Cindy Sheehan asked the seminal question about the war in Iraq. "What did my son die for?" In her new book, Condoleezza Rice says the war was the spark that ignited the uprising known as the "Arab Spring". By invading Iraq, the United States inspired freedom-loving Arabs to rise up against their oppressors following the example of the United States removing Saddam Hussein. Rice is whistling past the graveyard of history. Along with her boss, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet, the Bush national security team is trying to re-write history in their favor and they are doomed to failure.
With President Obama's announcement all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, our long national nightmare is over. There is no metric currently available that would contradict the conclusion this war, and to a great extent the war in Afghanistan, was a complete failure. The butcher's bill is striking in its scope. Almost 4,500 dead soldiers, over $1 Trillion spent, as many as 100,000 wounded physically and untold hundreds of thousands wounded mentally, as many as 1,000,000 Iraqis dead or wounded or fled from the nation, a military machine which is severely broken (perhaps irreparably), and a nation left in tatters and ready to explode again. All of this the result of a concerted campaign of lies perpetrated by the White House, with the corporate media's assistance, to convince the American people to support a foreign policy not in its own best interest. (Oh and don't forget a feckless Congress including Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and John Kerry, who voted to give Bush permission to go to war).
As the last troops exit, what do they leave behind as a testament to their blood and lives sacrificed in this glorious effort? Iraq's infrastructure is still dysfunctional. The government cannot provide electricity for 24 hours a day. Clean water is iffy if available at all. The three warring parties, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, are still at each other's throats. There is no oil revenue sharing legislation. The Kurds in the north don't recognize the power of the central government. Attacks between Shiite and Sunni are on the rise. Prime Minister Malicki is trying to violently purge Sunni's from the government. No one believes Iraq's army or security forces can keep the peace and Sunnis don't trust them and fear them. After 9 years, and the loss of so much blood and treasure, Iraq is on life-support and the patient appears to be coding.
Geopolitically, the situation is even worse. Iran, which was a minor player in the region when Saddam was in power, is now the dominant force. Malicki is seen to be courting Iran and its influence on Iraq is growing. In an act of unbridled hypocrisy, regressives criticize Obama for bringing the troops home citing the increasing influence of Iran. The same hawks who said Iraqis should be free, should be a democracy, should control their own fate and used young Americans as cannon fodder to accomplish their goal, are now getting the vapors at the thought of an Iraqi government with close ties to Iran. America went to war with Iraq and Iran won. (These same hawks are now pressing for a military attack on Iran...it never ends)
Turkey recently invaded Iraq to attack the bases of Kurdish separatists who demand an independent nation in Turkey and are engaged in a series of cross border attacks killing Turkish soldiers. The ongoing conflict could turn into open warfare if not contained. Turkey is a NATO ally and which side will we be on if hostilities break out? Iraq seems incapable of addressing the situation. The war in Iraq has de-stabilized the region to the detriment of United States' national security interests and goals.
We now know, the war in Iraq is a direct cause of the disaster that is Afghanistan. The Bush administration diverted valuable resources from Afghanistan to prepare to invade Iraq. At a time when the Taliban and Al Qaeda were on the run, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar trapped in Tora Bora, the country's fate up for grabs, Iraq dominated Bush's attention and Afghanistan slipped into an abyss of inattentiveness and apathy. (My favorite example is the decision to move some elite special force units, who spoke Farsi and Arabic, to Iraq and replace them with troops who spoke Spanish)
Anyway you measure, Iraq is a tragic and unnecessary failure. The military planning was inadequate and intelligence non-existent. Bush's senior staff didn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. General Tommy Franks thought troops would be coming home in less than six months. The dissolution of the Iraqi army, failure to secure arms depots, de-Bathification of the government and failure to have enough troops to control security on the ground, led to a bloody civil war with American soldiers in the middle.
We all know the lies by now. We knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. What's worse, we know Bush knew it too. In October of 2002, the CIA station chief in Europe reported this news to the administration. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported the same thing. U.N. weapons inspectors, who had removed or destroyed all of Saddam's WMD's in the 90's, reported that fact. Scott Ritter, one of those inspectors, told anyone who would listen there were no WMDs. He was pilloried by the White House and derided by the corporate media. We now know the White House invented the WMD strategy to sell the war. Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair it was the only story they could think of to get the American people on board. Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neil wrote at the first cabinet meeting of the Bush administration, Iraq was on the agenda. The Downing Street memos show the decision to go to war was made as early as June of 2002. As the memo stated,"...the Bush administration says it just has to cook the books to move the policy forward." We know every assertion made by Colin Powell in his famous speech to the U.N., a speech Chris Mathews proclaimed made us all believers now in the war, was a lie. Powell has never recovered his reputation from that ignominious performance.
Rice et.al. can try to revise history if they like. Maybe it helps her sleep better and not have to confront the blood on her hands, but history will conclude, the decision to go to war in Iraq was a disaster and the policy a failure which the U.S. may never recover from.
Ms. Sheehan, your son died for nothing except to advance a foreign policy, which left the United States broken and weaker economically and spiritually, and which continues to take the lives of young Americans to this day.