Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Remembering the Invasion of Iraq, Ten Years Later

On March 19, 2003, US forces launched Bush's invasion of Iraq, to my mind the most horrific blunder made by America since we sent troops to Vietnam. It isn't really time for this anniversary retrospective, but everyone else seems to be going ahead, so if I wait for the 19th everyone will be bored with the topic.

It is hard for me even to remember what those awful days were like for me, and the anger I felt. So let me reprint some of what I wrote in the run-up to the invasion:
Thoughts on War and Alienation, September 21, 2002

No political event of my lifetime has ever made me angrier or sadder than the impending US attack on Iraq. I am angry because I think it is a terrible mistake, and sad because the more I think about it the more completely divorced I feel from the majority of my countrymen. Not only do I think it is a terrible idea, I cannot imagine why anyone thinks it is a good idea. It would be a moral outrage, a political blunder, and a horrible precedent that will lead to a more violent, more dangerous world. Yet my President supports it, the Congress, Democrats included, is poised to endorse it, pundits and newspaper editors speak constantly in its favor. I feel like a character in a Twilight Zone episode, surrounded by normal-looking people who have all gone completely insane. . . .
And after it began:
The Principle of Violence Prevails, April 1, 2003

When George W. Bush brought Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and other hawks into his administration, I knew we were in for trouble. I didn't know which trouble, but I knew that we had a critical mass of men in Washington whose minds are given over to violence, and I knew they would lead us into war somewhere. Now they have.

War is raging in Iraq, and the flag-waving authoritarian patriots are calling on all Americans to get in line and "support the troops." I won't. I opposed this war before it started and I intend to continue speaking out against it while it rages and after it is over. . . .

I have no doubt that we can drive an armored regiment into Baghdad and seize whatever piles of rubble we have decided mark the center of the city. We can destroy the Republican Guard, knock out every Iraqi tank. But what then? Bush seems to think that this is a big game of Capture the Flag, and that as soon as we reach Baghdad and say "We win!" all the Iraqis will lay down their arms and go home. But what if they don't?  What if the militias go on fighting forever, transforming themselves into underground terrorist groups, sending waves of suicide bombers against US soldiers and any Iraqis who step forward as our allies?  How long are we going to stay in Iraq, losing men every day while the country continues to fall apart around us?
Reading over my words, I feel the despair that took over my mind at the time. I feared that the world was entering a new era of war, and America an era of dominance by lying thugs.

And how do I feel now?

Relieved, mainly. I feel relieved that the madness that took over America after 9-11 is fading, and that Americans show no real interest in being led into a worldwide neocon crusade. I feel relieved that things did not go much worse than they did -- after all, we are out of Iraq, and we left behind a semi-functioning government. I feel relieved to have a President who is skeptical of war and opposed to torture. I feel relieved  to see American politics fall back into squabbles about Medicare and the budget. I do not have the sense that the people are enough opposed to war to stop an attack on Iran if the President ordered one, but certainly there is no groundswell of support for more war. In the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian nightmare festers on, but otherwise things are actually looking better.

At least a hundred thousand people died in Iraq as a result of Bush's war, perhaps many more. But for the rest of us, life goes on.

1 comment:

Keith Rancourt said...

Bush sending America to war in Iraq after 9/11 made about as much sense as if F.D.R. invaded Antarctica after Pearl Harbor.