Anyone who puts on a uniform and serves in our military, particularly those who volunteer, are to be highly commended. Those who actually go into combat are owed a huge debt of gratitude from those of us who never put on a uniform much less risk our life in battle. Those who suffer wounds, particularly those who lose limbs or suffer severe burns or psychological problems are owed the best treatment modern medicine can provide with no strings attached. Those who die in combat for our country are owed a debt we cannot pay, but it seems fair that their families get far more than a folded flag and a form letter from the President. Many of our soldiers have endured repeated tours in Iraq since March 20, 2003, partly due to the relatively small size of our army, but mostly due to an open-ended mission with ever changing objectives. Our soldiers have performed well under unusual combat conditions, and obeyed their orders from the Pentagon and the White House even when those orders seem to have caused more harm than good; and most soldiers say they are willing to stay there until the job is finished, which is even more amazing! Now if we just knew for certain what that job is.
Everybody remembers when Mr. Bush took a ride with a Navy pilot in a jet and rode it onto that aircraft carrier after the Iraqi soldiers quit and went home, and then stood in front of that banner which said, "Mission Accomplished." But few people seem to remember that on September 18, 2003 Mr. Bush stood in front of TV cameras and admitted that they could find no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9-11 attack. Not long after that it was determined to everyone's satisfaction but the Bush administration that there had been no WMD prior to our March 19, 2003 invasion. Then the mission began changing over and over to find one the American people would accept. Supposedly it is now our mission to secure a democratic government even though we are not imposing democracy on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or even the Kingdom of Kuwait!
That lack of WMD in Iraq should have been no surprise to anyone. It wasn't to me and I have copies of e-mails, unlike the Bush administration which seems to lose such things worse than the Clintons did, that show before we invaded that I did not buy their claims of biological and chemical weapons and even potential mushroom clouds. All that anyone had to know before we invaded to know that Bush and his administration were lying was two obvious facts. First, if they truly believed that Saddam had huge quantities of WMD and would use them on us here without provocation why would they mass 130,000 of our troops right across Iraq's border inside Kuwait where they would have been sitting ducks for those weapons? And secondly, when active and retired generals complained that 130,000 of our troops were not enough to maintain security after Iraq's army was defeated, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told them to shut up because it would be a "cake
walk." John McCain, who was also fooled by Bush's lies, agreed that the operation would be quick and easy. So much for his vaunted "experience." But how would it be a "cake walk" if Saddam could rain WMD on our troops from Kuwait to Baghdad? The answer is simple, they knew before the invasion there was no such risk.
Oh, but many of you say, "The Democrats also voted for the October 2002 resolution," the one authorizing Bush to use whatever force he deemed necessary against Saddam. Indeed, to play it safe some, like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for it, but the resolution did not order Bush to attack on any date! It only said that he could use whatever force he deemed necessary, and Bush knew what Congress didn't know - it was not necessary. In addition to this seldom mentioned fact, over 100 Democrats in the House and 23 in the Senate voted NOT to give Bush that authorization, and John Kerry and John Edwards later admitted it was a huge mistake.
Now Bush, Cheney, John McCain and his supporters say we cannot leave Iraq until we have victory. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but our army defeated Iraq's army in short order, and with the help of the weapons inspectors, determined that while there were hundreds of tons of conventional weapons, there were no WMD anywhere. None. Then Iraq's government went into hiding and not long after that Saddam himself was captured. For several weeks after Iraq's army quit and went to their homes there was little or no armed resistance. That looked like victory to me compared to any other war in history. Our soldiers had won the war.
But since Bush and his administration never intended to leave Iraq, regardless of their sales pitch - "Operation Iraqi Freedom," they began the first surge. Everyone talks about the "surge" in 2007 and claim great success for it, but it was not the first surge in Iraq. The first surge began shortly after our army had defeated Iraq's and there was relative peace and quiet. Bush had his appointee Paul Bremmer disband Iraq's army without further pay, sent in thousands of Blackwater hired guns for "security", and thousands of American and foreign contract construction workers.
