What is this country?

The combination of the Iraq torture scandal and the VE Day anniversary has made me feel overwhelming shame and anger plus appreciation and pride. Yeah, a leetle conflicting.

My perspective is colored by my diverse background. I’m a first generation American whose family fled from Communists and Nazis plus my grandfather fought in the Pacific during WWII. I have never hated America. I was raised to love this country that gave my family a home and allowed us to prosper. My grandfather was willing to give his life for this country and I admire that.

This country is my home. But, over the past 3 years, this country has felt less and less like home to me. I don’t understand my fellow citizens. I don’t agree with the government. I don’t want to fight for this place because fighting now seems to be basically ratifying governmental policy with a human life. I would fight for the rights and liberty this country offers but those seem to be diminishing.

Over the past week, I’ve been watching “Band of Brothers” as a way of dealing. What the hell happened between then and now? We were liberators, the architects of the Marshall Plan, and a can-do nation. Now we’re occupiers, the architects of a War on Terror, and a divided nation. Is it that we have lesser quality people nowadays than in the 1940’s? Or is it that the Depression made people stronger and weeded out the weak? Did the 30 years of peace (Vietnam to present) make us soft and spoiled? Will we have to bumble around divided and ignorant until another crisis hits us and forces us to become better? Would secession be the answer? As discussed here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=255599. Nowadays, I cry more for what once was than what is.

What happened was that we became a nation on a 24-hour news cycle, hooked on instant gratification.

Germans and Japanese didn’t all feel “liberated” back then, certainly not immediately after we won. It took almost a decade to set up a new democratic government in those countries. There was resistance from certain elements of the population back then just as there is in Iraq now. And “divided nation”? What do you think the 1948 presidential election was, some sort of love-in? Not only was there such division that the outcome of the presidential election was in doubt until the last west-coast returns were in, but the South even fielded its own candidate rather than stick with either of the major party pair.

We aren’t any different in our goals, and our government isn’t much different in the execution of them. The only difference is that we’ve come to expect results so quickly in other areas of our lives that we’re impatient for them in war as well, and too willing to say “quit” if we don’t see them.

cmkeller hit the nail on the head. Niall Ferguson (Scotish historian, who was one of Time Magazine’s “100 most influencial people”) says that the U.S. is an empire even though we deny it. We have three weaknesses:
We borrow money from other countries to finance our consumerism.
[li] We do not emigrate and in fact continue to have more immigrants than any other country.[/li]** We have a bad case of ADD. We cannot stay with something until it is finished.**[/ul]

Moving this to Great Debates.

How is this a bad thing for a country?? :confused: Seems like your country must being doing good if tons of people want to get into it, and few want to leave it.

QUOTE]Did the 30 years of peace (Vietnam to present) make us soft and spoiled?

Soft and spoiled? I don’t think so. Hard enough to forget these conflicts in those 30 years of peace:
U.S. Intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984)
U.S. Invasion of Granada: Operation Urgent Fury (1983)
U.S. Invasion of Panama: Operation Just Cause (1989)
U.S. Intervention in Somalia: Operation United Shield (1992-1994)
NATO Intervention in Bosnia (1994-1995)
NATO Intervention in Kosovo: Operation Allied Force (1999)
U.S. Intervention in Lebanon
U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan: Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-?)
U.S. Invasion of Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-?)
That’s not including additional minor conflicts (Lybia,…) and the vicious attack of 9/11.

Soft and spoiled?

That doesn’t sound too soft to me. IMO the problem is more likely to be described as “become too hard” than too soft.
I still think that the USA are the most advanced and free country in the world (in many aspects). But as Nietzsche said: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

So are you saying that we should remain in this quagmire called Iraq at any costs until they choose to embrace democracy like we want them to? I hope not.

