Exactly How Has Bush’s War Made Us Safer?

President Bush claims that his war on Iraq has made Americans safer. His primary rationale is that by removing from power a foreign dictator who was supposedly bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Americans are safer as a result. Unfortunately for the American people, however, Bush’s reasoning is both false and fallacious.

The evidence on which the president is relying to support his thesis that Saddam was bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction is most likely based on Saddam’s willingness to accept weapons of mass destruction from the United States in the 1980s, during the Reagan-Bush years. Yet it is now clear that by the time Bush’s forces attacked Iraq in 2003, Saddam had changed directions. Not only had he not added to the stockpiles of WMDs that he had acquired from the United States and other Western countries, he obviously had even destroyed the stockpiles they had delivered to him.

Perhaps more important, the president’s war on Iraq has killed or maimed an untold number of Iraqis, both military and civilian, most of whom presumably had relatives and friends who now have more reason to hate the United States. The exact number of dead and maimed is unknown because of the Pentagon’s official policy of not counting the bodies of Iraqi people killed, but they certainly have to number in the tens of thousands. (As U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks put it, “We don’t do body counts.”) Consider that civilian deaths have been estimated at a minimum of 10,000; certainly the military dead have to be equal to and, more likely, two or three times that number. Add in the maimed, such as the Iraqi boy who lost both of his arms (and both his parents) and that brings the number of innocent Iraqi people who have been killed or injured to a conservative estimate of 30,000 or 40,000 people, some 10 or 20 times the number of (innocent) people killed at the World Trade Center.

Now, let’s assume that each of those victims, on average, had three family members and friends. That would mean, then, that there are now around 100,000 new people who have even more reason to be angry and vengeful toward the United States, thereby significantly adding to the pool of potential terrorists who, according to U.S. officials, hate America for its “freedom and values.” And that doesn’t even include people in the Arab community who, while not knowing the victims, are nevertheless angry over the deaths and injuries of fellow Arabs, much as many Americans were angry and vengeful over the 9/11 deaths, even though they didn’t personally know any of the victims.

The U.S. government’s callous attitude toward the Iraqi dead is actually just a continuation of the hard attitude displayed by U.S. officials when their economic embargo against Iraq was contributing to the deaths of multitudes of Iraqi children throughout the 1990s, during the Bush-Quayle and Clinton-Gore administrations, which ultimately became one of the principal factors leading to the 9/11 attacks. Asked about the half-a-million children killed because of the sanctions, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright told “Sixty Minutes” in 1996, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” While Albright has recently “apologized” for making such a cold and cruel statement, U.S. officials did not disavow it at the time and have not disavowed it since.

Moreover, despite President Bush’s postinvasion rhetoric about invading Iraq for the purpose of “liberating” the Iraqi people from tyranny, the torture, rape, sex abuse, and murder scandal at Abu Ghraib prison — and the developing stonewall and cover-up of the scandal — are perfectly reflective of the old and callous mindset held by U.S. officials toward the Iraqi people.

What U.S. officials have never been able to understand is that people in the Arab community tend to view the deaths and injuries of their countrymen in much the same way that Americans view the deaths of their fellow citizens — that is, not as “war casualties” or “collateral damage” or “uncounted statistics,” but rather as real human beings with families and friends, who are now dead or maimed as a result of Bush’s war. See, for example, an article on a website entitled islamonline.net, “Crimes in Iraq: ‘Regrettable’ Statistics,” by Felicity Arbuthnot, where the author states,

The meticulous team at Iraq Body Count (IBC) is attempting to account for civilian deaths. As of July 12, 2004, 11,164 are recorded. Statistics, however, do not convey what deaths really mean and how they impact those who lose loved ones. In remembrance, IBC has painstakingly compiled 692 names — as of March 2004. They leap from the pages: 421 men, 106 women and 94 children. Fatima, 8, Mawra, 9, Mohammed, 6, Zainab, 5, Saif, 1, Mohammed, 2, Tabarak, 8, Noor, 6 months…. Eleven members of the family of Sader Hamzeb Youssa, Sahar Salhan, her husband and their unborn son…. They died from cluster bombs, missiles, rockets and shrapnel. They died engaged in normal daily activities.

Keep in mind that contrary to the implications set forth by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, it is now clear that there is no evidence that Saddam, who is still alive, played any role in the 9/11 attacks. More important, there is no evidence linking the 9/11 attacks to the tens of thousands of Iraqi people who are now dead or maimed as a result of the president’s war. In other words, those dead and maimed were innocent of any wrongdoing; they and their survivors, friends, and relatives are part of that portion of the world that, arguably, is not better off as a result of ousting Saddam Hussein from power.

Finally, let us not forget that the U.S. government is now assisting an illegitimate and unelected dictator in Iraq — and a former CIA terrorist to boot — to kill his own people, much as the U.S. government assisted Saddam Hussein, another illegitimate and unelected dictator with U.S. government ties, to kill his own people, when it enabled Saddam to acquire weapons of mass destruction from the United States during the Reagan-Bush years. It’s just a continuation of a morally bankrupt foreign policy that is bent on supporting cruel and brutal dictators who do the bidding of U.S. officials, no matter how much they brutalize their own people — people who, according to U.S. officials, hate America for its “freedom and values” when they end up retaliating against the United States with terrorist attacks.

Thus, it is difficult to understand the logic behind President Bush’s claim that his war on Iraq has made Americans safer. Instead, his unprovoked invasion and war of aggression against Iraq has succeeded in ousting from office a former friend and ally of U.S. officials, one to whom they had even entrusted WMDs and who had even destroyed those WMDs when U.S. officials demanded that he do so. At the same time, however, Bush’s war continued a decades-long U.S. policy of killing and maiming innocent Iraqis, whose survivors, friends, relatives, and countrymen now have even more reason join the wrong side of Bush’s “war on terrorism.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.