Neither right nor left

I’ve been skimming my way through the 1,000+ page Duelfer report. Fascinating reading. Wow.

It presents a far more nuanced view of the origins of the current Iraq conflict than I have been getting through the news media. Unfortunately, partisan political points of view have had the tendency of obscuring actual events. I mean, we all know the New York Times is blatantly Democratic, and the Wall Street Journal is blatantly Republican — and frankly, I’ve long felt their news reporting has lost some nuance because of partisan bias.

The Duelfer report seems far more balanced — plus it places the entire Iraq conflict into historical context. If you want to blame someone there’s plenty of blame to go around — or to be more blunt, if you want to blame the opposite political party, you’ll find plenty of ammunition no matter what your party affiliation. But I think that misses the point of the Duelfer report. Blame is less important at this point — understanding is what we should be striving for. Given the expense and the cost in human lives, obviously we all want to avoid another conflict like this one if at all possible.

Unfortunately, what I get out of the Duelfer report is how simple misunderstanding was a major contributing factor leading to the Iraq conflict. For example, in my post yesterday, I quoted from a section of the Duelfer report that pointed out how badly Saddam Hussein misunderstood the United States. You can also find examples of how we in the United States managed to misunderstand Saddam Hussein — for example, how we misunderstood how Saddam Hussein had to maitain a fiction that Iraq was capable of producing weapons of mass destruction even when it wasn’t, in order to save face and to keep Iran aggression at bay. It also seems we in the United States misunderstood the extent to which Saddam Hussein posed a threat — he was worse in some ways than we had expected, and not as bad in other ways.

I continue to be bothered by the fact that the Democrats and the Republicans — the “liberals” and the “conservatives” — continue to point fingers of blame at each other, continue to indulge in shrill rhetoric rather than reasoned debate that might lead to a deeper understanding of the situation in Iraq. I find this increasingly unacceptable. We need to understand what’s going on in Iraq in order that we may end the Iraq conflict safely, effectively, and as quickly as possible. I am concerned that reasoned debate about the Iraq conflict, and about foreign affairs in general, has degenerated to the point where liberals and conservatives have essentially stopped talking with one another — particularly within Unitarian Universalist circles. We all need to get over being angry with each other. That’s just a waste of our time. We need to re-learn how to have effective, and openly democratic debate and conversation.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is this — 1. Read the Duelfer report. 2. Find a Unitarian Universalist who has the opposite political position from you (liberals, find a conservative, and conservatives, find a liberal). 3. Ask that person what s/he thinks — then, before you respond, repeat back to them exactly what they said, and ask them if you got it right. 4. Then ask them what we, as Unitarian Universalists, can affirm about the religious implications of the Iraq conflict — again, before you respond, repeat back to them exactly what they said and ask them if you got it right.

In other words, let’s see if we can move towards dialogue — and understanding — as “seekers after truth and goodness,” and as “not agreeing in opinion.”