The image of a bedraggled, prodded, defeated Saddam has been endlessly paraded on TV since his capture for all to see and cheer. It’s wonderful for many of the Iraqi people that such a ruthless tyrant might finally be held accountable for his years of brutality. So, yes, cheer for the hope of justice for those in Iraq who have been victims of his heinous crimes. Cheer and be glad.
But, don’t cheer for yourself and don’t cheer for your children here in the U.S., because there’s little to cheer about.
You and I were told by the Bush administration that Saddam was a hugely powerful man who put the people of the U.S. and the world in imminent danger and he must be stopped immediately at nearly any cost, lest he unleash his powerful weapons of mass destruction on us. This dangerous and looming "reality" is why Congress and numbers of Americans said, even if reluctantly, yes, let’s go to war.
We were told Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But, he didn’t. Bush told U.S. Senators Saddam had the ability to bomb the East Coast. He didn’t. We were told there were working chemical weapons labs in Iraq. There were none. We were given a litany of evidence and facts and figures to prove we needed to go to war. But, all the "hard" evidence was ultimately refuted. We were led to believe by inference that Saddam was connected with the atrocities of 9.11. But, he wasn’t.
Saddam is a merciless man who would’ve surely fought with all his strength against an invasion, which, no doubt, he did. And we saw what little strength he truly had. It was such that he was forced to flee when the U.S. invaded, ultimately ending up hiding, disheveled and weary in a spider hole.
All the while, the man presumably actually responsible for 9.11, Osama bin Laden, is still at large. And the al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan – comprised of the folks we probably need to be worrying about – are growing again, as are the poppies and the heroin trade.
"What’s the difference?" asked Mr. Bush when Diane Sawyer recently asked him about the lack of WMDs. Wow. We’ve all heard George Bush say some pretty flippant, arrogant, unbelievable things. But, this one is a showstopper. It’s a statement inconceivably divorced from the realities of the horrors of war, as it flippantly ignores the myriad and diverse concerns and questions of the world.
The difference is plenty. The difference is the U.S. government lied to its people about the WMDs. Period. The lies and distortions by the Bush administration alone should be front page, earth-shattering news. There should be a national dialogue and an independent investigation. Nixon was impeached for a lesser lie and Clinton was all but impeached for a much lesser one.
Ask what the difference is to the families of the hundreds and hundreds of U.S. service people who died and continue to die serving a lie, whose bodies are now put in "transport tubes" that are hidden from the media as they arrive home, whose funerals Bush will not attend because it’s bad publicity. The difference is in the lives of the many thousands of wounded U.S service people, some of who are dismembered or maimed for life. Recently, some military families have even been forced to hold fundraisers to buy their loved ones the standard issue protective gear the military says it ‘can’t afford’ to give them. As with their predecessors in the First Gulf War, these soldiers will in all probability feel the difference in the lifelong, debilitating effects of depleted uranium coupled with greatly reduced veterans’ services and benefits that will fail to adequately help them down the line when they need it most.
The difference is that between an estimated 7,900 and 9,750 Iraqi lives have been lost in the war and occupation, turned into "pink mist." These were people with the same hopes and dreams as you and I have. Their country is in ruins. The reconstruction efforts are beleaguered at best. Unemployment is rampant. Women are afraid to go into the streets for fear of being raped and kidnapped. The capture of Saddam does not make this quagmire go away. Some say it will galvanize forces previously afraid to come together, making the situation even more dangerous.
The difference is because of the unilateral decisions made and no WMDs found the U.S. has lost credibility in the eyes of the world, with longstanding friendships and good feelings gone or greatly damaged.
The difference is that, defying all sanity and reason, the Bush administration has restarted a nuclear arms race that will not make us one iota safer from the Osamas and the Saddams out there, but will make those who get the military contracts many iotas richer.
The difference is that for many months the Bush administration has turned its attention and funds to war and occupation, ignoring those of us at home who are struggling to make ends meet. Our economy is in shambles. A record number of jobs have been lost in the last few months. But, the Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer puts out monthly job loss statistics, just as the military no longer tallies civilian causalities in Iraq. So, when Bush says all is well in both places, there is less readily available data for you and me to find out otherwise.
The difference is that the U.S. now boasts the largest deficit in history, one that is getting larger by the minute as we divert funds for war and occupation. The truth is, ironically, much of the modest upswing in the economy is due to the military contracts from the war and occupation, an upswing that doesn’t benefit you and me, but a small fraction of Americans who are already steeped in privilege. And at the same time, the Bush administration is eviscerating workers’ rights and workers’ benefits under the guise of "reform" as he gives unprecedented tax cuts to the CEO’s of those workers’ companies, widening the gap between employer and employee, rich and poor.
The difference is that we now have a president who has the audacity to say, "What’s the difference?" on national TV coupled with a cowed media that hardly bats an eye or crosses a T over it.
The difference is that the American people were duped, manipulated, flatly lied to, and worked up into a collective state of fear not seen since in decades, all for oil and gas, a pipeline, the supremacy of U.S. currency, and the benefit of U.S. corporations. And, like the staged landing of our president on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the fake, inedible turkey he delivered to the troops, and the staged toppling of Saddam’s statue, we’ll see the images of the real, conquered Saddam plastered on our TV screens from now until Election Day. In so doing, it’s hoped that those images will loom larger in our psyches than our bleak day-to-day reality and we’ll feel grateful and safe as we cheer George Bush all the way to the voting booth.
"We’re at war," we were told. We must sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice because our very lives are at stake from the threat of this formidable, threatening tyrant and his WMDs. We were told fundamental aspects of our democracy must be suspended, dissent must be squelched, U.S. troops sacrificed, civil rights eviscerated, unprecedented wartime secrecy must be maintained, the environment must take a back seat, innocent people of Arab decent must continue to be detained without charge because of the imminent threat of such an awful, horrible man. But, as it turns out this brutal leader is, militarily speaking, nothing but a shadow of his former self. The weapons inspectors were right all along: there were no WMDs and Saddam, as awful as he was to his own people, posed no imminent danger to the people of the U.S.
So, what’s the difference, Mr. Bush? The difference is because of your war and the resulting way your administration unilaterally comports itself in domestic and international affairs, the world as we know it has changed considerably for the worse and the lives of the people of the U.S. and the world have been detrimentally, nonconsensually and perhaps forever changed along with it.
And that is nothing to cheer about.