John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lack of empathy in south for Iraqis

Puzzling is our lack of empathy with the people of Iraq about the invaders in their country.

(Don’t keep blaming them for 9-11. One had nothing to do with the other and insisting that they are connected just proves what James Thurber once said: “You can fool too many people too much of the time.”)

Regardless of our motives in Iraq — finding weapons of mass destruction where there were none, bringing them democracy whether they wanted it or not, pumping their oil out of the ground, whatever — we are in their country. It’s theirs, and no matter what else happens, we are first infidels then invaders and occupiers. Maybe to a very few we are liberators, but those Iraqis who hold that view are probably on our payroll.

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Too often we underestimate that our troops there  — in any Moslem country for that matter — to the Moslem mind is an abomination. I’m not defending that, but it’s so. (That our troops include women further reveals our insensitivity to the culture to which we are trying to export our form of government, but that’s beside the point.)

More puzzling is the lack of empathy that folks in Mississippi and other southern states have for that viewpoint — this idea that we are invaders and occupiers in Iraq. After all, haven’t 143 years passed since the Civil War ended and 131 years passed since the last federal troops were removed from southern soil to bring an end to Reconstruction? And aren’t we still mad about that?

Think about it, those Union troops and northern carpetbaggers — the south’s 19th Century invaders and occupiers — shared much with the region they invaded and occupied: race, religion, heritage, language.  If you don’t think we’re still mad, just try to take away the Confederate flag.

In Iraq, we share have none of those things in common that we shared with our northern brothers. So why is it hard to understand how we could be so loathed in those lands of the Middle East where the collective memory holds its grudges for millennia, not just a paltry couple of centuries like we do?

That said, it would perhaps be appropriate to acknowledge that if you took three minutes to read this, the U. S. spent another $300,000 to $400,000 to execute its war in Iraq. The total is now almost $510 million. Actually, when you count the residual and collateral costs, no one really knows how much this war will cost nor when it will end.

Meanwhile, we are funding it with our $9 trillion in national debt. That works out to almost $30,000 per person according to recent published reports. Of that, $7,973 is financed by foreign interests — either government or private. Of that, every last one of us presently owes about $2,000 to Japan and almost $1,600 to China.

What a way to run a country.