‘Tell Misty I love her,’ was one American soldier’s response to the question of a television reporter on a street in Bagdad. The US Army had just entered the city and the citizens received them euphorically and as they toppled statues of Saddam Hussein, the reporter was interviewing ordinary soldiers relieved that the fighting was over and no doubt feeling secure after the rout and disappearance of Saddam’s army. The reporter asked the soldier where he was from and had he a message for the folks at home. I have forgotten where he was from, but his message was ‘Tell Misty I love her.’
I have thought of that soldier frequently since then, as the news tells us almost every day of the killing of more American soldiers. I wonder if Misty’s lover got safely home to her. Is he still alive and well or was he killed.
‘Hindsight is a great thing,’ is a defence you hear frequently from people who have omitted to do something or who have done the wrong thing. Foresight and planning would often have prevented mistakes assessed with hindsight. It’s hard to believe that the British and the Americans could not have seen in advance how things would turn out in Iraq after they conquered it: the looting, the scarcity of water and electricity, the terrorist attacks on soldiers and much else. Either George Bush and Tony Blair anticipated these things, and many more of the country’s post war problems, and decided to go ahead anyway, or else they did not foresee them, which is hard to believe given the experience and resources of those available to the two governments for planning. Misty and her lover and thousands like them carry the can for the negligence and stupidity of these politicians. If you or I, doing an ordinary job, were so negligent or stupid we would be sacked. We must wait for elections in the hope that these two will be sacked, but they may well both survive.
If George Bush and Tony Blair had to stand at roadblocks or guard buildings in Bagdad and experience the risk of being shot at or blown up they would see things differently. If Madeline Albright had grandchildren living in Iraq she would not have said that the death of thousands of Iraqi children, as a result of sanctions before the war, was an acceptable price to pay in pursuit of the policy of the US and other governments.
But this, unfortunately, is the way of the world works. All through history political and military leaders have treated people as pawns; dispensable in pursuit of political and military ends and dispensable in the pursuit of politicians filling their own egos and trying to secure their place in history. Because this is the way the world works, you may say it is fatuous to point out these things. Long may there be groups of people, no matter how small and how few, who oppose war and the sending of other people to their deaths. There is a place for these people to tweek the consciences of the Bushes and the Blairs of this world. But then even the Christian Church has a theology of the just war.