American county fairs are not to be missed. They come complete with livestock, concessions, school displays, arts, carnival rides and fattening food, combining agricultural pasts with a nascent future to provide a snapshot of a county area.
September 11, the opening day of the local fair, saw a burst of patriotism. The first 1,000 fair visitors received commemorative “Remember 9/11” pins and American flags flew everywhere, from concessions to stages, baby strollers to T-shirts, booths to bunting. Apple pie judging was underway and, as the sun descended, parents with children poured in through the gates.
Patriotism filled the air and people wore buttons supporting “our troops” and urging a vote for various Republican presidential candidates. Others thanked the military recruiters for “their sacrifice.” I questioned a number of these people.
Responses indicated that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the WTC and that the U.S. has to fight the terrorists in Iraq or “we will have to fight them here.” The U.S. can’t leave Iraq because “Muslims will follow us home.” Even the military recruiters who served in Iraq claimed that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is necessary because of the 9/11 attacks.
Where do these people get their information? A news article in the local paper on the same day found that six years after 9/11 one-third of the American public — 40 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats-believe Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in the 9/11 attacks and was sheltering al Qaida. Unable to find a logical basis for such a belief, the article speculated that this “is a reflection of what people want to believe” and that President Bush promotes this belief to justify the military occupation of Iraq.
That this assertion has been thoroughly investigated and repudiated in the news innumerable times-as has the assertion of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”-does little to sway those who support the U.S. occupation of Iraq. When I attempted to relate facts from government investigations to fairgoers, I was met with disbelief and defiance. They fervently believe that the U.S. must protect itself from terrorists by staying in Iraq.
The notion that “they will follow us home” and “attack us here” is simply bizarre. They did not come here. The U.S. went around the world to attack a country that had no “weapons of mass destruction” and nothing to do with 9/11 (Saddam Hussein and al Qaida were sworn enemies at the time). Iraqis are attacking us because we are occupying their country and they don’t want us there. If we weren’t there, they wouldn’t be attacking us. Duh! Nevertheless, military recruiters, Republican volunteers and random GOPers believe we must continue down a disastrous path chosen by an increasingly unpopular president.
On 9/11/07, another story in the local paper — directly below the one mentioned above — found that 47 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. out of their country; 57 percent of Iraqis consider attacks against the U.S. justified, and 60 percent of Iraqis don’t want their country split up, which appears to be the direction of U.S. policy. Only a minority of Iraqis supports the U.S. puppet, al-Maliki, and has confidence in the U.S. and British occupying forces.
Iraqis don’t want us and the occupation doesn’t make us any safer. Even Bush’s mouthpiece in Iraq, General Petraeus, when asked by Congress if the U.S. occupation of Iraq makes the U.S. any safer, replied, “Sir, I don’t know, actually.”
That a president who has flip-flopped and changed strategies more often than he’s changed commanders can retain any loyalty whatsoever is astonishing. Why do these defenders of the Iraqi occupation fiercely reject facts and ignore the damage Bush is doing to the U.S. military and the reputation of the U.S. around the world?
On the positive side, many of these people are taking responsibility for invading Iraq and piling up deficits never before seen in American history. Americans wanted to “kick some ass” and take revenge for 9/11. We couldn’t attack Britain, which accounted for 90 percent of the highjackers’ phone calls, or Saudi Arabia, home of almost all of the highjackers, so Afghanistan and Iraq had to do.
Many chest-thumping patriots are discovering that conquering a country isn’t as easy as they thought. They feel remorse and want to withdraw after committing terrible atrocities, unleashing the militias, creating a civil war, displacing millions, and destroying the infrastructure and the economy of Iraq. By every measure, Iraq is worse off now than before the U.S. invaded.
Why does anyone follow a self-deluded president who lives in a fantasy world and uses the war to push unfettered “presidential power?” Or believe a carefully planned publicity campaign to convince Americans, yet again, that victory is just around the corner?
On the other hand, why can’t we enjoy a county fair, let the kids enjoy the pig races and rides rather than push the agenda of America as an imperial power? For myself, I’d rather eat the apple pie.