Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

Talking about Community of Knowers, here is this guy who was a soldier in the Iraq war. This is what he has to say.


Karam said...

I'm sorry, but I'm totally going to have to disagree with almost everything that this man is saying. The country of Iraq (which by the way my family is from) is definitely NOT better off than it was before the war. I'm not sure about what this guy thinks but WELL over 1,033,000 violent deaths as a result of the conflict is not necessarily an improvement for my people. To go with that I don't really think that the ever-expanding 4,000++ American soldier deaths would really help justify that "we should be in Iraq" in any way. The war was based off FALSE pretenses, going after the WRONG people, and has resulted in one of (if not the greatest) American military mistakes in history.

Numbers talk.

Go to

as of 11 PM 9/11/08

Anonymous said...

I just watched this and the first thing i noticed was the way that he talked. He was very calm and seemed like he really cared. And then at the end, when they started playing patriotic songs and he walked off and you could make out his fake leg. Not saying i agree with him, I think that iraq was a HUGE mistake too, but i just thought i would point out some of the ways he tried to convince you.

ethan_zhao! said...

As I watched this video, I couldn't help but notice one gaping logical fallacy: appeal to emotion. It is so obvious with the American flag, patriotic song, and broad, emotional questions that this 'vet' (he never proves he is is/was a soldier) is trying to gain public support through emotion. There is a complete lack of empirical data and logical facts in his argument. I would like to see him present some data (i.e. charts on economic changes, quality of life, crime rates etc) before I can consider his argument to be a reasonable one.

kgibbs said...

Nice video Matt.

Vincent all media is to try and persuade us.

Karam, opinions aren't numbers. The number dead doesn't prove anyside of an argument.

By the way is there a dead terrorist count.

kgibbs said...

Yes the video is weak. So are most poloticians speeches.

kgibbs said...

Before anyone says anything, it is "politicians"

ethan_zhao! said...

hey! I'm not even in TOK this year! woohoo!

Tae said...

It is incredibly difficult to be told that something that you and your friends lost life and limb for is a mistake. However, this does not mean it is not a mistake. Think of every historical occurrence that is widely considered to be a mistake. Is it disrespectful to those involved to say that they were mistakes? It is not disrespectful to the soldiers to say that the conflicts that they were ordered to participate in were errors- the onus of blame for these occurrences does not fall on the shoulders of the soldiers but on the politicians that actually decided to commit the erroneous action. Just because this man feels hurt when people criticize the conflict he dedicated a part of his life to does not mean that we cannot accept the true nature of the War in Iraq.

Moreover, Al-Qaeda recruitment has increased since the so-called "War on Terror" began. Since the war started, sectarian conflict has increased (neighborhoods are being ethnically cleansed, etc. -just as Karam said) and now Christians and homosexuals in Iraq are persecuted (this persecution, they say, did not occur before the war). Furthermore, if the United States is going to fight for security and freedom for others, why aren't we in Sudan? Why aren't we in other countries with tyrannical, oppressive governments?

Once we start suppressing the truth because it offends people, we become a sightless nation, determined to believe whatever benefits us the most, perpetuating falsehood and ignorance.

Meredith Wheeler said...

Regardless of whether I agree/disagree with you, this video is not appropriate for TOK discussion because you haven't asked a question. As evidenced by the replies, the consequence is that we're arguing about whether the war was justified using very little TOK language. This isn't the comments sections on the Drudge Report. The video could be used as fodder for discussion, but you have to present it in a way that isn't blatantly biased. Ex:

1. Add a video by a veteran for Obama and ask to what extent they each represent an aspect of their Community of Knowers as veterans.

2. Ask people to weigh the pros/cons of his knowledge issues relative to his experience.

3. Continuing in the vein of editorial analysis, inquire as to whether this passes any truth tests.

I just think that in general people need to be more careful about presenting posts that elicit thoughtful TOK responses. This isn't limited to just this post. I think we all have a lot of videos, articles, etc. that we want to share, but we have to make sure we're doing so in a relevant way.

Just my two cents.

Tae said...

I believe that this is applicable to TOK, and furthermore, has real-world relevance as well.

