Institutionalized – We only know what we are taught

The one problem with blogs is that we do not revise and correct what we write. An idea comes into our head, and we write it down, without being able to correct, revise or find faults with the idea. But then again, that takes a lot of time and perhaps, it is beneficial to not revise so we can gauge the true thinking of those around us since most peoples opinions and ideas are not as well thought out as they should be and blogs act as a meter of mass mentality.

Today I’d like to examine the subject of being institutionalized. Most people associate this word with prisoners who cannot adapt to society since they have become too accustomed to life in jail. In the dictionary, Institutionalized as an adjective is defined as, “Given the character of an institution or incorporated into a structured and usually well-established system.”

Therefore, are not most people inherently institutionalized if they have not spent much time outside of their own city, culture, or nation? It is very difficult for most people to adapt to a new culture and country if they have spent most of their life in only one culture. They are accustomed to the structure and mentality of their native land and therefore, couldn’t we say that this is a limitation which impedes most people from becoming a true intellectual since they can only understand, or see one side?

Perhaps, the most valuable aspect of living abroad is the freedom which comes of breaking out of the institution of our native society. We become too accustomed to the standard and have not even conceived that our standard might not be the most optimal. For example, most people have credit cards and rack up huge debts due to their own greed. Now that President Bush is trying to do away with declaring bankruptcy and perhaps the return of “debtors prison” people are outraged. I do not like this new plan, but shouldn’t people not get themselves too far into debt in the first place due to overuse of the credit card? They should have been aware that credit card interest is exuberant but got themselves into it anyway because it is normal in Western society to have credit cards and they have been institutionalized but cannot see the harm credit cards can cause.

Another example is the war in Iraq. About half of Americans support the war even though the justification for the war was dishonest. The President stated that there might be WMD in Iraq based on information from the CIA. When this proved to be untrue the people still placed their faith in the President and said he simply got bad information. This is very naïve in my opinion and their understanding of just how vast and powerful the CIA is. They should give the CIA more credit and understand that if the CIA wants information they will find it. For something as dire as invading another country the information should be spot on, or “a slam dunk.” Yet even as the justification proved to be untrue, people are so institutionalized which causes too much faith to be put in the President that they will defend his decision when all evidence points to the contrary. Also, the President tried to say that Iraq was tied to Al-Qaeda which has been refuted by top officials and eventually proven false, yet people still hold their faith. The truth is, people must simply guess as to who is telling the truth and neither side really knows and most simply take a leap of faith in believing one side or the other.

A common justification that most of the disillusioned offer is “We have to fight terrorism abroad then fight it at home.” This again is simply repeating a catch-phrase from one they have put all their faith in. In my opinion, it should be restated, “We have to fight poverty abroad, before we have to fight the effects at home.”
For the first time, I saw students in madrassas reading their texts obsessively bowing, becoming brainwashed and indoctrinated with the religious teachings. Instead of bombing these places, assassinating their leaders and so forth, we should help these counties become economically stable so that they can attend state schools and not learn to blow themselves up. Since they have no alternative for schooling, extremist religion has filled this void, and teach these otherwise innocent people to become terrorists. What we are seeing today in the form of terrorism, is in fact the result of western colonialism and the plundering of poor countries for their own benefit. These countries were left impoverished and there is no way for the population to get an education. The extremists have taken advantage of this and have turned these places into terrorist mills.

Yet, the current administration in America has indoctrinated half of the population into believing that we must blow up these places to stop terrorism which is flawed thinking. If I were born in one of these countries, and the only school to attend was an extremist one, then I would have to option but to attend this school in hopes of bettering myself. Then I might get drafted into “terrorism” get killed, and my siblings would then hate America and become terrorists themselves. Why is it that half of America cannot see this? It is because they are institutionalized into putting too much faith in their leaders. They are like children following their teachers who teach bad material. They chant, “Support America!” Yet, what is America? It is supposed to be a democracy where all points of view are welcome and should have room to be debated. What the Bush administration has done is vilify all ideas or information contrary to their agenda. In a way, they resemble communist China in suppressing all other points of view.

America is an ensemble of people from different cultures and different ideas. Bush does not constitute America, he simply has the control of the reigns of power at present. Should all out war come about in America, many will have to fight not because they believe in the cause, but simply because the “institution” called America has declared war, and America being the only institution they know, will have to fight weather it is right or wrong. Living in Vietnam has taught me this lesson. I have learned the history of Vietnam and read from books from both sides. What I learned is that the poor Vietnamese have been conquered so many times throughout history, and kept weak and impoverished by the Chinese and French. Americas involvement is stated that it was fighting “Communism” but most people do not understand what “Communism” is. If one reads the teachings of Ho Chi Minh and take a look at the constitution of Vietnam it is ironic to see that it was modeled after the American one and states that people should be free. From what I have read, Ho Chi Minh was not out to enslave his people but set them free from the foreign invaders, to unify them and make them strong. After the defeat of the colonialist French, Vietnam was supposed to be reunited but America did not want this for fear of “Communism.”

