believe me its boring
2005-01-25 00:23:11 (UTC)

Open Letter to Opponents of the War in Iraq

Just something for you to think about

Open Letter to Opponents of the War in Iraq
Herb Meyer
Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005
I am not writing to quarrel with your judgment about the
war in Iraq. Rather, I am writing to protest your attitude
toward the war. And the point I want to make is this:
sometimes, you have to choose between proving yourself to
have been right, or helping make a project succeed despite
your opposition to it.

Since all our tempers are running hot, it might be best to
illustrate my point with a non-political example: Imagine
that a husband and wife are planning their vacation. One
wants to spend it on the beach at Puerto Vallarta, and the
other wants to go traipsing around Europe’s battlefields.

They cannot do both, and it makes no sense to try and split
the difference geographically by spending two weeks in,
say, Baltimore. So one spouse wins, and the other loses. If
you are the winner, it’s a good idea to avoid gloating.

But if you are the loser, you have a very difficult choice
to make. You can prove yourself to have been right by
making the vacation as miserable as possible – by whining
about the food, the weather, the lack of a DSL line in your
hotel room, and by generally being a pill.

Or, you can recognize that the vacation isn’t nearly as
important as the marriage itself – in which case you
swallow your defeat gracefully, look cheerful even if you
aren’t, and do whatever you can to make the vacation a

If it’s a disaster anyway – well, next time your spouse may
take your advice. But if you give it your best shot despite
your misgivings, you will at least preserve the marriage.
And – I speak from experience – it’s even possible the
vacation itself will turn out better than you had expected.

It’s the same in politics. When a policy is adopted that
you don’t like, sometimes – not always, but sometimes – you
must choose between fighting it in hopes of proving you
were right, or pitching in to make it work, despite your
misgivings, for the good of the country.

Now, let’s talk about the war in Iraq.

Jolting Islam Forward

Simply put, Iraq has become the focal point of the entire
war on terrorism. That’s because President Bush’s strategy
for winning the war, in addition to fighting al-Qaida
terrorists wherever we can find them, is to spread
democracy itself throughout the Middle East. More
precisely, his strategy is to create conditions in that
part of the world that will trigger an Islamic revolution
whose objective is to jolt Islam itself from the Seventh
Century into the Twenty-first Century. In other words, we
want Islam to do what Judaism and Christianity did
centuries ago: namely, to reconcile with the modern world.
If this actually happens in Iraq, the President believes,
it will crack political ice throughout the region and
trigger a chain reaction that will spread to other
countries. And as the President sees it, only if democracy
takes root in the Middle East will the threat of terrorism
subside and will it be possible to finally end the Israel-
Palestinian conflict.

Now, you may be among those who believe that the
President’s strategy is absurd – that there isn’t the
slightest possibility of Islam reconciling with the modern
world and of democracy taking root in the Middle East. Or,
you may believe that the strategy is plausible, but that
the President has made an historic mistake by choosing Iraq
as the first Mideast country in which to make it work. Or,
you may believe that it can be done in Iraq, but that we
have gone about it badly, for instance by not putting
enough troops on the ground in that country to overcome the
Baathists and the non-Iraqi terrorists who are fighting now
to prevent the upcoming elections from succeeding.

In the end, history will prove you right – or wrong. But as
of today, we simply don’t know how things will turn out in
Iraq. Read the last sentence again, slowly, because it
really is the heart of the issue. We are in the middle of a
war and no one – absolutely no one – knows whether we will
win or lose it.

What we do know for sure is this: our chances for success
in Iraq will be greater if we all pull together to make it
work. But if we fail in Iraq, the catastrophe of our defeat
will spread beyond the Middle East and around the world. It
will be taken as a huge victory for al-Qaida, Hamas,
Hezbollah and all those who support them, including Iran
and North Korea, and the result will be a barrage of
terrorist acts the likes of which the world has never seen,
and which will place us all in mortal danger.

The Last Freedom

And this means you must choose. Is it more important to you
that you be proven to have been right, or that our country
survives? And yes, the choice really is this simple. The
fact is, we have gone to war in Iraq and the President who
set this course has just been re-elected. That’s why it
isn’t your judgment now that matters – history will settle
that in its own time – but your attitude. And I mean this
in the deepest, most personal sense. In his great memoir of
survival in a Nazi concentration camp, Man’s Search for
Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote that

“everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last
of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any
given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

To put it bluntly, your attitude stinks. You are so
determined to be proven right that you are unhelpful at
best, and at worst you are actively working to insure our

I am not suggesting that all politics be stopped, or that
our democracy be suspended for the duration. Rather, I am
suggesting that you recognize how much we are all at risk,
and that right now you focus your energy, your experience,
and your expertise on helping us to win. So, if you are a
Washington big-shot, instead of complaining about the
Army’s shortage of truck armor, get on the phone to the
Pentagon’s bureaucrats or to the manufacturers and push
them to boost production however they can. Instead of
prattling on and on about the insufficient number of US
troops in Iraq, call your colleagues and counterparts in
governments around the world and urge them to send as many
soldiers as they can. Instead of whining that the upcoming
elections in Iraq will be flawed – which is obvious, for
crying out loud – do whatever you can to make these
elections a visible success. And if you are just an
ordinary American who believes the President has made a
terrible mistake, keep in mind that while you have every
right to demonstrate against the war these demonstrations
play directly into our enemies’ hands.

Demoralizing Our Enemies

Your help, or your behavior, could make all the difference,
not just in terms of practical assistance but in broader
terms of showing our adversaries around the world that
right now, despite our different judgments, Americans are
united. This by itself would almost do as much to
demoralize our enemies as the accomplishments of our
wonderful Soldiers and Marines in the back alleys of Mosul
or Falluja.

Don’t tell me that you cannot change your attitude, or that
it’s your right and solemn duty as the loyal opposition to
oppose the President however you can. The War on Terrorism
isn’t just another Bush Administration initiative, like the
No Child Left Behind program or his proposal to reform the
structure of Social Security. In this war, our very
existence hangs in the balance, and national unity is more
important than political advantage – or personal ambition.
We are all in this together, as Americans, and we must all
do whatever we can to help make the President’s policy
work, whether we like that policy or not.

And if you think that asking you to change your attitude is
asking too much, give a moment’s thought to what we are
asking of the Iraqi people. After all, the President’s
entire policy rests on a change of attitude within the
world of Islam itself. We are asking the Iraqis, and others
in the Middle East, to abandon their tribal, if-you-win-
then-I-must-lose way of thinking; to shift from oppressing
other ethnic groups to co-operating with them; to move from
totalitarianism to democracy. In short, we are asking them
to make a mental leap from the Middle Ages to the modern
world – fast.

That’s a huge change in attitude to ask for, and the very
least that you can do would be to set a good example.

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as
Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence
and Vice Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence
Council. His DVD on The Siege of Western Civilization has
become an international best-seller.

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