Thursday, August 18, 2005

Iraq War, Cindy Sheehan, Bush, and Plain Common Sense

Cindy Sheehan deserves credit for starting a national debate on whether President Bush is correct that the U.S. is engaged in a "noble cause" in Iraq, where so many others have failed to interest the public in discussing the alleged justifications for the invasion. But I fear she will ultimately be a distraction from this debate because of her radical pacifist views. In an interview with Chris Matthews, she opined that Afghanistan is "almost the same thing" as Iraq, and, because we haven't caught Osama and thus are "not having success" in Afghanistan, the troops there should be pulled out immediately. Her analysis: "why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country." She demands an immediate withdrawal from Iraq--a position that is reportedly more extreme than that of has stated: "We're not going to stop there, either. We are going to join forces and we are going to just transform this country from a country that always supports war and killing to a country that is at peace." [source: Politics of War Could Pivot on Mother's Vigil (LA Times August 17, 2005)]

Finally, she has flip-flopped regarding Bush. Last year he was a man of compassion, today he is callous and disrespectful.

The backlash against her, and against those who think the war in Iraq was and is a disaster, has already started.

We need to avoid getting bogged down in the struggle between the radicals at opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum. Let's focus instead on the increasingly apparent facts: the Iraq venture was unjustified, unwarranted, probably illegal under international law and, last but not least, stupid, stupid, stupid. Have I mentioned that it was stupid? If I may be so bold as to quote myself, from an email dated April 2, 2003:

I am not an international lawyer, but . . . . Based on what I have read, there exist two possible justifications for the action under international law. First, any country is entitled to act in self defense to counter an actual or imminent threat. Does Iraq present an imminent threat to the United States under that test? I don't know enough to answer, although it is clear that we are stretching that ground beyond any prior application. Second, a country is entitled to act as authorized by the U.N. Did the resolution last year for Iraq to disarm grant such authority? Again, based on what I've read, the answer would have to be no, as the French were induced to vote in favor on the basis that it WOULDN'T authorize force without coming back to the Security Council. Is the current action justified under the resolutions that authorized the 1991 Gulf War? Seems a stretch.

For background, I am neither kneejerk hawk nor dove in these issues. I have no problem with our military actions in Afghanistan, which, after 9/11, I feel can easily be justified as being in self-defense. However, whether or not the current Iraq action is legal under international law, it seems to me that it is unnecessary (at least at this time) and just plain dumb. Good diplomacy could have kept the U.N. inspectors poking around in Iraq for a long, long time. Good diplomacy could even have ratcheted up the U.N. pressure, short of military action. While the U.N. was snooping around, I think that Saddam was more or less neutralized as a threat. If and when the inspectors found something, or they were denied access or kicked out, good diplomacy could have built a more broad-based commitment to any force required.

The current administration's diplomatic efforts were and are a disaster. The worst in our lifetimes. The contrast between this President Bush's diplomatic efforts and those of his father in 1991 is striking. Whether or not you liked George H.W. Bush, he understood diplomacy, he worked world leaders, and he lined them up in support.

We have now used up most if not all of our international credibility. We have lost the moral high ground that, whatever stupid things the U.S. has done over the years, we still were able to maintain. We have established a dangerous precedent for preemptive strikes: Pakistan and India? North and South Korea? Taiwan and China?

We will win this war, at a cost of lives yet unknown, $75 billion in direct cost, and who knows how many billions more to rebuild Iraq. I think we could have more efficiently bottled up old Saddam through the UN at a much lower cost.

Meanwhile, I would have had no problem with our spending a big chunk of that $75 billion in tracking down and vaporizing Osama, his buddies, and any similar groups. I would have no trouble doing that in Sudan, or Saudi Arabia, or wherever else we might find them. That's where I think we should have stayed focused.

In this email from two years ago, I seriously underestimated the cost of the war (see the counter on the right sidebar of this page, which itself is probably an underestimate, but shows my guess is already more than $100 billion too low), and I may ultimately be proven wrong in stating that the U.S. would "win" the war (whatever that means). But other than those two mistakes, I nailed it on the head then, and I stand on those opinions today. The Iraq war has not advanced the war on terrorism, it has stopped it dead in its tracks.