Perhaps, it is true that the political classes and elite in America did have a true fear of communism since it would not come in the form of a big monster or invading forces, but from the people if it were to take hold. The people in America were brainwashed or “institutionalized” to simply see communism as a dirty word. As I examine the political landscape of America and Vietnam, I see America as a place where two competing factions Republicans and Democrats vie for power. Perhaps this keeps a balance and a balance is good, although it is extremely unbalanced at present. In the communist country, only one party holds power and can use it for bad (China, Soviet Union) or good which Vietnam is currently doing in opening their economy. Vietnam still has a long way to go, but does a plurality of political parties, instead of only one ensure a better society and that parties and the people that make up these parties will not abuse power? Is it true two parties are better than only one? There are so many questions and my understanding is still very limited and I can say that I really do not know. I can say however, that a student from any country will believe the teachings of whatever school of thought they come from and therefore become indoctrinated or institutionalized.

Switching gears and going back to the idea of institutionalism, it is very hard to break out of the mold if one has been in it too long. The only way to get out is to travel and live abroad. But still, simply living abroad does not break the bonds of institutionalism. Most ex-pats, simply move abroad, but slip into another institution within the ex-pat community. Most of them have not learned the language which is the door to understanding a culture. They also associate only with other ex-pats and never really come to truly understand their host culture. Most are simply an indoctrinated person who refuses to honestly examine and ponder the teachings in the foreign land. They are like a prisoner who has been released, but still prefers the comfort the walls of prison provide. Without them they feel vulnerable, weak, and exposed. It is the same for people on the extreme right and left in America. They have put their faith in an ideology, and should they even consider the other side, they will feel un-intelligent, weak, and wrong, which humans are not developed enough to tread a path of uncertainty even if it would enlighten them.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/


  1. Certainly there are some folks who follow blindly, however, not all of us do. Unfortunately, I think you might be confusing the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. Then again, maybe the viewpoints you’re hearing don’t reflect the view of the majority of Americans. In order to help correct the view, here’s what I see:
    1 – The educational system certainly needs to be addressed. Of this there is no doubt. However, as to the current schools being terrorist mills – is it possible that this is true – not in all of them, but in some? Are the teachers there saying that strapping bombs on yourself and walking into a nightclub is wrong and it defames our faith? or are they praising these folks as martyrs?
    2 – Really, I don’t think we’ve any desire to blow up schools or anything. If we thought, for a minute, that we could leave Iraq and that there would be anything other than an unholy mess as the different factions fought with each other for power, we’d do it. In fact, we’re trying to push the government to come up with a system of government that will be stable, respect the rule of law, provide freedom and security for the citizens, and promote equality. Once that’s done and they have the means to enforce their own laws – they duly-elected government will tell us that our presence isn’t needed and we’ll leave.
    2 – We certainly support freedom of expression and the interchange of ideas here. Hell, we even support that everywhere else. France has been disagreeing with us for years yet we continue to provide material aid to them. We come to the aid of every country, regardless of their idealogical difference with us (as long as they’ll accept our aid). I’d say supporting us is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got our rough edges as well. But supporting us tends to work out well in the end. Look to Asia and Europe – the standard of living in the countries that have allied themselves with us is head, shoulders, chest, and waist above many other parts of the world.
    3 – As for the plurality of parties, it does tend to breed stability. In a single-party system, it’s very easy for it to get derailed and abuses of power to happen (the aforementioned China and the former USSR come to mind). In a two-party system, the balance tends to prevent any real abuses. As for the current perceived imbalance, there are probably a lot of factors that are helping this to persist. First, the Liberals don’t appear to stand for anything other than opposing the Conservatives. The Conservatives stand for defending the country, supporting big business (trickle-down economics), and trying for the best long-term solutions they can find. Couple that with the fact that our country was brutally attacked, without provocation, and our citizens were murdered by a bunch of nutjobs and you can guess whose going to win the elections.
    4 – Last point (really) – Institutionalism might not be a bad thing. It kind of goes to that two-party system. Basically, at a very high level , it promotes competition between groups. My group (be it nation, ethnicity, sex, whatever) is better than yours, so we’ll do X better than you ever will. It’s allowed us to advance in almost every area of human study faster than likely would’ve been possible in any other system. (yes – I consider advancement to be an inherently good thing. Folks may yearn for the ‘simpler’ days, but I think that’s mostly a case of “rose-colored glasses” where they don’t remember the crap they had to deal with then). In order to accomplish this, you need to be institutionalized to some extent.

