This essay represents the fourth post of The Angry Czeck Century Series, a thought-provoking collection of penetrating harangues of rancor leading to the Angry Czeck’s 100th Post. You are currently reading Post 91.
I’ve always believed that one cannot truly argue a point until he or she has honestly considered both perspectives. It is easy to pick a side. The media does it for us. What takes moxie is to take a position you find categorically wrong and divulge its appeal.
Why do people oppose gun registration? The Debating Retard or The Hysterical Democrat will say “Because gun people are stupid!” and leave it at that. They never consider what the ownership of firearms truly represents to so many rational people. They cannot peer above the concrete barricade for their own set of values.
I try to avoid this pitfall when I can, though I’m only successful maybe half the time. Even the Angry Czeck is only human. But I hate myself most when I argue one position without having even the slightest empathy for the contradicting point of view. Because when you argue in this fashion, your only true standard for victory is the highest volume of your voice. After all, bias opinion and a full dossier of facts are not among your assets.
Just for exercise, I made a Case for War in Iraq. If you know me at all, you know that The Angry Czeck has been in full opposition to the war in Iraq since its possibility was suggested. But I cannot explain this position to Mrs. Angry and my two Angry Sons by shouting, “Because war is stupid!” or “Bush is Evil!” I owe them more than that.
To understand why I oppose the war, I have to understand why others endorse it. I have to put that yellow ribbon on the bumper of my car and at least try to rationalize the whole bloody, messy thing. Because that rationale does exist. It’s held firmly to the chest of millions of Americans who wonder why guys like me can’t give our troops a break. I can’t just say, “They’re stupid!” and smugly walk away.
We had to do something.
The first time terrorists bombed the World Trade Center was February 26, 1993. The plan was to topple a symbol of Western avarice. Instead, six people died and more than one thousand were injured. And the explosion left a giant hole in the basement.
The Clinton Administration expressed the necessary dismay and issued the predictable vows of justice. Men were arrested. Men were put on trial and imprisoned. If you measured our legal system by that set of criteria, it would have appeared that justice had been served. We won, right?
But there are some acts for which justice falls short. There are some acts so terrible and brazen, the only justifiable reaction is revenge. For there is only one language violent men understand, and that is a counter strike of violence so terrible, the original violation seems like a pinch on the backside.
And this is what Democrats and the before-mentioned Clinton Administration did not and cannot understand. Words make poetry. Fists break teeth. And there is an entire region of this world that will never appreciate Byron and Whitman, but will certainly understand the brutal connotation of a knuckle sandwich.
When I saw the men and women plunging from the Towers like spent matchsticks, when I witnessed in horror as one Tower fell, and then the other, I knew that somebody had to pay. Negotiation? Diplomacy? Peace? Those words don’t have meaning in a world where men train to hijack airplanes filled with civilians and fly them into towers packed with even more civilians. Not when a bullet to the face means far more.
Attacking Afghanistan was the correct course of action. Intelligence reports had the villain, Osama Bin Laden, tucked in the mountains there near the border of Pakistan. Furthermore, the acting government in Afghanistan, the Taliban, were assholes. It was time to saddle-up and step on some necks. We could ascertain the names from dental records later. If we cared.
However, making Afghanistan into a parking lot might make for good exercise, but it would not solve the larger problem at hand. Truthfully, Afghanistan is little more than a dusty Tijuana for Islamic thugs and poppy-growing criminals. It’s been this way for 100 years. Furthermore, if the British and the Soviets taught us anything, it’s Never Get Involved In Afghanistan. The locals love the caves too much.
Meanwhile, the Islamic nuts are getting nuttier, richer, and better organized. Worse, the success of the 9/11 attacks gave them hours of YouTube proof that with a little effort, American can be sucker punched. Give an Islamic nut a gun, and you can read about the shopping mall shooting in Tel Aviv on CNN.com. Give an Islamic nut an idea, and suddenly you’re putting out flames at the Pentagon.
Be assured, the Islamic Fundamentalist Nut is not going away. He’s in this for the long haul. (Check out the knowing nods from Israel.) Some have attempted to liken the terrorist organizations to Communism, but Communism never had the fuel capable for burning past a couple generations. The terrorists have god. When Stalin tells you to kill your neighbor, you ask yourself questions. When god tells you to, you wrap a belt of explosives around your belly and run to your nearest American.
