Tuesday, May 25, 2004

What John Kerry Should Do

Of course no one asked me and certainly the perspective I bring, filtered through my life as an African-American woman, a community organizer, an out lesbian, by default a failed Catholic now nurturing Buddhist intentions … well, you know, who exactly would be interested in what I think John Kerry should do? It doesn’t matter, really, cause I feel the need to tell him anyway.

For those of you who are regular readers I will return to the issues raised by the torture scandal. I am pre-occupied by the role of women and what women thought they were doing; the idea that somehow these soldiers are innocent “boy and girls” in over their heads; and what does it mean that we live in a country that describes heinous covert operations as “black ops” insulated from the more legitimate “white” intelligence community. But first, Mr. Kerry:

I didn’t listen to George W. Bush last night. I can’t. It brings up feelings of rage and resentment and powerlessness. In addition I become pre-occupied with trying to catch him lying about what he said his administration was doing, what they are doing, what they are going to do. It’s just not good for me. But you, the presumptive nominee, (by the way, just accept the damn nomination) need to be a little clearer about your thinking regarding the war, getting to peace, and the US role in the world. Here’s what I think you should say and do –

First, admit you were wrong in voting to give George W. Bush any money or authority to wage war. You have been a senator a long time; perhaps you have never encountered a political creature like George Bush and his minions, willing to lie to us and you and your brethren and sistren who hold the purse strings. So admit that you trusted the President and you were wrong. Warn us against any illusion that we can trust him in the future. It will make some people mad but its closer to the truth.

Second, demand an apology from GWB for lying to us. Yes, the troops captured Saddam Hussein, an admirable goal, but that wasn’t this administration’s goal. If we go by what they say, we don’t really know what GWB’s intentions were. Judging their actions, it seems like it was to gain control of Iraqi oil. Yes, there was all that talk about weapons of mass destruction, then freeing the Iraqi people, creating a culture of democracy, on and on, but when the Army had to choose (or rather Donald Rumsfeld had to choose) between protecting the antiquities of a great and ancient civilization and the oil fields, well. Schools, hospitals, people’s homes, the water supply, the electrical grid were all less important than the oil fields. So call a Texas oil capitalist a Texas oil capitalist and ask for an apology.

The next part is harder. The problem is Saddam Hussein. See, he didn’t get to be who he was all on his own. The US was complicit, as was Russia, France and who know who all else. And within his own country, others benefited, I would say chose to benefit from his megalomania and terror. Yes, those who resisted were tortured, gassed, murdered. Others knew of these events and went along with them. Teachers taught his cult of personality. Army officers fired chemical weapons at Kurds and Shiites and marsh Arabs. I admit I have never lived under such extreme and morally fearsome conditions. I’m not saying I would have done any different. I hope I would do different but I don’t know. The one organization that resisted GWB’s march to war,the UN, was complicit through administration of its Oil for Food program. No one’s hands are clean. Suggestion # 3 is to turn over control to someone else. It seems like the only someone else might be the Iraqi people. We are in an impossible position as a country: complicit in creating the murdering tyrant, responsible for destruction of important parts of Iraq’s infrastructure with no real commitment to undoing what we helped create by keeping Saddam Hussein in power or to committing enough money and personnel to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country. You, John Kerry have to focus your planning and your comments on this last point – we must help the Iraqi people rebuild their country, on their terms, with their priorities, whether those are cultural, infrastructure, political or economic – not on whether GWB has been right or wrong. It will be imperfect, frustrating and chaotic, but at least this effort might be honest.

So that’s my 2 cents worth, rather my 789 words worth. Not that you asked for it.

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