Keith Olbermann will utter the words: “That’s Countdown for this the 2,000th Day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. I’m Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck” thus closing Monday night’s MSNBC broadcast, two weeks before Election Day 2008.
If children have been born during this two-year-long Presidential campaign, imagine what life has been like the last 2,000 days for the families of the 4,000+ military dead during that time, the thousands of Iraqis killed or wounded and the 150,000 US and coalition forces still far away from families on 4th and 5th tours of duty, suffering most during this global financial crisis and meltdown.
We remember the flight suit carrier deck photo op. The son, desperately trying to seize a shred of military glory reserved, deservedly, only for the father. The lies and misdirection witnessed like a cheap magic trick. The hijacking of our global goodwill and moral standing, in the name of a country still perilously close to civil war and internal destruction. My father passed away in 2003 and to see the land he loved resort to torture and military gulags, would have killed him.
And now this shameful election campaign, conducted by a decorated war hero, co-opted by his national party’s leadership who feel only fear, smear and lies can win? We deserve much better.
Chris deserves better. He’s my son, age 9 and knows that Daddy writes for a living and talks to people on radio and telly here in the UK to help them understand why this election is so important. Chris has such a pure linear mind, free from Spin and nuance. He cannot understand why a + b does not always = c. It does for him and it should for us.
He barely remembers Papa being away nights planning for that 15 February 2003 march in Amsterdam’s DAM Square. On that cold day 400-Americans and his Mum and Dad joined a similar number of Iraqis and 120,000 Dutch nationals asking for only one thing, “let the UN inspectors finish hunting for WMD’s.”
21-million marched peacefully and united in 665 cities around the world. So nothing hurt more deeply than a callous Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer saying of this unprecedented gathering, “we don’t listen to focus groups.”
Yes, I was naïve to think such a huge outpouring would lead men and women of leadership and conscience to pause and ask what brought so many of the world’s peoples together in opposition to that war? I walked that day with grandmothers, fathers, children, students… many of us had never done this before and we were all desperately afraid of where this war would lead.
We watched Hans Blix give his UN report the day before, Valentine’s Day. Instead of celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary, my patient wife helped our group get ready for the next day. We wanted to show The Netherlands (and the world) not all Americans supported this war.
The Iraq Platform’s Faisel Nasser (he represented 50,000 displaced Iraqi nationals living in Holland) and I spent the days leading up to that Saturday riding around the Dutch media village in Hilversum. He, an engineer by trade, was brutally tortured by Saddam’s men and yet he spoke so very passionately and eloquently. I, using my best Denglish (English-Dutch), talked about the stakes of such a war and occupation for us all. Together in interview after interview with gravitas, clarity and conviction we spoke calmly to show our host nation not all Americans were intolerant and impulsive cowboys, this war would affect us all. Fasiel and I, American and Iraqi, were friends, not enemies.
Something happened to touch the hearts of many Dutch citizens that day as we walked together arm-in-arm with our Iraqi exile brothers and sisters. For years afterwards, people would stop me on Amsterdam’s streets and say ‘thank you’ for helping them to see not all Americans were like George W. Bush.
The night ‘Shock and Awe’ rained bombs down on Baghdad, we held a silent candlelight vigil by the US Consulate in Amsterdam while anarchists nearby frothed at the mouth and yelled at an empty building. Faisel and his inner group were our friends and none of us slept that horrible night worrying about families on both sides. We sat by telephones in a most improbable tableau. Who knew then, the true never-ending nightmare to come for us all? So many family, neighbors and friends would lay dead, injured or driven into the refugee camps of Syria and Lebanon because of the senseless violence of the last 2,000+ days.
Now the war barely merits an above the fold headline. It sits smothered by election silliness. When we should be having a great national debate, we’re bogged down in lip-sticked pigs, one group crying terrorist at every corner and a shadowy group of election ‘officials’ poised to steal yet another election.
This is my country’s last chance to get it right in the eyes of the world. I’ve lived abroad for 10-years and seen the world without the mud-stained SPIN blinkers of CNN and FOX. Here we read, yes… read and are blessed with multiple points of view across the EU and around the globe.
The verdict is unanimous; the USA is a country in great crisis, losing its grip, identity and way. As the 1st generation son of a naturalized immigrant citizen, I was taught a deep love of country.
I’ve fought like a patriot to expose lies and get the seriously deranged to listen. Millions of people across these EU lands were killed in the name of the Carpenter from Galilee. The divisions between the Christian far right and radical Islam are such we are headed down a very dangerously polarized path.
I have watched, used logic, and urged people to do the right thing using every ounce of my being to stop the madness and tunnel vision that threatens now to tear my country apart from the inside out.
And… I’m getting tired of always fighting. I’ve lost friends in this campaign because clinging to a belief and point of view, regardless of the facts, is more important. We will never get it right if this election is stolen by the twin destructive powers of fear and hatred.
On 27 December, I pass the residency test and can apply for UK citizenship. If we get it wrong yet a third time and allow another hate-filled campaign to succeed at tearing away at the fabric of our country, I see no other choice but to say farewell and gratefully become one of Her Majesty’s subjects where decency and rule of law are still at our core.
That is one ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner I hope never to see raised in my lifetime.
Denis Campbell is a US journalist based in the United Kingdom. He contributes to newspapers and magazines, is a BBC Radio election commentator and publishes the daily e-magazine The Vadimus Post from the Latin Quo Vadimus – where are we headed and do we know why?
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