So how do we fight this threat?
We can pay them off. And if the terrorists were beholden to a central leader –– like everyone assumed Yassir Arafat was –– this might work. The problem isn’t finding somebody to pay. The problem is finding too many to pay.
We can impose harsher sanctions, which is a Democrat favorite. After all, preventing color TVs from crossing borders kills no American soldiers. But how do you sanction a terrorist who is welcomed secretly by sympathetic nations and lives like a fugitive anyway? Sanctions only turn docile Islamic fundamentalists into nutty Islamic fundamentalists. “What! No Cheerios! Down to America!”
How about opening-a-dialogue? That always sounds like the grown-up thing to do. Except, who in the hell would we talk to? Remember when we thought that if we just had Arafat on our side, all this idiotic fighting in the Middle East would evaporate? Here’s what we learned instead: You make peace with one nut, two nuts takes up the flag in his place. So unless we’re prepared to speak to every Islamic nut on an individual basis, we’re going to have to scrap opening-a-dialogue.
War is the only option left on the table, and it’s the lone option that makes sense. The terrorists believe they can fly jumbo jets into commerce buildings because it can be done so without pain of penalty. To the terrorist leader, a suicide bomber is like a Patriot missile: it’s fired from afire, and it detonates with exposing the ones who pull the trigger. And if one country cannot be held to task, then the terrorists simply melt back into the dessert sand to plan the next round of attacks.
War, on the other hand, is the swift kick to the jaw that not even the heartiest diplomat could deliver. No longer is the question “Is war justified?” The question is, “To whom to we apply this war?”
Syria seems like a good one. Those clowns have been fuck-ups for way too long. Downside is, what do we gain by leveling Syria that we haven’t already gained by squashing Afghanistan? We’re never going to get anywhere by policing rogue states. Besides, how impressive is it to roll tanks over Toyota pick-up trucks filled with teenagers brandishing Soviet era bazookas?
What about Pakistan? Yeah! Not only does Pakistan sport an unstable government with a couple nukes in the basement, we know they’ve been hiding jokers like Bin Laden for decades. Of course, those nukes do pose a problem. Plus, we’ve been in the middle of an “open-dialogue” with Pakistan for years now. It would be poor form to attack now.
Iran? Forget it. They actually have an army, and they haven’t been softened up by decades of harsh sanctions. Plus, the Russians love Iran! It might be a Vietnam all over again if we attack Iran. How messy would our relationship with Putin become once our spy satellites snap pictures of Russian soldiers training Iranian troops?
Okay. Why not go after the country that supplied the most suicide bombers in the 9/11 attack: Saudi Arabia? No, really! Forget that Saudi loans from rich sheiks keep America’s economy afloat, and that they are our one “ally” in OPEC. Those two-faced bastards have been funding terrorists since before the Carter Administration! If we really want to send a message to the terrorists, lets pound Saudi Arabia! “See what we did to our friend? Imagine what we’d do to you!”
So we’re never going to attack Saudi Arabia, no matter how much they deserve it. Libya? Been there, done that. Who’s left? Turkey? Egypt? Yemen? Definitely not Somalia, who reminded us that street-to-street-fighting sucks big fat grenades.
Now the only country left on a map of the Middle East without an X…is Iraq.
We had to do something.
Let’s forget the fact that Iraq did not have the grand weapons program our overwhelmed intelligence agencies half-heartedly suggested they had. The fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a torture-loving, mustard-gas squirting, soccer-team terrorizing, parliament-executing thug who looked funny firing a machine gun.
Hussein was also a symbol of American resistance in the Arab universe. Islamic nuts looked at Saddam and saw a man who still ruled despite absorbing a massive invasion by the world’s supreme military power. And if this pudgy, mustachioed nimrod could take America’s mightiest body blow and still remain upright, then why not fly some passenger airliners into skyscrapers? It’s easy!
If Hussein represented unfinished business, Iraq itself represented an opportunity to send a message to the Arab World: When you fuck with the United States, we annex you. We annex you real hard. Sure, we accomplished that in Afghanistan, but if you can tell me the name of the last three presidents of Afghanistan, I’ll declare you King of All Things Afghanistan (in addition to the title your friends call you: Big Dork).
