Charley Reese: Pluses & Minuses
- Pluses but Mostly Minuses
December 31, 2005
Now that President Bush has launched a new propaganda campaign to
convince Americans that we are winning the war in Iraq, it's a good
idea to go back to the basics and look at the pluses and minuses of
The minuses we all know. The war was sold on false pretenses, there
being neither weapons of mass destruction nor ties to al-Qaeda,
which after all, was responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Saddam Hussein's government was secular, and the majority of people
in Iraq are Shi'ites. Al-Qaeda is a fanatical religious movement
that is Sunni, which is why you need never fear that al-Qaeda will
take over Iraq.
The other minuses are the loss of American prestige, nearly 2,200
dead, about 16,000 wounded, and $221 billion and counting in money.
So, that's the downside of the Iraq War. What's the upside?
Well, for the sake of argument, let's assume we do win the war,
however strangely the Bush administration might decide to define
victory. But let's assume we win. The insurgents are defeated. An
elected government of pro-Iranian Shi'ites is in charge. What are
the benefits to the American people?
When a young Marine asked that of Vice President Dick Cheney, he
reeled off a list of benefits for the Iraqi people, but said not a
word about Americans. Since victory (stipulated only for the sake of
argument) is paid for by American blood and American treasure, some
benefit should accrue to the American people. What?
I can't think of any. That's too high a price just to feel good that
we did a bunch of foreigners a favor by relieving them of their
homegrown dictator. You could argue, I suppose, that after victory
Americans could visit Iraq as tourists, though on this beautiful
planet Iraq is not quite but almost dead last on the list of
scenic places to visit. Besides, it will be decades before Iraqis
get over their hostility to Americans, who since 1991 have made
their lives miserable with two wars, periodic bombings and cruel
Americans jolly well won't be safer. The pathetic and infantile
argument that if the terrorists weren't fighting us in Iraq they'd
be in New York is not worth talking about. Ninety percent of the
people fighting us in Iraq are not terrorists, but insurgents who
resent the occupation of their country by a foreign power. The other
10 percent are using Iraq as a training ground. After we leave Iraq,
some of those might attack us in other places, but they would have
anyway. Just because it's been four years since the 9/11 attacks
doesn't mean al-Qaeda has given up or even been thwarted by our
bureaucrats. There was a long time gap between the first attack on
the World Trade Center and the second. Al-Qaeda is patient.
That, by the way, is another downside to the Iraq War. Al-Qaeda was
our enemy, not Iraq, and we have aided al-Qaeda by invading a Muslim
country as well as diverting resources that could have been directed
at finding and killing Osama bin Laden.
As for the original neoconservative belief that a democratic Iraq
would infect the rest of the Middle East and Israel could live
peacefully, that was a joke from Day One. The only friends Israel
and we have in the Middle East are the dictators we pay, in one way
or another, to be our friends. Popularly elected governments would
make it quite clear they hate Israel and the U.S.
I can tell you one positive thing about this war, if the American
people will learn from it. We should never, ever again allow a bunch
of academic ideologues and Washington lawyers who don't know crap
about the real world to gain control of American foreign policy.
The next American president should ask two questions of all the
people who present themselves as Middle East experts. Have you lived
in an Arab country? Do you speak and read Arabic? If the answers are
no, then he should say, "Hit the road, Jack." Twenty-two hundred
Americans probably would be alive if Bush had asked those questions
of his neoconservative warmongers.
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