Social and Political Commentary

Diversity of opinion -- the war in Iraq

... "You do not occupy a country in which you are not wanted."

by Irving Smolens

It is good that Silver Stringers represent diversity of opinion but is it necessary to castigate another member for a strongly held opinion which is not shared by another member? I think not.

I agree with Jackie Wattenberg that the invasion of Iraq is a tragic disaster. In one way and one way only I am not sorry that Bush will be serving another four years because there is no way that he will be able to extricate himself and our country from the mess in Iraq. The reality is that nobody can do that, not John Kerry, not Howard Dean, not Ralph Nader and not Tony Blair or any other person living on this planet.

Len Dalton in his zeal to support Bush and his invasion chooses to ignore that Bush told us that he had irrefutable proof that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that he had absolute ties to Al Quaida and Osama bin Laden. When subsequent events and findings of Congressional investigations proved that neither of those conditions existed Bush changed his reason for invading Iraq. He said the need was to remove Saddam Hussein from power and bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and its people.

The people of a country which really wants to throw off the yoke of a tyrannical dictatorship must initiate the process. Whoever thought that the Russian people themselves would be able to remove from power the Stalinist rulers of the Soviet Union? But they did just that. The same holds true in Chile where the people were able to oust the war criminal Pinochet from power. And we need only to go back to the origins of our own country where the embattled farmers of Concord and Lexington and other colonists rose up against the tyranny of the greatest military power of that era to secure their own liberty. We eventually received help from France but the initiative came from our own people.

I have a friend who is a full colonel in the Rhode Island National Guard. He served in Vietnam as a lieutenant and infantry platoon leader -- possibly the most dangerous job in combat. At the age of 57 and in superb physical condition he volunteered to serve a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan at a time when the Fourth Infantry Division in which we had both served was heavily engaged in Iraq. When I asked him why Afghanistan and not Iraq he replied, "I was never in favor of the war in Iraq." He then went on to tell me that when he had attended the US Army Command and General Staff College he had submitted a paper. The college evidently uses case study methods similar to the procedures at Harvard Business School and the BU School of Management. In this case the college was using Libya as a stand-in for Iraq. My friend told me that in his paper he had used the phrase, "When we occupy the capital." The paper came back to him with the notation in red ink from the instructor, "You do not occupy a country in which you are not wanted."

That lesson had struck home with my friend. He said to me there was no way Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to our country. The threat was coming from Osama bin Laden and the Taliban who were sheltering him and that was where we should be expending our maximum effort. Bush was not willing to listen to any dissenting opinions. He was determined that for whatever reasons he was going to invade Iraq without considering the disastrous probable consequences of that decision and that is what he did.

So what are our alternatives? Pull out our troops and go home? That is irresponsible since we will be leaving a country seething with terrorists and in economic and political ruin. Try to get the UN to negotiate a cease fire? That would be nice but since the Bush administration has continued to denigrate the UN as an institution I do not think that the UN would be asked to do that and even if the UN tried the effort seems to me to be an exercise in futility. The situation has deteriorated too far. Continue the war as we have been doing? Observers on the scene have ventured the opinion that any hope of restoring peace to that country is far off and that they doubt that it will ever be possible to establish democracy in Irag.

My question now is how long will the American people be willing to continue this war which is draining our taxpayers of at least 75 billion dollars a year for years into the foreseeable future and the terrible price we are paying in dead and wounded. That money could be used to reduce our stratospheric budget deficits or shore up Social Security and Medicare, or provide Health Insurance coverage for children who do not have it, or any number of other domestic needs such as tuition for needy students with college potential.

My sincere hope is that Bush will find an honorable and successful way to extricate our country from the morass he has created in Iraq but realistically I have to consider that he will not be able to do that and that is the tragedy.

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