I was an infantryman. My brother was an infantryman. My father was an infantryman. My grandfather was an infantryman in both World War II and the Korean War. And so on, up through my family tree. I’ve been a soldier in a family of soldiers that has served this country in most of the wars it has fought since its founding.
This week my son deploys to the Middle East. And Donald Trump appears to be changing before our eyes into something none of us voted for. Before long my son could be on the ground in Syria, part of a new American campaign that’s no more likely to produce any good than anything else we’ve done in that troubled part of the world.
Beyond scaring me down on my knees, these facts have forced me to think about America’s legacy in the region. Things are not always as they seem. Remember all the warnings we heard about how Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction? About its ties to the attacks on 9/11? Remember Colin Powell at the United Nations, putting all his credibility, and America’s, on the line, to urge the world to join us? It was based on bad intelligence. Dust in our eyes. Dust in the wind.
The real question now is not whether Assad is a bad guy. Of course he is. But look at the real alternatives. They’re all much worse for religious minorities in the area, including Christians.
Our Broken Promises in Iraq
More important than bad intel from past conflicts, remember the promises we made to Iraq and its people. We swore that we would bring freedom, order, and prosperity. Do we even remember that now?
Iraqis do. With bitterness.
In January I traveled to Iraq and Kurdistan, researching a film I’m making. Its heroes? The one million Christians who were purged from their ancient homeland, right under our soldier’s noses. (Our men were following orders, and the Bush administration never ordered them to prevent it.) I’m documenting these and other religious refugees as they fight for their faith and their families. As they cling to their human dignity in the wasteland we left behind.
As I made my way toward Mosul, I passed through the legacy of our last “humanitarian” intervention. Our last war against a war criminal. Our proud patriots’ achievement stretched out before me as I snaked down the dusty roads: one abandoned settlement after another. Some places with noble and ancient names were now neatly organized piles of rubble.
Here’s what the locals told me: After the U.S. invaded, dissolved their army, fitfully tried to keep order, then finally — under Obama — cut and ran, those towns were captured by ISIS. The men and boys were hunted, the girls kidnapped and raped. The survivors hid out in the hills. Then U.S. airstrikes flattened all the buildings. Then ISIS booby-trapped the rubble and burned whatever was left. And that’s what is left of much of Iraq.
America’s Elite Plays on Our Goodness, But What Results is Evil
While I was still in Kurdistan I finally got overwhelmed. I met with local imams, whose people had suffered alongside the Christians. As The Stream has reported, those groups now fight together against ISIS. They also fight al Qaeda, and its Turkish sponsors and allies. After I heard their stories, I blurted out an apology. “I’m sorry. Americans are sorry that we invaded then abandoned you.”
The imam nodded solemnly, and addressed me with great dignity. “We know that Americans think they are responsible for the actions of their government. We are not so naive. Americans are good people. Your elite must play on your goodness even to do evil.”
A Long Series of Half-Truths & War Propaganda
As responsible citizens, it’s our duty to listen skeptically when men with power call us to war. We owe at least that much to the victims of past mistakes. It has become standard practice in American war-making to take some atrocity, inflate it or invent it and use it to sell a war to the general public. The spurious “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” sold us the whole Vietnam War.
We were sold the first Gulf War in part by the fiction that Iraqi soldiers were yanking premature babies out of incubators in Kuwait. (The “witness” who spoke before Congress was a relative of Kuwait’s ambassador, coached by a PR firm.) There were good reasons for liberating Kuwait. So why did our leaders decide to lie to us? Do they think we can’t be trusted with the truth?
In the three months since I’ve returned to our peaceful shores, I’ve been haunted by what I saw. By the fathers who choked up as they told me what happened to their daughters. By the pastors who were still picking through the ruins of ancient churches. By the ruin left behind by irresponsible politicians. Now I wonder whether my son will risk his life to pile up rubble in yet another country. (For more from the author of “I’m an Old Soldier. Now My Son Might Deploy to Syria, and I’m Worried” please click HERE)