Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bait and switch

As anyone can tell from his well-researched op-ed in the local paper, my friend Bill Crawford is deeply committed to supporting the war in Iraq. He devotes the bulk of his blog to highlighting the good things that the U.S. military accomplishes in Iraq everyday.
I don’t take issue with the facts that Bill lays out in the article. I will grant that good things are indeed happening in Iraq. And I will acknowledge that they do not always get as prominent of play in the national media as the negative events such as kidnappings and suicide bombings (although not for the reasons that Bill espouses).
Who could be upset by our efforts to “repair the Iraqi education system” and provide textbooks to underprivileged Iraqi schoolchildren? What kind of Scrooge would denounce our work at reparing that nation’s electrical grid, roads, bridges, health system, water system and oil infrastructure?
Surely, these are all good things that are being done. So what is the problem?

The problem is that this whole Iraqi invasion has been one giant bait and switch from the very beginning.
All of these wonderful things that Bill likes to point out each day (while ignoring all the bad things that are happening) are completely superfluous to the reason we invaded Iraq in the first place.
We did not go into Iraq to carry out a massive humanitarian mission and nation building project. If that had been the stated reason, most Republicans I know of would have been opposed to it - including George W. Bush who ridiculed Al Gore during the 2000 campaign over the notion of “nation building” projects. Republicans and conservatives have never been big on foreign aid spending and that is what this misadventure in Iraq amounts to today - a massive foreign aid program.
Imagine if President Clinton or President Gore had proposed sending our troops into some blighted region of the world to help overturn a repressive government and give assistance to the disadvantaged people living there. Republicans would have gone absolutely nuts opposing such an operation. This is the U.S. military, not the Peace Corps, they would say.

We invaded Iraq because the Bush administration insisted that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to U.S. security and the only way to prevent an impending attack was to go in and strike first. I, along with many other Americans, suspected this was a lot of B.S. at the time, but we did not have access to the same intelligence reports that the President did. So many folks, including a lot of Democrats in Congress, felt pressured to give him the benefit of the doubt and support a resolution authorizing military force as a last option. Now we know that a military invasion was the first option for the Bush team almost from day one.
Since then, we have learned that Bush relied on faulty intelligence reports when making his case for launching an unprecedented pre-emptive invasion. Not only were the reports flawed, but other intelligence reports that countered or questioned the ones the Bush administration was touting were either ignored or covered up. We now know that Hussein was a delusional old man who had never fully recovered from the whooping he received during the first Gulf War. Most of the crimes Hussein was accused of were actually committed prior to Gulf War I while he was being supported by the Reagan and Bush I administrations. The U.N. sanctions had been effective in limiting and degrading Iraq’s military structure to the point that Hussein was actually less of a threat to the U.S. by 2003 than he was immediately following the end of Gulf War I.

There was no need to invade Iraq in 2003. I don’t care how many new schools or hospitals we build, it was not worth the cost in blood or dollars that the American people have been forced to make. President Bush should have declared victory and brought our troops home a long time ago. The fact that he is still running around the country making speeches and trying to bone up support for the war three years later is a sure sign that the wheels have fallen off this cart.

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