I knew when I saw the subject "Boy Scouts Introduce Merit Badge For Not Pirating," things would get ugly very quickly. This is the Boy Scouts, after all, and we know their crimes include being religious and homophobic, among many others. Predictably, Republicans came up rather quickly (thanks to the recent Foley scandal), and a thread branched off discussing Bush, Gitmo, Iraq, and even former President Clinton. I did want to reply to some of the posts, but there were too many to get my point across. Also, I didn't feel like burning karma. So I am addressing a few points in my Slashdot journal. Those that stumble across it can take it for what it is, and post their own comments if they like.
I would like to say first that I was scandalized by Clinton's affair, but not in any Victorian "goodness-I-have-the-vapors" sense. I believe in the sancity of marriage, and I was mad because Bill Clinton had not only lied to the country (both on TV and under oath), but presumably had broken his oath to his wife as well. (I admit I am not familiar with the Clintons' particular wedding vows.) I was not offended as a Bible-thumping Christian "fundie." (I was raised Christian, but am now kind of a take it or leave it, non-churchgoing fellow - pretty average for my part of the country.)
From Clinton's lies we progress to Bush's pack of lies. Or so they say. Look, everyone lies. That's not in question, to my mind. Successful espionage programs and covert operations require leaders to engage in some kind of deception as a cost of operating.
The problem is that Bush's political opponents claim that he's told some really big lies that drew an innocent nation into a war. What actually happened was that Bush laid his case, which was our best knowledge to date, before Congress and the American people. People complain of "cherry picking" the information. Has it ever occurred to them that Bush calculated - and accepted - the worse-case scenario? But I am tired of this point, as I am tired of most Bush bashing. He does deserve criticism, and he doesn't care to take it. I have nothing more to gain by defending him.
Last, a few things about Iraq. Some are making great hay about the 650,000 (supposedly) civilian deaths since the war began. I agree with those who say even the lower end figures are appalling. Not one civilian should have to die, and even the majority of Saddam's army do not deserve death. Our soldiers don't deserve to have their vibrant lives cut short.
I do have problems with that number, however. The originators of the study conducted interviews in a very small sampling. (These interviews can be extremely dangerous, after all.) Also, there is no attempt to explain who caused these deaths. (Indeed, by not talking about it, the press and the authors of the study seem to be attempting to accuse the US armed forces of mass murder.) The vast majority of slain innocent civilians are killed by insurgents, illegal militias, Al Queda, and other foreign combatants. Last, there is no attempt (and perhaps no way) of identify civilians who are actually unlawful combatants, those fighting without being part of a regular army.
If Iraq is a mistake - and although you may think otherwise, the history here is still too young to tell the whole tale - it is a mistake worth making. We may grow weary of this war, and withdraw away from the world. But the world will not leave us alone. We will be fighting Islam for many years to come. You may be shocked and appalled to hear me say that - it appalls me - but it is what I've come to believe. Islam was founded by a murdering warlord, and it shows no sign of moderating. It is a violent religion that punishes mercy and forgiveness. (That is not to say that it could not evolve into something else; there is no sign of that happening, however.) Americans can run from this war, but future terrorist attacks will take more and more blood, until the nation, reluctantly, unleashes more and more destruction against radical Muslims. It's sad and a shame, but that's just the way I see it. Am I wrong? I hope I am, on this.