Friday Night Story

There is smoke

“You know I don’t like it when you smoke in here.” He leaned the toes of his wingtips against the open bottom drawer of his desk, trying to be casual and relaxed, although he was anything but.

“Yeah,” I breathed in, sucking the flame off the match and onto the tip of my cigarette. “I’ve never agreed with Iraq; I just have a hard time being pro war- ever. War is pretty much always about innocent civilians and young people dying for reasons no one quite understands. Maybe we started this war with good intentions, and maybe our cause was righteous- but the bottom line of it, sir, is there would be fewer dead Iraqis if Saddam were still in power. It’s a harsh reality to acknowledge, but reality nonetheless.”

“We're buying their freedom- and so often the price of freedom is blood.”

“And in a generation maybe they’ll thank you. But today, on the streets, there’s terror and fear and horror on a daily basis. And since we dismantled the Iraqi military, and tore apart their police, we have a moral obligation to help them put their country back together again.”

“And it’s not enough to go it alone- it probably never was. We have to be humble, we have to show contrition. We have to meet with Iran, and Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah, Hamas- everyone in the region, our allies and our enemies there and in Europe and in Asia. We have to admit that we came into this thing half-cocked, that we underestimated the scale of the commitment we were making and that we need help. We need a true coalition force to prove this is not an occupation and to take pressure off our resources, and a public plan agreed with the Iraqi government for transitioning power. We need to show that this is not about dominance, that it’s about right and wrong, that the world will not stand the exploitation of people for gains, be they financial or political. Because it isn’t the American people who are going to suffer for our mistake, it’s the Iraqi people who have been paying that terrible price.”

“I’m not sure; apologizing to everyone, bowing to Iran… I just don’t think I have that in me.”

I sucked in a long, hard pull off the cigarette. “ I know you don’t. That’s why I didn’t vote for you.”

He smiled self-deprecatingly. “Not even the second time?”

Especially not the second time.”

“Heh. Guess I should thank you for your candor.”

“No. You shouldn’t. History will not be kind to you- but what you should focus on, whether or not you want a legacy, is the people. How many innocent people do you want on your conscience? You’re already well into the hundred-thousands, so I’m sure a handful more either way won’t matter. And maybe staying longer will aid terrorist recruitment, maybe a hasty and poorly executed withdrawal will, it’s impossible to know- but we cannot govern our lives by the random acts of madmen. Our sole and greatest responsibility is to do right by people,” I ground my cigarette out in the ashtray, “and whatever that takes is what you need to do.”

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