by Holly Sklar
November 3, 2003
Spending more money can help plenty of things, but it can't win an unwinnable war. This lesson came at great cost in dollars and deaths in Vietnam. With more lies found and more lives lost everyday, the United States needs an exit strategy for Iraq, not an $87 billion escalation.
Only those with tunnel vision see light at the end of this tunnel.
"In the beginning I was into this; we all were," U.S. Army Specialist Juan Castillo told the New York Times while home from Iraq on a two-week furlough. "We haven't found anything, no weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam, no nothing. And the people there hate us...We're conquerors to them. It wasn't supposed to be like that."
Just 15 percent of Iraqis see U.S. troops as a liberating force and 67 percent see them as occupiers, according to a recent poll by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies. Nearly half think conditions for peace and stability have worsened over the past three months; 18 percent think they are the same. That was before the recent wave of attacks.
By May 1, when President Bush portrayed "Mission accomplished" from a carrier deck, 139 U.S. soldiers were dead. On July 2, with the death toll at 205, Bush said, "There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring 'em on." And on they've come.
According to the U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, attacks on troops have jumped from 10-15 a day over the summer to 20-35 a day since early October. More than 350 U.S. soldiers are dead and more than 2,000 have been wounded. About 20 percent of the wounds are severe brain injuries. Thousands of Iraqis have died.
October 27 was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, with more than 200 dead or wounded in a wave of coordinated suicide bombings. The day before, rockets hit the hotel in the heavily fortified zone where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying.
The Bush administration ignored warnings leading up to the 9/11 attacks and is still ignoring warnings now. An American official "said the military had specific intelligence of an imminent attack on the hotel, the Rashid, where senior personnel of the American occupation live and eat, but that no special precautions had been taken," the New York Times reports.
The spin machine continues to spam the American public with wishful thinking. Chief civilian administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer insists, "The overall thrust is in the right direction, and the good days outnumber the bad days."
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia had it right, invoking the Hans Christian Andersen tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," in a speech opposing the $87 billion supplemental. "Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration's policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn...[and] had our patriotism questioned," Byrd said. "The Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation."
Incredibly, the emperor's fabric has been exposed as fabrication, but the policy marches on.
The Bush administration is making wrong choice after wrong choice.
It transformed global solidarity after 9/11 into global outrage by bullying the United Nations, insulting "old Europe" and inventing an imminent threat to camouflage an Iraq invasion senior officials had desired long before 9/11.
It shifted resources away from Afghanistan and the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The Taliban is regrouping and Bin Laden, the epitome of blowback from the old U.S.-supported Mujahedeen war against the Russians, leads a resurgent Al Qaeda.
It is shortchanging "homeland security" while goldplating contracts for U.S. war profiteers in Iraq. Police, firefighters and other public health and safety personnel are laid off in budget cutbacks while wealthy campaign contributors get tax cuts. Airport security remains inadequate, and other potential targets are even more unprotected, from shipping ports to chemical plants.
The longer the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the more resistance and resentment will grow, and the more likely Iraq will see civil war rather than peaceful reconstruction. The United Nations, not the United States, must oversee the reconstruction aid and restoration of Iraqi self-governance.
It's time to stop the lying and the dying.
Holly Sklar is coauthor of Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us (www.raisethefloor.org). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 24, 2003. © Copyright 2003 Holly Sklar.