And some prominent Republicans think we should pull out immediately also:

Patrick J. Buchanan : A time for truth:

The neoconservative hour is over. All the blather about “empire,” our “unipolar moment,” “Pax Americana” and “benevolent global hegemony” will be quietly put on a shelf and forgotten as infantile prattle. The retreat of American empire, begun at Fallujah, is underway. http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38454


Ex-National Security Agency Head Calls For U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Iraq:

Lt. Gen. William Odom has become the highest ranking retired general calling for U.S. troops to completely withdraw. He served as director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan. http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/12/1420241

You know, There was an entire generation that asked these same questions back in the 60’s about the VietNam War. Trust me my friend, you havent seen anything yet. It won’t be too long from now ( with the jobless rate and the gov’t cutting out all of these federal assistance programs and all) that people will eventually start taking their frustrations to the streets and protest / riots are going to start flaring up all over the country. Back in the 60’s the Vietnam War nearly tore the U.S completely in half and was the cause of the United States to be despised by just about every nation on earth. This occupation of Iraq is eventually going to cause the same things to happen all over again…I know that there are many nay-sayers that are gonna flame me like crazy for these comments, but watch and see if what I say doesn’t come true …(I guess that history really DOES repeat itself doesn’t it. :frowning:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Thank you for being vigilant and noticing that we’re off-course, and caring enough to be upset about it. If you’re eligible to vote, please do so this November.

If you can swing it, a financial donation to an election campaign or a PAC would possibly be a good idea this season too.

It does if you don’t bother studying it or delude yourselves about what really happened.
Then you might indeed find yourself surprised at the fact that your country is not that shining beacon to the world, you have been taught it was. It’s just another country with a population that isn’t solely composed of super-heroes but has its fair share of bastards and stupids, even in high places.

Well said. Not wanting to cause offence or anything but lately due to the pics coming out of the prison I’m see a hell of a lot of these types of hand wringing reactions from Americans.

Do a lot of you guys really believe that Americans are somehow fundamentally nicer people that the rest of the world? Do you not realise that the reason WWII and other wars were fought by your country was not for a pure good reason. It was fought out of necessity and defence.

The American internal system of government is a very mature and balanced system but the population is just the same as any other in the world. Just have a look at some of the people in your prisons.

There were bad things done by all nationalities in WWII the same as in every other war. Iraq is no different. The way the press deal with it and the means to get information to the people has changed that’s all.

Then you haven’t been watching nearly close enough. Didn’t you see German prisoners gunned down in cold blood? Civilians accidentally killed? Liberating troops pushed to their psychological breaking point and crossing the lines of acceptable behavior?

That is exactly what is happening in Iraq. It is all in the nature of war, which is is a horrific thing. It is not the most horrific thing, which is why we occasionally have to fight them.

What is different is that we look back on WWII with rose-colored glasses as if that were a war in which 100% of Americans acted heroically in all instances – your overlooking American atrocities depicted in BoB is an example – when this is plainly not the case. On balance, WWII was justified; but there is/was a deception in the way we focus on Dachau as if Dresden never happened.

Conversely, in the current conflict the focus has been placed on every setback and failure. There are mountains of evidence for thousands of atrocities committed by the previous regime that make these things a comparative joke. But all the stories of gang rapes and mass graves and mutilation have been downplayed. The multitude of stories of Iraqis who were tortured or lost loved ones to the hell of SH’s prisons, and who are now freed from that were stuck on page A14, while a handful of prisoners forced into a naked dogpile dominates the headlines for two weeks. The same producers that decide that footage of Nick Berg (or of Iraqis walking around with no tongues or other mutilations) is too graphic decide that Abu Ghirab isn’t.

In both cases there is a choice to focus on the larger picture or the smaller one. Regarding WWII, the choice has always been to look at the bigger one. In Iraq, the choice has been to focus on the smaller.


At any cost? I wouldn’t say that. Certainly there must be situations so horrible that the only response is surrender.

But after only a year? That’s way too soon to declare failure. Especially when we’ve HAD success in such endeavors before (Germany, Japan) and we know it took more time but paid off back then.