The man in the video presents a claim, and uses a variety of justifications to reinforce this claim. Those of us who have posted here have interpreted that claim (for me, his claim was twofold: the War in Iraq was a worthwhile endeavor for the United States, and that it is disrespectful to soldiers to call the war "a mistake"). We have discussed the potential falsity of his justifications and presented counterclaims of our own, thus presenting our reasoning behind whether or not we accept what this veteran says as a truth statement (and thus, nit was not necessary for Matt to present us with a question).

Are the video and the comments not applicable to TOK as well as the "real world" (rather, the world outside of TOK)? Outside of TOK, the "language" we are taught is predominately jargon. It is superfluous (mostly- this is debatable) to decide which tier of the Community of Knowers this man is on (outside of TOK) and truth tests and knowledge issues are inherent in the arguments made by those who have posted on this forum. There are knowledge issues intrinsic to every argument, but this does not mean that arguments should not be presented whatsoever. Isn't learning how to justify one's arguments not part of TOK? Responding to this video with justified opinions is a practical application for some of the TOK skills we learn in class.

Michael W. said...

One thing I noticed is that this soldier in Iraq talked about his fight for freedom: How so many people died in order to promote this idea. He also provided a claim, that "the people of Iraq are better off then they were in 2002" Yet he has no evidence that they are better off. He doesn't explain how he has seen the Iraqi people living better lives, but only tells us that he has seen people sacrificing their lives to promote freedom. This is not even related to the claim that people in Iraq are living better lives. Therefore I must agree with Ethan Zhao. There is way too much appeal to emotion (the use of the word freedom dozens of times for example) and not enough logic or reason. I think that the main point of this video was in fact just to show support of McCain and to spread that to other students in TOK. That is just my belief based on past experiences Ive had.

Oh, and Meredith asked for a video with an opposing view.
Check out this one which... I say completely obliterates any emotional appeal of veterans for staying in the war.
Heads up though, there is a small amount of explicit language

Matt Beall said...

If you like listening to someone ranting and raving go ahead and listen to it. I will sum up what I felt were his main points. First of all, he said that signed up for the army to fight for democracy and freedom....then goes on to say that they are not fighting for this, they are fighting for honor. "Honor? How about you send home living soldiers? That is honor!" He also is outraged that private companies, private contractors are making all sorts of money while this war is going on, while those that are risking their lives aren't getting paid near as much.

I would just like to set a couple of things straight. First of all, this is a fight for democracy. That is certainly not the reason we went into the war, honestly, I am not sure why we went in Iraq however that is what we have made it. We threw out the monarch and are now establishing a democracy.

Secondly, he states that they are fighting soldiers, and "that's what I would do if someone came into my nation wanting to fight. They aren't terrorists." We aren't fighting soldiers anymore. The Iraqi soldiers are fighting with us, we are fighting the radicals who aren't happy with democracy and freedom of the people. We are fighting terrorist groups and radicals who feel that the West is from Satan.

He keeps going back to stock market going up while the war continues. Ever since the Revolutionary War, wars have helped the American economy, because of these private contractors. I actually know several people that work for these private contractors. And while he wants to say that they are making a buck off of his work, I would just like to say this: The private contractors are the ones who make the weaponry; without them, how would he like to fight? How would he like to go out on a battlefield with no guns, ammunition, tanks, nothing?

As far as the honor thing, I kind of see where he is coming from, and might even agree with him. Are we more worried about our honor as a nation to America, or as a nation to the World. Right now, our honor is next to nothing no matter what we do.

ethan_is_ninja said...

First of all, nobody in their right mind would sign up for the army if they didn't expect some risk of death, because with the military, comes fighting, comes death, so forget that 'sending home soldiers alive' claim.
Also, there is a reason private contractors get paid much more than soldiers. While this may sound shallow, almost any healthy individual can go out for the army with a few months of physical training, but it takes a long, hard education and a few college degrees for contractors to do what they do. It is also arguable that contractors face the same amount of threat to their lives as soldiers, as hundreds of contractors have gotten murdered in Iraq since the start of the war.
The debate about the War in Iraq is not so much about the cause, as most people in the US already agree that the War in Iraq was a senseless cause compared to Afghanistan, who actually attacked our country. The issue with the War is more about the COST, which is completely draining our economy, and plunging the US trade deficit into the worst we have ever seen, and even the stock market cannot help that. That is a fact we can all agree upon, as it is proven with facts and logic.

ethan_is_ninja said...

