I was listening to the Randi Rhodes show yesterday, and someone from Nashville called in with the fakest fake accent I've ever heard. (Really. He'd maybe heard of Nahsville, and that was about it. I'm no linguist or even an amateur connoiseur of regional dialects, but it was an agonizingly bad imitation of a southern accent.) His "question" was the old chestnut: "Why do you keep criticizing the president and the war? Do you think Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein? Huh? Huh? Do you?" (Sorry, that should probably be "Do ya?," since he was from "Nashville" and all. You know, folksy and shit.)
I started thinking about that, and about how that question is always thrown out as the trump card that will end all arguements, because everyone has to agree that of course Saddam was bad, and having him in power was bad. But the real question is, Have we replaced life in Iraq under Saddam with anything better? And I came up with this analogy:
Imagine that for the last several decades, you've been regularly poked in the eye with a sharp stick. Poke. Ow! Poke. Ow! Poke. Ow! And so it goes, year after year after year. You hate it, you hate the guy who's doing it to you, you hate the society that lets it be done, but you muddle on.
One day, someone arrives to say that you're free! You will no longer be poked in the eye with a sharp stick! Hooray!
Instead, your knuckles will be struck by a ball-peen hammer.
Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow!
After this goes on for a while, you say, "I don't think that I like being hit with a hammer."
"Oh," comes the reply in a sarcastic tone, "'I don't think that I like being hit with a hammer.' I suppose that you think you were better off with the other guy poking you in the eye?"
At this point, wouldn't you think that there have to be more options than that? Something other than the Sharp Stick of Repression and the Ball-peen Hammer of Freedom? How about a Backrub of Liberty? A Footrub of Independence? How about a Just Leave Me the Fuck Alone, Period?
The pundits -- safely ensconced in TV studios elsewhere -- go on and on about how by any measure, this person's eye is getting better, which justifies our intervention and removal of the wielder of the sharp stick. What about the hammer blows?, someone timidly asks. Bah. People accidentally hit themselves with hammers all of the time. It's not that big of a deal. Exaggerations by the liberal media, that's all. Besides, the only other option would have been to leave the wielder of the sharp stick alone to poke away.
Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow!
The sweet sounds of a mission accomplished.
* * *
It isn't that Saddam Hussein wasn't a bad man, or that Iraqis don't deserve freedom and security, or that nothing should have been done. It's that what was done was stupid. It was ill-conceived and poorly planned, and has been and continues to be a waste of money, time, and most importantly human life. I don't know how to fix it. I don't know that it can be fixed. All I can do is look at what has been done and wonder if we couldn't have come up with a better plan than simply hitting a different body part with a different implement.