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John Seery Headshot

The War. The War. The War.

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More than 100 U.S. troops dead during October. The fourth deadliest month for American troops since the fighting began in March 2003. 2814 U.S. service men and women dead. 21,000+ U.S. wounded.

Dick Cheney is right: I don't have the stomach for this--not because I inherently lack the capacity for wartime intestinal fortitude but because this particular war doesn't make sense and that inanity hits me right in the gut. Our people are dying for no good reason--which, to my mind (and heart and soul), is downright criminal. Our leaders have become the world's laughingstocks, except that the joke isn't funny. Even conservative columnist George Will thinks that Cheney has become "clinical"--and whether George Will meant clinically deluded or clinically insane doesn't really matter. The point is, Dick Cheney, in maniacally urging support for this perverse war in his recent campaign appearances across the country, has lost all perspective. He's lost his marbles. He's lost his credibility. He's lost his humanity.

Americans have never truly been behind this war. Knowing that we would not support this "war of choice" if we knew the full truth going into it, President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld (and others) all conspired to mislead the public. They wormed and weaseled in trying to tie Saddam Hussein into the war on terrorism, and Americans initially went along with it. But that link has now been discredited many times over. Polls show that Americans are fed up with this war, both with the administration's gross incompetence in executing it and with the administration's official lies and shifting deceptions in rationalizing it.

Remember about a year ago when Bush tried to spin, repackage, and downgrade the Iraq War from being a momentous battleground in the Global War on Terrorism to being but a field exercise in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism? At the time, the administration wanted to deemphasize the purported link between the Iraq War and the War on Terror--because it wasn't working, it wasn't credible. So whatever happened to the supposedly new-and improved rhetoric about the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism? The Bush administration has flip-flopped back to the old saw about fighting terrorists in Iraq, fighting "them" over there instead of here, and so on. How gullible do they think we are? Or how obtuse and vicious and stupid are they?

In his press conference last week, President Bush said that he is ultimately accountable for the Iraq War. Does anyone seriously doubt that if he weren't at the helm, our troops would not now be mired in that fiasco? Does anyone seriously doubt that if he hadn't been insisting for so long on "staying the course," the rest of us would have figured out some agonizing but viable way to extricate our fighting forces from this senseless and costly quagmire? Bush clearly wants to claim (prematurely) the credit that history might someday confer upon his term as a "War President," as if his bumbling stubbornness might look Reaganesque to future generations. By the same token, however, he must bear the present and future responsibility for his wartime liabilities. I don't think the Iraq War is, or ever has been, America's War. In fact, let's stop calling it the Iraq War, or waste time quibbling about whether it is a Civil War, or an Occupation, or the War to Protect Future Civilization from Islamo-fascism. Let's call it what it is: Bush's War.

My sense is that historians will instead look back on this debacle and wonder, with some astonishment, how essentially one man's vision for war, Bush's War, could produce so many fellow travelers, complicit cheerleaders, co-conspirators, enablers, perpetrators, profiteers, and opportunists. As Thucydides opined regarding the failed policies of Pericles during the Peloponnesian War: "So, in what was nominally a democracy, power was really in the hands of the first citizen." We all know what happened to Athens as a result of that war. Eerily we might hear Bush's fateful slogan "Mission Accomplished" prefigured in Thucydides' retrospective on Athens' downfall: "So overwhelmingly great were the resources which Pericles had in mind at the time when he prophesied an easy victory for Athens over the Peloponnesians."