u2018My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying u2018My mother, drunk or sober.'
~ G.K. Chesterton
If you oppose this war in Iraq, brace yourself for some nasty insults.
Some us have learned we are "chicken," in addition to being "unpatriotic," of course, and "unwilling to learn from history" and unable to see that Saddam is another "Hitler." This leads to "anti-Semitic" (we don't love Israel enough), and after that, perhaps even "anti-Christian."
The hyperbole is atmospheric, but you really have to wonder who won't learn from history: the architects of this war or those who oppose it.
The Great War
Let's go back to World War I, known as The Great War before World War II, where the first near irreparable lurch away from the old Republic began.
We lost nearly 65,000 men in that one. Yet today, viewed through the sobering, dispassionate lens of history, no serious historian argues that America was defending its national security. No one says that American intervention stopped the Kaiser from marching on Washington or a dark night from descending over Europe.
So why were we there?
That leads to World War II.
An historian recently observed that had America not intervened in World War I to defeat Germany, the syphilitic Austrian corporal would have remained a failed and ignored artist, and Soviet Communism would have remained only a febrile dream. In short, no World War II.
Instead, we intervened and wound up with the "The Good War": nearly 300,000 Americans and 61 million others dead across the world, Soviet hegemony over Catholic Europe, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the birth of American empire.
Now, a few points about war: It's wasteful, diverting financial and human resources, which could build a better and just society, toward killing and death. And many combat veterans believe likewise.
Yes, we admire men such as Alvin York and Eddie Rickenbacker, or Audie Murphy and Joe Foss. But our admiration and awe regardless, another observation:
The liberals always lament criminals who use their alleged brain power for evil. "John Gotti could have made a great corporate executive!" they say. It's a dubious argument, but another one isn't. How much better would society be if the ambitious, intelligent young Americans we send to West Point expended their energies outside the Army.
You don't have to be a pacifist to believe war is a waste.
Yes, we need professional soldiers. And sometimes, to defend ourselves, we must go to war.
This War Is Wrong
But not now; not in Iraq.
We aren't defending ourselves. This war is the logical outcome of an imperial foreign policy that not only seeks global domination, both militarily and economically, but also inextricably entangles us in the Middle East's internecine warfare. France and the rest of the world are not angry with America because they "hate" us. They are angry because they believe we are misusing our considerable power.
Saying these things doesn't mean those of use opposed to this war don't wish our soldiers well, or pray for their safety. It doesn't mean their bravery does not inspire us. It doesn't mean we are unpatriotic cowards.
Chesterton had it right. An honest man doesn't defend his mother when she's drunk, and he doesn't defend his country when it's wrong.
March 24, 2003
Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.