  2. Amigo,
    Thanks for the comment. It looks like through the blog we can have more of our momentous debates like we used to way back when. So without further delay, let the games begin!
    The theme of the blog, was really supposed to be being “Institutionalized.” If we remain in one area too long, we are most likely to adapt the views and ideology of those around us as most people tend to conform and do not like being the outsider. The viepoints that I had been hearing to do not come from one source or another, but rather a plethora of informational venues. I try to see arguments from all sides to the best of my ability.
    In your opening statement, you said that “perhaps the viewpoints you’ve been hearing do not reflect the majority of Americans.” Then said you would “correct this view,” used the pronoun “we” and then proceeded to repeat the views of the political right. As far as I can tell, America has never been more polorized politically with one side repeating the Left’s view of the war (oil, colonialism) and the other side repeating the Right’s view (freedom for Iraqis’, democracy, etc.) So it sounded that you were more a spokesperson for the Right instead of for the “majority of Americans,” since if you spoke for the majority, it would possibly place you directly in the center more or less. Therefore, as most of the population tends to be, you have also become “institutionalized” into believing the Right more than the Left, since those may be the opinions around you, in the newspapers you read and what you hear on the news. Further, your science background should enable you to see all sides until they are proved which can be very difficult in politics. If you listen to people like Michael Moore or even people of the less extreme there are some oddities such as the Bush administrations cosy relationship with the House of Saud, and the fact that most of the hijackers of Sept. 11th were from Saudi Arabia.
    Imagine a child being told that the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, so we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. This does not make sense. If we then explain that Osama bin Laden is the mastermind and we should focus on him instead of Saudi Arabia, it is ironic to find out that he is also a Saud and from one of the most influential families in Saudi Arabia. Looking at it like this says we should do something about Saudi Arabia does it not? Further, most of the justificiations for attacking Iraq such as WMD have been proven wrong. Therefore, something is amiss so why do you only follow the political Right?
    Perhaps, as Noam Chomsky states, people filter their own information and only read news that only agree with their own opinions and filter out that which does not? Yet, with your science background you should have been taught to look at all sides.
    I also take issue with the pronoun “we.” “We” have nothing to do with the war. It was started by one administration and the people who must fight it are the soldiers. Therefore, the current administration and soldiers and the various ethnic tribes are the only “we” that make up the players in this conflict. If you use “we” to mean “America,” America is a place where the view is split between for and against concerning the Iraq war. The Bush administration is currently holding the reigns of power to declare war, but I think it is unjust to use “we” as if all Americans support the war. Should the Administration change tomorrow and be against the war, it would also be unfair for them to use the term “we” since there are those who are pro Iraq war in America. I am American and against the war, so you cannot use “we” since it would include me and I am American and about 50% of Americans also support my view.
    1. What I saw in the schools were kids becoming brainwashed to an extreme degree. Even if they were not told to strap bombs to themselves, they were probably not being taught from all points of view. (Schools don’t do this anywhere except maybe for some select universities where sometimes students have access to other points of views)
    2. I think your statements here were a bit naive. America went to Iraq with a purpose which the Administration simply wants us to believe it is for the betterment of the people. If this were the case then America wouldn’t have pulled out of Somolia and left an “unholy mess” as they have now. Perhaps, there just wasn’t enough incentive to stay. America went to Iraq to gain something, (oil, military bases,) and perhaps promoting Democracy was important but not enough so to lose American lives. There must be a lot more. Also, America does not have a very good track record at promoting democracy simply for the sake of promoting democracy. America has been good however at installing dictators, who listen to Washington DC (Cuba before Fidel, Most of Latin America, South Vietnam, Iran, etc.) I do agree that Japan and South Korea did rise economically with the help of America but if you look at the scoreboard, America still has more points for installing dictators. Even if America is able to install a democratic government in Iraq, they sure as hell wouldn’t leave without a lot of compensation in the form of guarenteed oil contracts, military bases etc. In my opinion, leaving Iraq after so many lost American lives just to set up democracy there is insaine. Even thought I am against the war, if I were President, I would sure as hell guarentee they rewarded America very well for the lost American lives.
    2. (3.) I do agree that America has been the best at promoting freedom of ideas. But we do not come to the aid of every country! Look at Africa! Also, concerning Vietnam, if we read the history, Ho Chi Minh had drafted a constitution based on America’s which called for Liberty and Freedom. He finally kicked out the colonalist French and the country was set to be finally unified at the Geneva convention. Yet, they didn’t get much say, and the powers that be split the country in two, with America supporting the dictator half. For a real eye opener, it’s interesting to see that America supported Pol Pot, and it was Vietnam who finally put an end to his murderous reign after countless invasions by Pol Pot. But now we are getting into who’s territory they were really invading and that’s another debate.
    Also, you sound very much like a colonalist in saying that America fights in other countries for the betterment of the people. That’s the same logic the French used, to rape Vietnam of labor and resources… They said, they were civilizing the people and therefore the colony was a good thing. Don’t let the people govern themselves and to civilize them, when really they were abusing it. I think America is doing the same thing by setting up a facade of a government that is obedient to Washington and then saying how they freed the people, when past history tells us they set up dictators. A new elected governemnt in Iraq would be obedient to Washington or else there is no reason to spend our time “fixing” them.
    3. Here you have proven yourself to follow only the conservatives by bashing the liberals. You have chosen a side and do not consider the other point of view which is against your scientific background. I do agree however, that the Democrats are extremely disorganized and need to get back on track.
    You mention that America was attacked without provocation. Most people can only see “provocation” as some sort of military attack but not an economic attack. The policies of America by supporting the House of Saud, Israel, and not doing anything but continually attacking Iraq. Sept 11th did not start the war in Iraq. It was started in 1991, and continually bombed by American jets until the present. America got themselves involved in that war which was really an Arab problem, just as Vietnam was a Vietnamese civil war America should have stayed out of. I think it is naive to say that the hijackers just woke up one day and decided to fell two American buildings. Everyone does something with a purpose in mind unless they are insaine. America had been neglecting the poor Arab countries after the Soviet Union fell and gave too much support to Israel without helping the Palestinians. Yet, I’m sure the rabbit hole goes much deeper (even if one is not inclined to believe everything Michael Moore says), and it is more complicated than just a couple nutjobs deciding to board a plane and crash into some buildings.
    4. Concerning Institutionalism, I really ment that most people can only learn so much and usually believe the ideas of those around them. It would be much better if they could free themselves from these constraints and look at issues from all sides instead of only one. Therefore, I see “Institutionalism” as a bad thing.
    Well, I’m tired now and must take a nap. Cheers and thanks for the post.

