Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let's Talk Openly and Honestly About the War

Sunday's Johnson City Press contained an opinion piece from the editor entitled: War in Iraq has taken a toll in lives, patience. It is a good commentary. The editor takes a moment to praise the efforts of ConcernedTNCitizens and other groups who speak out to oppose this war:

Others, like a group that held a candlelight vigil in Johnson City on Wednesday, are encouraging people to speak out on the war.
Sandra Garrett of Concerned TN Citizens suggests local residents write letters to members of Congress, newspapers and blog sites. That’s a good idea. We should talk honestly and openly about this war. That would be a refreshing break from the partisan rhetoric that we hear from our politicians.
Here is how to contact your congressperson.

Check out Monkey Muck's latest commentary on our demonstration and pics.




36 comments:

  1. Hi John,

    An open, honest question for you: do you really think that pulling out of the war and thereby allowing a situation of chaos and instability to prevail in Iraq and take many more Iraqi lives is the moral action in this situation? I think that since we created this problem, it is our responsibility to help make it go away until the Iraqi government releases us from that obligation. See my blog for more.

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  2. I'd like to hear more discussion too. I agree that we should have never gotten into Iraq in the first place. We should have found another way to deal with Hussein.

    And, I mean, what Christian isn't for peace, and would like to see the troops come home.

    But, it seems to me that right now we really do have a moral responsiblity. I'm very scared that if we just abruptly pull out of this country before the govt. is stabilized even more innocent people are going to lose their lives, and the terrorists will have gained a greater foothold in the region.

    I could be wrong, and am struggling with the whole thing. But, it seems to me that the situation is alot more complicated than just bring home the troops.

    One thing's for sure, this war has been divisive from the beginning. I can easily see how sincere and concerned people can disagree concerning our best course of action right now.

    Even my own sons involved in the military have differing opinions.

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  3. The Iranians are just licking their lips at the thought of a US pullout.

    (Anyone remember the Iraq/Iran war just a few years ago: two million casualties, chemical warfare, human wave attacks resulting in thousands of casualties in a single battle? I doubt the Iranians would have any compunction nuking Baghdad if they get a chance.)

    And the Kurds will get involved too, perhaps dragging in Turkey.

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  4. Bravo my TN friends!

    And how cute are you Rev Shuck? You and that Monkey, what an irresistable pair.

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  5. Here's my take on things, in the "for what it's worth" department:
    1) immediate withdrawal does not necessitate abandonment. It can and should include bringing in UN troops (as should have been done 5 years ago) that consist largely of ME peacekeepers who are culturally more understanding of the Sunni Shia conflict. This is something that can be done, if it is allowed. We haven't allowed it.

    2 it doesn't matter how long we stay there - we are aggressors who are not wanted and the "insurgents" will continue to create havoc as long as we are there. We can throw a $ trillion and 40,000 US soldiers at the problem and it will remain as long as we do. If this happened here, I would be an insurgent, and many of you probably would too.

    3) "making progress" in Iraq means little. Things are better today than they were two years ago or 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 years ago. Things are much worse now than they were before we invaded a sovereign country. We DO have a moral responsibility to make reparations, but it just isn't going to happen as long as we are seen more as an aggressor than a nation-builder.

    4) the current set up is so filled with corruption from top to bottom, that we could build a bridge across the Tigres River on bales of money we've sent over that - that is if we could find it.

    5) I still hear too many people say "Well, as long as we're there, we need to finish it". Or "We need to win this war". Look, we "won" the war, technically, anyway, just a few months after we hit the joint. It's the reparations we're f^(#ing up! Besides, can anyone tell me what they actually mean when they say "finish it?". Seriously, 'cause I can't for the life of me figure out what you mean.

    The closest I can come is to say "we don't leave until the last terrorist is dead." It won't happen, folks. Our presence there is the single most effective recruiting tool for terrorist organizations that has ever been. This won't stop until we get out of there, get the UN in, and untimately change the way we work with the world - it is not ours to exploit, and the sooner we learn that, the sooner perhaps our children's children can look forward to real peace.

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  6. Sandra:

    Much of what you say is true, especially about the corruption and the endless nature of the conflict.

    Your solution, ME peacekeepers, though is unrealistic. The ME nations are not peacekeepers. They are warmakers. They are indeed sensitive to Shiite/Sunni issues. And they take sides. With guns.

    One commentator speculated that when the US leaves, Iraq will become the site for proxy wars, like Lebanon, but many times worse. This seems a cogent assessment.

