by E.C. Fish on April 20, 2003

Like most things about our war with Iraq, its purported end seems a little off somehow. The Saddam statues have toppled, as has Saddam himself , and victory has been declared, give or take several areas where combat is ongoing and the fact that the entire nation is in a state of civil unrest bordering on anarchy. Still, the cries have gone up from Maine to Mauna Loa– “We kicked ass! In your face, Europe!!”

All of this is fine, as far as it goes. Saddam Hussein was in fact a walking exemplar of human evil, a bona fide Stalinist dictator whose regime ruthlessly stifled and starved the Iraqi nation for years and whose list of crimes against humanity is undeniable and indefensible. His fate, up to and including any fate that involves him having been blown to unidentifiable atoms, has been richly deserved.

That said, however, it is important for us to note that none of the above goes anywhere near far enough to justify the invasion of a sovereign state that had not aggressed against any other member of the world community for over a decade, conducted in clear violation of all established international precedent. By invading, or even “liberating”, Iraq, the United States and its “coalition of the willing” has made a shambles of the rules that have governed the relationships between nations for the last half century, and have set a particularly ugly series of precedents that are likely to destabilize the world situation for the next half century.

As satisfying as the sight of liberated Iraqis dancing in the streets chanting “USA! USA!” might be, it is important– nay, absolutely crucial– to note that at no time leading up to this war were were the American people told that this was, in effect, a war to make liberated Iraqis dance and thank us. Such namby-pamby do-gooder nonsense would have been laughed out of the public eye, particularly by the rough and ready pragmatists of the Republican Party. The idea of spending a minimum of $100 billion dollars– the aggregate amount of the budgetary deficits of all fifty states, and a sum equaling 6.3 times the size of the entire US foreign aid budget– to simply improve the lot of the Iraqis would have been considered irresponsible. The idea of such an end being worth the death of one son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, mother, or father, American or Iraqi, would have been considered morally indefensible. Thousands have died in this war, and thousands more have been mutilated.

Instead, the Administration told us that the Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction that represented a “clear and present danger” to the United States– that our own sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers were under a very real threat from the Iraqi regime. This was a blatant and calculated lie. There was never any evidence that the Iraqi government possessed any sort of weapons system capable of delivering any payload further than a few hundred miles. The United States is several thousand miles from Iraq.

Further, the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration told us in painstaking detail that the Iraqi government possessed– the biological weapons, the chemical agents, the fissionable materials– have as yet to be found. The fissionable materials, in particular, seem never to have existed, the only evidence of their presence a cut and paste forgery that international intelligence experts have deemed laughably obvious. The Administration’s explanation for their failure to find the rest of the weapons that supposedly threatened us– that they were sent to neighboring Syria– is equally laughable. Syria and Iraq, though both Muslim nations run by Ba’athist dictatorships, were far from allies. Syria was, in fact, a member of the anti-Iraqui coalition, and has since September 11th cooperated with US efforts against Al Quaida. A week after the fall of Saddam, his weapons of mass destruction seem to have been a Hitchcockian Maguffin, a collection of unseen objects on which the plot of this war has been hung.

This war was supposed to make us safer. Instead, it has established a precedent of preemptive warfare in absence of objective evidence that has made the world less safe. The massive expense of waging this war– President Bush recently asked Congress for $67 billion, a mere down payment on the expenses already incurred in the Iraqi invasion– has contributed to a deficit based budgetary environment wherein national spending on homeland security measures to prevent terrorist attacks on US soil is coming in several billion shy of the amount experts tell us is necessary.

Worse, the police, fire, and paramedic services– the real heroes of 9/11, and the people who see to the day to day safety of the average American– are facing massive layoffs. Have we forgotten? We sure as hell have.

The Administration and its Republican allies would have us believe that the President’s status as a “war President” sets him not only above politics, but above any criticism whatsoever. The fact that in effect the only discernible reason for fighting this war– all other given reasons having been rendered the purest horseshit by reason and circumstance– has been to convey such a status on a President whose record has been one of abject failure in every particular should call the legitimacy of both the war and the President into sharp question.

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