What a difference a few months can make.
At the end of April 2003, just four months ago, Donald Rumsfeld was in the Qatar headquarters of General Tommy Franks, effusively comparing the US victory in Iraq to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Paris.
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War and a reuniting of East and West, and the people of Paris actually welcomed the Allied forces as liberators from the Nazis in World War II. In neither case was it necessary for American forces to remain as an occupying force; in neither case did the US government have its eyes on the oil.
As Rumsfeld savored US military dominance over the far inferior Iraqi forces, he triumphantly crowed, “Never have so many been so wrong about so much.” He was presumably referring to the “many” who doubted American military tactics in the war, not those who thought the war was immoral, illegal and unnecessary.
It was clearly a day of jubilation for Rumsfeld and he was enjoying trumpeting to the world that he had been right all along.
A few days later, a triumphant George W. Bush, dressed up like a combat pilot, was flown some thirty miles off the California coast to the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Bush announced to the assembled troops on the carrier that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.
Bush said: “With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians.” He did not mention that approximately twice as many innocent civilians died in the Iraq War as had died on September 11th. Nor did not mention the Iraqi children who had lost arms and legs and parents as a result of the war, and would carry their injuries through their lives.
The president, looking to all the world like the military hero he was not, continued: “No device of man can remove the tragedy from war.” He did not say, presumably because he did not think, that with wisdom the tragedy of war might be prevented. Nor did he say that, in the case of this war, it was initiated illegally without UN authorization based on arguments by him and his administration to the American people that the Iraqi regime posed the threat of imminent use of weapons of mass destruction.
The combat pilot impersonator went on, “Yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.” He might have added that this is especially true when it is he and his colleagues, and them alone, who decide who is guilty and who is innocent.
As the television cameras rolled on, Bush said, “The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on.” Four months out his perspective on victory is questionable, and there remains no established link between the regime of Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists. He was also wrong to conclude that the “battle of Iraq” was a victory or had ended.
While an action doll of Bush in military garb is being marketed across the country, almost daily young Americans in the occupation force are being killed in what now appears to be an on-going war of liberation from the Americans.
Saboteurs are blowing up and setting fire to oil pipelines, disrupting water supplies, and attacking UN relief workers. US occupation forces appear helpless to stop the new terrorists that have been created as a result of this war.
The former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, had argued for a far larger occupying force in Iraq. Rumsfeld overruled him, concluding that a larger force wasn’t needed. It now appears that General Shinseki was right and Rumsfeld was wrong.
The weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration alluded to in order to frighten the American people and justify the war have not been found, despite our being told by Cheney that he knew where they were located.
Four months after Rumsfeld crowed about the liberation of Paris and Bush declared an end to the major combat phase of the war, there is a deadly continuing war of attrition against US and British troops in Iraq. America, far from being hailed as a liberator, has created even more enemies in the Middle East and terrorists seem to be growing in numbers and boldness.
Paraphrasing Rumsfeld, who himself was paraphrasing Churchill, it might be said: “Never have so few been so wrong about so much.” Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz are the leaders of the militant and shortsighted few. There has been no victory in Iraq, and under the circumstances victory is not possible. We now need a public dialogue on how best to extract ourselves from the perilous situation these men have created before we become ensnared in an oil-driven equivalent of the Vietnam War.
The starting point for ending this peril is to awaken the American people by a full and open Congressional investigation of the misrepresentations by the Bush administration regarding Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for the war. In Britain, the misrepresentations of the Blair government are being vigorously investigated by Parliament, but in the US an investigation of the Bush administration is being blocked by Congressional Republicans. What is needed is an investigation as rigorous as that being pursued in Britain.
Additionally, as an intermediate step to transferring full administrative authority to the Iraqi people, the United States and Coalition Forces should move immediately to turn over authority for the administration of Iraq to the United Nations. Such a recommendation assumes, perhaps too readily, that the UN would be willing to accept this role and would be able to act with sufficient independence of Washington. By entrusting the future of Iraq to the UN, the United States would make clear that it is not administering Iraq in order to dictate the political future of the country or to enrich US-led corporations with ties to the Bush administration. It would also allow for sharing the security burden in Iraq and make possible the earlier return of the US troops presently in Iraq.
*David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003).