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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

Five Costly Years in Iraq

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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorize the United States to invade and occupy Iraq. The U.S. sent its armed forces into Iraq with the same moral authority as Saddam Hussein possessed when he invaded Kuwait. Secretary of State Colin Powell lied to the world about every detail concerning the cooked up pretext for the U.S. invasion. Michael Gordon, Judith Miller, William Kristol, David Brooks, Jim Lehrer, Wolf Blitzer, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff, and the entire American news media, save the McClatchey papers, were cheerleaders for this war. Michael Walzer called it a "just" war. The regime in Baghdad had no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, and nothing to do with 9-11. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Steven Cambone, Condoleezza Rice, and George Tenet and other top Bush Administration architects of the war told the American people at least 935 lies directly relating to the launch of this illegitimate, illegal, and immoral assault on a beleaguered, war-torn nation.

At the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal following World War Two, the crime of aggression was seen as the paramount crime because the attendant suffering resulted from the initial action of launching preemptive war. There is a "Bush Doctrine." It is nothing more than a self-justifying framework for unilateral American military aggression anywhere and at any time. The Iraq war was a centerpiece of fulfilling the Bush domestic agenda. It allowed the administration to scare the hell out of the American people, strip away civil liberties that were once considered sacrosanct in American law, run in the 2004 election as a "wartime" president, provided an excuse for the young lawyer, John Yoo, to codify in law what was essentially a military dictatorship, and gave Bush the opportunity to prance around on an aircraft carrier clad in a flight suit declaring "Mission Accomplished."

The boondoggle contracts thrown to Halliburton, KBR, Custer-Battles, Blackwater, Dyncorps, Triple Canopy, and hundreds of other profiteers lucky enough to be on Karl Rove's campaign donor list have made the most of this endeavor. The waste, fraud, incompetence, and corruption among Iraqi contractors make the graft projects of the worst Latin American dictatorships look efficient.

And what of the Iraqis? The last five years have been little more than suffering and death for them. The United Nations calls Iraq the biggest humanitarian disaster in the world today. Women suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, "explosively formed penatrators," car bombs, truck bombs, house bombs, and so on and on and on are now part of the normal tapestry of Iraqi life. On August 7, 2003, a truck bomb was detonated outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. It was the first time a vehicle packed with explosives had been used in Iraq. Consider the car bomb America's gift to the Iraqi people.

General David Petraeus will soon return to Washington and tell the American people that although there is much work that needs to be done in Iraq tangible progress is being made. When he is asked the now drearily inevitable question: Has there been enough progress to bring some of our soldiers home? The good general will answer: No, they must stay for another six months and then we will see. Since it's an election year, we might have a surprise token reduction in American troops to help John McCain. General Patreaus is what those in the military during the Vietnam War called a "ticket puncher." He is only concerned about his own personal advancement. He's jockeying to become McCain's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or maybe Secretary of Defense, or maybe even his running mate. Patreaus is no patriot. He represents the worst the American military has to offer: the thoroughly politicized general who will spin reality to assist those who can best help his career in Washington. I have no doubt that if Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, or Omar Bradley were around today they would despise a general like Patreaus.

In his new book, "Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq," the journalist for the British Guardian, Jonathan Steele, writes: "The history of empires shows that as long as foreigners try to retain overall control each side [in a civil war] will appeal for help against the other. If the foreigners tilt one way, the community that falls out of favor will blackmail or intimidate them to tilt the other way. An occupation quickly becomes a distorting factor. It impedes the natural progress of a society emerging from dictatorship and prevents 'normal' politics. Outsiders may try to 'hold the ring' for a time, but this only suppresses problems without resolving them. The only solution is to end the occupation quickly and have the foreigners leave." (p. 202)

Steele argues convincingly that "since being in Iraq was the original mistake" there is "no evidence that staying longer would make things better rather than compounding the original mistake." (p. 252)

"The United States," Steele concludes, "has not lost a military battle but after . . . five costly years it has failed to win, and will go on failing to win, what has become an increasingly bloody war of attrition." (p. 254)