#8 The War in Iraq
When the second plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, I knew that the country was going to go to war; everyone knew. And we all knew by the end of that day that Afghanistan was going to feel the wrath of the United States, for the Taliban gave aid and comfort to the people who committed the terrorist acts that day.
Later, when the bombs fell in Kabul, I felt satisfaction in the knowledge that vengence was being dealt. The United States was right and just to overthrow the radical government in Afghanistan, and George W. Bush did an admirable job in leading the nation into this war. He responded as any leader should to such a vicious attack.
Woe that he did not stop there.
Instead, the President did something that no one before him has ever done: he struck at another country pre-emptively. Those who agreed and supported this action argued that the terrorists of 9/11 had also done something that no one had ever done before.
The first President Bush once said that the reason he chose not to go into Baghdad at the completion of the Gulf War in 1991 was that the country was not stable enough to survive such an overthrow. There would be civil war as soon as US forces left. Bush 41 achieved a noble victory, liberating Kuwait from the tyrannical clutches of Saddam Hussein. America is at its best when it comes to the defense of allies in need, but it also used to know where to draw the line, how far its limits span. In 1991, George Bush decided that the best way to contain Saddam Hussein was to keep him isolated like a roach under a dixie cup.
For the remainder of the decade, the United States, along with a majority of their allies and the Untied Nations governing council, kept Saddam Hussein in control. Never again would he send his armies over the border to take over another country. A concise program of inspections insured that he would never possess weapons that would make him a threat to the general safety of the world.
Meanwhile in Washington DC, an aging group of conservative cronies looked for ways to flex American muscle and to finish the job in Iraq, while they pined for two things: a Republican administration, and an excuse. They received their first wish in December 2000 at the hands of the Supreme Court.
They received their second on September 11, 2001.
While the Taliban fell the mental gears of the defense department busily planned their next front. They would take their vengence to the Middle East, to Iraq, to Saddam Hussein. For the sake of the safety of the free world, the weapons that Hussein possessed had to be snatched, and Hussein himself had to be either killed or captured.
It was a scary time in Washington, and New York City as well, for it was there that Colin Powell, one of the more respected members of Bush 43's administration, presented the case to the world at the headquarters of the United Nations. The inspectors were wrong, he said. Iraq definitely has weapons, he said. He pointed to blotches and shapes on satellite photographs and told the world that if we did not go in and get them, these blotches and shapes would create havoc, destruction and death.
The world was a tad skeptical.
The President of the United States did not care.
In March of 2003, the United States did something that it had never done before. It attacked a country without being provoked. As such, the course of history was changed. Never again can the United States condemn another country for launching an unprovoked invasion without being told "you did it, too."
Is the world a better place now that Saddam Hussein sits in a jail cell? Probably, though I am not all that qualified to say. The people of Iraq are certainly better off. There is a special place in hell reserved for Hussein, where he will spend eternity roasting with his fellow dictators, some who have gone before him, others who will outlive him and join him at a later time.
The weapons that were in Iraq never materialized. A war was escalated for a reason that did not exist. The President didn't fret though, he simply changed his tone. The war was about removing Hussein, making Iraq a safer and less dangerous place.
With this change in focus, one wonders why we haven't invaded Cuba, and why we do not have military forces in roughly half the countries of Africa. We have proclaimed ourselves as the providers of freedom, the removers of ruthless tyrants, those who inflict pain and suffering on their own people. And I amsure we will get around to the rest of the world eventually.
A strange thing happened in May of 2003. The President dressed up as a pilot and dropped in on some sailors on a big ship sailing on the waters outside of San Diego. He gathered these people around while the nation watched on television. They hung a big banner in the background that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." Then the President looked his nation in the eye and told us all that the war, in his definition, was over. Major combat in Iraq was complete.
Yet American soldiers kept dying.
Numbers are wonderful things. They can mean so much. They can be symbols of wealth. They can predict things. They can be random.
They can be used to illustrate a mistake and tragedy all at the same time.
1100 is a number that chills my blood to the point where I wonder if I can stand it. It is the number of American service people who have died in Iraq since the President ordered the invasion to rid Iraq of weapons, um, I mean, rid Iraq of its heinous dictator. More of the 1100 have died since the words "Mission Accomplished" hung behind the President on a ship than did before.
Numbers have a tendency to increase. You can be sure that this one will as well.
There has been no remorse from this President, no regret, and no funerals attended. However, there has been a film where he has been shown looking under furniture for the ever elusive "weapons of mass destruction." That was almost as funny as "Mission Accomplished."
Going to war seems easy. You make a phone call, you press a button, you turn on the television and wait for things to explode. Remember Bush 41? He went to war, too, but only after he exhausted the paths of diplomacy. He tried everything to get Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait before forcing his armies out. Bush 41 knew he would be judged forever for taking his country to war, for costing Americam soldiers their lives, and he did what honorable men and leaders are supposed to do first, solve problems with diplomacy.
His son did not try. His son did not meet with other leaders. His son did not go to other lands in the Middle East and work with heads of state to find a way to resolve this conflict. His son created a gauntlet and then crossed over it. And people died. And more will before it all ends. A mess has been created, one that was not anticipated, and we can't leave now, not until it is cleaned up, or else it will evolve from a mess into a firestorm.
Quite frankly, I cannot imagine how anyone who made a decision that sent so many people to their deaths can sleep at night. How anyone who changed the perception of the United States as much as this President has can tell his country that he has no regrets, that he has made no mistakes.
This world may seem safer, but it is undoubtedly more chaotic. And it can't be allowed to continue like this, not while the everyday people of this nation have the opportunity to hang their own "mission accomplished" banner.
I have an idea for another, one that says "Welcome Home." On November 2, both should be hung on a ranch in Crawford, Texas.