In clearing off my desk this day after Christmas I came across a note I had made to myself on a napkin some two weeks ago while watching MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show. I recall thinking at the time that her commentary on the imminent ending of the Iraq War and an associated interview was as remarkable and cogent as any CBS 60 Minutes segment. Here at home, amid the holiday activity, it sure doesn’t feel like the end of a war to me. No ticker tape parades, no celebrations at all really. I wonder, is it just me in thinking how odd this is? My impression is of a war that required no personal civilian sacrifice and which just might be completely un-recallable by young people soon to come of age.
The end of that has come and the troops have come home. So, I now ask in the context of that war, what did we cause to happen and what did we learn? If you stop a few citizens in the street and ask them those questions off the top of their heads, what would they say? Here’s what I would say.
It started with a shock and awe assault that demonstrated to the entire world on real-time satellite TV the incredible high-tech power possessed by the greatest military force in the world. And then came the aftermath, completely predictable and completely unprepared-for, and because of that the Iraq War was worse than wasted. We didn’t find any WMD’s. We didn’t find al Qaeda. We toppled a brutal dictator and his sons and at the cost of some one million human deaths, including 4,404 U.S. military deaths. We forced the three warring religious factions of the country to enact a constitution and form a semblance of a democracy in the tumultuous Middle East. The war we started destroyed the country’s infrastructure. They still only have a few hours of electricity a day. Not only are the Iraq people not grateful to us, many actually hate us for doing what we did. They are pumping oil once again, especially in the Kurdistan north. I heard on the evening news last night that the Suni minority, possibly now linked with al Qaeda, were behind numerous suicide bombings all over Baghdad, and that PM Maliki had arrested a high-ranking Suni politician in the government. Our combat troops has been out of the country only a week and that so-called democracy is already crumbling.
What the whole thing seems like to me was an extremely painful and expensive lesson in how nation-building does not work. Some in the Republican party (like John McCain of all people!) think that after almost 9 years we left too soon, that we should have stayed to keep propping the Iraqi government up with no end in sight! That just astounds me. This was a lesson we should have learned long ago. We should have learned it from Vietnam, another ignominious adventure in warfare, but we didn’t. One of the statements made by Rachel’s interviewee, one Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, USA (Ret.) and former C. of Staff for Sec. State Colin Powell, also astounded me. He said that Bush II’s original planning included the possibility of taking over Syria and Iran after Iraq.
I’ve been a little worried about myself lately, politically speaking that is. I have usually voted Republican during my lifetime, but since I began blogging almost two years ago, and paying more attention to politics, actually, I have found myself drifting leftward. Or, another possibility, the party drifted further rightward, something I prefer to believe. During Vietnam I detested protesters as unpatriotic. I thought George McGovern was a traitor and the GOP was the party of patriots. Those were simpler times, times when I was confident that our leaders knew what they were doing. In so many ways, they didn’t.
Am I alone in thinking these thoughts? Well, there are at least a few others who are with me, and Col. Wilkerson, a disillusioned Republican, is one of them. Please watch the 7-minute video below and then reflect on the 8 questions that The Powell Doctrine states must all be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States. And then, please, compare to the statements coming out of the GOP candidate debates.
America can’t seem to learn this lesson, and I fear this video will become historically prophetic.