A year ago today, we saw the opening salvos of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
War erupted Wednesday night as the United States launched dozens of Tomahawk cruse missiles and aimed 2,000-pound bombs at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other “leadership targets” in Baghdad.
The strike was aimed as “decapitating” Saddam’s regime and specifically targeted him, his two sons and other senior leaders of the Baath party and Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, according to a senior Bush official.
President Bush, addressing the nation from the Oval Office about 45 minutes after the first attacks said, “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.”— Knight-Ridder Newspapers
(You can read Bush’s Oval Office address from last year here. What we know now…) Moments before the camera began broadcasting to the nation, Knight-Ridder reports that Bush pumped his fist and said, “Feels good.”
“B2I was busy.”:http://back-to-iraq.com/archives/2003_03_19.php
A year later, however, things don’t feel so good.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.
Things have not worked out that way, for the most part. There is evidence that the economic lives of Iraqis are improving, thanks to an infusion of U.S. and foreign capital. But the administration badly underestimated the financial cost of the occupation and seriously overstated the ease of pacifying Iraq and the warmth of the reception Iraqis would give the U.S. invaders. And while peace and democracy may yet spread through the region, some early signs are that the U.S. action has had the opposite effect.
On the major plus side, Saddam Hussein and his piggish sons are captured and dead, respectively. The people of Iraq have a future, but of what kind remains to be seen.
But the rationales for going to war have been proven — every one — to be transparently wrong and/or fraudulent. There were no terror ties. There were no WMDs, nor the ability to produce them. There was no threat to the region because Saddam was effectively caged. Meanwhile, the real problem, Pakistan, has been shown to be promiscuous with its nuclear technology. Its chief nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, was pardoned with nary a peep from the Bush Administration. In fact, Pakistan had its ally status upgraded, opening the door to new weapons sales! Hey, guys: The Pakistani ISI is _not_ your friend. They like Osama.
And speaking of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri seems to have slipped the net the Pakistanis were attempting to draw around him for the last two days.
The frenzied speculation was triggered by the sighting of a foreigner being whisked away at high speed in a bullet-proof vehicle Tuesday when paramilitary units were searching for tribesmen wanted for sheltering Al Qaeda fugitives.
The vehicle burst out of a tribal compound, two others emerged to protect it, and scores of fighters appeared from several directions, hurling grenades and firing at the Pakistani troops.
The entire unit of 50 troops was “virtually wiped out,” the official said. Fifteen were killed, 22 were injured and another 13 are still missing.
Back in Washington, Bush addressed the nation today and, in typical form, 1) made no distinction between the war against al Qaeda and Iraq; 2) refused to acknowledge that the job in Afghanistan is incomplete and that the Taliban control a third of the country, again; 3) implied that Spain, South Korea and others who are reconsidering their participation in the Iraqi adventure are appeasing bin Laden and 4) while admitting that his policies have split traditional alliances and alienated friends, papered over the depths to which the U.S. has fallen in the eyes of many.
“There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends,” he said. “Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East.”
Can we? Actually, the biggest source of instability is the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which some in the White House said the Iraq war would solve. It’s worse than ever with Bush having done little to push it forward. His “roadmap” is in tatters because of Bush’s unwillingness to stand up to Ariel Sharon and his settlement plans.
“Who would prefer that Saddam’s torture chambers still be open?” Bush asked. “Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?”
Well, no one is. What’s being begrudged is the way Bush screwed up the march to war in the United Nations, the lack of post-war planning and the sheer arrogance the White House has shown to anyone who disagrees with them. When John Kerry said more/foreign leaders supported his candidacy, it was a gaffe not because it isn’t true, but because it is.
So good on ya, Mr. President, that Saddam is gone. And I sincerely mean that. I was in Iraq in July 2002 and saw the front between the Kurds and the Iraqi troops. I talked with survivors of the Halabja massacre. I met with “families who had fled Kirkuk”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000118.php when Saddam “Arabized” them out of their homes. I was there during the war, and saw “how happy”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000351.php#000351 many Iraqis — Kurds and Arabs alike — were that Saddam was gone.
But things are not going well now, and that’s mostly your fault, Mr. President. I didn’t oppose the war in Iraq because I’m a pacifist — I wholeheartedly supported Afghanistan. And I didn’t oppose it because I’m a supporter of tyrants. I opposed it because it was poorly planned from the get-go, cynically sold to the American people, alienating to American allies and a distraction from the real enemy — al Qaeda and its constellation of terror groups. You have yet to convince me that toppling Saddam was worth the deaths of 676 coalition troops and thousands of Iraqi conscripts and civilians despite the immediate benefits of the war. A year later, I’m not alone in still wrestling with this conundrum, and your simple black and white, “no neutral ground” statements don’t make the issue any clearer.
“Feels good”? It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now.