The lunacy of Bush's war in Iraq
Virtually every day the major newspapers publish the names of American soldiers whose death in Iraq has been confirmed by the Pentagon. The casualties keep mounting despite President Bush's inane claim on April 28 that "we're really making good progress" in Iraq. As I study the names, my heart breaks that so many young Americans are again dying in an unnecessary war, reviving memories of how Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon (with some earlier preparation by John F. Kennedy) plunged us into another unnecessary war in Vietnam.
Bush's decision to invade Iraq was made despite skepticism, if not outright opposition, from Secretary of State Colin Powell, retired generals Anthony Zinni and Brent Scowcroft, and from other active and retired military brass and diplomats.
The opponents were more knowledgeable about the Middle East than Bush and his war-hawk advisers, and they were suspicious of the skewed intelligence on which the invasion decision was based. They were dubious about the President's claim that Iraq posed an imminent threat to U.S. security. And they did not buy the Administration's claim that the Iraq invasion was a vital element in the legitimate and essential war against terrorism.
When it became obvious that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no link to 9/11--the Bush Administration's original excuses for the invasion--suddenly the war was transformed into a crusade to inject democracy into a despotic Muslim country. Apparently, it was deemed irrelevant that the U.S. continues to maintain relations with other Muslim and non-Muslim autocracies.
The irony is that the Iraq invasion has actually weakened the war on terrorism. In overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had harbored the perpetrators of 9/11, Al Qaeda, the U.S. had made a major advance in that war. But by shifting the military focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, the U.S. has lost ground in its battle against terrorism. Moreover, as the Pentagon now concedes, our military resources have been stretched so far by the Iraq invasion that our ability to contend with new threats to national security has been compromised.
Iraq, in Bush's own words, has now become a "a center of terrorism." No one questions that Saddam Hussein was indeed a psychotic despot worthy of being removed. But there was no evidence that he had been exporting terrorism to other countries. Even Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has declared that the Iraq war is "increasing terrorism." This comes from a leader of a valued ally, itself a despotic regime unethusiastic about the democracy that Bush wants to spread. The Saudi is alluding, of course, to the rise of terrorism in his own country, apparently inspired by the insurgency in neighboring Iraq.
In addition to the serious damage to American prestige caused by the Iraq invasion, the war there has created a new generation of extremists in the Muslim world eager to battle the U.S. and other Western democracies. It is responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of Iraqi civilians. Meantime, the insurgency continues to grow, the country is in political turmoil and chaos reigns in Iraqi society. All the while, the U.S. is spending so many billions of dollars that the Administration has been forced to make huge cuts in funding for critical domestic needs. And there is the dreadful possibility that the so-called democratic process that we are helping establish will lead to the creation of a pro-Iranian, fundamentalist Shiite regime. In societies unfamiliar with genuine democracy and open elections, sometimes the bad guys win.
In summing up the situation, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes: "From the very beginning the war in Iraq has been an exercise in extreme madness, an absurd venture that would have been rich in comic possibilities except for the fact that many thousands of men, women and children have died, and tens of thousands have been crippled, burned or otherwise maimed."
When I recall that Bill Clinton was impeached simply for lying under oath about a brief oral-sexual adventure with a White House intern, I wonder how history will judge George W. Bush's far more significant transgression--the lunacy of invading Iraq.