I actually started writing this item on June 6 and set it aside, but the subject of my column today reminds me to finish and post it — that, and the fact that I keep getting more feedback from readers along the lines of that which prompted these thoughts to begin with.
Frankly, I find this one much less offensive than the one in today’s (6/5/05)paper. Maybe Mr. Arial needs to be reminded that there is such an animal as patriotic dissent in this country.
She was referring to this cartoon, which makes the point that the Iraq insurgents could find no greater friend in their cause than American opponents of the war. It was a provocative cartoon, and it succeeded in provoking a number of readers to respond passionately. Ms. Overstreet’s reaction was among the more restrained. For instance, Happy Dawg followed up her comment with the following: "I agree with Phyllis. Arial lost me when he started smoking wingnut crazy weed. Note to Arial: point your toe when goose stepping."
But let’s go back to what Ms. Overstreet said. There is, indeed, such a thing as "patriotic dissent in this country." In fact, if we don’t have it in this country, it’s doubtful you would find it anywhere else. One of our goals in Iraq is to help the people of that country build a system in which they can disagree — peacefully — with their government without fear.
If you oppose the war in Iraq, you have every right to say so. But here’s the rub: The fact that you have the right to do it doesn’t negate the fact that your vocal opposition does indeed give encouragement to the enemy. This puts sincere opponents of the war who also sincerely care about U.S. troops over there in a bit of a moral dilemma. There wouldn’t be much point for insurgents in continuing to kill Americans in Iraq unless they knew each act of terrorism would get big play in U.S. media, and would thereby further weaken the American public’s will.
The sincere protester doesn’t want to help the insurgents. (At least, most don’t. There are some — the sort of folks who would wear Che T-shirts, I suppose — who have such a muddled notion of whom we’re fighting that they confuse the Baathist thugs and foreign fanatics with some sort of popular movement to throw out the "American imperialists.") I know that. Robert Ariail knows that. That’s why, in his cartoon, the protester is looking extremely uncomfortable at being embraced by the insurgent. But no matter how unwilling an ally the protester is, he is still an ally of the terrorist. It’s a matter of having converging goals: Both would like the United States to get out of Iraq. Therefore, no matter how much they may detest each other, if the cause of one is advanced, so is the cause of the other.
There’s nothing anyone can do to change this dynamic. It’s simply the way the world works. Sometimes doing something you have every right to do — something that your conscience tells you you must do — can lead to evil results. These realities have to be weighed carefully in deciding whether to exercise that right.
I’m sorry if pointing this out causes distress to good people. But the point is to provoke thought, which can often lead to discomfort. You may or may not end up agreeing, but the process of having one’s assumptions challenged is ultimately a salutary one.
For her part, Ms. Overstreet understands that. After posting her initial comment, she came back later to say,
I’d like to add that I think Robert is a great editorial cartoonist and that even though I didn’t care for his 6/5 cartoon, I was glad you ran it. He does exactly what he is supposed to do, and he does it eloquently and elegantly, with just enough wiseacre to make it entertaining …
I would say the same about her criticism of the cartoon. I appreciate her posting it. That’s what the editorial page, and this blog, are all about — people of differing views coming together to try to understand each other a little better.