never tempts us with a suggestion to do something that is
clearly stinking evil. Quite the contrary, he leads us astray
by appealing to our better nature to do something apparently
high-minded and good. The Devil is no fool.
Now, you may have heard that the United States has a moral
obligation to remain in Iraq in order to put that broken country
back together again. Itís a proposition put forward by people
across the entire political spectrum. And itís tempting, very
Opponents of the war support the idea of our rebuilding Iraq
as the only decent, fair and, well, moral thing to do. After
all, they argue, we wrecked the country and created the conditions
in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been murdered,
and millions more displaced by the violence. Supporters of
the war also see moral value in reconstructing Iraq. By doing
that, they say, weíll be able to contain despotic Syria and
Iran and establish a democratic Iraq, which was and is our
nationís moral basis for the war. Otherwise, we will have
squandered trillions of dollars, and sacrificed more than
4,000 of our servicepeople in vain.
A sense of right and wrong is surely the highest achievement
of humankind. And though people often dispute what constitutes
moral behavior, they do agree that a person can incur a moral
obligation. But a nation is not a person. Nations donít get
married and have children and die the way people do. We often
talk about nations having friends, but thatís only a way of
speaking. Nations donít have friends; they have allies. And
nations donít have moral obligations; they have interests.
Itís known that the Devil can quote scripture. He can also
quote the Geneva Conventions. The Fourth Geneva Conventionówhich
the United States has signed and ratifiedóconcerns the responsibilities
of a nation whose military forces occupy a foreign country.
In a nutshell, it obliges the occupying power to see to the
well-being of the civilian population. In a way, thatís what
Colin Powell was warning the president when he famously referred
to the Pottery Barn Rule: ďIf you break it, you own it.Ē
But the United States ceased being an occupying power and
became an ally of the Iraqi nation when our proconsul, Paul
Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, handed
the pottery shards back to the Iraqis in mid-2004. Itís true,
the Iraqis had only limited sovereignty. And itís also true
that Bremmer had decreed that no one who had been in the only
political party that had administered the country could serve
the new nation. But the Iraqisósome of them, anywayógot their
country back. They wrote a constitution and held an election,
and itís their country now.
In Satanís final temptation of Jesus, the devil took him to
an exceedingly high place and showed him all the kingdoms
of the world and the glory of them and offered them to Jesus.
It didnít workóyou knew that, right?óbut notice that Satanís
ultimate test is the offer of power over the kingdoms of the
world. A lot of people find that irritable, especially people
in high places.
President George W. Bush has been asked many times to declare
that the United States has no intention of maintaining U.S.
military bases in Iraq after that nation is secure. He just
canít get the words out. Heíll recite a slogan, such as, ďWhen
Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. forces will stand down,Ē but thatís
not the same as saying that the United States wonít keep a
permanent military presence in Iraq.
The temptation to position U.S. troops deep in the middle
of the Middle East is irresistible to some people. Itís certainly
alluring to John McCain. McCain has said that heíd be satisfied
to keep troops there for generations, ďas long as Americans
are not being injured, harmed or killed.Ē At first hearing,
that sounds a lot more reasonable than keeping them there
under fire, which is what some of his wild critics have accused
him of saying.
McCain has reminded his critics that weíve had troops in Japan
and South Korea for decades. But letís get a better grasp
of geography. The United States has troops in Saudi Arabia
and a refueling base at Yemen. At Yemen, 17 sailors were killed
and 38 wounded when the USS Cole was attacked by terrorists
in a rubber boat. In Saudi Arabia, an Air Force barracks was
destroyed by truck bombs, and in a separate incident gunmen
stormed the U.S. consulate in Jeddah and fought a three-hour
pitched battle with security forces. And those are secure
and peaceful places.
The pragmatic rationale for keeping U.S. troops in postwar
Iraq is that theyíd be a dreaded force against any neighboring
nation that made a move against the United States or U.S.
interests. That kind of bombastical thinking is typical of
the neoconservatives who came up with the plan to invade Iraq
in the first place. Keeping U.S. troops where they are, surrounded
by hostile forces, simply protracts our current vulnerability.
If our troops are stationed in Iraq as some kind of rapid-reaction
force, U.S. foreign policy will remain hostage to anyone with
a simple mortar tube and half a dozen cheap mortar rounds.
The argument for staying in Iraq to help glue the shattered
country back together is based on the idea that Iraq is a
typical Western European-style nation state. It isnít and
thatís why itís in so many contentious pieces today. Maybe
no Western description of Iraq can reveal the deep truth of
the matter, but by now itís clear to all but the willfully
blind that Iraq is inhabited by different peoples, or tribes,
with opposed and mutually exclusive political agendas. The
powerful factions in Iraq havenít come together to form either
a more perfect union or loose federation because they donít
want to. They have other plans.
President Bush and his confederates have maneuvered the United
States into the bizarre position where warring Iraqis decide
when U.S. troops can go home. The sheiks of Anbar Province,
the Shiite factions of Basra, and Al-Malikiís so-called government
determine how depleted the U.S. military becomes, how empty
our treasury, how filled our cemeteries. Indeed, the Iraqis
determine how well we can battle elsewhere on the globe, whether
in Afghanistan or Africa.
Another name for Satan is Father of Lies. Itís best not to
listen to lies. Itís far better to get out of Iraq.