Thursday, May 17, 2012

We Told You So

A new poll shows that most veterans think the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were bad ideas and should be stopped. Well, as someone who held that view before we even invaded Iraq, and who got shouted at by lots of angry veterans, the most important thing I can say is, “I told you so.”

We're not supposed to say, “I told you so.” No one likes to be told, “I told you so.” No one likes the person who tells them, “I told you so.” But we should be saying it. Because if we don't, it won't be long before the veterans and other people are shouting at whoever warns them against supporting the next ill-advised war.

We need to be saying, “I told you so,” so that the veterans and everyone else who supported our recent wars will realize that the wars were bad ideas from the start. Otherwise it will be too easy for them to look back upon the wars and think that they were a good idea, but they were not carried out well. That is what people were told about Vietnam after we pulled out – that if we had just been more aggressive we could have won. The militarists blamed the peaceniks for the military's failure to win a war which could not be won and should not have been fought.

If the question of whether a war is a good idea is answered by whether you won or lost the war, war is just another card player's bet, and gamblers who are in power will start lots more wars in the hope of hitting it big on one of them. If that is the position the people who supported the wars want to take, they will have to abandon their assertions that the wars were patriotic, just, and necessary. War cannot be both virtuous and a simple matter of good or bad luck.

We need to be saying, “I told you so,” until the people who supported our recent wars admit that the protesters, whom they were quick to say didn't know anything about war, were actually the ones who were right. They need to admit that we were right, so that the next time they are tempted to rally in favor of a war we will be able to remind them that they were wrong. If they can admit that we were right and they were wrong this time, maybe they will listen to us the next time and not just shout at us.

We need to be saying, “I told you so,” and then reminding people why were were against the wars. It wasn't principally because we might not win the wars. It was because there was no need to go to war, and because wars kill people, and because the money we spend on wars can't be used to solve other problems. If that message doesn't come through, in a very short while we will be told that these recent wars actually accomplished something, and what we accomplished was worth the cost and was more important than other things we could have been doing. We will also be told that it was OK to kill the people we killed. If we accept that view of our recent wars, the same arguments will be used to persuade us to start the next war.

Recent news about Wall Street illustrates what happens when the people who are wrong don't acknowledge their mistakes. Obama has refused to hold anyone accountable for the financial crises. No one has been prosecuted for financial crimes. As a result, the crimes are still going on, and firms like J.P. Morgan continue to pay millions of dollars in compensation to managers who just lost billions of dollars doing exactly the kinds of things which led to the crises a couple of years ago. Their actions may well lead us into the next crises, even before we recover from the first. Someone should be shouting, “I told you so.” There were plenty of people warning against what Wall Street was doing, and the correctness of their warnings needs to be acknowledged so that the people who ignored those warnings will learn from their mistakes.

If no one says, “I told you so,” it is as if no one did tell you so, which is the same as saying you shouldn't bear any blame because how could you have known? When people, their companies, and their governments stubbornly embark on foolish and dangerous courses of action and ignore all well-founded protests, they should be told when their errors become obvious, “I told you so.” The veterans who support misguided wars, the bankers who profit from predatory practices, and the politicians who orchestrate or allow it all to happen may not like the criticism, but the rest of the country should be thanking the people who had the courage and conviction to shout “no” and who have the obligation to remind them – “I told you so.”

No comments:

Post a Comment