  3. Okay – I could go on a line-for-line, but it’s the last comment that really sparked me – the one where I say we were attacked without provocation. I stand by that completely.
    1 – The continued bombing of Iraq was the result of Saddam not living up to his treaty obligations. He invaded Kuwait, was defeated by a multi-national force, and signed a peace treaty that had certain conditions. He continually defied those conditions and we resorted to the use of force per the treaty. We did this for 10 years. Had he simply continually complied with the treaty and continued to be a ‘saber rattling’ dictator who gassed his own citizens, subverted the UN Oil for Food program, attempted to get a nuclear and biological weapons program going (there is evidence that he was trying, though it doesn’t appear that he was nearly as far along as the world thought he was), etc., we wouldn’t have needed to invade (also, note that the treaty was written in such a way as to allow us to act unilaterally in the enforcement and subsequent invasion. As much as other nations might want to complain about this, what we did was completely legal in an international sense.) his country. Additionally, we’re working very hard to improve basic services, sanitation, education, and safety for all Iraqi citizens while allowing them to set up their own government – all out of our own pocket.
    2 – Bin Ladin and his crew have been trying to attack us for decades now. As I remember it, he tried to blow up with WTC with a car bomb almost a decade prior to the 9-11 attacks. Mind you, this was even though we supported his side during the Afghani war against the Soviets. While I don’t think we’re quite sure what the hell he wants, I believe it to be somewhere between us staying out of the Middle East and the execution of all infidels. So, what was our provocation? We bought oil and supported our allies in the area? That’s a bad thing?!? If he wanted us out, he should be trying to convince his own family to stop selling us oil. Really – that’s all they’d have to do as there is no other import from the Middle East that we care about – oil is it.
    3 – Assuming that he just wants to be left alone, well, that’s what we were doing. As long as he stayed in Afghanistan and didn’t attack us, we were going to leave him alone. Period.
    4 – As for us getting involved in an ‘Arab’ problem, are you saying that we should have let him conquer a basically defenseless nation and ignored the will of the UN – thus potentially opening up the game of conquer because you can to anyone with a pissant little army and the desire?
    5 – As for supporting Israel, well, I certainly support them and will continue to support them. The long-standing position of the Israeli’s, in spite of the propaganda spewed by the rest of the Middle Eastern countries has been “Quit attacking us and we’ll quit attacking you”. How many times has Israel been savagely attacked, defeated their enemy soundly, taken much land from them – and then given it back when the attacker promised to not attack again?!? The only lands that they’ve ever taken and not given back where the ones where repeated attacks were launched against them. As a bit of history on this, read Scott does a good job of chasing down historical facts and presenting them in a light that you don’t tend to hear from the media.
    6 – Yes – I support the conservative viewpoints on many items. Not all, by any means, but when it comes to the security of our country, I’m about as staunchly conservative as you can get (then again, on many social issues, I’m very liberal). Maybe my use of the pronoun we was a bit far to go. In my defense, I used it as I’m an American and most of the folks I know have a similar viewpoint (and not all of them are conservatives). When I listen to the media (conservative and liberal), I hear the same items as the above. Whether or not people think we should’ve gone into Iraq, the majority (and I think even the vast majority) all agree that we need to finish the job properly – leaving now would plunge the country into a more violent war and undo what good we’ve been able to do.
    Back to tie things up and get to the ‘without provocation’ comment. Based on what you’ve said, our provocation was defending, or helping to defend, some very small countries from their larger neighbors who desire to kill and/or steal their wealth. In spite of the propaganda out there, we’re not trying to crush Islam. We never have been. In fact, all we’ve ever wanted is to have the rest of world play nice in the same world that we do with Europe (we buy, sell, and trade with each. We compete economically. We have a free exchange of ideas and tourists. We support each other during times of crisis and disaster). No single, or combined, action(s) that I’ve seen, heard of, or read could even come close to qualifying as provocation for those attacks.
    Hell, it almost sounds like you agree with them – or if you don’t agree, you condone them.
    I’m not sure if I’ve done the best job of explaining myself here – it gets harder and harder to do this when considering many different points that are as interweaved as this.
    One last thing – my scientific training certainly does train me to look at all sides. It also prepares me to evaluate the arguments and then choose a position based on the best evidence available or get more evidence. Based on everything I’ve seen, I’ve staked out my position. If new evidence were to come to light, I would re-evaluate my position – again, consistent with my background.
    Now I’ve got to get back to work – something about bosses expecting me to actually produce some sort of value for the money they’re paying me.

