It seems the time has come for another war. And I am conflicted. One of my happiest moments was failing my draft physical in 1970, a few months after a knee surgery. I was classified 1-Y which was later changed to 4-F. For those of you unfamiliar with the draft, 1-A meant you were good fodder for the generals; 1-Y meant you could serve but were physically unable to perform combat duties; 4-F meant you were physically unsuitable for military service. Of course, the case can be made that the particular war of that epoch in Viet-Nam was as, if not more, dodgy than the one recently perpetrated in Iraq. The latest conflict, to occur again in the Middle East, this time in Syria, is being justified by the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime against its citizenry.
Normally, I would support action in such a case providing the action is targeted and the goals attainable and verifiable. It is morally reprehensible for a government to attack its own people. But wasn’t that the case in 1988 when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds? And why does that outrage not apply to the Egyptian army that deposed a democratically elected president, ineffective and unpopular though he might be, and in their turn slaughtered protesters in the streets and squares that originally gave birth to the Arab Spring and the demise of the dictator Hosni Mubarak? In both of these cases, the USA not only did not intervene but continued aid to the perpetrators of these heinous actions! Not exactly the moral high ground for an attack on Syria. Yet, the million-plus refugees, the approximately 6 million internally displaced persons, and the 100,000 or so dead civilians provide more than a justification for some sort of intervention. Syria is more brutal than Kosovo in the late 1990’s.
Recent revelations of government overreach are also dominating our news cycles. I believe the over-riding issue is the expectation of privacy. And should there exist such an expectation, given the technology the government has at its disposal? I don’t mean the NSA wiretaps and data mining of our emails. Clearly that’s the result of a lack of supervision and an unintended consequence of our fear after 9/11/2001. Ironic how many of those doing the howling now were the biggest purveyors of the terrorist threats to be defeated at all costs back then. I refer to the massive data the government gets from driver licenses, motor vehicle registrations, the traffic cameras. Just consider that your local DMV and police know quite a bit about you and your travels just from this data. Take it a step further: how many of you really read those “terms and conditions” with the little check-box on those internet forms you fill out almost daily? Now, tell me again about privacy expectations……..
And the individuals who most recently exposed these incidences of over-reach: Snowden and Manning. Mr. Snowden, whistle-blower that he might be, did wait until being ensconced in Hong Kong with a ticket to Russia before tooting his horn, sorry, blowing his whistle. Somehow, that seems to me to tarnish the nobility of his actions and make me rather support the government’s contention that he is not a whistle-blower but rather someone who desired to harm the country’s interests and security. Not every leaker is a whistle-blower and potential hero. Now, Manning is more complex. Chelsea/Bradley did face what we consider to be justice. This individual faced the consequences of their actions and accepted their penalty, even apologizing for what harm it caused. The day after his sentencing, the transgender issues Pvt. Manning had were revealed with the release of emails going back several years. Did Manning do the leaking to attempt to aid soldiers and make the public aware of civilian casualties caused by our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or did his gender issues motivate him, knowing he would be caught and sentenced and his transgender treatments would be funded by the government since he would be a prisoner? If that’s too cynical, so be it. But the motivations of both of these individuals should be examined before they are canonized or condemned.