No, it had to be Iraq. It could only be Iraq. And not just for the reasons listed above. Attacking and subjugating Iraq satisfied a number of strategic and business opportunities. It can’t be ignored that Iraq sits atop a big reserve of oil. Nor can it be dismissed that placing a permanent military base in Iraq would solve a lot of military headaches. No more begging permission to use French airspace for our next bombing raid!
Furthermore, attacking even a severely weakened Iraqi Army posed a nice test for our American forces and a number of recently developed weapon systems. Nobody is saying it aloud, but the invasion of Iraq was a useful training exercise. We applied new weapons and tactics to this desert Petri dish, obtaining enough results to have military analysts salivating for years.
So we attacked, and Arab nations could not conceal their chagrin when the so-called “World’s Fourth Mightiest Army” folded before American tanks and helicopters. Islamic nuts weren’t nutty enough to believe Saddam would win, but Christ! You’d think he’d put up a better fight. The brisk defeat was made even bitterer when a disheveled Hussein was pulled out of a hole, his handgun remaining unfired on his lap. So much for the Iraqi Strongman.
We overly counted on the Iraqi people to buck up and accept occupation graciously, which might be our biggest mistake. Turns out, the thugs saw an opportunity to be thugs, and seized the moment. Furthermore, the three distinct segments of political muscle –– the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunnis –– were far more interested in marshalling power than promoting democratic harmony. Our army, so adept at destroying bunkers and smashing tanks, are out of their element chasing down militias and mitigating petty local disputes.
Lost in the bitching is the acceptance of reality: this was never supposed to be easy. Regrettably, guys like Rumsfield sold it to the American public as a “slam dunk,” but anybody with half-a-brain knew from the start that taking control of Iraq was going to cost time, money, and lives. Any congressman who voted for the war and believed otherwise is an idiot.
Will taming Iraq make the world safer? As clichéd as it sounds, only history can be the proper judge. If anything, we have proven to Islamic Nuts that terror isn’t free. While we lament loudly for every lost American life, we know every slain soldier has contributed to the permanent end to at least ten times as many fanatics. America grieves for her sons. But the enemy grieves for far more, and that is how war is scored.
It’s not a bad argument.
When I remember September 11th, I recall a moment when The Angry Czeck and a number of his friends were sitting at a restaurant for lunch later that day. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we dined outside the Young Avenue Deli – the very place I met Mrs. Angry several years before.
Between bites of hamburger and deli-style sandwiches, we spoke in brazen terms concerning that morning’s horrific surprise attack. We half-joked about renting a boat and commanding our own revenge assault on the Middle East. We seriously considered the legitimacy of a military draft. We openly wondered who was going to be made to suffer.
Yes, we demanded that somebody suffer. We all did. You. Me. Sean Penn. Everybody who counted. We called down the thunder, and now we got it. Naively, we didn’t expect that we should have to suffer more. After all, the terrorists took 2,000 of us. They’ve forced me to take my shoes off at airports, and they’ve obstructed my view of the Lincoln Memorial. We have given Islamic Nuts enough already.
Except now, the U.S. death toll in Iraq has reached the 3,000 mark. The people for who we lay down our lives are too childish to embrace the peace and prosperity our efforts promised them. Iraq, with its backwards culture and loyalties to tribal interests, doesn’t deserve freedom. We learned that freedom is something you have to fight for yourself. It cannot be given. It cannot be forced.
We had to do something. I truly believe that. I’ve never been opposed to military action. But I have been a proponent of the proper application of military action, and even a terrific argument from the Angry Czeck cannot convince me that putting our chips in Iraq was a smart bet. If I’m proud of anything, it is that I have stated this from the day a miserable Collin Powell was asked to visit the United Nations and pass off satellite photos of a pile of pipes as an advanced nuclear program.
But where could have force been applied? Contrary to my brilliant argument, Syria could have used an ass whipping, and the world would have applauded. Certainly, clandestine attacks on Pakistan’s borders might have caused an international uproar, but at least we’d be fighting an actual terrorist threat.
Though my beliefs remain unchanged, I’m glad I examined Iraq from the opposing perspective. It proved to me what I suspected for some time: that solutions to this big mess we’re in are not underscored in bold strokes of black and white. Rather, we straddle an uncomfortably thin line that, when followed to the end, will lead us to a cataclysmic and monumental decision.
One day, we’re going to have to confront the Islamic Fundamentalist Nut, and we’re going to have to either write some poetry, or break some teeth.