• Why “We Meant Well”

    July 22, 2011

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Along with the semi-regular threats (why are they ALWAYS IN ALL CAPS!?!?!??!), people do ask about the title of the book.

    Here is what one faithful reader wrote as a comment in Salon:

    We meant well?
    Why not be honest and title it ” I’m a brick in the road to Hell”?

    Everybody wants a pass on their part in the last decades madness. Fuck That. You willingly took part. The day of the sin eater is long past, nobody on this planet can absolve your sins.

    Now go make few bucks in false piety.

    We had a lot of discussion about the title, We Meant Well. The idea is that many reluctant participants in the war, like me, started off with good intentions. We never intended to be complicit in fraud, sign off on waste and encourage corruption, but that is what happened. We came to see that is what had to happen, given how messed up the entire effort was from the start. Let’s destroy a country and then rebuild it begs the question of why destroy it in the first place.

    So, over the course of the war/book, what starts out as good intent– We Meant Well and we’ll try to fix things– ends up as irony– We Meant Well but we fucked up. Like living it, after reading the book I hope you will come to the conclusion that what was called reconstruction (or nation building, or promoting democracy, etc.) was doomed by the lack of thought and planning needed to backstop good intentions. These were peoples lives we were playing with, and people in need of water, medical care and basic services could not have their thirst slaked simply by good intentions.

    It would have been an easier war to understand, and an easier book to write, if I had found our efforts populated by Americans out to steal money, or mean-spirited State Department people set on messing up Iraqi lives. But that wasn’t the case. What happened was a sad but intensely American thing, the destruction of a civil society simply through misguided good intentions we were too clueless to even see as we committed our sins.

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