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Marc Dion
Marc Dion
8 Feb 2016
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War and Punishment


It isn't what we DID to the Iraqis and the Afghans that went wrong. It's what we said to them that failed.

We wanted, we said, to "give them democracy," like democracy was an ice cream cone with which we intended to reward them if they'd just quit fighting. You don't speak to nations the way you'd speak to an unruly 7-year-old.

So, what should we have said? We have said this before the first bomb fell.

To The Iraqi People:

"God is great! Saddam Hussein refuses to tell us if he has weapons of mass destruction with which he intends to kill our women and children. Because he will not tell us, we intend to destroy his army, hunt him down and kill him. Then we will leave. Don't make us come back."

To the Afghan People:

"God is great! Osama bin Laden has killed thousands of our people. Children are orphaned and wives sleep alone because of him. Mothers and fathers cry for their sons and daughters. If you will not give him to us, we will invade your country, find him and kill him. Then we will leave. Don't make us come back."

To the Iraqi and the Afghan People:

"God is great! We do not want to conquer your country. We do not care about your religion. Muslims live freely in our country. We do not care if you don't send your little girls to school. We do not care if you stone adulterers or practice child marriage. Your law, customs and religion belong to you and not to us. We will not help you form a government, and we will not build schools, city halls, post offices or clinics. What we destroy will be in ruins when we leave. We will not leave until we see the body of our enemy."

Crude, no? But purposeful and with a clear end to things.

If America had said that to the Iraqis, we could have left as soon as we rooted Saddam out of his hole in the ground.

Instead, some years later, we're slouching out of Iraq, led by a president whose temporary notion of standing firm in Afghanistan will end the same way — when either he or the next president faces the fact that you can't reach a goal you don't have.

In the 19th century, European powers, who didn't have a tenth the hardware we have, called this a "punishment expedition," a phrase that tells you exactly why the soldiers are going where they're going.

If we want to bring the American way of life to the world, we should let TV and Marlboro cigarettes and music do the job, as they did in Eastern Europe, where the mighty Soviet empire sold out Lenin for Ronald McDonald. Teenagers in Kabul and Baghdad may be made to memorize the Quran, but they yearn to memorize the lyrics of Kid Rock.

If we want to strike out in revenge, if we want to kill those who would kill or have killed our people, then let us say what we are doing and why and how. And let us say when we will be done.

I live in a working-class city with a 14 percent unemployment rate. My neighbors are leaving these cracked sidewalks and corner stores for Iraq and Afghanistan. They are coming home to ride in funeral processions over pot-holed streets. The processions pass men in Harley-Davidson T-shirts and women with missing teeth who watch from the sidewalk, some of them holding small American flags on skinny sticks. The flags are given out for free by 16-year-old kids who belong to the Junior ROTC at the high school. The men watch the processions silently. Some of the women cry, but not many.

The Afghans in their hills, the Iraqis in their cities, the men and women on the sidewalks, the kids giving out the flags — everyone deserves to know where America is going and why and how we will know when we are done.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



2 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Mr. Dion, Yes indeed. One of Winston Churchill's early writings was about just such an operation, called "The Malakand Field Force", which occurred on the northwest frontier of India probably in what is now Pakistan. We have been outwitted in this country by our own earnestness, having its origins in our puritanism, in which essentially we feel an irresistable urge to convert everyone else to, in this case, "democracy", even though we ourselves are no longer democratic, having morphed into a plutocracy, big business having bought out our own government. Then of course we are still running around attempting to apply the outmoded Marshall Plan template from the aftermath of World War II in which we magnanimously bestow our material blessings on the benighted foreigners, even though those blessings are in increasingly short supply at home. In other words, we are misguided, incopetent assholes who deserve to fail, which of course is why we are failing.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Marc Meinzer
Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:24 AM
I read your article in today's "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland. Few people seem to understand your kind of thinking since logic and reason is such short supply in this superstitious and self assured nation. It felt good to realize that these thoughts are not mine alone. Keep up the good work.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Per Nielsen
Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:40 AM
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