I was listening to my favorite radio program this morning as one of the commentators read the ‘Letters to the Editor’ sent him as he does each Friday. As he was reading a listeners letter scolding him and others in the media for blaming President Bush for the state of the war in Iraq he interjected “who else are you going to blame?” It reminded me again that the media tends to not tell the whole story about what’s happening and jump to the “popular” conclusion, which isn’t actually based in fact. See, he’s right about one thing, there is plenty of “blame” for the situation in Iraq, but to put all on Bush is highly unfair.
First and foremost getting rid of Saddam and his regime is a good thing. There was a multitude of reasons for removing him and WMD’s was just a part of it, but mind you a part not so much pressed by Bush as it was by others. However, the though of him supplying weapons of that type was something we ALL felt was of grave concern.
If you want to call Bush a liar about WMD’s then Clinton lied too. Him and just about everyone else. Even so, its easy enough for it to be reason number one. Saddams violating the agreement that ended the first Gulf War, almost from the beginning, his firing surface to air missiles at our aircraft as they patrolled the no fly zone another (I would have thought that THAT would have constituted an act of war, but the Clinton administration chose to ignore it). His open support of many terrorist groups and financial support of the suicide bombers in Israel often gets brushed aside as we didn’t find evidence of his involvement in 9/11. He was a butcher that killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. 300,000 in mass graves found so far. President Bush DID make real attempts to avoid sending troops into Iraq, offering Saddam and his sons safe passage out of the country, then failing that, trying to take them out with a missile attack before the war began. Both efforts to avoid sending in the troops. But we never suspected the depth of the pent up rage against him within Iraq that led to the looting and chaos in the days immediately after he fled Baghdad.
Second we knew that al Quada would take the fight to us there. And better there than here. Its much better to have a “front” in this fight then it to be totally underground. The fight against the insurgents has been grinding and hard. We knew that we would lose soldiers on the ground. War is hell, after all. We went in under armored, and there is blame to go around there. The past President, the current President, the Department of Defense, the pentagon, the Congress, all have a share of the blame for this. We’ve never fought a war like this, and our models failed to an extent.
We also knew that there would be a lot of tension between the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish groups there, but we failed to understand the extent of the divide that separates the different Islamic groups. We had thought, or hoped, that these religious “political” differences could be sorted out in “political” ways. Much progress has been made, and the differences for the vast multitude have been overcome, but still various factions vie for power through violence. One thing we fail to see is that a lot of the violence directed at American troops isn’t really aimed as an act directed against us so much as it’s done in order to lend a measure of prestige to the group doing it among their peers.
We also never suspected the lack of value of human life. While there has surly been an overwhelming amount of evidence to the extent which these people are willing to harm their own in order to further their “cause”, we’re always caught off guard by it. They call us evil, “the great Satan”, while at the same time they blow up there own children and use their own people as human shields. Bombing their own markets as their own mothers and wives shop for food. Destroying their own infrastructure and killing their own people who are trying to go about their daily lives. Blowing up schools as their own children attend. As Americans, we have a hard time accepting this as a tactic they so willingly use. No matter how many times they do, we are still shocked. There seems to be no limit to the depths the terrorist will go to do there evil. This was, after all we thought, supposed to be the cradle of civilization. Almost all of us Americans are to blame for not seeing this evil as it truly exists in the world. We’re fighting an enemy who dreams of a reward in Heaven deflowering young virgins! Ponder that. Really, think about it.
Once again we thought that the Iraqi military was a formidable force. Once again we were mistaken. We, at least many in our military, thought it unwise to keep them together as a force in the beginning, so they were disbanded. It’s been a formidable challenge to re-form them as a force now. While many Iraqis have stepped up to the challenge of securing their own country, and more and more are being trained by us every day, many have proven not to be up to task. But our troop are succeeding at this, and eventually this fight will be left in Iraqi hands. It’s just taking much much longer than we thought it would.