    The irony of all of this is that the US is funding both sides of the war. The money the US spends on oil is used to fund the insurgency.

    The solution for peace in the ME is to stop buying oil. Then they won't have the money to make war. That is rather a long term goal, though. Electric cars charged up with nukes, anyone.

    Actually they would fight with sticks and stones, but not so many people will die.

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  7. Oh, yes. The US stopping their dependence on oil is so much more realistic than bringing in UN peacekeepers.

    But Harry, when you say things like "They are warmakers. They are indeed sensitive to Shiite/Sunni issues. And they take sides. With guns.", it tells me you do not want to see an end to the war - you want to see an end to Islam.

    But you do hit on a point. One of the biggest concerns I think our administration (and the oil company lobbyists that support it) has, is not so much the concern that Iran will help Iraq develop terrorist organizations, but that it will help them develop autonomy - particularly when it comes to what to do with the vast oil fields under their land. If Iran and Iraq band together, they control too much oil for our comfort. And incidentally, that is the big concern about Kurdish autonomy - they majority of Iraq's oil is under territory that would go to them, were they to be given the right to form a separate country. And since we provided Saddam with air cover and at the very least, turned a blind eye to the horrors he inflicted on the Kurds, I don't know that they would be too keen to open those resources up to us.

    Like I told our delightful US Rep. David Davis, when I sat with a group of other concerned citizens (including Rev. Shuck and a few members of his church) last year, I may not know how to build a chair or even fix one, but I damned sure know when one is broken. I have confidence that, given the right goal, the great military and diplomatic minds that work for our government can come up with a solution that will get us - and Iraq - out of this mess. They just have to redefine the goal.

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  8. By they way, Grace, I have encountered far too many people who sincerely believe themselves to be Christians who are all for inihilating Islam. I would say that these Christians are for peace, but only for Christians like them. The rest can be turned to ash as far as they are concerned.

    Of course, one can argue that they are not true Christians, and I would be the first to agree, but try to tell them that!

    And as for disagreeing about a course of action, I would love to have the opportunity to debate the merits of an "immediate" pull-out versus a timed withdrawal over say, two years. It's an argument I might be able to stand losing! But until the administration is serious about making an end to this war, that conversation will only take place in places like this, and not on the floor of Congress.

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  9. Sandra, believe me when I say I am not anxious to end Islam.

    I just note that everyone in the world has trouble with their Islamic neighbors, and the various Islamic factions fight among themselves all the time. Middle East despots are not a very nice bunch of people.

    Personally, I have much more confidence that the scientists can figure out a way to end our dependence on foreign oil than diplomats can bring peace to the middle east. The last triumph of US diplomacy was back in Nixon's day.


    The US has up to 1.5 trillion barrels of shale oil (5 times the middle east).

    http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/30/magazines/fortune/Oil_from_stone.fortune/index.htm

    Wouldn't it be great never to have to worry about the ME again. Let them stew in their own juices.

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  10. I'm open to explore the idea of a gradual withdrawal with the UN peacekeepers in place. I just don't want us to abandon Iraq.

    Sandra, I certainly do not think these folks are Christians. Or, if they are, they're spiritually and morally confused, and need to come to repentance.

    Jesus commands us to love even our enemies, and to be peacemakers. Of course all of us fall terribly short, but I think if someone is truly in Christ, His love in some real measure is going to be reflected in their lives.

    Plus, I don't really think Islam is the enemy. The problem is with the militant terrorists, not with all of the Muslims.

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  11. Harry - Yes, there would be little to fight over (we presume, although our current administration IS very good at making stuff up), unless one is to consider the lucrative business of the arms trade.

    We can and should be working on both fronts - technology and diplomacy - to end our addiction to oil as well as our seeming addiction to war.

    Yes, we do have quite a bit of shale that could be harvested, but the cost would be great.

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12001

    The environmental impact on species (including ours) is too great. Now, I have a friend who would argue that we should tear up some of our own country as long as we are so willing to tear up everyone else's in order to get to the oil - and he has a point. But, as you say, the best alternative is to reduce our need for oil.

    Again, though, that requires a shift in governmental thinking, since the economy is so tightly connected to the profitiability of the oil industry here in the US, if not elsewhere. And unless the oil industry can grab control of (and thus ensure profits from) new technology such as fuel cells, they will continue to fight it tooth and nail. I understand that the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" gives good insight into this, though I have not seen it yet.