I was against this war because I feared that it would not be done the way it was in Germany and Japan. The situation was different then. The Cold War and the amount of atrocities committed by the Nazis (and to a lesser extent the Japanese) made the US take more care in “recivilising” these nations. I could not see the US spend as much time, effort money and resources on Iraq. This really is a bad situation. As good as it is to see Saddam gone, I don’t think a democratic, free and “western-friendly” Iraq will be established anytime soon.

Dresden was justified. It was not just an evil regime killing jews - a vast majority of the Germans took part in these crimes or new about them without actively opposing them.

Damn, hit submit too early.

Dresden was justified. It was not just an evil regime killing jews - a vast majority of the Germans took part in these crimes or new about them without actively opposing them. Dachau was happening before the US even thought of bombing Germany. So why should one not think about Dachau without thinking Dresden. How does Dresden make Dachau less horrible or justify the Nazi crimes in any way? Or am I misunderstanding you?

Deliberate attacks on civilians are never justified.

The official justification for Hiroshima was that it saved the lives of American troops lost in a land invasion. The real reason for Hiroshima was to show the USSR that they could not mess with the US, the Nuclear Power.

OK, then in an attempt to understand what you really want.

What do we do? Pull out now and let the next group of warlords take over the country? Because that is exactly what will happen, mainly because the area is filled with small tribal units who were clumped into a ‘national state’ when it was not a natural political happening. You have 5 [or is it 6] different tribal and religious factions, each of which wants to be on the top of the heap. At least with reconstructing Japan and Germany they had a national identity to start with. And as was pointed out above it took the US 10 years to get the economy restored, the infrastructure repaired or replaced, and the final native elected government installed.

What will you say when CNN/MSNBC/FOX/news of your choice come out and report that the Kurds/Sunnite/Shi’ite/insert group have just been genocided into oblivion by the opposing faction? Will you say oh well, it was their choice, or will they be evil opressors?

The US has unfortunately or fortunately [depending on your point of view] decided to try to extablish some form of Pax Americana in countries that have been determined to have human rights violations [which seem to be roughly based on our concept of human rights claimed in the Declaration of Independence] be it right or wrong. Many of the other countries in the world also find that the human rights as defined by the US to be sensible enough. We therefore have turned to acting like a parent. Sometimes parents have to do some pretty draconian actions [from the viewpoint of the children] to keep the peace and safety of the family.

What do you want of the world? Do you want any country to be able to practice genocide because they/the recently departed tribal unit arent like us/the government tribal power? Do we want any ‘humanitarian aid’ supplies to be taken by the tribe in power and used to control the tribe not in power through deprivation instead of being disbursed fairly according to need and not tribal identity? Do we want religious groups to feud simply because they don’t worship the same?

Don’t get me wrong, If you want the rest of the world [on a country by country basis] to kill each other off due to internal factioning, to invade and occupy the neighboring countries, use acts of terrorism against other countries populations to ‘get their message out’ please feel free to knock yourself out believing that way.

I personally would like to know that I can go on a plane trip, or boat cruise, or vacation in a country and not have to check the state departments hot list to see if I am going to end up dead just for being an american, white, female, [ex]christian[pagan].

What country is this? The same one its always been. You are looking at the past through rose colored glasses, seeing a golden age now past. Its a mistake people have made from the time we as a species thought of history. The US is not fundamentally different now that it was in WWII. There were protests against our getting involved in that war as well, especially prior to Pearl Harbor. Even after that, there was a fair share of folks that were against the war, even though at that point we had no choice.

As has been pointed out, there were atrocities committed by US troops (and every other nations troops too, whether Allies or Axis) in WWII that make anything we have done in Iraq look like frat boy pranks. We gunned down troops. We killed civilians wholesale just by the nature of the weapons we used. We abused prisoners. The list goes on and on. Its only your (false) perception that makes it seem cleaner or nobler.

