July 28, 2006

Iraq Ain't the Worst Mistake

The Iraq war was imprudent. Cheney read too much Bernard Lewis, who apparently has too generous a view of Islamic societies. We weren't liberators. Big mistake.

But the Native American holocaust was a much bigger mistake. The Spanish-American war and the Mexican war were arguably much bigger blots on our record. And yet the ironic thing is that this war is seen as intolerable sin; a co-worker says some scholars say Bush will go down as the worst president in US history. I think whatever error we incurred with respect to Iraq is pretty mild compared to some of the errors of our past, such as slavery. I'm completely at a loss at how this war for an arguably good principle (overthrow of a despot) is somehow more obscene than taking other people's lives for a baser principle (land, power, money). That doesn't make this mistake right but the lack of perspective is astonishing. I feel far more squeamish about our use of the nuclear bomb in WWII than enforcing the ceasefire conditions Hussein repeatedly broke.

Politically (or "pastorally"), the Administration can't admit it was a mistake because now we are committed and it would increase the pressure to pull out. To pull out now would be unfair to Iraq since "we broke it, we bought it", and it would become a terrorist state.

Post-9/11 it seems that there was no way this president was going to allow Hussein to set off chemical weapons on his watch. It was too predictable. Presidents aren't usually held accountable for what can't easily have been foreseen, but everyone knew Hussein was capable of anything, including the assassination of a former US President. He was a household name, and that counts a lot. For example, if Hussein had perpetrated 9/11, the fallout would've been much greater than the minor fallout Clinton has received for (mostly) ignoring bin Laden - precisely because most people hadn't heard of bin Laden before. You are responsible to the extent of your knowledge. Given the dismal state of our CIA it's doubtful Bush knew much beforehand. What he knew for sure was that Hussein wouldn't comply with the UN resolutions and threw the inspectors out. Common sense would tell you that Hussein had WMDs. But what common sense didn't tell us was that Hussein didn't fear us. The pampered West constantly warns us that the U.S. is the great danger, while at the same time Saddam sat in his palace thinking we were a paper tiger. Ironic, eh? You just can't make it up...

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