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  12. I want to jump back in and add that even for enviromental reasons alone, we need to move away from our total dependence on fossil fuels.

    Along this line, there is this awesome organization that I want to recommend to everyone called, "Earthsave." Check them out on the web. If I ever find the time, I would love to start a chapter in my area.

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  13. Chris,

    "An open, honest question for you: do you really think that pulling out of the war and thereby allowing a situation of chaos and instability to prevail in Iraq and take many more Iraqi lives is the moral action in this situation? I think that since we created this problem, it is our responsibility to help make it go away until the Iraqi government releases us from that obligation."

    Thanks for that good question.

    The answer to that question would depend upon whether or not the Bush Administration could be trusted to do the moral thing. The Bush Administration has proven itself NOT to be trustworthy.

    It is up to the American people to demand that the Bush Administration work in cooperation with the world community.

    Beyond the moral ambiguity of the Bush Administration, even if it were above board and moral, it is compromised. How can one superpower rebuild a smaller country without the smaller country becoming a vassal of the larger?

    It would not be in the interests of the larger country for the smaller one to become independent and then side with the larger country's enemy.

    There is no possibility of true independence unless the rebuilding is with the cooperative effort of the world itself.

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  14. Rev. Shuck:

    What is this world community you speak of?

    Just who are we supposed to cooperate with?

    Just which countries CAN be trusted to do the "moral thing?"

    Russia? China? Who else counts as a near super power?

    Believe me. I would like nothing better than a decent end to this war. But I just don't see how it can be done.

    Your moral posturing about how wicked the Bush administration is and how some wonderfully cooperative "World Community" is going to fix everything is worse than useless.

    It was such moral posturing that led to 1/2 million dead Vietnamese boat people and 2 million dead Cambodians.

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  15. Grace,

    I found an excellent blog, Gold Star Mom Speaks Out from a mother who lost a son in this war.

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  16. Harry,

    The world community is the United Nations.

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  17. Thanks, John.


    I will check out the blog.

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  18. Rev. Shuck,

    How interesting! You are a realist in your religion and a fantasist in your politics.

    I am just the other way around.

    Anyway, sure, let's let the UN decide. The US troops could put on blue helmets, and then everything would be peachy.

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  19. Harry said:
    "Believe me. I would like nothing better than a decent end to this war. But I just don't see how it can be done."

    So that means endless war. Much less costly in terms of lives. Brilliant.

    "Your moral posturing about how wicked the Bush administration is and how some wonderfully cooperative "World Community" is going to fix everything is worse than useless."

    What? As opposed to your bitching.

    "It was such moral posturing that led to 1/2 million dead Vietnamese boat people and 2 million dead Cambodians."

    I've lost my patience with you, Harry. You are saying that criticising an openly corrupt and contemptuous administration is as bad as Pol Pot and the Kmer Rouge. What offal.

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  20. Sandra:

    Thank you for your openness and honesty.

    It is through such frank discussions around a common table that we can solve the problems of the world.

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  21. Cry me a river, Harry. You come here with snarky comments from day one. Take it as you dish it.

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  22. Sandra, right on. Ya took the words out of my mouth.

    Harry, you've got it wrong on Iran. Ironically enough, George W. Bush did the best possible thing for Iran: taking out their two fiercest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam.

    No, the Iranians would have a huge issue with Baghdad being nuked. Thanks to our enabling the Shiites, who have (probably understandably) been waiting since 1979 to get back at the Sunnis, have effectively ethnically cleansed Baghdad of most of its Sunni inhabitants. The al-Maliki government is very cozy with Ahmahdinejad and as pointed out, Tehran would love to have Iraq on its side at last as a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia (I honestly can't decide which mini-superpower in the region is more deplorable).

    American foreign policy at present is generally confined to bribing the Sunnis to fight each other instead of our troops, praying that al-Sadr will keep the cease-fire (though signs are his influence with the warlords is about to evaporate), propping up the unpopular al-Maliki government, and quietly supporting Turkey's invasion into Kurdistan (which was supposed to the the "stable" part of Iraq).

    Juan Cole, the Mitchell Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Michigan, is one of the nation's top experts on the Middle East. He was on Rachel Maddow's show on Friday, and his expectation is that all of these faultlines are getting ready explode (Sunni resistance, the rebellion of Shiite warlords against al-Sadr, the impending collapse of the al-Maliki government, the Peshmerga's quiet support of the PKK and the US' quiet support of Turkey).