Let's say it again: the Iraq war was started under false pretenses, is probably illegal under international law, has exhausted international goodwill toward the U.S., is crippling the U.S. economy (oh, I know, that's not a high-minded concern, but tell that to the unemployed and poverty-stricken), and has not accomplished either its original goal (hmmm, no WMDs to be found), or the post-invasion goals made up by the administration's spin doctors (prosecuting the war on terrorism, helping democracy march across the globe). As for terrorism: who feels safer today?

Some "noble cause," Mr. President.

Those are the reasons Cindy Sheehan should be angry and question whether her son's death served any purpose.


Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

Bravo! Bravo, sir!

I'll have more to say on this shortly.

August 18, 2005 12:08 PM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

O.k., got that report out. Now sir, your analysis is impeccable, far superior to Cindy Sheehan's, but I have a question for you: why are you not camping out at Fred Mattlage's ranch? Having you at the microphone as Cindy's spokesman would surely mute that jingo backlash.

I have spoken before of how there may come a time when the only way to stop the hate and all its by-products is for us to pay the price, to give something up of ourselves that is costly and dear.

Perhaps the time has not yet come for that, but if it has not, then doesn't Cindy deserve some credit for forestalling that day of reckoning?

Last night, we joined several of our UU friends on Main Street in Freeport just outside LL Bean. Besides our handful from church, there were over 100 more holding candles for a half hour or so. The press didn't show up, a few people on the opposite sidewalk decried our "tea party" and many more passing in cars honked and made thumbs-up signs. We were one of 1,500 similar-sized gatherings from coast to coast (though more on the coasts than 'tween, I think). These gatherings did did get covered in the aggregate in a New York Times article this morning (which has already been bumped from their on-line front page).

You and I go back and forth about whether to join the protest process. Whether or not we completely agree with the point of view of our would-be comrades in protest, it's a fact that any participation has a cost in terms of time we could be devoting to our own pursuits.

Then again, maybe protest is one of our pursuits. At the expense of getting my reports done (still more reports, beyond the one I just posted to the company web site ... there are always more, aren't there?), yesterday and today I've written two long "protest emails" on the subject of health care. I'll post them to the blog, as an example of my "protest pursuits." I think you'll find them interesting. If you like them, then keep 'em (and provide comments). Who knows? Maybe more people will see them (besides those visitors from Djakarta). But if you think I'm just loading up the blog, then feel free to delete 'em.

August 18, 2005 2:18 PM  
Blogger Jim H said...

Happy Third Anniversary!

It's been three years since the USA embarked on the Iraq campaign. My observations:

1. Saddam was the one telling the truth about WMD. As a result, the entire venture is illegitimate.

2. I don't feel any safer from terrorism. Do you?

3. We replaced a secular totalitarian regime with an Islamic republic that will abide by Islamic law and is on the verge of civil war. My feeble mind is having difficulty seeing the gain for the USA.

4. The cost of the war posted on the right side of this blog represents only direct costs and vastly underestimates the total cost, which some experts say will easily exceed one trillion dollars. It will result in a financial burden that our grandchildren will be paying. I have heard no persuasive cost-benefit justification.

5. The Bush Administration's fixation on Iraq has resulted in its failure to pursue terrorism in those places where it was truly being fomented three years ago--and still is.

6. The Bush Administration's fixation on Iraq has left unaddressed countless other pressing issues: Social Security, the environment, development of alternative energy, the country's threatened fiscal disaster. Oh, yes, and that Katrina thing.

7. How can anyone trust that the federal government is addressing threats such as the bird flu or an earthquake on the Hayward fault in California?

8. The third anniversary of the USA's involvement in WWII was on December 7, 1944. Paris had been liberated. The last gasp of the German Army--the Battle of the Bulge--would be over by the end of the month. Five months later, Germany surrendered unconditionally. Eight months later, Japan surrendered unconditionally.

Where do you think Iraq will be in 8 months?

March 19, 2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

Bravo, sir! Bravo I say! Here, here and bravo! Huzzah! Couldn't agree with you more!

March 20, 2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger Richard Wolfe said...

April 20, 2006 7:30 AM  

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