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Saturday, July 21, 2007

George Bush and the Iraq War- Could He Be Right?

It goes without saying that George Bush's presidency and his role in history revolves around his decision to invade Iraq. Needless to say, this action has brought Bush the wrath of most of the world, as well as the wrath of an increasing number of Americans as disillusionment with the war rises at home. Bush's approval ratings are consistently in the 30s and probably will be when he leaves office. The question is-will he ultimately be vindicated by history? I think it is still possible. Let me play a little Devil's Advocate here.

The Justification for the Invasion

There are several reasons that Bush can point to for the invasion of Iraq:

1 In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Saddam violated many of the provisions of the surrender, most notably those dealing with no-fly zones and repeatedly shooting at our pilots. Those violations alone justified a resumption of hostilities.

2 Weapons of mass destruction. Contrary to the claims of those who insist that there never were WMD, we do know that Saddam in fact used them, first against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War, then against his own people in the north after the first Gulf War. In one village alone, several thousand men, women and children were gassed to death by Iraqi forces. Why did we not find them? There are plenty of scenarios, most probably they were disposed of in the runup to the invasion. They could be at the bottom of the Tigris River or in Syria. But how can one say they never existed when we know he had already used them.

As for the UN weapons inspections, they were a joke. First of all, Saddam never granted full access and cooperation to UN inspectors under the direction of the hapless Hans Blix of the inept UN. Secondly, we now know that Saddam bribed several countries, including France and Russia, as well as a British member of Parliament with lucrative oil vouchers. Even the UN itself, under the corrupt direction of Kofi Annan, was compromised. Annan's own son reportedly got in on the action.

In the wake of 9-11, Bush took the position that we simply could not place our safety solely in the hands of the UN. Let's not forget that the UN is comprised of some 190 nations, only a fraction of which are democracies. Most are corrupt dictatorships, and many are hostile to the US. At best, the UN is ineffective. At worst, it is corrupt. In addition, the UN passed a total of 17 resolutions directed to Saddam and his non-compliance to UN directives concerning inspections. Still, the UN sat and fiddled, taking no real action. Now we know why. Too many palms were greased.

There was also the question of Saddam himself, his rule and the barbaric treatment of dissenters in Iraq. It was unquestioned that Saddam and his two brutal sons had engaged in systematic repression, torture, rape and murder to stay in power. (After the invasion, mass graves were discovered containing bodies by the thousands.) Granted, the US cannot act unilaterally to remove every bad leader, but Bush has come to the conclusion that freedom and democracy in the Middle East are what is needed to bring an end to terrorism. Only time will tell if he is correct or a dreamer.

Let us also not forget that in the runup to the invasion, Congress, including the Democrats, overwhelmingly gave Bush to power he needed to take action against Iraq. Hillary Clinton, herself, voted for the president, and reminded the public of her support when Saddam was captured. Now she talks in circles about "if I knew then what I know now......" Well, what did she know about Saddam when her husband was the president? What did she know back in 1998 when President Clinton was sending out Secretary of State Madelyn Albright, Secretary of Defense, William Cohen and National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger around the country to do speaking engagements to the public educating them to Saddam's WMD, supposedly to prepare the country for war.

But more to the point, the charge has been repeatedly made that Bush lied to get us into the war. Whatever mistakes might have been made, I do not accept that charge. If George Bush lied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, then so did Bill Clinton, Madelyn Albright, William Cohen, Sandy Berger, John Kerry, the French, the Brits, the Israelis, the UN, the Russians and the various intelligence services of the US, UK, Europe etc. They all believed that Saddam had WMD. Specifically, that he was engaged in the buildup of chemical and biological weapons, as well as rebuilding his nuclear capabilty. The difference was that Bush, in the wake of 9-11, concluded that the risks of Saddam handing WMD off to the terrorists were unacceptable.

Should We Stay?

So now, it is 2007. Defeating the Iraqi Army was relatively quick. Stopping the insurgency that has resulted is another matter. We have now lost over 3,000 soldiers, and the American public is getting very war weary. Instead of the Iraqi Army, our soldiers have to contend with mostly foreign Jihadists and the killing between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Should we stay to try to give Iraqis freedom when their own efforts to secure freedom are questionable? Should we be in the middle of a civil war? Reasonable questions. Another question is this: Aren't those foreign fighters who have come to Iraq the very enemy we are supposed to be fighting? What about Iran? If they are indeed sending in operatives and bombs to use against our soldiers, how do we respond to them? It seems clear to me that, like it or not, we are going to have to confront the Iranians, with their radical leader and his developing nuclear weapons, sooner or later.

Can our military overcome the morass in Iraq? Can the latest "surge" work? Has our news media portrayed the situation much worse than it really is? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I have heard many of our soldiers say that progress is being made, and that many Iraqis appreciate what we have done. It should also be pointed out that the majority of the country is indeed pacified.

So let's say we get out as we did in Viet Nam. What happens to Iraq? First of all, I think it is obvious that the country will be taken over by either the Iranians, radical Jihadists or both. That means that those who supported us will be subject to a massacre, as would the Kurds in the north, who are doing quite well at the present time. In addition, Iran and/or Al Quaida would then have a national base for terrorist operations, supported by the country's great oil resources. Any friendly nation in the region would be put under greater peril than ever.

In addition, America's alliance and word to other allies would be worthless. The entire world would see that we don't have the will to persevere. It would be a great international victory for the bad guys. We would also have to concede that the American lives lost in Iraq were in vain.

I am a veteran, and I don't take our military losses lightly. I am as skeptical as anyone about the ability of the Middle East to build true democracy. Frankly, if we can leave behind a "benevolent dictator" in charge in Iraq who would keep that country from being a threat, that would be good enough for me.

What is truly hypocritical is the posturing of the Democrats in Congress, many of whom had once themselves spoken out on Saddam as a growing threat with his WMDs. Now, they are crucifying Bush, criticizing our soldiers and advocating the same retreat they pulled off in Viet Nam a generation ago. Whatever mistakes Bush and his administration have made, he did not lie about WMD.

With the Democrats in charge of Congress, it cannot be predicted that a good outcome will come out of Iraq. I am still hoping for victory-or something that will leave that sad nation out of the hands of Iran or radical Islamist elements.

Victory. What's wrong with that?


*I recommend you read an article by Norman Podhoretz entitled: Who is Lying About Iraq, which appeared in Commentary Magazine, November 11, 2005. It goes into much greater detail on many of the points I have mentioned.

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