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Hometown: Green Mountains
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Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 03:27 PM
Number of posts: 2,091

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We’re repeating Bush’s failure: An Iraq veteran despairs over our deepening climate-change denial

Excellent post in Salon by Roy Scranton.

I watched American denial at work as a soldier in Iraq. I'm seeing it all over again in our global warming response

It took me awhile to realize we were failing in Iraq. At first, despite what I considered a healthy skepticism, I thought we might just be able make it work. From May 2003 to June 2004, I had a grunt’s-eye view of the occupation, and even as late as January 2004 I held out hope. Yes, there was a growing insurgency, but many Iraqis seemed optimistic and supportive: they just wanted security, stability, and jobs. Sure, disbanding the Iraqi army put hundreds of thousands of men out on the street and de-Baathification left the government crippled, but there was such a powerful grassroots enthusiasm for democratic self-determination that a new order seemed almost inevitable. Okay, all that stuff about WMDs was a lot of smoke and mirrors, but we were building schools and helping small businesses—that was real, right?

By February I was dubious. By March I was worried. By April, after four U.S. mercenaries were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah, I knew we were flailing. By May, after reports of American torture at Abu Ghraib, I knew we’d lost.

Watching the war drag on for another seven years, watching the recent rise of ISIS, watching Iraq break apart into fragments and get sucked into the Syrian Civil War, I’ve thought a lot about how to make sense of my experience there, how my narrow perspective on the ground connected to bigger institutional and political realities, and what the whole debacle taught me. I like to think that if I can learn something from an experience, however awful, then some part of it might be redeemed. I like to believe that we can learn, adapt, and, even if we never achieve perfection, at least be better than we are.

If Iraq offered anything, it offered a lesson in political maturity. It taught me that good intentions matter a lot less than bad habits. It taught me that an organization was only as capable as its mid-level managers. It taught me that top-down directives don’t matter much without grassroots buy-in, and that grassroots agitation doesn’t matter much without systemic change. It taught me that politicians, business leaders, careerists, and hacks always tell the same story, the same story that always has the same happy ending, and it’s always some kind of a lie. It taught me that the real story was almost always about conflicting motives, miscommunication, greed, stupidity, and inertia. It taught me that the news back home almost always got the story wrong.

On this Veterans Day, as American soldiers redeploy to Iraq, redeploy to Afghanistan, and now head for Syria, these reflections are much on my mind. They’re on my mind every time I read a new story about ISIS. They’re on my mind as I watch the presidential election. But most of all, over and above everything else, they’re on my mind when I think about global climate change.

Every day brings new reports of increasing temperatures, threatening storms, drought, forest fires, rising seas, melting ice sheets, and leaking methane. Along with these reports come increasingly alarming warnings from scientists, sober in their language but shocking in their content, suggesting that feedback mechanisms such as permafrost and ice sheet melt are already kicking in, arguing that observed warming is consistently outpacing modeled predictions, and confronting us with the possibility that it may well be too late stop global warming from spiraling out of control. Adding a frightening drumbeat to the news reports and scientists’ warnings are policy statements by the World Bank, the Bank of England, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the US Department of Homeland Security, all of which identify climate change as a clear and present danger to global economic and political security.

We’re repeating Bush’s failure
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