I forgot my gmail account username, so ethan_is_ninja is ethan_zhao!
sorry for the confusion

Flip said...

I also belive that this YouTube video is somewhat deep in the ethos form of persuasion, and obviously is meant not as much to present facts but instead to try to sway opinion. It's close to propaganda even. While the spirit and overall message behind this video may or may not be moral, it is presented as a way to try and tug the heartstrings of the viewers.

Matt Beall said...

OK, maybe I am just dumb...and this completely changes intent and everything of what the video is saying. But when watching it this last time, I thought I heard something interesting. I rewind and rewind, play and play again. I swear he says, "Dear Mr. Obama, after spending 12 months on Iraq theatre..."

Does he say theatre, or am I hearing things?

lisaking said...
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lisaking said...

Wow, this is quite a discussion you've got going on here. Matt, I want to thank you for posting the video and getting the conversation going. Meredith, I appreciate your challenge, but I agree with Tae: it is rare when we are presented with claims and questions framed in TOK language outside of class. In the real world, we encounter words, images and ideas like this video that don't come neatly packaged. It is up to us to tease out the claims, identify the communities of knowers involved, assess the knowledge issues, and then do the same with our own reactions, regardless of whether we agree or disagree. Karam, you've done a nice job bringing in your own perspective, and the numbers do provide proper justification for your belief (although they would be stronger if cited), much in the same way the soldier's experience provides justifications for his own.

Ethan, so nice to hear from you on this one! Keep up the participation - your voice is always welcome and valued.

Keep up the thoughtful discussion, folks. That's what this is all about.

Bismah A. said...

I think that this video brings in the perspective of a large number of americans and their view of the war in Iraq. Although i am not as close to the issue as Karam, I am a muslim, and I do know people and friends that are living in Iraq and are affected by the war, losing friends and family. I think that when Obama and others say the war is a mistake, they mean that the reasons and justifications for going into the war as presented by the Bush admin. aren't strong enough justifification. As for the people being better off, I have to agree with Karam, that this isn't necessarily true, although under a dictatorship, most people at least had power, and heat, and the wasn't the constant threat of daily violence.

Also, the invasion of Iraq did nothing but strengthen the terrorist's predictions that the US would one day invade an oil rich country, as someone else pointed out, recruitment has gone up significantly since the war has started, as now there is a tangible threat.

I sympathize with this man's pain and hardship, however I would beg him to question the information he is given from the government, and see if perhaps the war was a mistake, not in a disrespectful way, but in terms of the ends justifying the means.

lisaking said...

Hi Matt,
Good of you to ask the quesiton. I can see how you were thrown by the term. My limited knowledge of military involvement leads me to believe that, in this context, the use of the word "theater" here refers to an area of active military engagement, i.e. a "stage" on which the military is involved in a conflict. My guess is this is what he means. I hope this helps.

Karam said...
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Karam said...

Kgibbs, I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean when you say that "opinions aren't numbers. The number dead doesn't prove anyside of an argument."

Sorry, but I find that hard to understand. How is it that over a MILLION deaths of my countrymen does not prove any side of an argument? Well, you know.. in my opinion, I believe that a significant death toll on both sides of the war does play some role in the argument. I also believe that its important to define what "argument" you are addressing before making a blind statement.

Its hard for me to comprehend how the US losing vast amounts of money and soldier's lives is really "accomplishing" anything anyways.

Yes, it was true that Saddam Hussein was a dictator, and that was a problem, but the country as a whole was better of then than it is now. Saddam is dead, so I guess that's "Mission Accomplished" right? Or was it the WMDs? Or terrorists? Or Aladdin for that matter!

All I'm trying to say here is that although people believe that we need to stay in Iraq and "get the job done" what "job" is there to actually do right now?