    This is about to get a whooooole lot worse, and we're just guaranteeing that American troops will be caught in the crossfire. And yes, Sweden has taken in more refugees from Iraq (18,599 in 2007) than the United States (7000 in 2007).

    And no, Sweden was not part of the "Coalition of the Willing".

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  23. Rev. Shuck:

    Who's crying?

    I am quite prepared to take what ever abuse you care to dish out. You have to be prepared for such nonsense when talking to the morally superior.

    But as for snarky comments, I am your student.

    If you don't want me posting, just say so. Really.

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  24. Rev Shuck:

    Not that I've noticed. You are starting to get personal, though, with that cry baby nonsense.

    Stick to the issues.

    What can the UN do that the US can't, especially given that the US will foot the bill for any cockamamie scheme the UN comes up with.

    And those permanent paragons of trustworthiness on the Security Council will do a bang up job, I'm sure. Just ask the Tibetans and the Chechens.

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  25. It makes it a UN issue not a US issue.

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  26. Harry -

    Give it up. You're the one postering, now. No one said a thing about you being a cry baby. You just said something that sounded like half an of an O'Reilly soundbite and I called you on it, and then you got sarcastic.

    It's pretty obvious you're a John Birch follower, so anything that involves the UN is doomed to failure before it begins, as far as you're concerned.

    You are also falling into the same tired line as people like David Davis. Just because I can't come up with a solution doesn't mean there is none.

    Like I said before, I know when a chair is broken, and this one is busted all to hell - and meantime the Bush Administration keeps piling more military on top of the broken chair like the frat boys they are. 4000, 4001, 4002....

    As for the UN, they did pretty well in helping end decades-long wars in El Salvador, Mozambique, and Nambia. They have brokered 60 years of peace between India and Pakistan that might otherwise have resulted in nuclear catastrophe. I suppose you'll poopoo that because of something you read in a LaHaye story, though. If the US would cooperate with them, it might surprise us all what can be done. I don't think they can screw it up much more than we have.

    And as for the US footing the bill, that might go some way towards bringing us out of arrears, since we haven't paid our UN dues to the tune of about $560 million. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/19/usa.sudan

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  27. Well, flycandler, at least you seem to have read a newspaper.

    What is your suggestion on US exit strategy?

    Rev. Shuck seems to advocate we just wash our hands of the whole thing. Not our problem anymore. Reminds me of a certain Roman procurater.

    Sandra knows there is a solution, she just doesn't personally know what it is. All we have to do is direct Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon to come up with the right solution instead of all the wrong solutions they've been working on.

    And anyone who doesn't believe this is simply wicked. Reminds me of Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam'

    And I don't know how Sweden came up, but let us pray for Sweden:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byQD8VPhvdM

    (don't get discouraged, most of the clip is in English.) (only if you believe in prayer, that is.)

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  28. Harry, you make me laugh. Bye now!

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  29. Harry, lemme spell it out for you. If we gave a damn about the plight of the Iraqi people, we'd have opened the floodgates to allow refugees in. As is, we're depending on the altruism of the countries of "Old Europe" that we ridiculed five years ago to do the humanitarian work for us. "Give me your huddled masses, yearning to be free" unless they be Muslim, brown or both?

    Considering your misapprehensions about the politics at hand, I suppose I should assume that you have NOT read a newspaper?

    Since you ask, my personal opinion is that we start listening to experts like Professor Cole and get an international face on this operation as quickly as possible--a real one, not simply touting the cooperation of our good friend Tonga. There are a lot of countries in the region and in the world who have an interest in a stabilized Iraq. Situations like these are the reason that the UN was created in the first place. Yes, we'll have to get over ourselves and pay what we owe to the UN, but it will be a damn sight better use of funds than throwing money at Halliburton. Sadly, as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer good options in Iraq. The best we can hope for may be a tripartite federation that roughly follows the demographic lines that have emerged under the five years of ethnic cleansing we've allowed to take place. At that point, we'll have to pray that whatever central government exists will be able to keep the Kurds from declaring independence and immediately starting a war with Turkey, a Shiite section that implements a theocracy dependent on Iran, and a Sunni section that allies itself with Saudi Arabia. Funny enough, it's pretty much the same situation we find ourselves in now, with the obvious exception of there today being US troops for all sides to shoot at.

    The status quo isn't working. It's exacerbating an already bad situation that is getting ready to explode. What, pray tell, do you suggest we do otherwise?