The REAL difference is the press didn’t focus on it, and ‘The World’ was kind of busy doing other things at the time, and weren’t disposed to throw the myth of US goodness and moral superiority in our teeth like they are gleefully doing now. You are wringing your hands over how bad the US is because your preconceptions of the US were unrealistic…and now your conception of how BAD America has become is totally distorted.

We are just a nation composed of humans in the end. Our SYSTEM is one of the best in the world (IMO), but its still a flawed human system. And even if our system was perfect (snort) our nation is still composed of fallable human types who fuck up and do bad things occationally. What, you think all the criminals are in jail?? And war is notorious for bringing out the animal in certain people anyway.

Let me tell you a secret: The rest of the world knows all this already. They are busting our chops not because what was done in an Iraqi prison was so bad (it wasn’t…even if a few people were beaten to death, something not yet confirmed, thats small potatos compared to REAL atrocities…and almost every nation of consequence has similar things in THEIR closets), they are busting our chops because we have tried to live the myth you are wringing your hands over, and it annoys them…and it give them great pleasure when they can throw our smugness in our teeth when we show that we too are only human.

Finally there is the press. They are feeding your distorted perception by focusing on this, but not on that. They fed your mis-conception of WWII by focusing on the noble and staying away from the grim realities. They are distorting your current perceptions by focusing so much on the prison scandal without really putting it into perspective. But focusing and distorting the the fierceness of the ‘resistance’ in Iraq, and the fact that its a ‘quagmire’, unwinable, time to cut and run, blah blah blah…after a whole year.

I’m no fan of the war by any stretch. I think it was a huge mistake for us to have distracted ourselves from rebuilding Afghanistan into a stable nation and hunting down and killing terrorists. However, we are there now, right or wrong, and the US needs to find some fucking internal fortitude to stay the course WE created. Guess what? Bad things will happen. People will continue to die, including our soldiers. Further atrocites will be committed by both sides, and fuckups will be made resulting in the deaths of more innocents. When you open Pandora’s War Box, these are the kind of presents you get. Its never neat or clean…its never noble without the shit. But we went in there, and we need to find the guts in ourselves to stay the course until something resembling stability is restored. If it takes us 5 years or 10, we need to meet our responsibilities.

If we DON’T, if we cut and run like cowards or like children who can’t stay focused on something when things go bad…now THAT will make ME cry for what my country has become.


Welcome to Reality. The human race is sick and demented when they want to be… and the USA last time I checked were part of the human race. Humans can be nice too of course.

Americans have been doctrinated with the same Myths of America being guided by God to bring Freedom, Liberty, Prosperity and Democracy. Japan, Germany and Korea being examples. (Forget Vietnam, Cuba and other mistakes please). 

 Now every country has their myths and cultural quirks. Their nobility and even negative stereotypes. Chileans feel they are dedicated patriotic nationalists. Argentines feel they have more education and culture than their "monkey" brazilian neighbors. Brazilians have this myth of a "pacific" people. That we are naturally more likeable and nice than other countries. Etc...  Some of it has a bit of truth... and the rest is mostly hype.

  So Americans are more ideology driven... and that can be good sometimes. Still when your fighting for "good" then nothing can be wrong ? To kill "evil" shouldn't anything be allowed ?  Why hold back... etc...  When you mix ideology with war things get nasty. When your leaders have cozy oil business arrangements that can be scary... when Rummies and Pearles think the US should change the world by force that can be scary.

  I think every intelligent and well informed person should be skeptical and cynical when politics are involved... any country and at any time. A vigilant and well informed electorate and public opinion are the only things holding back politicians spewing BS. Power corrupts... absolute power corrupts absolutely. Let 'em loose and it will get worse.

You’re probably right - I should have remembered the Nietzsche qoute of my formaer post. I just don’t think the bombing of Dresden can be used to explain Dachau and Auschwitz. While it does almost make sense the other way around.