Also, going back to this video... where on earth is this man's empirical data? How is he proving that Iraqi quality of life has risen? I don't know about you, but no electricity, water, security, and bombs flying around is not exactly the quality of life I prefer.

I'd also like to note that I'm in no way at all "disrespecting the soldiers by opposing the war" (as quoted by the person in the video) I believe that the men and women serving in Iraq are fighting the wrong war because of the government's decision to send them there.

Anyways...I don't know, maybe this man thinks that destroying a country of false pretenses actually might help the Iraqis. After all, who needs water, food, transportation, education, medical care, or a normal life?

Anonymous said...

I think that i'm going to have to go with karam here. The fact that so many people have been lost on both sides plays a significant part in the argument. If we look back in history, why was the civil war, or pearl harbor tragic? because of the massive number of deaths involved. The number of deaths play a huge part in the ethos part of the argument.

Also, when this guy says that Obama is disrespecting the soldiers that are in Iraq and that have lost their lives. I would have to disagree based on the fact that being in opposition to something is not the same as disrespecting something. Sure, sometimes the two go hand in hand, but in this case, Obama stating that Iraq was a mistake is merely making a point about the money wasted. I would think that he feels that we are headed into a Vietnam sort of area, where we never will actually be able to leave.

Ry Barney said...

I'm not even in TOK right now so forgive me for not using the proper "TOK terminology" or etiquette. But Matt recomended i check out this video and i've been reading everyone's comments and i feel very torn. It seems to me like this man has seen first hand what it is like in Iraq. He's been there for 12 months and had the fighting thrown right in his face... or leg... and you think you can sit on your cumfy little couch watching the news and know better than him? However, that does not make Tae and Karam and everyone opposed's opinions invalid, especially since Karam's family does come from Iraq. I think that Karam and Tae's opinions are very valid and i respect them highly. I find it hard to disagree with them in some instances. I'm a huge patriot and honor every single man and woman that has ever been involved in the military, whether they have been on the battle field or not, and so when i see a video like this, i can't help but respect this man's opinion over those who live the ignorant civilian life. I like Kyle's point of... "where is the dead terrorist count?" That would be a nice number to know and might put the war in perspective for those who think it was a huge mistake. To me, just the fact that one of the worlds cruelist dictators is not only out of power but sleeping with the fishes makes the world a better place. Freedom... the iraqi people's freedom, our freedom, the french freedom, any freedom comes with a price. "Freedom is not free!" I truely beleive that the iraqi people are on the path to prosperity, and to say that THAT is a mistake... is unamerican. I'm sorry Karam, but i just dont understand, respectful as your opinion may be especially because of your position, how you can disagree with EVERYTHING this soldier says. He has given his leg, and seen his friends give their lives, so that your people can live a better life. It may not seem that way now and im no psychic... but i beleive that your people are on that path to a better life. I have known many soldiers who have served in Iraq and other conflicts and have talked with them and their opinions are all very similar to this soldier's. Those are the opinions i take into account when answering whether or not this war was a mistake, because they are the ones who have seen it first hand. By the way... we don't have an account of the dead iraqi men and women who suffered under Saddam's regime. They don't have the opportunity to give their story... many people often don't take that into account when saying the people are worse off now then they were...

Nick Jordan said...

First of all I agree with you Karam. But I think the "job" that is supposed to be done now is attaining peace, so that when American forces pull out there isn’t a coup, an upheaval of the system, or an all out civil war. Yes I think the war is unjustified based on the reasons Karam listed, and the question now is: How do we pull out of Iraq and leave it a stable democracy? I think America’s need to ‘democratize’ everyone is pretty sickening. Not that a dictatorship is by any means a good thing, but why do we have to invade all the counties that don’t meet our requirements for a ‘good government’?

Also it's true that this guy doesn't cite any empirical data, but listing the things that the Iraqi people are without is also not a form of empirical data. Could you please cite a source Karam? And if it's your family in Iraq then that is definitely good enough.

This response may seem all over the place, but I think that’s because I just like many Americans, don’t have a good idea of what’s really going on in Iraq.

ethan_is_ninja said...

