Iraq: Three Years and Counting
By: Jesse Kornbluth
Monday, March 20th, 2006
Sainted Editor asked for commentary on the war as it enters its third year: "Is this a just or an unjust war? How do the
war's rationale, its methods, and its consequences jibe with your religious/moral outlook?"
Never let it be said she lacks a sense of humor. Just war? Moral code? Thanks, boss, for my first giggle in days.
Fortunately, there's no need to bloviate--two events last week said it all.
One was "Operation Swarmer," billed as the greatest air attack since "Shock and Awe." 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops
were ferried in 50 choppers to an area that was--according to Iraqi intelligence--rife with insurgents.
And the outcome? According to Time Magazine, the "success" of the operation was anything but major:
But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest
use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops
into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some
skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and
the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
One wonders: Were there ever "insurgents" in the area? Was this just an engineered photo-op for journalists hungry
for a story--journalists who might not live for five minutes if they walked outside Baghdad's Green Zone? Or were real
"insurgents" there once but, thanks to leaks in the Iraqi Army, long gone before the choppers showed up?
Incident #2: The President is itching to do something, anything, to Iran, which may explain the persistent rumors that
the U.S.--I almost said "we"--will, this Spring, send bombers and missiles to eliminate its "nuclear" plants. So, last week,
Bush announced that Iran is supplying parts for Iraqi insurgents for their improvised roadside bombs: "Some of the
most powerful IED's that we are seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran."
Soon after, a reporter questioned Gen. Peter Pace--head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--and Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld--about the President's statement.
Reporter: Do you have proof that they are indeed behind this, the Government
Pace: I do not sir.
(Jon Stewart has both clips, neatly juxtaposed: Bush and Pace video)
What happened there? Not much, by current standards--in recent polls: The single word most frequently associated
with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot"
Except this: Bush lied, his own people called him on it--and nothing happened. Because nothing ever does in this
White House. The President's approval rating can barely go lower, but that doesn't matter. For the President's political
safety--if Democrats do well in the fall elections, you'd better believe we'll see some investigations of this
administration's criminality--we will, if he deems it necessary, bomb Iran. If terrorists strike us, we will, if he deems it
necessary, see more warrantless searches, arrests without charges, detention without indictments, and--hey, why not?
--something that looks a lot like martial law. (Because these are the things that keep us "safe.")
So, to the questions of a just war and morality, I ask the obvious: How many times does a guy have to lie to you before
you stop listening? How many crimes does he have to commit before you stop cutting him slack?
Indeed, was it not our President who said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...."
We can, therefore, pass over the laundry list of horrors that the U.S.--oops, almost said "we" again--has inflicted on
the Iraqi people in three years: less water service and electrical power in Baghdad today than there was in Saddam's
rule, torture, corruption, incompetence, etc. If you've read me for the past 18 months, you know I've chronicled our
failed policy fairly consistently. If you haven't, feel free to wander in the archives. But don't, please, expect me to
review the sorry litany of this monstrous, illegal war all over again, as if, three years in, the idea that this is our greatest
shame since Vietnam is somehow a new idea. Everything that has come to pass was predicted. Nothing is a surprise--
except to our leaders.
Let's take the long view (unlike the administration). What's happened because of our invasion of Iraq, though global in
effect, is actually quite small: Everything good and decent about America, everything sane and reasonable, has been
done for the political benefit of one man and his narrow vision of a complex world. We--this time, the proper use of "we"
--may be paying the bills, but we're just along for the ride.
George Bush--like any number of middle-aged guys you know who exercise madly and never pass a mirror without
checking themselves out--is obsessed only with himself. Which is understandable. He doesn't have the brainpower,
the compassion, or the imagination to care about other people. Or about his job. At some level, he must know that he
is "handled" and spoon-fed by his staff. He's not the President, he just plays one on TV.
Yes, it's enough to make you despair. Three more years of Bush means--if we're not routed in Iraq--three more years
of war. It's terrible to contemplate. Think of how hated we've become in the eyes of the world, and then multiply it by
three. If you feel ashamed, congratulations--you are still in touch with reality.
The people who come here, week after week, are already abashed, disgusted, depressed. We look to the Democrats
for an opposition, and find mostly....cowards. Unless someone gets hit by thunder, we're on our own.
Since that's the case, let's talk about the important moral issue: how to keep the lights on--the lights of intelligence and
compassion and honor--while our leaders and the right-wing evangelicals try to legislate us into the Dark Ages.
Activism is called for, oh yes. But I feel a lot of what we can do for our country is simply to be examples of Enlightened
Beings--to weep at beautiful music, stare in awe at great art, lose ourselves in books, be kind to our neighbors and
civil to our enemies. In short, to live our faith. Our faith in intelligence, diversity, freedom.
This will not be easy. It is entirely possible that our leaders will scapegoat "liberals" and "free thinkers" and others who
don't conform. It's happened before. And it's never been a pretty process.
To those who know the difference between a just war and what we're doing in Iraq, I say: God bless. Do your
exercises, run your laps. Make money and save it. Look for beauty wherever you can find it. Kiss your partner, hug
your kid. And hope to God that our collective goodness--our faith and our deeds--will somehow balance the hell that
our leaders have created for Iraq and the U.S. alike................
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