Responsibility

Everyone with any degree of humanity and compassion can sympathize with Cindy Sheehan, the aggrieved and angry mother whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year, just five days after his deployment. But as to her demand, and those who have joined her vigil outside the President's ranch in Texas, that all our troops be brought home from Iraq immediately, over that I have serious misgivings.

My reason for saying this has to do with the fundamentals of morality. More specifically, it has to do with our sense of responsibility -- the obligation to try to do our best to repair the damage we have done, to heal the wounds we have inflicted, and generally, to fulfill the promises we have made, no matter how unrealistic and misled we may have been, or even morally unjustified our actions may have been in the first place.

Granted that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. And granted that we -- the USA -- had a lot to do with having once put him into power and having helped save his regime after he started his ill-advised eight-year war with the Iranians. Granted too that it was probably a mistake that we didn't do more to persuade the UN that he needed to be removed from power entirely after he invaded Kuwait -- but, unfortunately, the UN Charter has no provision for removing dictators.

Nevertheless, once the US has persuaded a small "coalition" of nations to back us in this latest venture, we must, unlike those members of the coalition who have chickened out of their token participation, follow through, the best we can, in finishing the job or cleaning up the mess we created. Otherwise we will have no more claim, as a nation, to the world's respect, than a man who fathers a child only to abandon it to be brought up at someone else's expense, or a drunk driver who smashes someone else's car or kills someone, only to flee from the scene of the accident.

This is not an easy thing to say, even for me who is inclined to agree with those who feel that the continued presence of US troops are a major cause of Iraqi anger. But at this point I think that we have to leave the decision as to when we leave to the new Iraqi government. If our presence is the only thing keeps the present mayhem from turning into a full-scale civil war, then we have to continue, at least for the time-being to some extent, to fulfill the strong-arm role of the hated Saddam until some form of a truly stable government can take over.

This means, unfortunately, that some Americans will continue to die, probably for some months, if not years to come. To some these deaths will appear to be have been in vain, especially if the new Iraq turns out to be, as seems probable, something far less than a liberal democracy. On the other hand, it seems to me that if we give up now, the death of Casey Sheehan and some eighteen hundred others will truly have been in vain. Not that all deaths in wars are not to some degree in vain, since there always could have been a more civilized way of settling the world's problems. Perhaps the most we can say is that in an imperfect world, some deaths in war are only less in vain than others.

R W Kropf August 20, 2005 Response.doc 05-08-20.html