I think the way we can find the answer to if life is better in iraq right now than it was pre-invasion is to simply ask karam's family in iraq. They are obviously first-hand authorities on that, as they live there.

Karam said...

Thanks Nick.

Yes, I would like to add that almost all of my family is in Iraq. In this way, my nuclear family and I get a clear picture of what is going on there because I do have cousins, aunts, and uncles that see bombs flying around them and fighting occuring just about everyday. The sources for some of my information were from Arabic sources, but some of the English ones include:


provides an estimate of the cost of the war as analyzed by experts.

I hope that helps, but otherwise, a lot of my arguments are based on my family's (the family in Iraq's) perspective because they are witnessing the corruption first hand.

Karam said...

Ryan, I don't necessarily disagree with "everthing" the soldier is saying. I do have respect that he went to war, but I have more of a feeling of empathy for the guy because he lost a limb in a war he shouldn't even have been fighting. I respect that he had the willingness to fight, there's no doubt about that but its when he says that "Iraqis are better of now than they were before the war" when I disagree.

Amelia A. said...

Hmmm. You guys have covered so many points already that I don't want to be redundant, so I'm just going to make a small point. Karam, as much as I think you're awesome and I have total respect for your opinions on the Iraq war (and I happen to agree with you), I don't think it's a good idea for everyone to just take Karam's family's word for it. Yes, they do live in Iraq and therefore do have firsthand experience but they only represent one opinion. You really need to investigate more into this rather than just taking one family's word for it. I'm not trying to say that Karam's family isn't a good source because they definitely are, I just wish we had more than one family's insight into this matter.

Ry Barney said...

I agree with Amelia. I do totally think that karam's family is a great source and is one that i also respect over those americans who just watch the news and think they know what they're talking about. i'd rather talk to soldiers or familys like Karam's. However, one family in Iraq is not as legitimate of a source as perhaps hearing a number of different family's stories in different areas of Iraq. Also, nick, i would just like you to examine what you just said. The reasons America went into Iraq had NOTHING to do with wanting to change their government... it was for many other, in my opinion, very legitimate reasons. We removed their DICTATOR, and allowed the people to replace him with a different government system that in MANY ways is very different from our own, yet is still based on the ideas of popular sovereignty and freedom. A government of democracy is better than that of dictatorship or totalitarianism... how could anyone say differntly... it just is. There is no true American that could argue otherwise. Especially when you examine the horrors that the iraqi people lived through under Saddam's regime. Obviously it is not stable right now. Not as it should be when we decide to pull out, but this takes time. At least a decade... not the couple years most people thought it would take when we first went in. Besides... what do you expect? for us to replace Saddam with another dictator? That's simply ridiculous... of course their government is going to change. By the way I'm a horrible speller so excuse the typos.

Tae said...

I agree with Ryan insofar as democracies are generally better than dictatorships. However, dictatorship is often more beneficial to the people than anarchy. The situation in Iraq has not improved. It is true that Saddam Hussein was a despotic ruler. However, through the War in Iraq, we have ignited a rancorous sectarian conflict. One of the main reasons for the "success" of the Surge was the fact that neighborhoods were becoming ethnically cleansed- and thus violence decreased (although many were driven to inferior parts of cities- without amenities like running water and even killed in the violence that created these societal divisions). Moreover, as I mentioned above, homosexuals in Iraq are now experiencing a persecution much worse than when Saddam Hussein was in power- some say that they wish that Saddam Hussein had not been overthrown, for the War in Iraq has been deleterious to their quality of life. Additionally, Christians in Iraq must now hide their faith or otherwise be brutally murdered- some already are, and churches are destroyed. These are not characteristics of a democracy, which must inherently show some regard for human rights- this seems more akin to anarchy. Our attempts at imposing democracy have been ineffectual, and society would have been stabler had we not entered the war. Democracy should entail more than a voting system- and any society regardless of government should have the capacity to maintain some level of human rights in society.

I think that Karam's family is a perfectly legitimate source, but as for other opinions- BBC often has personal stories from people all over the globe on its website. I'm sure it would be relatively simple to find additional viewpoints.

Ry Barney said...

