of which were unrecorded, unrepresented, held without charge, and withheld the right to contact their families. It is estimated, that between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people have died resulting from the initial war, occupation, and subsequent humanitarian crises that has occured since that day in 2003. After bombing or shooting into the civilian places of gathering such as mosques, hospitals, schools, and homes, it is obvious for anyone to see…that we are not succeeding in winning the hearts and minds, libertaing, and installing our democracy, in Iraq.
There are many reasons that we went to war in Iraq. We have begun, and since increased our country’s presence in the Middle East. We have relations with Israel, with Saudi Arabia, with Pakistan, with Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Syria. We have friendly relations with some of these countries, and aggressive relations with others. Regardless, we certainly maintain a concrete presence in this region. It is largely known that for decades, we have reinforced our presence for purposes of bartering power, of advancement in mainting a role of holding and maintaining strategic resources, and for the protection of our affiliated countries (allies, if you will), and our interests.
The problem with this, is that our country, because it is the largest superpower in the world, and because for decades, it has held the largest amount of incfluence throughout the world, is playing a game of Risk with the rest of the world. These are not countries that need to fall under one. The problem, is that instead of it being about strategy, and accomplishment, and power, and acquirements; this is about people.
This is about people. Human beings, you, me, our families, our friends, this is about everyone.
When our diplomats talk sternly to one another at UN meetings, when we make threats of violence against a country for not bending to what we think is best for them, and when we attack another country because they adamantly refuse to cooperate, we are dealing with people. We are killing them. We are destroying their comfortable ways of life, their routines, their communities.
Indeed, Emma Goldman once said (I believe she quoted Carlyle): "War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village; stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other."
My question is, instead of trying to win their hearts and minds, why don’t we follow our hearts and minds?
Let’s follow the hearts and minds of our people who are stuck over there. These are our friends, our brothers, sisters, and partners. These are not pawns in an elaborate game of world domination. Let’s follow the hearts and minds of the people who live in the countries we have dominated.
We are the wealthiest country in the world right now. We spend 452 Billion dollars per year on this war. Why don’t we cut the payroll, bring most of the soldiers and most of the equipment home, and spend a significant amount on paying reparations to the Iraqi people. We wouldn’t even have to spend all of the difference. We could use even 100, or 200 billion a year for this, and spend the rest on domestic issues like health care, education, transportation, and other social, civillian plans. The people who remain there, can be available to work with the Iraqi government (all of the Iraqi government, the parliament, the council, the prime minister), as well as within the International Community (as to build support, as to participate on a positive note, in world affairs, and to work together), to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq.
Above all, we must give up on "Winning the Hearts and Minds". Why should we have to win them over to somewhere they clearly do not wish to be? It obviously isn’t working, and quite frankly, it’s turned into a complete disaster.
Maybe it’s time for a change. We as a nation are very frustrated about where we’ve been led in this war, the neglect on our domestic front, our lack of preparedess for disaster, and our lack of adequate representation by the people we voted into office. Maybe it’s time we start following the hearts and minds of the people, here, and abroad, and start working to affect a positive change in this world, and in how we look at it. We should think long and hard about this, and make sure that the people we vote for in office this time around are held accountable for the decisions they make, and ensure that we, as a people, can go along with these decisions, that we know the facts, and we actually start helping people instead of hurting them.