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  30. Ah, Flycandler -

    Harry doesn't want to offer solutions. He just wants to make me feel bad because I haven't personally been able to come up with the Nobel Peace Prize winning entry in the "End the War in Iraq" contest. He forgets that there is still time, since the creators of the contest refuse to put a deadline on the darned thing.

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  31. Thanks, Snad, at the very least I strive to be entertaining.



    fly:


    I was trying to figure out which countries would be both willing and capable of supplying troops to pacify Iraq.

    The only answer I could figure out (since you only mentioned Tonga) was Russia. They have the military, they have experience being sensitive to the needs of Muslims (think Chechnia), and they have the motivation:

    Keeping Turkey quiet and restoring their oil interests in Iraq

    "Russia's Lukoil says step forward made in Iraqi oil project"

    ---------------------------------

    Sandra, I'm always happy to offer solutions. I use to be a consultant: offering plausible sounding solutions to any sort of problem was how I made my living.

    The solution (more properly, strategy) depends on the problem (more properly, interests).

    fly is absolutely right that nobody is interested in the well being of the Iraqi people.

    American interests in the middle east are broadly, oil and our homeland security. An American military presence in Iraq serves both interests. The troops physically secure the oil fields and Isalmic terrorists are shooting at American troops (being shot at is what they are paid for, after all), not blowing up civilians in Tennesse. Moreover, we can shoot back.

    Now, we've had American troops stationed in foreign countries for decades before, and if we can establish a functioning client state in Iraq, we'll be far ahead of the game. It might well be worth it.

    An alternate strategy is to develop independence from foreign oil (shale oil looks promising, the US could rethink its aversion to nuclear.)

    The US could then withdraw its troops and let the various factions fight each other instead of the US, quietly supporting various sides so no one gets the upper hand. A riskier and more Machiavellian strategy, but one which would let the good people of Tennessee remain unconcerned, and "sleeping soundly in their beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do them harm."

    ----------------

    Now Sandra, and anybody else, if your interests don't coincide with my interests, it is not surprising that we don't agree on strategy.

    Not that you (or anybody else here) have a strategy, after all. Or especially well defined interests.

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  32. Harry, I'm surprised you have such a low opinion of American troops. "Being shot at" is NOT "what they are paid for".

    They swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. They are being put in a position where that is not what they are dying for. Even if the goal is to protect America's access to oil, the whole project has been the biggest cock-up in world history.

    It is frankly immoral to shed blood over a commodity that frankly we could do without. Oil is dirty, toxic, carcinogenic and its use is slowly destroying our planet. We have the technology to get our energy from renewable sources now. We just need to get over our qualms and DO IT. And yes, we have an aversion to nuclear power for an excellent reason. If you're so concerned about terrorism, why would you want to increase the amount of materials available to make a dirty bomb?

    I was trying to figure out which countries would be both willing and capable of supplying troops to pacify Iraq.

    See, there's this neato organization called the United Nations. Every country on Earth participates, and it has a Security Council whose decisions become international law and who has the ability to send peacekeeping troops on behalf of the member states--that is, the entire planet. Yes, Russia can contribute forces, and so can Canada and France and Germany and China and a whole bunch of other countries. And they all get these cute blue helmets that tell the people in the occupied country that they are not being occupied by a single foreign power, but are being helped by the community of nations. Cool!


    fly is absolutely right that nobody is interested in the well being of the Iraqi people.


    I didn't say that.

    I did say that your fleeting concern over them in the face of an American withdrawal is misguided. Now that it's obvious you don't give a damn about the people whose country we're occupying, the discussion gets much simpler.

    America in Iraq has caused oil prices to hit record highs and has been a huge recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. We're spending ourselves into oblivion and will be unable to prepare for the oncoming economic train wreck.

    There are simply no good reasons for the US to maintain a military presence in Iraq.

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  33. Fly said:

    "There are simply no good reasons for the US to maintain a military presence in Iraq."

    Then what are the good reasons for the UN to have a military presence in Iraq?

    What difference does the color of the helmets make?

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  34. Because there's a huge difference between having one's country occupied by a foreign power and having one's country's security forces augmented by an international force that is accountable to the entire world.

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  35. Flycandler said:
    "Because there's a huge difference between having one's country occupied by a foreign power and having one's country's security forces augmented by an international force that is accountable to the entire world."

    I love you for saying that.

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