Tae, it's not that simplye to find alternative view points. We can't simply trust the media and what they choose to show us. The media is very often biased. Plus, these conflicts you are reffering to that are taking place in Iraq today are in many ways to be expected when the system of government in a country gets turned upside down like it has been. But to say that the people in Iraq could ever be better off under the rule of Saddam, to me, just does not seem justifiable... period. These conflicts didn't just happen because we are there. These anarchists and extremist muslims have been in Iraq for years and years. The reason they are just now starting to become more violent is because of our presence. They're afriad of us. It's war, and it's not pretty. Of course things were more stable under Saddam, because these extremists had no threats. Now America is threatening them. But as i stated earlier, freedom is not free and stability in Iraq will not come without bloodshed and chaos, especially in an area like Iraq. That's the way it's been for centuries when a country needs freedom. I'm sure you could find numerous stories of people who felt like they were better off when Saddam was in power, but i'll bet you'd find even more who are greatful that a horrible dictator who tortured his own people and was a terrible war criminal, is finally out of power, and they at least have a chance now for a stable, free government.

Tae said...

The media are biased. However, how else do we glean information about issues like this? Furthermore, I feel that BBC is relatively balanced (in comparison to other sources).

I'm definitely not criticizing the United States' motives- Saddam Hussein was a despotic ruler- I'm criticizing our methods. Regardless of how noble our aims were, it seems that there would have been better ways to ensure stability after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Furthermore, some Iraqis do feel that life was better under Saddam Hussein- I don't know how many feel that way (and it seems unlikely that anyone will ever be able to find out), but it would have been better to try to ensure stability, both in the societal and political spheres. If extremists and anarchists are only further angered by the United States, doesn't our presence hurt the Iraqi people? Furthermore, why Iraq as opposed to other countries with tyrannical regimes? Why not allow this to be dealt with on an international level? It is the duty of the government to care for the people of the United States, rather than the people of Iraq. Our deficit and economic situation might have been partially alleviated had the United States never engaged in this war. In addition, our presence in the Middle East makes it more dangerous for the United States (given the Anti-Americanism it has instigated). The Iraqi people may have a chance for a stable, free government, but with the repression and violence in society, this chance looks increasingly slim.

Ry Barney said...

Their chance is a lot bigger now than it was. That point is not arguable, i think. And I'm not bashing BBC i just want to ensure that people realize that you can't always take everything the media shows you, specifically because our media in America (not BBC) tends to lead more to the left, as truth. And yes, the numbers of how many are happy and are not happy in Iraq with our presence is close to unattainable, but that does not mean that we can just accept the media's coverage. Plus, THE ANARCHISTS AND TERRORISTS WERE ALREADY THERE. It's like taking a household and family, and having a couple terrorists hold the family hostage for a few years. If no one knows about the family, the terrorists will not be violent, because they're getting what they want. If someone opposes them and tries to take them by force, then of course they will become increasingly more violent towards the attackers and the family... just to put it to a smaller scale. Our presence will cause more violence for at least a decade, but in the end, the terrorists will not win... we're America. I have faith in our soldiers. Plus, our goal going in was not to change their government aside from taking down Saddam, nor was it to chance the social system's etc. like you mentioned. We went in there to bring a known dictator and war criminal to justice in order to prevent further conflict. We KNEW he had weapons, the U.N. KNEW he needed to be stopped. We KNEW he was abusing power and his people. We should have stopped Hitler long before he came to power, but we didn't. This time, we weren't going to wait so long, and God Bless the Bush administration for doing so.

Lauren P said...

Its true that he has many errors in his truth logic and proofs, but that is not what he is aiming for. A majority of the people are swayed gretly by the emotional apeal comertials have, and this one is packed full of it. I may not agree with what he says, but I do admit that his message was presented in a very powerfull way - especially from the viewpoint of those who dont analyze everything he says, like what we are trained to do in TOK. From a bystandards point of veiw, his argument makes alot of sense.

Karam said...


"We KNEW he had weapons, the U.N. KNEW he needed to be stopped."

Ryan, there were no WMDs, and the UN also knew this. Have you read the news in the past ..... maybe 4 years?