We knew that there would be outside influences come into play. We knew Syria and Iran would be a challenge to the stability of the country. But as more and more groups here at home oppose the war and our President, they poured more and more money, arms, and rhetoric into the fight. At the same time, in reaction to these groups at home, we started trying to “limit’ our involvement in the fight, placing stricter limits on the rules of engagement. The confluence of the two has caused an explosion of aggression from the insurgency. Places that we had once secured are now back into the hands of forces that oppose, not just us, but stability as a whole. Our actions at home do nothing but embolden those that oppose us there. And that emboldenment doesn’t just stop there, it spreads, hopefully not undoing the great progress we’ve made against the fight against terror. A resurgence of the Talaban. North Korea. Iran. Its sprung Hugo Chavez from his box onto the worlds stage. Hopefully the progress made in Libya won’t be undone. We knew there would be negative outside influences, but we didn’t know one of those outside influences would be us.
That we didn’t have good handle on what was really happening in Iraq before the war can’t be blamed on Bush, Clinton had largely dismantled our intelligence services and we didn’t have spy one on the ground there. Bush depended on reports from the previous administration, foreign intelligence, and the reports of the weapons inspectors that had been in Iraq. All indicating the existence of WMD’s. Now we point the finger only at him. Blame him for not doing enough before 9/11. Blame him for doing too much after. Yet, everything Bush has done has been with the intent of protecting the lives of our fellow American. How far is too far when our lives and our future is at stake? We may not all agree with him, but a lot of this blame BS has gone too far. War IS hell, and none has ever gone well. He’s not perfect, but he never claimed to be.
President Bush hasn’t made the decisions and directive of this war alone. He’s consulted with his Department of Defense, his State Department, the Pentagon, his Generals, and the leaders of both Congress and industry, not to mention the government and people of Iraq themselves. He’s listened to the concerns of leaders of foreign governments and various heads of state abroad, and those here at home. He’s sometimes taken and used their advice and direction, and sometimes passed on it, but never once has he not shouldered the responsibility of the war. All of it. The good and the bad, he knows the buck stops with him. I’m proud of him for that. I’m proud that he sticks with what he thinks is right and not with what’s popular, or some poll number. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a President like that. It’s sure got the press buffaloed. They don’t understand a politician that doesn’t care more about his ratings than he does his values. They criticize him for not “listening” to which ever way the wind is blowing.
Many called for more troops to be sent to Iraq. Many of Bush’s General’s thought that they weren’t needed, so he made the decision not to put more of them in harms way. He was criticized soundly for not sending them. Now his Generals want more troops in order to accomplish a mission they think will speed the end of our involvement there, so Bush agreed to send them. Now he’s criticized for doing so. We watch on TV as Congressmen browbeat and lecture Generals on tactics. If ever there was a truer comparison between Vietnam and Iraq that would be it. Congressmen and candidates playing for cameras and votes. Everyone cries for this war to be over, but at what cost? Are we wanting to end it because the threat is now gone, or is it because we’ve lost sight of the reason we fought in the first place?
If the treat is still there, and our enemy still fights on, the fight isn’t over. The cost in pulling out prematurely may be higher than we wish to imagine. They will keep bringing the fight to us, probably in our streets instead of Baghdad’s. Other enemies will have every reason to join the fight against us. The prestige of such countries as Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and many others will rise along with their influences in those various regions. Influences we’ll be hard pressed to counter. Europe, Russia, China, all win as America loses its place as a leader on the world stage. No longer would we be a world power, for what partner could look to us with assurance that we would live up to our promises?
When those evil men flew into those buildings and that field on September 11, 2001, we decided to take action against terrorism where we found it. We vowed to finally do something about this scourge. Afghanistan, of course, was a natural starting point. Iraq was one of just a few “State Sponsors” of terror that didn’t have some kind of “Plausible Deniability”; after all, Saddam had threatened us and others with WMD’s. He had proven during the previous Gulf War a willingness to attack third countries, and wanted badly to start a regional conflict against not only Israel, but other friendly governments in the middle-east. And his willingness to use WMD’s, as he had done before, was ample proof of the threat that he may use them again. His unwillingness to prove there non existence sealed his fate. But the evil of terrorism goes on. We must fight the evil where the evil is. To end the fight now is to lose the fight perhaps altogether. And who do we blame then?
Join that bandwagon if you must, but be prepared, it may turn out to be a rough ride.
PS: The other day President Bush walked into the New York Stock Exchange and was cheered. Funny how it didn’t even make the business section of my paper, much less the evening news.