  4. It sounds like the debate is falling into the same old left vs. right argument. The left only hears the viewpoints from the left and the right only hears viewpoints from the right.
    I’d like to go beyond all that and look at this objectively. In your arguments, it sounds like you support the US without question even when some of the reasons given for the war with Iraq were unjustified and turned out to be false.
    1. I have heard from Arabs that Saddam asked then Secretary of State Madeline Albright if they could do something about Kuwait since Kuwait was stealing oil from Iraqi reserves. I’ve heard that she gave the ok saying it was an Arab problem and then once he invaded flip-flopped and used it as a justificiation to attack. Saddam did not live up to Iraq’s UN obligations but let us look at the USA’s relationship with the UN which is awful. It seems the USA doesn’t care about the UN either and have just selected Bolton who said the UN should be done away with to be the US rep. So why all this talk about what the UN thinks if the USA isn’t supporting that organization very much either. Also, the USA got kicked out of the Human Rights Commission and then refused to pay dues. So it seems not only Iraq but also the US doesn’t care much for UN resolutions.
    You talk about Saddam being a terrible dictator who “gassed his own citizens” and there is no doubt he was a tyrant. But the USA also has a track record of installing tyrants in other countries so long as they take orders from Washington. See Iran before the revolution, the South Vietnam dictator during the war who also killed his own citizens, Panama and Cuba before Fidel.
    The administration talks about taking down a dictator which is good but they should be uniform across the board and not install new ones.
    You talk about the USA helping Iraqi citizens and some may want the help. Others do not. There is an extreme incentive for the USA to install a friendly government in Iraq so they can sell us oil at a good price. If the only goal was to help an impoverished people they would also have helped the Palistinians, The North Koreans, the Somolians or most of Africa who are also impoverished. Yet there just isn’t enough incentive there.
    The Iraq war was started on the belief that Saddam has WMD which has proven to not be true. Those that believe the CIA really did not know and gave the prez “information available at the time” do not give the CIA enough credit. If the CIA wants to know something it will. The director called it a “slam dunk” but apparently it was an air-ball. The administration wanted to attack Iraq because Iraq was in a weak position and we could gain something there (oil) and was an easy target. The President also tried to tie the Iraq war to Bin Laden and the hijackers to Iraq somehow which has been disproven by the Commission in the US to see if there really was such a link.
    The hijackers came from Saudi Arabia where most of the people live in poverty while the House of Saud reaps millions from oil and does not invest in the infrastructure of the country. But do we care about the plight of the ordinary Saudis, even though Bin Laden and the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia? No, they try to place the blame on Iraq which was not true.
    5. Skip to point five. You say propoganda from the Middle East of which there is a lot. But Israel also spews out propoganda as does every government that has ever been in existence. I believe Israel should have the right to exist and the right to defend themselves, yet they have done nothing for the displacement of the thousands of Palistinians who now live in squalor. I think it’s unfair to have unwavering support for only one side when both sides make mistakes.
    6. The security of the country would come in actively engaging the injustices around the world, instead of beefing up security. For example, if I have a fight with my roommate, it is better for me to engage him in dialogue and come to a fair resolution that barricading myself in my room, putting up defences and the such. The same goes for the rest of the world. The US should do more to help the poor around the world than just when they have something to gain from it.
    Further, most other countries do not want our help. The American mentality is that we can go to another country and fix their systems. Yet even if it was a better system, the population around the world hates interference from foreigners and would join their local enemies just to keep out the USA. Fighting and installing a government has never worked well in the past and it’s not working now. The new Iraqi government would be under the yoke of Washington and most of the population would realize this and despise it. They have to be governed by a government they set up themselves and take the lumps as they come which would be a better alternative for them then having one that has to answer to a foreign government.
    The conservative mentality is that they are actually doing something good for another country and it makes them feel like it is right. But when you live in another society and understand their mentality these people do not want foreigners interfering. I have learned this lesson here in Vietnam. During that war, some people supported the US but many just wanted to be left alone to go about their lives without having to pick sides. Many others, especially the Viet Cong in the south were simply fighting off the foreign invader as they had done for thousands of years fighting the French and Chinese.
    I do not support violent methods in any manner and do not condone the terrorists. Yet, we have to look at the balance of power and the economic disadvantages that come to other people due to such power. The people in Saudi Arabia live under an oppressive regime right now but we don’t see the US going off the fight the Saudis, because we have an important relationship with them. But if we use the arguments that you have mentioned to help the people and install a democracy, we should have started with Saudi Arabia.
    Concerning the information you receive, a good majority of it is going to be in support of the war and biased. For a true opposite perspective you would have to leave the USA, go live somewhere else and read their news that are not controlled by FOX or CNN. It is a true eye opener when you live in another place and learn the langauge and mentality. Then you will see a whole other side of things that were not taught or ommitted in America.
    About half of America supports the war in Iraq, but most of these people support it just because it is the home team and their own. The simple fact of it is that one tends to support their own people or nation even if it is doing very bad things (like Japan in WW2). Likewise, people support America and turn a blind eye to the bad things it does which are not taught in schools and almost never painted in a negative light since it would most likely simply be unpopular to do so.
    It is ironic that in the age of the internet when many points of view are available people will still tend to read points of view that agree with their own and will not read that or even consider it if the viewpoint disagrees with their own.
    My real thought about this is that the war in Iraq, Afganistan or any other areas of conflict there is rarely a side that is 100% right and one that is 100% wrong. It usually turns out to be a very gray area. Yet, people will usually defend their own nation no matter what, even if it is doing the wrong thing.
    I’m sure that in 40 years or so history will call the war in Iraq a mistake just as they have Vietnam. The reasons given turned out to be unjustified which is a dangerous precedent. Now any country can use any reason to start war and then not be held accountable like the USA now. If a teenager tells his parents he got an A in Biology to get a reward and then it turns out to be an F, he could always say he relayed the “best information available at the time” but the parents would then be very angry. This does not happen with the government because people are not very knowledgable about international affairs or only read the “propoganda” aka News, from a biased source. So the President is able to say, well I had thought such, but it was not the case, but oh well. Where is the accountability?

