How many deaths will it take to end the war?
|President Bush shakes hands with members of the military after delivering remarks on the "Global War on Terror" Wednesday, March 19, 2008, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
NEW YORK -- As most Americans lamented the fifth anniversary of the US war on Iraq last week, the resounding cry of the peace activists reverberated throughout the country: "Bush lied, people died."
It was a catchy phrase which, ironically, has become the battle cry of the anti-war activists in the US.
The Bush administration went to war against Iraq primarily for three reasons: Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (Wrong); the Iraqi president had links to al-Qaeda (Wrong, again); and the ouster of Saddam Hussein would usher in a multi-party democracy in Iraq which, in turn, will infectiously spread across the entire Middle East (Dead Wrong).
But still Bush remained convinced last week that he was right in making all the wrong political decisions — even as the war entered its sixth year.
"Five years into this battle," he said, "there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it."
The answers, Bush said, were clear to him (but certainly not to the rest of the sceptical world). "Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision and this is a fight that America can and must win."
Bush may have strong rightwing supporters in his own Republican Party who wanted the Iraqi President ousted from power because of Saddam Hussein's sullied track record: his tyrranical rule, his gassing of Kurds, and his devastating war with neighbouring Iran.
But what was the cost of Saddam Hussein's removal? The lives of nearly 4,000 American soldiers? The slaughter of more than one million Iraqi civilians? The wounding and crippling of more than 29,000 US troops?
And the final economic cost is yet to come: the war will eventually cost about three trillion dollars (that's a trillion with a capital T) to American tax payers.
As one cynic remarked, if the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) wanted Saddam Hussein ousted from power, it could have done it on the cheap: perhaps for about $100,000 (as a payoff to someone inside Iraq's military) or about $1 million dollars to a Mafia hit man on contract to the CIA.
The CIA, after all, ousted other world leaders (read: Salvador Allende of Chile, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic and Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran), at discount prices. Kill two anti-American world leaders — and get one free.
The longstanding CIA conspiracies over the last four decades, and the contract killings, have been documented in many publications, including 'The CIA's Greatest Hits' by Mark Zepezauer.
At a town hall meeting in Tyler, Texas last month, the Republican Party frontrunner John McCain, who wants to prolong the war if he is elected President, took a shot at the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama, on the controversial issue high on the election agenda.
"I am told that Senator Obama made the statement that if al Qaeda came back to Iraq after he withdraws, after American troops are withdrawn, then he would send military troops back, if al Qaeda established a base in Iraq."
With a tinge of sarcasm, he fired what he thought was his punch line: "I have some news, (for Senator Obama) " he said. "Al Qaeda is in Iraq! It's called al Qaeda in Iraq."
At a rally in Columbus, Ohio, Obama came with a devastating response to McCain's comments: "I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq, until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq!" he said.
In what in hindsight is considered a monumental joke, Bush jumped the gun when he donned military fatigues and landed on an aircraft carrier, against the backdrop of a huge banner that read "Mission Accomplished."
But his celebrations, less than two years after the war, were premature because the US military mission still remains unaccomplished.
In an editorial titled "Mission Still Not Accomplished," the New York Times said last week the Bush administration still remains in denial about the monstrous failure in Iraq.
The editorial recounted the number of American troops killed and wounded, the number of Iraqi civilians killed and rendered homeless and the sectarian war that has been unleashed after the US invasion.
"Add in a cost to the US that, some say, could exceed $3 trillion, the new political opening created for Iran, the incalculable damage to America's reputation and the havoc wreaked on Iraqi society."
The Times said that few lament Saddam Hussein's passing but the war has left "a broken country, made the United States more vulnerable, not safer, and stretched the American military to a point that compromises its ability to fight elsewhere."
Obama was equally hardhitting. He said the war in Iraq had now lasted longer than the American civil war, World War I and World War II, though it has been fought on a scale far below those conflicts. "Where are we for all of this sacrifice. We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad. We are divided at home, and our alliances around the world have been strained."