A year has elapsed since President Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq. Since that March day, 2003, it has become clear as crystal: Operation Iraqi Freedom was an unnecessary war.
Saddam had had no role in 9-11 or the anthrax attack, no plans to attack us or to invade his neighbors. He was contained by US power and his own weakness. American planes had flown 40,000 sorties in 10 years over Iraq without losing a single aircraft to hostile fire. And Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
It was a war of choice, “Mr. Bush’s War,” as the War of 1812 was “Mr. Madison’s War,” the Mexican War was “Jimmy Polk’s War” and World War I was “Mr. Wilson’s War.” Neoconservatives who schemed for a decade to have us invade, occupy and vassalize Iraq say we liberated the country from tyranny, blew a hole in the phalanx of hostile Islamic states and are building a democracy that will be an inspiration to the Middle East.
Better still, we are positioned to use our power against Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the war against Islamo-fascism that is the great cause of our generation.
John Pilger quotes Richard Perle in the Mirror two years ago: “This is total war … if we just let our vision of the world go forth.”
Whether the war was necessary or not, neocons says, it was a just and wise war. Better that we fight now when we can readily prevail than wait for Saddam or his sons to acquire atomic weapons. Even if Saddam’s weapons programs had not matured, we could not take the chance, says President Bush. I did the right thing. I take full responsibility. Deal with it.
Whether one agrees with Bush and Cheney, they are unapologetic. They stand by the war. But what is the argument for John Kerry?
Had he been a principled antiwar candidate, we would have a great debate over how best to cope with the soaring anti-Americanism that is the spawning pool of terror. But we have no debate.
For there is no party in Washington that speaks for those of us who believe America should stay out of these religious and tribal wars from Morocco to Malaysia where no vital US interest is at risk. There is only one vital interest in this region — oil, and Iran and the Arabs must sell it to survive, no matter the regime in power.
We will have no debate because John Kerry voted to give Bush a blank check to take us to war. Under attack by Howard Dean, he then pirouetted and voted to deny Bush the funds to consolidate America’s victory. Now he says he was misled. A profile in opportunism.
Kerry calls to mind FDR’s story told about the chameleon. When they put it down on a brown rug, it turned brown. When they put it down on a green rug, it turned green. But when they put it down on a Scotch plaid, the chameleon died.
And so the big questions will go unaddressed.
Can the United States afford the cost in blood and treasure of a Bush policy of preventive war, when the occupation of one Arab country of 23 million has tied down half our armed forces and cost $200 billion?
Can we maintain our imperial presence in 120 countries with an Army of half a million men? Should we double the size of our Army to maintain our commitments, or cut back on our commitments to defend other nations’ frontiers and fight other nations’ wars?
Is the vast presence of US forces in the Islamic world a deterrent to terrorism, or an incitation to terror? Where hatred of America is pandemic, is disengagement a wiser policy than intervention? Has the war and occupation of Iraq reduced terror or given jihadists a rallying cause? The Spanish might have some thoughts on this.
With Iran and North Korea closer to a nuclear capacity than Saddam ever was, was it wise to tear up alliances and tie down our military ousting a dictator who, no matter how odious, was no threat?
Given our budget deficits, the overextension of our military, our isolation from allies and the opposition of Congress, is the Bush policy of preventive war already a dead letter?
Finally, why do scores of millions of Arab and Islamic peoples hate us and wish to see us humiliated in Iraq? At one time, we were the most admired nation on earth. Is any of this our fault, unpatriotic as that question may seem?