  5. In many respects, you’re correct in that this can be seen as a right vs left argument. I think I’ll attempt to take this to a much higher level of viewpoint, and maybe that’ll frame our arguments in a different light, but first, a couple of caveats:
    1 – The ‘right’ has lied.
    2 – The ‘left’ has lied.
    3 – Both will continue to do this for their own benefit, regardless of the consequences, until they self-destruct.
    Given that, I think I need to lay out a bit of my world-view. I believe:
    -Competition between nations is a good thing.
    -People should have the right to do what they want, when they want, as long as it doesn’t directly harm other people.
    -Businesses should be able to operate in a free environment where the same rules apply to all parties – big and small.
    -Governments exist to help with projects that keep business going, provide security, and enforce rule of law.
    -Political systems that don’t recognize human nature are doomed to repression or failure.
    -No one has the right to dictate what I believe.
    -While there may be many people out there wiser and smarter than me, I have the right to choose my own way even if it’s completely detrimental to my well-being.
    Now – on to address some specific points in your post:
    I certainly don’t support the US without question. Never have. However, I do support the invasion of Iraq and the replacement of it’s government. Legally and morally, it was the proper thing to do, in my opinion. To also hit one of your last thoughts, I think that history won’t have the view you put forth. There’s a huge difference between this and the conflict in Viet Nam. If we stick this out and help the fledgling government get on it’s feet and they’re successful, I think this will be looked on as a great moment in history. Conversely, if we pull out now – as many suggest – I think we’ll be demonized, and rightly so.
    I’ve heard the Albright story before, but no one that I know of has managed to prove it. Sans proof, I don’t think the argument holds water.
    As for the UN, isn’t this the same organization that is implicated in scandal after scandal around the world? Oil for Food, Sex slaves in Africa and the like? The same organization that sends stern resolutions and emails out to countries that kill their citizens? I think theremight have been a time when we were behind on our dues, but last I heard, we were paid in full. After reading about debacle after debacle in which the UN is involved, I’m starting to think it’s time to scrap the whole thing and start anew. Seriously, I don’t mean to throw ad hominum arguments at this, but it’s hard not to. The UN was created with the best of intentions, but I think it’s gone to hell in a handbasket. Especially, since as near as I can tell, it won’t even answer or tolerate criticism against itself.
    The argument about us removing all dictators and evil-doers across the board is very tempting, but not plausible due to time and resource constraints. We simply can’t afford to try and remove all governments that disregard human rights, kill their own citizens en masse, etc. We just don’t have the manpower, resources, etc., to do it correctly.
    Also, the arguement that that terrorists were Saudi so we should attack Saudi Arabia doesn’t hold water. Yes, they were Saudi, but they were acting on orders from bin Ladin, who was headquartered in Afghanistan at the time. Therefore, we attacked Afghanistan – successfully, I might add.
    Now, as the whole CIA argument, that simply isn’t true. Our funding for HumInt resources in the world was cut drastically under the Clinton administration. Therefore, our intel wasn’t nearly as good as we thought it should be. However, every single country in the world thought Saddam had WMD’s. Every single one. In fact, France and the rest said they thought he did, too, but thought that appeasements of some sort would work to stop it (didn’t Chamberlain try that back in history? How well did it work then?), all while many of it’s private citizens and corporations were getting rich subverting the UN Oil for Food program. While my reasons for invading the country where different, this intel was ‘icing on the cake’. Saddam needed to be taken out – period. We asked him, time and time again, to let the inspectors in or we’d invade. Hell, we even gave him a date for compliance – which he missed. I think that the invasion and subsequent efforts have been the morally correct thing to do. We’re actually making the world a better place.
