Protest later: Iraq needs restoration

We’ve got to get our priorities straight.

I refer specifically to Josh Andersen’s attitude toward the Iraqi war, which he expressed in his November 12 Waltonian article. In that article, he voiced his grief over the deaths of 2,000 American soldiers and his anger at the war we have waged in Iraq.

I feel his grief. Although I have not looked up the faces of the dead online, I see them in the faces of the young soldiers in my church, on television and in the newspapers. Those 2,000 deaths, and the 26,000 civilian deaths, are a tragedy that could have been avoided if President Bush had simply decided not to invade Iraq.

Josh also said he does not understand why we went to war in Iraq, and he demanded that the Bush administration explain its reasons for doing so. I, too, do not fully understand why “a mass of people greater than the population of Norristown is now dead.” We may never know the true reason.

But, unlike Josh, that is fine with me. I am content not to know the answer, nor to demand an explanation from the Bush administration, because the reasons we invaded Iraq and the terrible consequences of doing so do not change anything.

The fact is, we didn’t prevent war. We didn’t think about how many innocents would suffer from our invasion. We didn’t question the evidence we had against Hussein. And now, even if Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld visit the homes of dead soldiers for the next 20 years, as Josh suggested, we’ll never get back our dead.

Continuing to say that the war was a bad idea is not helpful. We can’t put Saddam back in his palace, or go back to March 17, 2003, when President Bush stood before America and gave Iraq his ultimatum. The months leading up to, and immediately following, that moment was the time for Americans to speak up. Josh was right to protest at the White House in 2003.

But he is not right to protest now. Those who continue to criticize President Bush for beginning the war in Iraq are stuck in the “what ifs” and “should haves.” Instead of dealing with the situation as it is, they criticize President Bush for something no one can change.

The only option is to move forward. Josh demanded that our leaders resign and “spend the rest of their political careers trying to fix the mess they created.” We ought to demand instead that they stay in office so that they can clean up the mess they have made.

And cleaning up that mess is exactly what our government is trying to do. Right now, there is an argument raging over how soon we should leave Iraq. On Nov. 17, Representative John Murtha, D-PA, called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. President Bush and Republicans disagreed.

A day later, that disagreement exploded into a near-riot within the House as representatives argued over a bill demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. As recently as Dec. 2, that argument was continuing.

This is clearly the issue needing resolution. Our focus now should be President Bush’s plans to restore Iraq’s government and to pull our troops out. Those plans will be the deciding factor in whether we see 2,000 more military deaths or 26,000 more civilian.

Our job now is to demand that America pull out of Iraq quickly enough to avoid unnecessary fatalities. Our job is to ensure that when we leave, Iraq is not in worse shape than when we came in. Whether this means demanding an immediate withdrawal or asking for more time in Iraq, it means we have to address what the government is doing now.

Only when we are out of Iraq and the country is safe should we turn our critical gaze back in time. Only then should we let history begin to judge whether we did right. Only then should we demand an investigation into the whys and hows of the awful war we have just fought.

Until then, let us stay focused on the task at hand. Criticizing our past is not going to take care of our future. And it certainly won’t bring those 2,000 soldiers back to life.

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