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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Moral choices 

Great column THE GHOST OF TET - Like Vietnam, Iraq was never the media’s to lose.
by Matt Taibbi refuting conservative arguments that Americans are spineless losers.
Let's get something straight. The people who marched against the Vietnam War were not holding signs that said, 'We Can't Win!' They called for withdrawal, both before and after Tet, because they came to believe that the war was wrong. [emphasis mine] They protested not because our saturation bombing of the North and our Phoenix assassination programs and our toxic defoliating campaigns in the South were ineffective. They protested because they were effective, because they killed so many people so efficiently . . . .America would never have considered giving up after Tet if Vietnam had been a moral war. We would have fought to the last man no matter what setbacks came our way. We would do so now in Iraq."
For some mindsets, a war is neither moral nor immoral, its just winnable or not. Winning, in this way of thinking, is a justification in itself for the war. Taibbi is pointing out that Americans are capable of making a moral judgment about a war regardless of how many soldiers are dying.
When the history of this war is written, I hope the behaviour of the US commands in Fallujah, Najaf and Sadr City will be shown for the act of humanity I think it was. Now, this is my evaluation from thousands of miles away, only reading news stories, but it appears to me that the US soldiers who could have "conquered" these cities decided that killing thousands of Iraqis to do so would be an immoral act, a crime against humanity --and indeed history would have seen it that way. In pulling back they ultimately put their own soldiers at risk, because these cities are now "free zones" where resistance fighters prepare more bombs and attacks. The Marines, I think, knew this would happen, but they negotiated a settlement and pulled back anyway because the alternative was too horrible for a moral person to stomach.
I wonder what these soldiers think of the Pentagon chickenhawks who write quibbling memos justifying torture -- of course, it isn't them or their children who are at risk of being tortured in return, it is these young men who are now fighting this war for them in Iraq, and who are making the hard choices that the Pentagon and administration leadership are apparently too chicken-hearted to make.

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