Email this page to a friend

Debating Iraq 

Mark A. Goldman                                                                      Dated: 9/9/07                                                                                      


In arguing why we should stay in Iraq during a recent debate, Republican Mike Huckabee, on stage with other presidential candidates, gave this as his reason why:

He spoke about a lesson he learned from his mother. What he learned from her, he said, was that if he went into a store and “if I picked something off the shelf at the store and I broke it, I bought it. I learned, I don’t pick something off the shelf I can’t afford to buy.” He went on to say, “Well, what we did in Iraq… we essentially broke it. It’s our responsibility to do the best we can to try to fix it before we turn away…” He then went on to say that he agrees with Senator McCain, that we shouldn’t leave Iraq until we can leave with honor.

Well, let me say this:  First of all, we must all understand that Iraq wasn’t something sitting on a shelf that was for sale... something that was ours to pick up, handle, break, or pay for. It wasn’t a toy or a dish that we broke. And we didn’t just break something that can be replaced. How do you buy back the missing arms and legs of thousands of innocent men, women, and children? And how do you fix the brain damage that your bombs caused or replace the eyes that your shrapnel ripped from heads. How do buy back the dead parents, the dead children, the dead brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who were murdered because you walked into that ‘store’. How do you apologize to parents and their children for the birth defects of those recently born and those yet to be born (possibly for generations to come) because you poisoned their country with depleted uranium. 

How do you buy back the innocence of youth that you stole from millions of children who are now afraid to sleep at night for fear of the dreams they will encounter when they close their eyes. How do give back the homes, the savings, the joy that you took away; the basic human rights you stole; how do you fix the grief and insanity that you caused through torture and your blind negligence, malfeasance, and inhumanity. How do you replace the years you stole and dreams you killed. How do you bring back the neighborhoods and the goodwill that once existed between neighbors? Tell me how do you fix that? What would your mother say now?

And what honor is there if you don’t pay full price for what you broke? The only honor possible would require more courage than anyone on that stage of candidates or anyone on just about any other stage has yet to demonstrate.

The only honor possible is the repudiation of the mindset and consciousness that allows people to quietly stand by while atrocities take place and the rule of law is demeaned by their own government.

To take responsibility would require that you understand and admit your crimes and be able to honestly ask forgiveness… and then lay out your plan for how you will respond once you understand what you have done.

Figure it out… what do we all owe the Iraqi people, our own people, all people, for what we took from them without honor, without decency, without permission, without reverence for life, and without love.

There are those who will argue that we went into Iraq for an honorable purpose and/or we did the best we could there. I don’t believe either of those propositions is true. At least Huckabee recognizes that we broke it. I don’t know if he understands what we broke, how bad we broke it, or what kind of people we have unconsciously become to allow ourselves to break it in the way that we did.

Before there can be any honor in action, particularly in debate, there must be a willingness to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what you know. And that includes being willing and open to understand what you currently don’t know, perhaps because before you really didn't want to know.

If you go into a store and destroy the merchandise, poison the building, kill the owner and his children, you don’t get to buy your way out of it. Not this time. The only honor that is left to you is your own transformation. That begins with recognizing what you have done. Until you have done at least that much, you will not even begin to understand what responsibility is.

And you know what, we are all in this together, as individuals, as a country, and as world citizens.

Until we acknowledge what we have done; until we understand that what we did and what we are still doing is dishonorable, there is no way to leave with honor. Leaving Iraq is not good enough. Staying in Iraq is not good enough. Until we understand what is good enough, we will not have our honor back and neither will we have a chance to vote for someone who is truly qualified to be President of the United States.


Return to Commentaries