War and Peace

We have just “celebrated” the third anniversary of our invasion of Iraq.


Some wars, regrettably, are necessary. Iraq was not such a war. It was a war of choice, impelled by ideology and sold to Americans (wittingly or unwittingly) under false pretenses. Worse yet, it was justified by appealing to our fears—fears of “the other,” fears of terrorism, fears of impotence.


The choice to send our young people into combat in an unnecessary war of choice was reprehensible. But the incompetence with which the conflict was planned and executed was even more reprehensible.


Expert advice was disregarded. It’s obvious that none of the decision-makers in the Administration had bothered to learn what the region’s history had to teach. We sent courageous and patriotic young Americans into a quagmire that was eminently foreseeable to anyone who was not willfully blind—and thanks to criminally misplaced priorities, we sent them there without proper equipment and supplies. There has been plenty of money for Halliburton and other contractors, but not enough for bullet-proof vests or Hummer armor.


After each setback, the Administration and its apologists have said “no one could have known.” No one anticipated the looting that occurred in the wake of our initial attack; no one anticipated the insurgency; no one anticipated the civil war that rages there now. But people did anticipate every one of these things. They wrote articles and editorials warning about every one of them. I wrote some of them myself. Government experts wrote memos that warned about these dangers and many others in great detail. The Administration was warned about precisely what has happened—just as it was warned that Hurricane Katrina could cause the dykes to fail.


In his pursuit of some grandiose “crusade,” Bush has mortgaged our future, and diverted national resources that were desperately needed here at home. Our crumbling roads, our impoverished urban school systems, our embarrassing national health care system, and our neglected national parks all could have benefited from the nearly one trillion dollars his foolhardy, unnecessary and arrogant unilateralism has cost us. 


What do we have to show for the young lives and money he has squandered?


We are less safe than we were; Iraq was not a sanctuary for terrorists before the war, but it is now. Our standing in the world community has never been lower. Our citizens are angrier and more polarized than ever. And worst of all, our belief in our own inherent goodness—the belief that America is not an aggressor nation—has been profoundly shaken.


I don’t know what we do now. Colin Powell was right when he warned about “the Pottery Barn rule.” We broke it, and we have a moral obligation to help fix it. Whether that is best done by leaving immediately or staying longer, I simply don’t know. What I do know is that this “adventure”—undertaken by a fatally incompetent and uncomprehending President—has damaged our country profoundly, and it will take a long time to recover.