One could call it a variation on Murphy’s Law. Those who have the power to do virtually anything, sooner or later, do just that. Our nation’s behavior in Iraq will likely be remembered by historians as a sad, small proof of this maxim.
In an effort to comprehend the moral gravity of what we have done in Iraq, we might try putting ourselves in the Iraqi people’s place, or better still, putting the Iraqis, or Muslims generally, quite literally, in our place. Visualize jihadist soldiers encamped on our soil, ensconced in the White House, occupying all of our major cities, speaking an unintelligible language, blowing up our neighborhoods, frisking our women, poking their guns through the windows of our cars, dragging our men from their spousal beds in the dark of night, killing some of our everyone – our men, our women, our children, our aged, our civilians, our revanchists, our patriots, our traitors. Imagine these strange-looking foreign invaders arriving in steel killing machines upon our streets from eight thousand miles away. Imagine the horror-stricken faces of our neighbors and kin clawing through rubble, screaming the names of missing loved ones. Imagine this happening in the country that we love as much as, one supposes, the invaders love theirs. Imagine that we had done nothing to threaten these powerful jihadists or otherwise provoke their ire.
How would we feel? What single emotion would galvanize us? Even those of us who had collaborated with the foreign invaders for practical reasons?
What would we feel? What would any people any place feel in such circumstances?
Rage. Mind numbing self-destructive rage.
But, attempts at place-trading do not work with us. Hence, we cannot feel or understand or empathize with pain that is not ours.
This is also why we, who provoked the war and traveled farthest to fight it, can, with blameless stupidity, describe as “foreign” those who’ve come from nearby places to defend, as they would see it, their lands, their culture, and their faith. Of course, little of what we are doing makes sense, moral or strategic. But then, we are ill with power poisoning. Thus, our rationalizations needn’t make sense to anyone but ourselves.
We have the relish to inflict pain, but little stomach to absorb it. Our soldiers will be coming home in the not too distant future for reasons that are largely selfish and have nothing to do with what we will, by then, have done to the people of Iraq.
Randall Robinson(email@example.com) is a foreign policy advocate and author of several books including The Debt – What America Owes to Blacks.