Wednesday, March 19, 2008
An Unhappy Anniversary
Five years. Today, we have been in Iraq for five years. Our war was "over" in months, but the peacekeeping action that ensued blossomed into what could politely be described as a "hot mess." Three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-two American soldiers dead. Four thousand, three hundred Coalition soldiers dead in total. Estimates on the number of Iraqi civilians who have died range wildly, with "official" body counts approaching 90,000, while the Lancet study estimated 655,000 Iraqi civilians dead due to causes directly and indirectly related to the occupation, from conflict to illness to starvation.
Back when the war was first declared, I was actually in favor of it. I did not for one minute believe Bush's claims of weapons of mass destruction or secret deals with al-Qaeda. I supported the war because I thought it could do some indirect good. Our intervention in Kosovo had helped stop the ethnic cleansing, I thought back then; couldn't it be possible that we could liberate the Iraqi civilians from tyranny and set up a fair government?
Yes, I was naive then. But there probably could've been a stable reconstruction, had things not been bungled horribly. If someone in charge had made it clear to all involved the differences between Sunni and Shia, and why a destabilized central government might lead to strife amongst extremists of both sects. If someone in charge had bothered to make sure that the infrastructure stayed in tact, so that Iraqi civilians could have electricity and clean water. If someone in charge had actually taken it upon themselves to make sure that Humvees and soldiers were properly armored, and not considered such things luxuries that could not be included in such a dire war.
If, if, if. All these ifs have added up. American soldiers are dead for a war whose very cause turned out to be built on falsehoods. Iraq is liberated for Saddam, but the government cannot get its act together, and we make deals with the same extremists who were firing on soldiers not months before to ensure temporary stability. Out of eighteen benchmarks that the Iraqi government was supposed to meet to ensure stability, only three were met.
And there is little remorse over all that has taken place -- at least, coming from those with the most stake in it. Bush still thinks that we're on the track for victory. Paul Bremer, who headed the Iraqi provisional government, said he'd pretty much go back and do it all again. Dick Cheney doesn't care that two-thirds of the American populace opposes the war, calling American opinions fluctuations in the polls. And McCain, the guy the Politico tells us can win the election on the issue of Iraq, can't even distinguish the differences between Sunni and Shia. The first three are idiots who will soon be thrown headfirst into the dustbin of history, but McCain's the man who is trying to convince us that he knows what's best for the nation and, most importantly, he'll keep us in Iraq if he gets into office, no matter what the American people say.
Once upon a time, there was a chance we could have improved life for the Iraqi people. Now we're left with a hard choice between keeping our soldiers in an unstable situation that will most likely cost more American lives, and pulling out and likely accelerating the inevitable collapse. But the American people have spoken, and it is clear that they favor withdrawal. We need someone who can make this happen, not someone who tries to convince us he knows what he's doing while fucking things up worse.