Thursday, September 14, 2006

Iraq and Terrorism

“Iraq isn’t going well.” That’s the conventional wisdom. “It’s the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” is another tired and popular refrain. “Bush lied about Iraq to justify a war that is all about oil,” is yet another one.

People are frustrated because the war seems to have bogged down. They seem to believe that war can be planned out to the last detail into a flawless, perfectly executed plan not unlike building a house. You have your blueprint, a list of supplies and quantities, contractors and sub-contractors who can and will perform perfectly, and after three blissful months with no problems you move into your lovely home and live happily ever after. Easy, huh? But have you ever built a house? I’ve seen marriages succumb to the effort. Building a house is not a smooth process. Ever. War is less so. Always.

Can you plan a war then fight it with no mistakes, no unforeseen circumstances, no casualties, and a few weeks or months later the troops go home and the world is bright and happy with no residual problems? Of course not. Horrendous mistakes occur in every war. Horrible errors in judgment cost lives and time. To evaluate a war from the perspective that it should have gone smoothly is pure idiocy. That said, an objective review of the actual war to remove Saddam Hussein went about as well as it could have, so it’s hard to complain about that. What people are really upset about is the follow-up to the war: the creation of a democratic Iraq.

But what follows war is also often chaotic; putting together a democratic government in a nation just escaping a decades-long brutal dictatorship is like building a house. Anyone familiar with the trials and tribulations of the early days of the USA knows that. If you don’t know that, study the history of the post-Revolutionary war through the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and while you are doing that, put a sock in it on the criticism of what is happening in Iraq. You will find great dissatisfaction among the states and the citizenry with the Articles of Confederation. You find large states lining up against small states, even threatening to form a country without them. You find soldiers frustrated because the new government couldn’t or wouldn’t pay them, and talking about demanding Congress pay them at the point of a bayonet. The Revolutionary War was costly in lives and dollars, but the period after the war was chaotic and costly, too, and it took many years to straighten things out. To expect less in Iraq is absurd.

We don’t get the whole story from our crack news media, the bunch that can’t shoot straight. The media are supposed to tell us what we need to know, the good, bad and the ugly. Our media tell us what they want us to know, and what they want us to know isn’t all there is to know, and it isn’t all we need to know. They make things up—remember the Dan Rather fiasco—and they leave things out (See below). They only report the bad and the ugly; the good doesn’t warrant dissemination. Consequently, what Americans are fed and what most of the public consumes is a grotesque distortion of reality, a lie.

You may not like the Iraq war. You may have fallen victim to the media distortion of why we went there. Even if you know the truth and accept the reasons for going into Iraq you may not agree with it. Fair enough. But don’t allow that to blind you to the realities of war and what follows war, or to judge too harshly the performance of our leaders and our military. And please have the grace to refrain from gleefully reciting the mistakes you perceive were made and are still being made, and especially doing so from the safety and comfort of your living room with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.

You may believe that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, as the media has repeatedly told us. As an example, a former chief of the CIA's Europe division made a sensational charge that Mr. Bush and the White House ignored intelligence before the invasion of Iraq indicating that Saddam Hussein had no had weapons of mass destruction. This, the media trumpeted loudly and often. However, a Senate committee report refuted the claim that Mr. Bush did not want to hear the truth about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and confirmed that the intelligence indicated that Iraq did indeed have WMD programs. Have you heard that from ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN or The New York Times, The Washington Post or the Associated Press? Where politics is concerned, the mainstream media simply has little credibility.

You may also believe that the Iraq war has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. It does. My view is that anywhere that terrorists are killed is a good place, and all of those places that aren’t in the U.S. are the best places. I believe that the situation in Iraq in 2001 – 2002 was conducive to terrorist activities, and further that some activities directly supportive of terrorism were taking place, and there is strong evidence of that. Another topic the media has omitted and/or distorted.

Terrorism is a worldwide problem, and while other nations have had terrorist attacks on their soil, the US hasn’t. You may not accept the argument that fighting terrorists in Iraq prevents them from coming to the US, but you cannot deny that we have had no domestic attacks in five years. Is there a connection? Perhaps we can’t prove conclusively that there is. But we also can’t prove conclusively that there isn’t.

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