Moral Confusion & the Iraq War

Please take a moment today to read author and journalist Helen Benedict’s insightful, new essay on the moral oxymoron of the Iraq war, and how veterans and civilians alike might go forth in personal introspection and moving forward.

Read my interview with Helen here.

An excerpt from Guernica’s full publication of the essay:

“Your army came to my country and destroyed it,” [Iraq author Hassan Blasim] said, arms crossed, eyes calm. “Your war has not only destroyed this generation, it has destroyed generations of Iraqis’ futures. And you don’t even say you’re sorry.”
Silence. Some visible squirming. But no apologies.
What if we had said sorry? What if everyone in the audience, the veterans included, had stood up and said, “Hassan Blasim, we are sorry for wrecking your country and killing your family and friends. We were wrong.”? I doubt our apology would do much for Blasim or his fellow Iraqis, other than show them long overdue respect. And we certainly shouldn’t ask for forgiveness; that would be audacious and absurd, but it might help clear up the divisions of the soul that the Iraq War has produced in so many of us.
The silence in Barnes and Noble—the fact that none of us, myself included, stood up and said, “I’m sorry,” although I’m sure many of us are—exposed our moral confusion for what it is. Because, just as veterans are trying to ignore the glaring contradictions between being ashamed of participating in the Iraq War and being proud of it, so are we citizens. We are all implicated in this bitter paradox, whatever our politics. Yes, veterans are on the front lines of this moral battle, but we civilians are the ones who put them there—with our votes and tax money, and with our policies that drive so many boys and girls from poverty into the military to make a living or to pay for college. We are all culpable. And like so many veterans, we—our media, our government, all of us—are having a terrible time asking honest questions of ourselves about the Iraq War, or answering Blasim’s challenge to face up to what we did and apologize.

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