Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm Back!

I finished the 2008 Cherry Blossom 5k Sunday morning, the first timed race I've ever competed in, and the first time I've been able to seriously run in many years. And the first timed-race in my life was also the first for my two sons! They didn't take preparations very seriously, and I beat them handily. I don't want to tease them too much, however, so I don't give any extra incentive for next time. It won't take them much effort to trounce me, I suspect.

But for now, my thyroid is under control, I'm not taking any medications with wacko side-effects, and I've getting stronger every week. I'm back! Back to when I used to run just because I love to. Although at the end of the race, it was more like staggering. I left nothing on the course.

I finished in 28 minutes and 47 seconds, averaging 9 minutes and 16 seconds per mile! I placed 63rd out of 267 men (well, males, some as young as 9). I was 6th out of 19 in my age group of 45-49. Not bad, considering I'm twenty-something years out-of-shape, it was cold, it was raining, and I started at the back of the pack, so I spent a lot of effort moving side-to-side to get around people.

Some folks might think I have a tiny little competitive streak, but that's not true. The fact that I've already been examining the results to see how many more people I could have finished in front of if I had shaved off another minute, or two more minutes, is just a form of mental exercise. While I plot my next race. One scheduled for a warmer day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Myth of the Ongoing War in Iraq

It's the year 2008 and people are saying "the war in Iraq" to refer to the activities of our U.S. combat troops in Iraq. Republicans are saying it. Democrats are saying it. Independents are saying it. News reporters are saying it. Political commentators are saying it. There's only one problem with it. There is no war in Iraq.

We were at war in Iraq, but that ended when the U.S. and its footnote-allies crushed the Iraqi Army. It began on 20 March 2003, and it ended on 15 April 2003. The war is over.

Ask a thousand people what "war" means and 99% will tell you some variation of: the military of one nation or group of nations fighting the military of another nation or group of nations. On 15 April 2003, Iraq had no military. That's a noteworthy point. Here's another: Iraq has a military now, and the U.S. military is training and equipping them.

Yeah, I've read or heard people whining: "But we still have soldiers there", "But we're still spending billions of dollars on military operations over there", and "But we still have soldiers being killed in combat operations over there".

Okay, here's my specific rebuttals to those issues. We have soldiers in many nations all over the world and we are not at war with those nations. Japan, for example. The amount of money spent doesn't define whether or not we are at war. We spend a lot of money to support our troops in Japan. Altogether we spend hundreds of billions every year on military expenses even in peace-time. Yes, we have soldiers dying in Iraq, but it's not from war, it's from occupying-actions.

Since 15 April 2003, U.S. military forces in Iraq have been attacked, and killed, not by the Iraqi military, but by armed Iraqi citizens who object to our continued presence there and by non-Iraqi instigators generally promoting Iraqi civil war for a variety of reasons. When our combat troops make a raid today, it's not to defeat an opposing army, it's to enforce civil order on those rebellious citizens and to capture or kill anti-Iraqi and anti-U.S. terrorists.

So what? At the end of World War II, there wasn't much armed resistance in Germany because Germany's infrastructure was in ruins, there were relatively few men of fighting age still alive, and it was occupied by multiple very large armies. There wasn't much armed resistance to the occupying forces in Italy, because the citizens were content to start rebuilding for the most part. There wasn't much armed resistance in Japan because their Emperor had surrendered and was still nominally in charge of society. In addition, none of these conquered nations had religiously motivated murderers trying to stir insurrection.

The U.S. had more than enough troops to crush the Iraqi military in 2003. We never had enough troops to enforce civil order afterward. The "surge" helped, and a larger surge would have helped more. An earlier increase in occupying forces would have helped sooner. But it's not us against the Iraqis.

We're for the Iraqis. We want all Iraqis to share the benefits of a peaceful representative democracy. We want them to prosper. We want them to enjoy freedom. We want them to live. Regardless of whether we should have overthrown Saddam Hussein or not, the price we're paying now in lives and money is to promote freedom in an infant democracy. Not to wage war.