Patience needed indefinitely

Coming back to America has meant coming back to a country and a world on the edge of war – back to a nation where my leaders seem nearly obsessively preoccupied with violence – back to this nasty mix of middle-aged men with power and weaponry enough to make horrifying things happen.

While folks like us enjoy a discourse that situates us as “citizens of a global community,” I wonder whether that designation reaches further than, say, economics or technology or communication. If it does – if it means that we are human beyond this small, cold valley – then the precarious state of our world and our nation should be making all of us anxious.

We’re not facing, as some would like us to believe, a crazed madman. Nor are we facing nation full of madmen determined to unleash weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. More than any rogue state’s weapons of mass destruction, it seems like impatience might be our largest enemy in this whole predicament.

You might remember that, on Jan. 16, U.N. weapons inspectors found some missiles in Iraq. So let us talk about missiles. A friend handed me the paper that day, raising his eyebrows in a challenge: “So what about this? Is this reason enough?” The headline was something simple, factual – something straightforward, like “Weapons Inspectors Unearth 12 Empty Chemical Warheads.” When I read it, though, my reaction was different. Isn’t this is good thing? Aren’t empty warheads the kinds of things we should be hoping to find? Am I naive, or would we rather be unearthing the opposite?

My reaction wasn’t shared, though. Folks – influential folks – were referring to the warheads as “chemical warheads.” What exactly was chemical about them? CNN reported, under the heading “The Road to War,” that the inspectors had found “11 empty chemical warheads… in ‘excellent condition.’” What’s strange about this is that the warheads were empty. Empty. Though Condoleeza Rice, our ever-mindful National Security Advisor, was careful to warn the nation of the threats these warheads could pose “if a larger type of warhead…were filled with VX…and launched at a major city” (emphasis added), I tend not to trust such extended, paranoid constructions. None of us should be so trusting.

At the same time, another U.S. official expressed some doubt: “It’s a site where UNSCOM has visited before. A smoking gun would be if you found a big stockpile of chemicals.” We should be clear about things, as William Rivers Pitt noted in his letter to CNN: “There were not ‘chemical warheads’…in the Iraqi arsenal, a warhead is a warhead – an empty ordnance strapped to a missile.” While griping about the horrors of those “knee-jerk liberals” protesting down in D.C., it seems like most of our leaders – alongside our media – were doing their own knee-jerk dance to the warhead tune.

Let’s now talk about the practice of patience. Currently, U.S. troops surround Iraq, and more are on the way. The latest family news is that my cousin John’s been called up – a reservist in Colorado. When he signed up in an attempt for money for school, this is the last damn thing he ever expected to happen, I’m sure. So we’ve got this small country surrounded and we have a President who speaks of waning patience with the process of Iraq’s disarmament. Well, for our sake, for my cousin’s sake, for the sake of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, maybe patience is something worth practicing today and tomorrow and the next day.

While it would be a shame to find ourselves fighting any war, it would be a real disgrace to find Americans and Iraqis murdering one another over empty metal shells and the short fuses of our leaders.