Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq War: Worth the Cost?

Bush defends Iraq war on five-year anniversary

Five years ago today, the first American and British bombs began to fall on Iraqi targets, as the two states launched a war that has, to many, become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the state of global affairs today.

Despite numerous "mission accomplished" pronouncements and promises of victory, the War in Iraq continues today, five years after what was supposed to be a quick war with coalition troops being greeted as liberators.

Five years later, the reality is very different.

"The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated," US president George W Bush admitted in a wednesday morning speech. "But it is a fight we must win."

Bush noted some of the most recent successes in Iraq and attributed them to the recent 30,000 troop surge in the country. "On this anniversary the American people should know that since the surge began, the level of violence is significantly down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down, attacks on American forces are down and U.S. forces have captured or killed thousands of extremists including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives," Bush said. "The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around; it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," he announced, but noted that these successes still need to be solidified. "We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast — the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage."

Yet Bush continued to demonstrate his ability to miss the point and his inability to concede that the American presence in Iraq has actually created more problems than it's solved.

"War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq, so now they argue the war costs too much. In recent months, we have heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war," he continued. "No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq."

But one has to seriously ask themselves whether American intervention in Iraq has prevented terrorists gaining the strategic victory he's alluded to, or actually opened the door for them.

The history of the Iraq war has been repeated ad nauseum, and so needs not be reiterated again here. But the question simply must be asked that, given that Iraq clearly had no weapons of mass destruction to distribute to terrorists (alhtough evidence clearly indicates they were trying to acquire them), and given that there were no credible links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida (Osama Bin Laden regarded Hussein as a socialist and unbeliever).

Certainly, as Bush noted today, Hussein was paying out Iraqi oil money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Putting a stop to that at least takes some of the incentive away from those who would otherwise be more than content to strap a few pounds of dynamite to their torso in the name of profitably killing Israelis.

"Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win. The men and women who crossed into Iraq five years ago removed a tyrant, liberated a country and rescued millions from unspeakable horrors," Bush insisted. And he's right about this.

There is value inherent in having removed Saddam Hussein from power. The international community has no business allowing any dictator who uses chemical weapons against his own country's population to continue to govern.

But the United States, in its mismanagement of a war that, considering the priorities of the day (the war on terror) it had no business launching in the first place, has made quite a mess in Iraq. Whether those who are opposed to the continued presence of US troops in Iraq like it or not, they have a responsibility to clean it up.

It has a responsibility to ensure that peace and stability reign supreme in Iraq. They have a responsibility to ensure that individuals as bad as Saddam Hussein or worse cannot come to power there.

"Because we acted the world is better and the United States of America is safer," Bush announced in a statement of absurdly extreme hyperbole.

"Five years ago tonight I promised that in the struggle ahead we would accept no outcome but victory," he added. "Today, standing before men and women who have helped liberate a nation, I reaffirm the commitment. The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary and it is just and with your courage the battle in Iraq will end in victory."

Of course, that's easy for Bush to say. He isn't the one who will have to worry about delivering victory in Iraq -- that task will fall to either John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton.

Of course, whether or not Clinton or Obama are serious at all about achieving victory in Iraq has yet to be seen, but that's another story for another time -- and one that has yet to be told.

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