In one of his very first editorials as a brand new columnist with the New York Times, Mr. William Kristol showed a skewed perception of world events. The article, ‘The Democrats Fairy Tale,’ highlights the decrease in violence a year after President Bush’s controversial ‘surge,’ the increase of 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and criticizes the Democrats for failing to recognize what Mr. Kristol terms ‘progress.’ Said he: “Attacks per week on American troops are now down about 60 percent from June. Civilian deaths are down approximately 75 percent from a year ago. December 2007 saw the second-lowest number of U.S. troops killed in action since March 2003.” Good news, indeed, at least on the surface, but it does seem to ignore some basic facts.
The violence that has plagued Iraq for nearly five years now was all caused by Mr. Bush. Iraq was a country at peace until the president decided to invade it, bomb population centers and overthrow the government. Since that time as many as 160,000 U.S. soldiers have been required to oppress the citizens as they struggled to free themselves from their conquering occupiers. By all creditable estimates hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have fled their homes. Millions more are without the basic services they took for granted prior to the U.S. invasion.
Tensions with Iran have escalated, as that nation nervously watches U.S. imperialism in action just next door. Hatred of the United States is rampant around the world, and surveys indicate that Mr. Bush is seen as the second most dangerous person on the planet, exceeded only by Osama bin Laden. For each Iraqi killed due to the U.S. invasion and occupation, one can easily assume that several new potential terrorists are created.
Mr. Kristol objects to the response of Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama to this question presented at a recent debate: “Would you have seen this kind of greater security in Iraq if we had followed your recommendations to pull the troops out last year?” Mr. Obama, said Mr. Kristol correctly, did not directly answer the question.
However, Mr. Obama’s response is instructive. Said he, in part: “I think the bar of success has become so low that we’ve lost perspective on what should be our long-term national interests. It was a mistake to go in from the start, and that’s why I opposed this war from the start.
“It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to 2 (trillion dollars). We have lost young men and women on the battlefield, and we have not made ourselves safer as a consequence.
“Now, I had no doubt and I said at the time, when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.”
Mr. Obama pointed out that he said at the time the surge was proposed that there would be an improvement in security in Iraq. That appears to be the recognition Mr.Kristol so ardently seeks. But Mr. Obama correctly points out the tragic costs of this unnecessary war, something Mr. Kristol seems to overlook.
Regarding Mr. Obama’s intent to withdraw troops from Iraq, no one questions the fact that a spike in violence will follow such a removal of U.S. troops. Yet the level of violence and terrorism that the citizens of Iraq have suffered at the hands of the United States would never have occurred if that nation had simply been left alone. Removing the troops when Mr. Obama suggested it would have caused that temporary escalation of violence as the Iraqi people worked to cobble together some method of government following the chaos into which it had been plunged by the United States. Had U.S. soldiers been removed one year, two years or three years ago, that violence would have occurred and in all likelihood the people of Iraq would have formed some government, or governments, by now. The killing would be far less than it is today, even with Mr. Bush’s much-praised (by Mr. Kristol if no one else) surge. And all the U.S. soldiers who have died in that time would instead be enjoying life with their now-grieving loved ones.
The closing comment of Mr. Kristol is the most puzzling statement in his editorial. Said he: “That (Democrats’ unwillingness to recognize alleged progress in Iraq) is truly a fairly tale. And it is driven by a refusal to admit real success because that success has been achieved under the leadership ofGeorge W. Bush. The horror!”
It seems that Mr. Kristol defines ‘real success’ as more complete oppression. Based on his comments, the destruction of a nation, and the overcoming of the final, last gasp efforts of its citizens to save it, constitute ‘real success.’ This ‘real success’ comes at a cost of the mourning of millions, grieving for the loss of family members and friends who would be alive today had it not been for an illegal, immoral and obscene invasion and occupation of their nation. It has cost the U.S. its reputation on the world stage, and destabilized the entire Middle East.
Has Mr. Kristol forgotten that it was the ‘leadership’ of Mr. Bush that caused this war? Does he not recollect that Iraq opened its doors to United Nations’ weapons inspectors, giving the inspectors unprecedented access to the nation, prior to the U.S. invasion? Does it somehow escape his knowledge that no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons were found in months of rigorous inspections, or nearly five years of war and occupation? Is an unnecessary war, with all the death, destruction and carnage that any war brings, acceptable to Mr. Kristol, as it apparently is to Mr. Bush?
That the U.S. now appears to be on the road to the successful colonization of Iraq, awash in the blood of innocent men, women and children, hardly seems something to crow about, yet that seems to be just what Mr. Kristol is doing. Rather, it is yet another bloody stain on the record of U.S. ‘leadership,’ another entry in the annals of U.S. imperial atrocities. This is the ‘leadership’ of Mr. Bush that Mr. Kristol so extols, leadership that carelessly tramples the corpses of its countless innocent victims.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