Those who are familiar with psychotherapy know that one of the methodologies used is to help people “find their center” or live in “the now”.
This is why Rabbi Michael Lerner’s ad to end all ads is, itself, a non binding resolution which those few die-hards who still support the occupation of Iraq by American troops have already answered.
Far too many of us have signed far too many petitions and donated money to far too many “solid” causes that were sure to tug at the heart strings of The Regime in a way that no other peace movement approach had hit them previously.
The problem is no matter what reason one believes for why we carried out our horrific invasion of Iraq, it all deals with fortune telling. It never asks, “What’s true for us now?”
All peace movement solutions do the same in an attempt to bring rationality to the argument.
It ends up being a game (a sad and horrible game, at that) of fortune telling intended to make sense of what’s true for us now. It tries to convince others that our leaving Iraq will or will not have this or that consequence.
Like the reasons for the war itself, Rabbi Lerner’s ad tries to predict the future and therein lies the problem. Convincing someone that a certain action will cause a certain reaction is fruitless.
Hasn’t every reason for invading Iraq and, consequently, continuing to occupy Iraq been based upon the unknown, a guessing of the future rather than an inventory of what was true for us during the “now” that existed at the time?
Reason number one:
If we believe The Regime, Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD and was either going to use them to attack the US or was going to give them to terrorists so the terrorists could attack the US. If we believe that The Regime had what it considered solid evidence that Iraq had those WMD, we didn’t know what it was going to do with them. We never knew what it was going to do with them.
We could easily have guessed that Saddam was gathering such weapons to strengthen Iraq against Islamic radicals which he didn’t want in his country.
We could have guessed that he planned to use them against Iran as Iraq’s relationship with Iran was not very friendly while Saddam Hussein was Iraq’s leader.
We could have guessed that he had them simply for defensive purposes as Iraq had previously been invaded.
Covert surveillance may have been able to tell us that Iraq possessed WMD, but covert surveillance never told us what Iraq was going to do with the WMD because that truth did not exist for covert surveillance at that “now”.
This is why all of speeches by members of The Regime were based upon guesses of what Iraq could do with its WMD.
For example, on October 7, 2002, George W. Bush said, “We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used (emphasis mine) to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.”
Bush was not speaking of what was true at that particular moment. He was attempting to tell the future.
Alas, Iraq had no WMD. What The Regime was claiming as truth at that moment was not true. The Regime lied.
Reason number two:
Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Prague on April 8, 2001.
What was true about that meeting was that Czech officials differed with one another over whether the meeting even took place.
What was true was that, even if the meeting took place, those who would use that meeting as a reason to invade Iraq didn’t know what the meeting was about.
What was true at that time or during that “now” was that Osama bin Laden was angry because Kuwait opted to use the US to remove Iraqi forces from its country in 1991 instead of using Al Qaeda. What was true was that Al Qaeda would rather have fought Iraq than worked with it and, as far as Saddam Hussein was concerned, the feeling was mutual.
Nonetheless, there are serious doubts whether or not the meeting took place and there is absolutely no record which would prove that Atta and al-Ani spoke about plans for September 11, 2001 if they did meet.
Reason number three:
The fact that there was a reason number three should have raised a red flag in the minds of all thinking people. It should have been obvious to the most casual of observers by this time that The Regime was trying to find believable “facts” to build around an already formulated policy.
Nonetheless, when The Regime told the American public it was urgent that Iraq, of all nations in the world, must become a democratic society and that Saddam Hussein, because of his crimes against humanity, needed to be brought down and punished, many Americans believed it and supported an invasion that had already taken place based mostly upon reason number one.
What was true at that time during that “now” that forced the US to invade Iraq? It makes little to no sense to say that Saddam’s crimes against his own people was a truth for the US at that time. Unless the US had plans to begin toppling all governments in the world which mistreated their own citizens, Saddam’s mistreatment of his own citizens may have been true, but it wasn’t true for the US.
We don’t even know if Saddam was torturing his own citizens at the time of the invasion. We don’t even know if that was true for Iraq during the “now” during which the invasion took place.
All we have is “now”. No other time exists.
Granted, if crimes are committed in the past, the criminals must be tried, judged and, if necessary, punished. This is one time in which the past is relevant.
The past should be relevant for learning purposes as well. For example, the past tells us that when we invade a small third world nation for no legitimate reason, we are at a disadvantage. The citizens of that nation know the geographic nooks and crannies of their own home, something about which we are totally unaware.
We are in their nation. Therefore, anyone we see may be friendly or may not be friendly. We have tended not to know until it was too late.
The past also tells us that we have never been victorious if our invasion is looked upon as an intrusion by the people of the invaded nation, as in the cases of Vietnam and Iraq. “Wiping out” the enemy becomes difficult as long as people see us as intruders.
The past tells us that citizens of the invaded nation continue to be born, to grow and to hate the intruders. The past tells us that those who are born, grow and hate the intruders will continue to join the ranks of those defending their nation against us.
In psychotherapy, we are told that the past and the future are merely fantasies. The past is not a fantasy under the two conditions mentioned above. However, psychotherapists teach us not to project into an unknown future and act upon the projection. They also teach us that, whatever happened to us in the past which may have injured us is no longer true. It helps people overcome PTSD and the residuals of child abuse.
Rabbi Lerner and Dennis Kucinich can no more tell us what will happen if the US leaves Iraq than can George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.
Will it get better? Will it get worse? Will a military made up of the surrounding Arab states help the situation in Iraq or hurt it? We don’t know.
What’s true for so many of us right now is that we want this madness to end and we want our troops to come home. That’s true for me and that’s why I signed Rabbi Lerner’s ad.
Will it be the ad that finally touches the hearts of the members of The Regime? We don’t know.
It’s missing the answer to one question, unjustifiable as it might be, that the past says The Regime and its supporters ask when they hear people talking about bringing our troops home. That question is, “What about 9/11?”
That question is not based upon the past, upon capturing those responsible for 9/11. It’s based upon the future. It’s based upon doing what we have to do to avoid another 9/11.
I have no idea what “winning” in Iraq looks like. I do know that we are still there based upon our “drifting from the moment” far too many times. We are there because we want to avoid another 9/11.
If we win in Iraq, will we avoid another 9/11? None of us knows the answer to that question.
Until we stop projecting and start looking at what’s true for us now, we are bound to continue to impulsively react to a future that will always be unknown to us.
“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone –
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.” - Adam L. Gordon
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