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Iraq 'Em Up

Or, having our cake and eating it too

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It's part of human nature to assign blame for situations gone wrong. Instinct seems to cause us to look around for the most convenient scapegoat for any given crime; it makes us feel better to have someone to hate. There aren't many worse "situations gone wrong" than the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year. Although Osama bin Laden proved an appropriate target for our anger for a long time, the general facelessness of terrorists has caused us to search out a new scapegoat for our anger and fear. In the last few months, the head-hunt has heightened as government officials, media types, the FBI and Bubba Joe down the street have tried to pinpoint whoever was responsible for those attacks. Why, everyone from the president and the CIA to Johnny, Bubba Joe's next door neighbor, has been implicated by someone.

I'm firmly convinced that people in this country did receive advance warnings of the terrorist attacks. It's even possible that somebody had the explicit facts. Only, on September 10 they weren't so much facts as speculations -- something isn't a crime until you actually do it, at least not legally. (And thankfully neither churches nor "Big Brother" is in charge of designating thought crimes. Not yet, anyway.)

What should have been done to prevent September 11? Should all airports have been shut down? For how long? What would the public reaction have been if that had happened?

I know this is a stretch, but try to imagine yourself as you were pre-9/11. If you had a flight to catch and the president ordered all airports closed for who knows how long, how would you have reacted? In all likelihood, you and most other Americans would have thrown a fit about paranoia and civil liberties and so on and so forth. Even now, many people are impatient in airports when security is slow. Just imagine what a spoiled and whiny pack of brats we were prior to the destruction of the World Trade Center. So we need to deny our natural inclination to lay blame here -- if someone had tried to stop those attacks, we would have hated that person, let's just face the facts.

Counterbalancing the current national September 11 blame game is the potential war with Iraq. Why would we have a war with Iraq anyway? The possibility that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons of mass destruction that he could potentially use in a conflict with the United States. The only reason the general populace doesn't 100 percent support a strike against Iraq is that there isn't enough evidence to prove Iraq's intentions or capabilities. We're searching for proof. And we're unwilling to go to war without it.

Many Americans think that more is required than the words of dozens of officials and military operatives who insist that Hussein is "a madman" and that he's intent on destroying the world, or at least the United States. Where's the evidence for this? I realize they can't go around revealing all of their intelligence, but they're going to have to give us more than their solemn vows that Hussein is evil. Tony Blair's incendiary speeches and George W. Bush's insistence that Hussein is untrustworthy are no more than personal opinions that wouldn't even be allowable in a court of law.

This national caution about war with Iraq makes for an interesting comparison, namely with those people who are still determined to pin the blame for 9/11 on somebody, anybody. Ironically, we're determined to gather hard evidence of Iraq's nefarious intentions prior to committing to a military action against them, but we're equally determined to find out who ignored the pre-September 11 warnings (which lacked the hard evidence we desire today in the Iraqi situation).

I'm actually relieved to discover that some, if not most, Americans, still retain caution and are unwilling to walk blindly into a war. The warmongering of the past year had led me to worry that this country would be too anxious to rush into a conflict at the first opportunity. At this point, we still don't know how things will work out and whether we'll go to war or with whom. At least, though, we'll be discussing and thinking about the necessity and the effects of this conflict, as opposed to rushing into it out of passion.

On the down side, since this is an election year, conflict with Iraq will no doubt be politicized and turned into a tug-of-war between the two reigning parties, instead of providing the straightforward and honest discussion we need.

There's a bright side in this situation for those of us in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, however. If we can divert the attention of our local candidates to an issue such as war, it's possible that we won't have to hear very much on the topic of a new arena and the NBA expansion team Charlotte would like to woo. And that would be a relief.

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