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March 20 is the third anniversary of the Bush regime’s invasion of Iraq. US military casualties to date are approximately 20,000 killed, wounded, maimed, and disabled. Iraqi civilian casualties number in the tens of thousands. Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Fallujah, a city of 300,000 people had 36,000 of its 50,000 homes destroyed by the US military.
Half of the city’s former population are displaced persons living in tents.
Thousands of Iraqis have been detained in prisons and hundreds have been brutally tortured. America’s reputation in the Muslim world is ruined.
The Bush regime expected a short "cakewalk" war to be followed by the imposition of a puppet government and permanent US military bases.
Instead, US military forces are confronted with an insurgency that has denied control over Iraq to the US military. Chaos rules, and civil war may be coming on top of the insurgency.
On March 9, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who has been totally wrong about Iraq, told Congress that if the unprecedented violence in Iraq breaks out in civil war, the US will rely primarily on Iraq’s security forces to put down civil war.
What Iraqi security forces? Iraq does not have a security force.
The Shia have a security force. The Sunnis have a security force, and the Kurds have a security force. The sectarian militias control the streets, towns and cities. If civil war breaks out, the "Iraqi security force" will dissolve into the sectarian militias, leaving the US military in the middle of the melee.
Is this what "support the troops" means?
President Bush’s determination to remain in Iraq despite the obvious failure of the attempted occupation puts Bush at odds with the American public and with our troops. Polls show that a majority of Americans believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and that our troops should be withdrawn. An even larger majority of the troops themselves believe they should be withdrawn.
Yet Bush, who is incapable of admitting a mistake, persists in a strategic blunder that is turning into catastrophe.
Bush’s support has fallen to 34 percent.
The war’s out of pocket cost to date is approximately $300 billion–every dollar borrowed from foreigners. Economic and budgetary experts have calculated that the ultimate cost of Bush’s Iraq war in terms of long-term care for veterans, interest on borrowed money, and resources diverted from productive uses will be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.
What is being achieved for this enormous sacrifice?
No one knows.
Every reason we have been given for the Iraqi invasion has proved to be false. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
Reports from UN weapons inspectors, top level US intelligence officials, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, and leaked top secret documents from the British Cabinet all make it unequivocally clear that the Bush regime first decided to invade Iraq and then looked around for a reason.
Saddam Hussein had no terrorist connection to Osama bin Laden and no role in the 9/11 attack. Hussein was a secular ruler totally at odds with bin Laden’s Islamist aims. Every informed person in the world knew this.
When the original justifications for the US invasion collapsed, Bush said that the reason for the invasion was to rid Iraq of a dictator and to put a democracy in its place. Despite all the hoopla about democracy and elections, no Iraqi government has been able to form, and the country is on the brink of civil war. Some Middle East experts believe that violence will spread throughout the region.
The brutal truth is that America’s responsibility is extreme. We have destroyed a country and created political chaos for no reason whatsoever.
Seldom in history has a government miscalculated as badly as Bush has in Iraq. More disturbingly, Bush shows no ability to recover from his mistake. All we get from our leader is pig-headed promises of victory that none of our military commanders believe.
Our entire government is lost in confusion. One day Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tell us that we are having great success in training an Iraqi military and will be able to begin withdrawing our troops in a year. The next day they tell us that we will be fighting the war for decades.
Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Bush’s attempt to cover up his mistake with patriotism will ultimately discredit patriotism.
America has to be big enough to admit a mistake and to bring it to an end.
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: email@example.com