“The War in Iraq” is nonsense. It does not exist. It is entirely fiction. What does exist and is real is a multitude of wars in Iraq, as many of them as there are humans who hold the thought of such a war. Each and all of them are entirely unique, individual, and personal to the thinker of those thoughts. To believe that there is just one war is absurd. It is not real.
Each of us who has a mental image of a war creates that war in the image of our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, values, and prejudices. It can be no other way. We each have our own perceptions of what that war involves and we assign our own interpretations to those perceptions. Those are the bricks and mortar of our private wars.
None of us can stop or change “The War in Iraq” because it does not exist. We are utterly powerless to effect a change on the nonexistent. We are, however, utterly empowered to change anything and everything about our own private wars, the ones that clearly do exist. The real question then is, “What am I going to do about my war?” And that is the subject of this document.
There are three popular basic views of “The War.” These are: it is necessary, even inevitable; it is an unjust war that should not be fought; it is a war, and that makes it wrong. Let’s examine some of the beliefs necessary to support each of these basic perspectives.
To see the war as necessary you must hold to many beliefs. Among these are: that killing other human beings is not only justifiable but necessary, at least in some circumstances; that the end justifies the means (i.e., that an evil is not evil when it prevents an even greater evil); that good can come from acts that would under other circumstances be reprehensible.
To see the war as “unjust” implies that there exists some war that is just. This is only slightly different than the previous view in that it makes an exception of this particular war. It further implies that if you believed that this war was just, you would be all for it.
To see the war as wrong just because it is a war implies that there is something about war itself that is unconscionable, indefensible, and therefore wrong. There are many candidates for what that unacceptable quality of war is. Among them are: killing, mass destruction, violence, coercion, and many more. Taken singly or in aggregate, they provide sufficient reason to arrive at the rejection of war categorically.
There is one belief that these views share in common: there are victims and villains in war. And for this reason all three views are fatally flawed. There are no victims, only volunteers. No, I don’t mean that people stand in line to be slaughtered by whatever means. However, I do mean that at levels of which few are conscious, it has all been arranged, and even those who suffer and die agreed to play their roles for reasons of their own. My lack of understanding of their reasons does not mean that those reasons don’t exist, nor that I would not agree with them if I did understand, nor that there is anything defective about either the reasons or those who hold them. It simply means that I don’t understand.
I believe that this is so. I believe that everyone involved, from soldier to civilian, from politician to protester, have their own personal reasons for participating in precisely the way that they do. My challenges are twofold: I want to find a perspective from which to view my version of the “event” that pleases me, and I want to understand better what the other participants’ reasons at least might be. More often than not, my success with the first challenge is directly dependent on my success with the second. That is, the more ways I can see why people would volunteer to play their role in the larger event(s), and the more sense it makes to me for them to do so, the easier it is for me to feel good about a perspective that is based on those motives. This remains true for me even if none of the reasons I imagine are actually true! Why? Because I don’t need to actually understand to find peace; I need only accept that there is something to understand.
The whole world is in the midst of an ongoing process of learning, exploration, and discovery. This situation is but one in a long list of dramatic events we have cooked up to aid us in that process. Our individual choices, thoughts, feelings, and actions are at once intensely personal, yet they also add to the totality of the event, and in fact, taken collectively, create it.
For some, it is largely a matter of morality and ethics: is it right or wrong? For others, it is about economics. For others it may be mostly about life or death, freedom or servitude, self-interest or altruism, courage or cowardice, love or hate. This list is virtually endless, and I cannot imagine anyone whose list contains only one or two items. For most, the list of intense issues is long indeed.
What’s more, all the items on each personal list interact with one another (e.g., economics vs. morality, altruism vs. death, etc.). We also project some issues onto others. The hawks project their own reluctance onto the doves, the “victims” project onto the “villains” and vice versa. Clearly this is not a simple, cut and dried debate.
But then that is why we create such things: to fuel our own explorations, to drive us to dig deeper into ourselves for answers to questions so fundamental that their resolution, even to the slightest degree, forever changes our personal and collective sense of what it is to be human. So we are not playing for matchsticks here. The stakes are immeasurably higher. There is an expression, “You don’t shoot off a cannon to kill a fly.” My belief is that we create events and experiences that are tailor-made, in character and scope, to provide us with ideal opportunities to explore, discover, learn, and evolve as sentient beings. It is not at all uncommon that such endeavors seem impenetrable and enigmatic. If they were obvious, they would be of precious little value to us, just as it would be hard to interest Boris Spasky and Bobby Fischer in a rousing game of checkers.
So at the end of the day, we are left with one basic question: how will I define, perceive, interpret, and experience my war in Iraq? Will I see it as an evil, a necessity, a tragedy, or gods at play? Your personal answer to that question will determine the entire character of your war.
Before you give your “final answer,” consider the words of Richard Bach:
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.“