Thoughts on this and that

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I hope everyone took a moment on Tuesday to honor the nation’s veterans for their sacrifices for freedom, liberty, democracy, and this great nation. The War in Iraq should be a catalyst for remembrances, especially with the rising death toll as our soldiers attempt to do a job that the Bush administration has yet to coherently define.

President Bush summoned the U.S.’s top man in Iraq, Paul Bremer, to the White House for &uot;urgent&uot; talks this week about speeding up the process of democratizing Iraq. The White House believes the hand-picked (by the Bush administration) Iraqi Governing Council is dragging its feet.

Let’s see, even the Iraqis that supported the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein from power want us out of the country. As a matter of fact, there aren’t very many Iraqis that do want us there, so why would the governing council be dragging its feet on creating a constitution and creating a democratic system of government?

Could it be a foreign concept to them? Might it be, since there are no Arab democracies, that the idea of every citizen having an equal vote in all governmental matters baffles and befuddles this Council? Nah, it must be something else. Maybe the Council is dragging its feet because it knows that as soon as the Americans pull out they will be swept aside (probably tortured and killed) by the Islamic fundamentalists that not only make up the majority in Iraq, but were also the primary targets for Saddam’s most brutal and murderous crackdowns.

As near as I can figure, President Bush and his advisors thought they would defeat the Iraqi army, establish a puppet government, and leave Iraq within a few weeks or months. When our military pulled out, behind them would be a pseudo-democratic government that would take orders from Washington and a happy Iraqi populace that loved that Bush because he freed them from tyranny and gave them freedom.

What a nice dream. What a load of…Shinola.

I’m willing to go out a limb and make a prediction. Democracy in Iraq will fail. It will fail for a variety of reasons – regional history, factional infighting, tribal loyalties, religious heritage, etc. – but one of those reasons is because the United States had no coherent plan for anything after winning the war except utilizing administration-connected corporations to get huge contracts for rebuilding and for getting oil production back up and running (spearheaded by those same corporations).

Well, Bush’s friends in the corporate world did get the contracts – one charging the U.S. $2.65 for a gallon of gas that U.S. force could provide for itself for about $1.15 – but those pesky terrorists keep blowing up the oil pipelines needed to get oil production back up and running. Oh, almost forgot, apparently nobody in the Bush administration knew that the entire infrastructure of Iraq had been held together by bailing wire since the first Gulf War and that an effective bombing campaign by the U.S. military would utterly demolish what actually did work.

Nation building sure is a tricky business.

But my predictions aren’t finished yet. Not only do I foresee a failure for making Iraq a democratic nation, I can almost tell you what will happen. There are three options, as I see it:

1. A regime that is every bit as brutal, repressive and dictatorial as Saddam Hussein’s was will come to power the moment the United States military leaves Iraq. The most likely scenario is that Iraq will become an Islamic state; a theocracy that limits freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and, heck, just about all the freedoms and liberties we take for granted here and that our men and women in uniform have fought so hard to preserve.

2. With the instability in Iraq so pronounced, I think a more likely scenario is that Iraq will fall into civil war as soon as the U.S. leaves. I’m no expert on Iraq, but there are three powerful forces vying for autonomy: Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Kurds. I don’t believe the idea of democracy – which involves compromising what you want for the good of all – is strong enough in either of these groups to allow for peaceful coexistence in a government that recognizes the inherent worth of each individual, regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. In other words, they’ll fall to fighting as soon as they get the chance (translation: civil war will erupt when the U.S. military is no longer standing between them).

3. A much less likely option is that the three factions will voluntarily divide Iraq into three nations – the north ceded to the Kurds, the middle to the Sunnis and the south to the Shias – in a split similar to that which occurred when India won independence from England. (For those keeping score on that, India and Pakistan are now bitter enemies, constantly waging limited war with one another, and both now possessing nuclear weapons and the sophisticated missiles to deliver them.)

It may be several years before I’ll find out if my predictions come true. As things now stand, I can’t predict when the United States will be able to extricate itself for this mess. Frankly, I do believe that as long as President Bush is calling the shots, we are indeed, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said recently, &uot;in for a long, hard slog&uot;.

Meanwhile, because of this ill-conceived and totally unnecessary war (in terms of U.S. security) and because of poor planning and incredible stupidity by the Bush administration regarding its aftermath, the brave men and women of our armed forces will continue to be the targets of foreign terrorists, Saddam loyalists, religious fanatics and, yes (though the terminology may shock you), Iraqi freedom fighters.

War costs lives. I understand that and accept it when the cause is just. We did the right thing when we freed Kuwait with the assistance of the United Nations in the first Gulf War. We did the right thing when we invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Quada and unseat the Taliban. But Bush was wrong to go to war with Iraq and now our sons and daughters are paying a very high price for his stubborn refusal to listen to our allies.

The lives being lost in Iraq are every bit as precious as those lost in Afghanistan in 2001, in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991, in Vietnam in the ’60s and ’70s, in Korea in the ’50s, in the Pacific, Europe and Africa in the ’40s, and in all the smaller conflicts, peacekeeping missions and actions between.

I pay tribute to our military every day. I mourn along with the families of the fallen and I respect, admire and honor all the men and women serving in the armed forces. Their sacrifices, bravery and honor are beyond reproach.

What galls me is that they should not be risking their lives in Iraq right now and they should not be dying in Iraq right now. Those who believe we must support our president in time of war, regardless of the reasons we are at war, should be made aware that this is a political war. No, no. It’s not political because the Democratic candidates for president have politicized it. It is political because this war was started so Bush could stand tall as the tough, righteous leader of the free world going into the 2004 election year. I don’t think he’s tough, righteous, or a good leader because people are dying that need not have died and those who have sworn to defend liberty with their lives have been treated like cheap, disposable pawns.

It makes me mad.