The Bush policies have led ironically, to a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding mid-east instability and increased terrorist threats throughout the world. What began with a war based on the assumption that Iraq possessed WMD morphed into a raft of other goals when WMD were not found. It followed, according to this administration, that we had to remove Saddam Hussein from power, dismantle Iraq’s government and its army, invent a new political structure, fight terrorism and establish our footprint in the Middle East which would become a bastion of democracy and, oh yes, a reliable source of oil.
However, far from anything remotely like the positive outcomes these intermittent goals promised at various junctures of our involvement, Iraq’s capital and other provinces have been savaged by lawlessness and an instability that threatens the entire region and in turn, strengthens neighbors’ ambitions to develop nuclear power and perhaps future WMD. Adding to the general upheaval thousands of Iraqis have emigrated elsewhere forcing Jordan, for example, to deal with a huge influx of refugees. Still the president insists we must “win” in Iraq to avoid even greater mayhem.
So what was described by the president and other ‘true believers’ as their grand design for a calm, democratic Middle East has become the very thing it claimed to be averting – – a haven for terrorists, a wildly anarchical madhouse with a population distrustful of our motives for being in their country yet fearful of our departure. Amazingly some of the war-promoting pundits are still welcomed on a variety of forums. The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol said, before the invasion, that disharmony between Sunnis and Shiites was vastly overstated. As always, such narrow analyses overlook the fact that, beyond religious differences, political and economic forces and land issues are often critical factors that separate people into warring entities.
Further, the military and the American people seem to be hopelessly confused as to just exactly what our goals in Iraq are and why we went there in the first place. Once the phony connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein was dispelled, at least for most people, and the WMD matter was dismissed the question became why were we there – – a question that turns on some murky premises that have muddied the basis for our foreign policy and produced some of the most convoluted reasoning imaginable as the president tries to explain what passes for a strategy.
Worst of all the sense of who we are as a people is being tested in ways one would have thought settled during our civil rights struggles and after the Vietnam War. The bringing of charges by the Military against the men involved in the killings of civilians in Haditha has provoked some curious reactions, understandably from their families, but less so from ordinary Americans. Recently callers to The Washington Journal almost unanimously expressed opinions that the men were being treated unfairly, one caller going so far as to say “we went over there to kill Iraqis and that’s what these men did.”
While it isn’t difficult to comprehend that the troops involved were enraged after having seen a buddy killed by a roadside bomb, the prolonged reaction over hours with troops bursting into three separate houses and killing everyone inside, including a man in a wheelchair and several children is hard to explain as simply “the rules of engagement”, especially since; apparently, some of the victims were killed by small arms fire. But whatever the outcome, the incident exemplifies the problems that accompany a confusion of mandates from both central command and our civilian leadership and the terrible price paid by those who fight and those who just live in a war zone.
Now, of course, that all the imprudent reasons for invading Iraq have been exposed many of them have actually become the new reality in today’s Iraqi construct. And so it follows that the latest argument is that we must make the country safe, if not for democracy, at least make it secure against internal strife and external terrorist incursions. The circle of illogic is unbroken – – where we fit ever more nebulous.
We often hear these days that we must support our country – – my country right or wrong and all that, but as then Senator Carl Schurz said in an 1899 speech, he trusted: “…the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”
How we are to ‘put it right’ is the challenge we now face after being brought to a place far more dangerous than the one we were falsely led to believe existed when we began our ill-advised adventure in Iraq.

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