U.S. forces are out of Iraq. We should never have been there, and it ain’t over yet.
After 9/11, I oversaw a retraining program for my agency to redirect them toward anti-terrorism. In preparation, I read a few books about al-Qaeda and terrorism. I don't claim expertise, only a little study. But, I told people in the classes I taught that Iraq was not the enemy. Saddam Hussein was a nasty dictator, but not suicidal. He would not attack us. He also knew that al-Qaeda’s top two concerns were 1) to get Western influence out of the Middle East, and 2) to overthrow secular leaders in Muslim countries and install theocracies like Iran. Saddam would not give powerful weapons to al-Qaeda for fear that they would be used against him. Many, if not most, of my colleagues believed President Bush’s accusations. A West Point graduate even argued with me. I told him that as the war stretched on and American casualties accumulated, the people would turn against the war. He dismissed me a deluded liberal. The war would be over in a few weeks. I wonder if he recalls that conversation now.
I just saw the movie, Fair Game which is about those early pre-war days, and how hard the Bush Administration fought against those who challenged their views. The right learned nothing from Vietnam.
Saddam Hussein, like Muammar Gaddafi and the Iranian Ayatollahs, did sponsor terrorist activities here and there, but nothing big enough to prompt an invasion. The world is a better place without him. Whether getting rid of him was worth a half million Iraqi lives and 4,500 Americans is another question.
Some commentators worry that Iraq will dissolve in civil war. It might, but I don’t believe it will happen in the near future. A few bombs, but no armed uprising. The primary aftermath, as far as we are concerned, will be taking care of the men and women who served, those who returned with disabilities, and the widows and orphans of those who died. For at least the next fifty years the government—you and I—will be paying for the wounds of that war just as we have for all of the others.
Did you see that the last combat veteran of the First World War died this past year? I’m sure that there are still a handful of widows and maybe some dependent children who continue to receive benefits. That’s how long a war takes.
And, before we get involved in another—after Afghanistan—Congress needs to set aside a century’s amount of benefits. That should be a requirement. Budget for that before a single boot steps into combat. Make the Administration that agitates for war pay for it up front. Maybe then they will think twice.