There is no other way to say it- March 19, 2003 is another day that will live in infamy. The first day was when we were attacked by Japan in WW II, the second is when Al-Qeda terrorists backed by rich Saudis and Afghanistan’s Taliban (not Iraq) flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the third was when President George Walker Bush led this country into the first “pre-emptive” war ever waged by this nation.
Frank Rich wrote a sobering and brilliant opinion piece in Sunday’s New York Times, “The Ides of 2003”. Although it is only available to those who subscribe to the Times or to their Times Select service, it is worth seeking out this thought provoking essay.
It would be flippant to call this Bush’s folly. It’s much worse. This is a war that never should have been waged. Iraq was not any party to 9/11, it had no WMD’s and while Sadaam was a horrible dictator he is one of many most of whom the US treats with benign neglect and he was one that we had a long record of supporting especially during the Iran-Iraq War.
Let’s take the 9/11 connection. While the administration cynically played (and sometimes continues to play) the 9/11 card by making statements about Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence and inferring a connection. But when asked point blank if Iraq had had anything to do with the attacks on 9//11 even Mr. Bush says no.
Let’s take WMDs. In an interview done 3 years ago, on the first anniversary of the war, the United Nations’ top two weapons experts working at the time of the lead up to war said in interviews on CNN that the invasion of Iraq a year ago was not justified by the evidence in hand at the time.
“I think it’s clear that in March 2003, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart,” Hans Blix, who oversaw the agency’s investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, said, Blix described the evidence Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 as “shaky,” and said he related his opinion to U.S. officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I think they chose to ignore us,” Blix said.
Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he had been “pretty convinced” that Iraq had not resumed its nuclear weapons program, which the IAEA dismantled in 1997 during the weeks leading up to war.
Let’s take that Saddam was a horrible ruthless dictator. He was- no question. But there are many ruthless tyrants presently ruling countries and we don’t look to depose them. And in actuality we helped build up Saddam’s strength supporting him when he first came to power and again when the Reagan administration supported his regime during the Iran-Iraq War.
The only reason to go to war was oil money and a neo-conservative academic theory that having an American puppet in the Middle East would be good for American interests (American interests defined as corporations not people). This is a despicable basis for the first pre-emptive war in our nation’s history.
Nearly 3,200 Americans dead, 25,000 wounded, at least a half a trillion dollars spent and more than 50,000 Iraqis dead. Sobering statistics- yet Vice President Cheney ignores these outrageous statistics and says we have had victories. I suppose that those victories are deposing a dictator who had little fire power, and having elections to set up a government that cannot govern its way out of a paper bag. We are in the midst of a Civil War, we have given more fuel to terrorist recruitment by our actions, we have given a safe haven for terrorists and we have ignored the true war on terrorism by allowing the Taliban to resurrect and Al Qeda to regroup. Sorry -but in my opinion this was not worth it. But how do we extricate ourselves from this mess?
Do we bring the troops home and say to Iraq- “Sorry we broke your country, but you own it?” My knee jerk reaction is to say – “Get the hell out of there- completely”. But even though I have always opposed this war- it was our country that broke Iraq and as Colin Powell said- “you break it, you own it.” I agree with Powell that this is the only moral answer. The question is “How do we honor our moral obligation that doesn’t leave Iraq in tatters just because our government decided to wage a war on the whim of a bunch of neo-conservative arm chair warriors while not making the situation worse for this country, Iraq and the world? Pulling out completely will lead to chaos and disaster that would rightly be laid at our doorstep for responsibility. The Bush strategy will lead to nothing than more of the same horror that is escalating every day.
I wish I knew the answer. But the one suggestion that many smart people who know about such things point out is that we should look for a political solution here that engages the whole region. The recent Neighborhood Conference was a step in the right direction but has the Bush administration come to this too late and without enough commitment?
Mr. Bush has left us with an unmitigated disaster. We have no good options- just the less worse or horrible ones. How could we have let Mr. Bush and his cronies lead us down this path? Public fear that can be played like a violin for political purposes since 9/11 is one answer and a press that is afraid to speak truth to power because news people are too afraid to rock their “access to power” boat is another.
But the really ugly reason this country allowed this to happen was that there was no pain for us during this war. The effort we were asked to make during this war was to go shopping and keep the economy humming. If that isn’t a cynical play to the worst of our nature, I don’t know what is. During war we should be asked to access our better nature, not our worst.
And the economy has gone on humming. Before the Iraqi War- one share of Halliburton sold for $20.50 The value when then market closed on Friday (with an adjustment made for a 2006 split) was $64.12. That is a 313% increase in 4 years – an average annual increase of 78% The S&P 500 increase over the past year has been about 8% and as for one of the hottest stocks- Google has an average increase of 29.7%.
I guess it was about our economy after all. Didn’t a wise man once say “It’s the economy stupid!” I am sure that no one ever expected that to be more than a presidential campaign mantra and not a war slogan.