In the midst of the jubilation that greeted the downfall of Saddam Hussein (or at least of his statue) and the smug triumphalism that enveloped Washington as U.S. troops marched through the Iraqi capital, Americans might be well advised to sober up and take a harder look at what their government has already done and what it may soon do—in Syria, Iran or other countries that the war party is already itching to clobber.
The war party, of course, is composed of American Likudniks in the Bush administration and neo-conservative media, as well as a good many citizens who can’t spell Likudnik but are inclined to confuse chest-thumping about military victories over third-rate Third-World armies with real patriotism.
After spreading what apparently were just plain lies about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”—not a one of which has yet surfaced either in combat or afterwards—the armchair warriors are now claiming that Iraq has been “liberated.”
Certainly the brutal rule of a tyrant, Saddam Hussein, has ended, but even if he had possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, could the carnage have been any greater than what we have already inflicted on Iraq? The New York Times last week reported that the “Number of Iraqis Killed May Never Be Determined,” as its headline read. In Basra alone, local hospitals report handling “between 1,000 and 2,000 corpses in three weeks of war.” A Marine officer reported that the Baghdad Division of the Iraqi army was reduced to “zero percent fighting strength.” That means, presumably, it was wiped out—some 10,000 soldiers. Those are just combat deaths. There are also deaths from bombing and artillery, and not all are dead, merely crippled for life.
What was the purpose of unleashing this kind of savagery against a country that had never attacked the United States or harmed any American? “The principal reason for going after Hussein,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the administration’s Likudnik in Chief and probably the main architect of the war, told the Washington Postlast week, “was the direct threat the Iraqi leader posed to U.S. national security through his possession of weapons of mass destruction.”
What “threat”? When did Saddam ever utter any such threat? And what weapons? This weekend, Iraqi general and chief scientist Amir Saadi said after surrendering that Iraq has no such weapons, which is what he said before the war. Maybe there are some even he doesn’t know about, but there’s no trace of them so far, and why didn’t Hussein use them against U.S. forces in his last stand, to save his life or his power? If he was unwilling to unleash mass destruction against an invading army, why would he have wielded it against this country?
If blowing up private homes and wiping out entire families of civilians, along with slaughtering thousands of Iraqis, was part of the price of “liberation,” it’s not clear the war was worth it. As for the “democracy” that has supposedly descended upon Iraq, what we mainly saw last week was the triumph of the mob, looting whatever it could steal from crushed government offices or helpless civilians, coupled with the massacre of a Shiite leader whom the mob didn’t care for.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, in yet another administration untruth, unbosomed the absurdity that it was all the news media’s fault and the looting was just “the same picture, of some person walking out of some building with a vase.” What moon of Neptune is this man living on? Did it occur to no one involved in the year-long planning of this war that an invasion intended to “destroy the Iraqi government” would leave the country in chaos unless another government was immediately installed?
Democracy or what travels by that name in the West triumphed because Western man conceived of it, fought for it and built it—not because an invading army gave it to him. We’ll see how long “democracy” lasts in Iraq, even aside from the military dictatorship that we will now at least temporarily install there.
Finally there are the suicide bombings that have already started in Iraq and may soon start here. Four Marines were wounded by one last week, but they were not the first. The week before, two Iraqi women killed three U.S. soldiers in western Iraq with a suicide bomb. On March 29, a cab driver blew up his vehicle and killed himself and four American troops. They won’t be the last.
Americans need to ask themselves now, while the war party is only slobbering about going on to wage similar wars against Syria and Iran and other enemies of Israel in the region, what we really accomplished in Iraq and why it was worth accomplishing at all. If you ever find out, please let me know.