    Point 5 – My support for Israel is based on their many, many attempts to actually create peace. Time and time again, they’ve faced attacks from those who seek to kill them – and they’ve fought them off, taken land, and then given it back – even though it might be detrimental to their safety. How have they been paid for this? Suicide and other bombers have killed their children and adults. Has Israel retaliated? Yes. Should they have retaliated? Yes. Could this have all ended years ago? Absolutely. The Palestinians could have, at any time over the last several decades, decided to stop touting suicide bombers as heroes and actively sought peace. Had they done that, history has shown that the Israeli’s would have worked with them. Had they done that, I doubt they’d be living in squallor.
    6 – Your analogy doesn’t hold up because countries aren’t monolithic entities. They have individuals who can be swayed by arguments that are jingoistic, religious, etc. Hell – even in the US we’ve got internal terrorists (Timothy McVey comes to mind) and we treat our own citizens incredibly well when viewed against many other countries. Therefore, there must be other ways to increase a nations security. Defense is one of those methods. Make it harder for the terrorists to get to the country and you make it a bit safer. Probably not completely safe, but better than it was. Secondarily, make sure they have some ‘skin in the game’. If their well-being, and that of the children, is dependant on playing by the rules, than you tend to get verbal and written arguments, but not physical (much like us and France right now – both of us are dependant upon one another’s economy, so we yell a lot, but we don’t actually fight).
    Actually, fighting and installing a government has worked. See Germany, Japan, and Italy (to a lesser extent). We fought them and then rebuilt their nations and installed new governments. Just so happened that they also went on to become economic powers in the world. As to whether or not all countries want our help, that’s a completely different argument. Many people want our money, but not our help. All sorts of nations are asking for our money (debt relief, financial aid, etc.), yet I’ve seen studies that show most of these efforts fail. The ones that succeed have a few key components – rule of law, stable economies, and easy access to trade. That aside, many countries not wanting our help is fine. I don’t think that’s a problem. Yes, we see ourselves as do-gooders that can make the rest of world a better place. Should we doubt that we can? Right now, I live in a country where I’ll likely never starve. I make a good living, I have zero worry about a government coming to take me in the night. If Amber and I have children, they’ll be safe, educated, and will live in rather luxurious conditions compared to the rest of the world. They’ll likely not suffer any preventable disease. Things are great here compared to many places.
    As for the yoke of Washington argument, that’s not necessarily true. Of the nations we’ve built, very few our under our yoke – they started that way, but were gradually given freedom and have benefitted greatly from it.
    Actually, most of the news I see in the US is against the war – we’re doing a horrible job, we’re faily here, look at the body count, we’re Nazi’s, etc. Any good news from the war is given grudgingly and with large caveats – or just plain ignored. Ex: Electricity. Right after we liberated Bagdahd and other cities, the press was going on and on about basic services – electricity and water – and that we weren’t getting these to people. The interesting note was that we were working diligently to get these services running as soon as possible, yet Iraqi citizens and foreign insurgents and terrorists were trying to hinder the efforts. Then, when we were largely successful in getting the basic services running, the press just plain failed to mention that.
    As for the information available on the internet, I agree – that is amazing. However, I’d put a bit of a spin on it – you tend to hold the viewpoint of the area you live in and viewpoint of your friends.
    As for the bad precedent, I think that we’re safe from that for a number of reasons – first of all, we had all the legal right in the world to invade Iraq again. Our treaty with them specified that. Secondarily, with the possible exception of China, we’re really the only nation the could potentially support an extended engagement of troops large enough to do any damage. Thirdly, any such action would likely be opposed by the UN and they’d end up in a situation similar to Iraq and Kuwait. Quaternly (heh – didn’t think I could make up something other than ‘fourthly, did you?), after seeing us manhandle the 4th largest army, then just annhilate the same army 10 years later, no nation wants to fight with us. China may want to at some point, but they can’t get to us.
    The last argument, which I’ve heard called the CEO argument, is interesting, but not particularly valid. The accountability is in the ballot box – and the President won by the largest margin in decades, as I remember it.
    HAH! Another seriously long debate!

