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Confessions of a Useful Idiot

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USEFUL IDIOT: (YUSE-fuhl IH-dee-oht) pl. S. Someone whose stand on the War on Terror is diametrically opposed to your own, but holds views based on (a) pure emotion, (b) "information" that is clearly false or (c) ideas that are quite clearly not their own.

My name is J. Edward Tremlett... and I am a useful idiot.

For those of you who haven't been privy to my history as an op-ed writer, it may come as some shock to hear that a somewhat left-leaning centrist such as I was a vocal supporter of the Iraq War. But I was. I wrote a number of pieces on The American Partisan calling for us to get into that war, and one celebrating its "end."

It's weird that The American Partisan's absence from regular publishing has been a sideways mirror of my own disappearance from regular commentary. I tried to put it down to a move back to America, working full time again and trying to explore other writing venues... but the more I think about it the more I realize my political silence has been self-imposed.

Put bluntly, I've been wracked with shame over what I've said and what I've advocated concerning our actions in Iraq, and why. I think it's time to fess up - I f%^&ed up, and badly. And it's time I cleared the air and apologized.

I went from being against a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq to being enthusiastically in favor of one in less than a year. It wasn't a turn on a dime, either: I slipped down a slope over the course of a few months that had me saying no, then maybe, and then yes with reservations. And once I hit bottom I was impatiently calling for hostilities to commence so we could get it over with.

At the time, I argued this potential war was about "preventing another disaster from striking America, or her allies, somewhere down the road. This means that we are going to have to engage in preemptive conflicts in the time to come. While I can see that power being misused, and remain wary of its becoming a legitimate option, I can't completely rule it out. And I think that in the case of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it is justified."

With what I "knew" then, in 2003, that statement was self-evident. With what I know now - knowing that what I knew then was false, misleading or wishful thinking - that statement is a craw I've been choking on for almost four years.

Knowing what I know now, I reject entirely the notion that the world is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power, and now dead. Better? Maybe. But safer? No.

If anything, we've given our enemies a handy target, and increased their numbers. We've destabilized the region and given the fence-sitters of the Muslim world reason to think that the radicals were right all along.

Far from putting the fear of the Gods into Iran, Syria and Al-Qaeda, we've empowered them.

So yes, I was wrong. I screwed up. I acted as a cheerleader for a war that was unnecessary and counterproductive. I shrugged off the notion of civilian casualties, friendly fire, and incoming opportunists as "things that happen." I got on my knees and thanked higher powers that it was "over," and we'd "won," when in fact the troubles were just beginning.

I wasn't the only one who did these things, but I far expect better out of myself.

I never thought I would be the one to play fast and loose with human life, like people were toys. I never thought I'd look at civilians and soldiers as necessary casualties in the face of a greater cause. I never expected to sit on my fat ass and cheer from behind a keyboard as others went to fight and die, and as others were killed, for what I thought was right and good

How does that make me any better than some Al-Qaeda planner in a cave? Really?

You see, we all came to an important, harsh realization on 9/11. We realized that terrorism wasn't something that just happened overseas in countries we couldn't find on a map, but something that could happen anywhere - even to us. We realized we had to change the way we thought about it, because we now realized that we weren't safe. And we realized that we had to do something about it.

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J. Edward Tremlett is a lot of things, currently. He's back in the states after a seven-year stint in Dubai, UAE. He's been published in such diverse places as The American Partisan, the International American, The End is Nigh, Pyramid Magazine (more...)

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