Yesterday, in a speech delivered at the Pentagon, President Bush confidently assured the American people that the nation is at the brink of a great "strategic victory in Iraq." If this great victory is anything like the previous "victories" that we have had in this war, then we are in serious trouble indeed. Let's just look at some of the fruits that this war has borne:
- According to recent estimates, the total costs for the Iraq war could be as high as 3 trillion dollars--funds, as we have already seen, that could be put to much better use right here in the United States.
- Almost 4000 American soldiers have been killed since the war began and 29,395 have been wounded.
- Over 1 million Iraqis--many of them children and teenagers--have died as a result of this war. 2.4 million Iraqis (approximately 20% of Iraq's prewar population) are now refugees to more "stable" countries like Jordan and Syria. So much for making life better for the average Iraqi!
- Our failure to succeed in Iraq has emboldened our enemies around the world. Iran now is poised to be a major player in Middle Eastern politics, and Islamic extremist groups are gaining power in Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan.
- The Bush administration's incompetent prosecution of the war has made us seem like a "paper tiger" to many nations, like Iran, who previously would have been unwilling to thwart our global interests.
- Our all too facile use of torture and "extraordinary rendition" has caused us to lose our credibility and moral standing among our allies in Europe and around the world.
With "successes" like these, I would hate to see what failure in Iraq would look like....
There is another aspect of this war that is rarely discussed. Our tolerance for specific culturally sanctioned types of violence--whether it is the violence of an unjustifiable war in Iraq, the violence of the mass slaughter houses that "produce" our meat, or the environmental violence caused by programs like mountaintop removal--does nothing more than create a climate in our society in which people ultimately become completely desensitized to violence in general. Only by rejecting violence in all its forms, and adopting an ethic of peacefulness--the kind of ethic that comes right out of the Gospels--can we hope to create a world in which human beings can live sanely with one another.
Stopping the war in Iraq would be the first step towards this end. But it is only a first step. As Will Tuttle writes in his new book, The World Peace Diet, we also need to consider the impact of things like our food choices on the levels of violence in our society. If we are willing to cram animals into filthy feeding lots, pump them full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and then brutally butcher them just so we can have the satisfaction of being able to enjoy a juicy steak or piece of chicken, is it any wonder that we have so little trouble killing innocent women and children in Iraq?