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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 2nd, 2008 - 01:47:59

The tragic devastation of Iraq, a critical moral issue for America
By Michael Payne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 2, 2008, 00:33

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As we watch our 401Ks and other investments bleed and hemorrhage, we have lapsed into a state of shock as the economy spirals downward. In our own personal grief and agony, this nation has now managed to put the literal destruction of another nation and a society into a far corner of our minds. We should be better than that.

In America, we have many beautiful gated communities. In Iraq, the city of Baghdad has been transformed into a gigantic gated community of a distinctly different nature. In America, we have attractive fencing surrounding exclusive communities to keep out unwanted intruders. In Baghdad, our military has erected endless miles of concrete walls and barriers to keep the citizens penned into sections so they can no longer intrude upon each other or even have normal relations. As our sage leaders have been telling us, Baghdad is the living truth that the �surge is working.� Yes, it is working; working to reduce the Iraqi society to a distant shell of what it once was.

What has, and continues to happen, in this nation now severely ravaged by a frightful war no longer seems to be a high priority with the people of America. It is used to be, but that has now changed dramatically with the financial meltdown that has seen a collapse on Wall St., the Dow and the 401Ks and other investments that you and I are depending on for our future. That heinous, misguided war seems to have disappeared from our radar as we turn our concentration inward to our own welfare above all.

The same seems to be true of the massive, extremely expensive election campaign in which both candidates for president, Obama, McCain and their debate moderators, could not find time to discuss a situation that should have been a most important issue. But there, apparently, was no time whatsoever for moral issues.

In our hearts, I believe that we Americans are fully aware that the administration of Bush/Cheney and their cabal of neocons are totally responsible for the massive devastation brought down on the nation of Iraq. That illegal, immoral and despicable invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation virtually destroyed Iraqi civilization, as its infrastructure, economy, precious national museums and governmental institutions all have been torn to shreds -- that is, except for one very important arm of government, the Ministry of Oil.

This nation of Iraq, this area of the Middle East has been referred to the �cradle of civilization,� its culture going back over 7,000 years. It was there where early concepts of philosophy, international trade, and religion originated. It is this very relevant historical area that saw almost every national museum, containing artifacts dating back thousands of years, either destroyed or looted, losses that cannot be measured in dollars but only in historical importance, losses that cannot be replaced.

Fallujah, once a major city of more than 400,000 citizens, was virtually leveled by the intense firepower that rained down on its population. Fallujah and Baghdad, in particular, have seen their infrastructures destroyed and we all have heard the stories of continuous water and sewage problems, very limited availability of electricity and other basic needs for the residents. More than 2.5 million Iraqis, and the majority of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers, have fled the country to Syria, Jordan, Iran and other nations. The highly respected British medical journal, Lancet, has estimated that more than one million Iraqis have lost their lives in this conflict.

The question is, can we Americans even begin to comprehend the massive losses that the Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of the administration still in power in Washington, DC? Do we even care? In the presidential election just concluded, the overriding issue was the economy -- the Iraq War was given only a 10 percent ranking as the concern of most Americans. That is just incomprehensible. That clearly says that Americans cannot seem to feel any great concern over the plight and suffering of these fellow human beings that have experienced the horrific shock and awe of war caused by our government.

Barack Obama, just elected to be the 44th president of the US, has continually promised to bring this war to an end and bring our troops home if elected. Now we will see if he will be true to his word or if he will let himself be influenced by certain elements of both the Republican and Democratic parties that are hell bent upon �still winning this war.� And that is a key question. If polled, the majority of Americans would say that the war should be finally ended. But, if asked to state their exact reason, what would this majority say? Would it be that this war never should have been fought, that it is against our basics beliefs of right versus wrong, that the subjugation and suffering of the people is morally reprehensible? Or would the answer be that we should leave because we are not winning or it is just too expensive and we could use the billions of dollars being expended to improve conditions in America?

To answer that monumental question, we need to examine our consciences, think deeply about morality and values, zero in on what is right and what is wrong. When we look for help in such a serious self-examination, I am not so sure that our religious institutions (with some notable exceptions) can be of much help. Since the inception of this war in 2003, the churches of America as a whole have been largely silent about the moral issues that are involved with this war. I never want to see any political discussion coming from a church pulpit, as I firmly believe in total separation of church and state. But those who occupy the pulpits have a responsibility to talk about these issues in ways that, while they do not violate this separation, make their congregations think deeply about what the word of God teaches them regarding their fellow human beings.

If we Americans can only focus on our own personal economic suffering -- and we have no room in our hearts to relate to the devastation and suffering of the Iraqi people -- then we as a nation will be on a distinct course to lose our moral foundations. At that point, whether we go to a church, synagogue, mosque or any house of worship, it will not matter and we could better use the time for other purposes.

I, like millions of Americans, am quite concerned about investments and my family�s welfare. It is a very major concern that I think about most every day, even though I know that does not help the situation. But there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not also think about the plight of those millions of Iraqis that have seen their civilization literally torn apart. I won�t stop thinking about it or writing about it until the occupation and subjugation of that country is ended and we bring our troops home.

Yes, there are signs that things may finally change and that, in the not too distant future, this nation of Iraq may be freed from the occupation that it has endured since the Bush/Cheney invasion of 2003. The Iraqi parliament just signed the SOFA (status of forces agreement) between Iraq and the U.S. that includes the provision that all U.S. troops will leave Iraqi cities and return to their bases in Iraq in June 2009. And the most important provision is that it calls for all American troops to totally leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

If it all turns out that way, then that will be the best outcome for all parties. The Iraqis will see their occupier leave and our troops can return from an eight-year debacle that never should have happened. As great as this will be, the Iraqis will then begin to fathom the monumental, almost impossible job they will have in repairing the massive destruction that has been done to every element of their national being. It will take many, many years to repair their entire infrastructure and to heal the mental trauma that they have endured, but they will eventually restore stability to their nation.

And then, America can begin a parallel mental process to try to repair the scar put on its soul by the administration of George W. Bush -- the legacy that he will take into history. Many of us remember that we went through a similar process when the ill-conceived, destructive Vietnam War finally ended; when the Vietnamese saw an occupation end and they began to repair the massive damage done to their nation. And America tried to comprehend why over 55,000 of our troops had to die in a war that never should have been waged.

The only question left is: When will we ever learn? Are we now at the point where we finally understand that America must never again wage war on any other nation on this earth in a preemptive invasion and occupation that cannot be justified? That we must return to the precept that we will use our power and our forces when, and only when, our nation is directly threatened by imminent attack?

Let�s all hope and pray that we finally have learned from the lessons of history and can now chart a new moral course for the future welfare of America and the entire world.

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