The problem being that those workers were not there to rebuild what we had destroyed in Iraq since the start of the 1991 Gulf War, but were there to build 55 bases for our military and a fortress of an embassy. Why do you think that after 5 years Iraq's electricity production and distribution and water system is no better than it is? Plus, Bush had our soldiers guard the oil wells and the oil ministry building while looters sacked their own country unimpeded in 2003. All of those Iraqi soldiers who were sent home without pay, and all of those unemployed Iraqi construction workers saw that we were preparing for a long uninvited occupation of their country and their own workers for the most part were being cut out of the construction contracts. That is when the insurgency began and the occupation was doomed to go on indefinitely.
Then after a few attacks on our troops Bush claimed it was Al Qaeda, who had not been in Iraq before we invaded, and he declared again that Iraq was the central front in the "war on terror" even though Osama bin Laden was based in Afghanistan and had been allowed to escape into Pakistan. Bush then said on TV, regarding the Iraqi resistance fighters who were falsely labeled Al Qaeda fighters, "bring them on," and then real foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere began to oblige him and our soldiers paid the price for his arrogance. They never did explain where all those "foreign Al Qaeda fighters" slept at night or got their weapons, meals, or medical treatment since they would have stood out to the native Iraqis like Yankees stand out to Southerners, especially since we were told repeatedly that the Iraqi people were glad we were there and wanted us to protect them from Al Qaeda and the insurgents.
Then, to make it more difficult for Congress to put an end to Bush's personal crusade, Bush ordered the second surge in early 2007. The second surge did prove one thing - all those generals who said before the invasion that 130,000 U.S. troops were not enough to do the job properly were right. More troops in Baghdad did reduce the number of attacks in Baghdad. But if the second surge is such a reported "success", why is Bush sending even more troops to Iraq that are more badly needed in Afghanistan? If the second surge is such a success, why has violence in Iraq increased lately and why are we not pulling out large numbers of our troops as is every other country in the "Coalition of the Willing"?
The bottom line is, the Iraq invasion was the wrong mission for our troops. It turned most of the world against us, and even most of the people in the countries which sent small numbers of troops. It made recruitment by Al Qaeda much easier as the attacks in England, Spain, and Bali have shown. It started the rise in the price of crude oil due to the uncertainty of oil getting out of the Middle East. It prevented the completion of the mission in Afghanistan - the real central front in the so-called "war on terror." It divided our country more than at any time since our Civil War. And it cost over 4000 of our soldiers their life, 3000 or more the loss of one or more limbs, 30,000 or more other serious wounds, and 100,000 or more soldiers with lasting brain injuries from concussions caused by IEDs.
And if all of the loss mentioned above is not enough, Bush's invasion of Iraq helped wreck the federal budget, waste resources that could have been used to build badly needed infrastructure in our country, and it helped bring the economy down and reduced the value of the dollar due to the fact that every penny of the $680 billion allocated so far has been borrowed. The Congressional Budget office estimates that when all costs associated with Iraq are considered the actual cost will be $2.5 trillion. Others say the total cost will exceed $3 trillion if it is ended sometime soon. Bush and McCain say that we cannot leave Iraq now because the military (and themselves) will not be able to claim victory; we will lose they say. What they can't seem to see is that we have lost so much more by being there that what they call "victory" cannot make up for it.
Every poll of the Iraqi people that I have seen since sometime in late 2003 said that a majority of Iraqis wanted us to leave, and a majority of that majority said the sooner the better. Even now the Iraqi government wants a timeline for complete withdrawal, but Bush is sending even more of our troops instead like a spoiled teenager who cannot accept "no, you cannot do that." Indeed, we do owe the Iraqi people far more reconstruction help than we have done so far, and protection from foreign invaders, but we can do that with a tiny fraction of the soldiers we have there now, and prove to them at long last that this really is "Operation Iraqi Freedom"!