  6. Hombre,
    Yes, this is a seriously long debate. This post is also about to get archived so I’ll just post a few quick closing points since we are never going to come to a conclusion.
    1. I agree with you that both the right and left lie or at least skew information and facts to fit their point of view. Everyone everywhere does this.
    2. No disagreements with your worldview.
    3. You said the Albright story doesn’t hold water “sans proof.” Maybe so, but doesn’t the same apply for the administrations reasons for the war in Iraq? The proof simply wasn’t there and it’s all coming out in the wash now especially by Powell’s aides statement about his boss’s UN speech being the “lowest point of my life.”
    4. Yea, the UN has some major problems. But it should try to be fixed as it is an institution which was created to stop nations from acting unilaterally which the US is doing now. I was hoping the US would set an example since it is currently the most powerful but still be willing to come to a consensus with other nations. Every powerful nation on earth always does what they want right or wrong. The US will not be on top forever and I think it would have set a great precedent for the rest of the world and made America look really good.
    5. About Bin Laden and attacking Saudia Arabia not holding water. I think that the facts are muddled and the right has skewed the importance of Bin Laden in all of this. Your arguments about Bin Laden being in league with Afganistan may be partly true but I think it’s much more complicated than that and all of the facts have not come to light. Instead we get bits coming from the right which support your view and bits coming from the left (Michael Moore). I think the truth lies in the middle and Saudia Arabia is also to blame in all of this. I think you are relying too much on the information from the right.
    6. About the CIA and HumInt Resources. I don’t think you give them enough credit. You say “every country in the world thought Saddam had WMD’s” This is not true. The USA skewed the facts and maybe countries like France said there was a “possibility” but many were “unsure.” I think they had a good idea that he did not but took a stance which best placed them politically. Also, what does “every country” mean? Do you mean to say that countries like Laos and Cambodia knew as well? These poor countries can barely afford a decent embassy in most parts of the world. I’ve seen many many countries embassies in Tokyo which are simply an apartment and shared with other countries as well! They cannot afford to be spying on Iraq and can barely afford an embassy in other countries. But being poor I’m sure they would go along with the US if the US wanted to say the moon was made of cheese so they could be in the USA’s good graces. If I was the leader of a poor country I would also say that Iraq had WMD’s so the USA would help me out more. As for the rich countries opinion, there were no hard facts. And without hard facts something as serious as war should not be started, otherwise your opening the door to starting war for any reason and given any evidence. I could provide evidence that the moon is made of cheese and probably could get a good following and if I had a lot of money, I’m sure I could get other governments to proclaim this as well. Saddam did kick out inspectors, but as a leader of a country one does not like to be pushed around. Given his position he should have let them in, but I think he was just playing the game and lost bigtime in the end.
    7. Your arguments for Israel may hold some water but it’s scary how you cannot see the Palestinian side of things. I also remember the Israeli army bulldozing people’s houses and killing children as well. What the Palestinians did was horrible but they were fighting back the only way they could. Both are wrong in this situation and I think it would be better if you saw the situation from both sides. If I was a young palestinian boy and the Israeli army had kicked me out of my house, bulldozed it and then killed my father and brothers, I would probably want to be a suicide bomber as well.
    8. About building defences to keep out “terrorists.” What exactly is a “terrorist?” The Administration would like us to believe that a terrorist is a boogyman who was just born evil and we must kill all of them. Terrorists are normal people driven to horrible extremes due to some injustice in the world. They were not just born that way. So instead of building defences we should seek to correct the injustices which causes humans to want to blow themselves up. Surely there is some injustice that is the cause of all this. People can be crazy, but since the “terrorists” seem to keep multiplying and want to actually kill themselves there must be something horribly wrong. The best phrase I have seen concerning this is “If you want peace, work for justice.” Also, the idea that “terrorists” are lurking abroad and must be killed is simply scary. Now every government around the world can use that to kill the opposition by referring to them as “terrorists.”
    Well that about wraps it up. This is my last post on the subject because the argument will just keep going around in circles and this post is about to get archived anyway.
    I feel this would be much better to debate at Damon’s with a big glass of beer and during our trivia game.

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