What do you give a war on its third anniversary? According to etiquette guides, third anniversaries should be celebrated with leather, which is great if you're Tom of Finland. But for our troops? How about Kevlar, or a plane trip home?
Last week, Donald Rumsfeld said that if civil war breaks out in Iraq—like that mosque bombing wasn't already their Fort Sumter—American troops would likely stand back and let Iraqis handle it to the extent to which they're able. So the administration is both arguing that we can't reduce troop numbers in Iraq because there might be a civil war, and that if there is a civil war our troops will stay out of it. Why not get some of those inflatable stand-ins they use in movies now, and send our guys home?
But there's a catch in that “extent to which they're able” part, since the number of battle-ready Iraqi battalions has recently gone from one to zero, which by my math means our youth will probably still be fighting there in 2010. Anyone remember Rumsfeld before the war assuring Americans that our troops' combat role in Iraq couldn't possibly last longer than five months? Bush gives out medals for accuracy like that.
Remember Iraq linked to al Qaeda? We're averting a mushroom cloud? We'll be greeted with flowers? There's no ethnic or religious turmoil in Iraq? The war will pay for itself? The weapons of mass destruction will be found? The insurgency is just a few dead-enders, ragtag foreign infiltrators? The insurgency is in its last throes? Mission accomplished?
Remember when Bush, the best-guarded man on earth, taunted, “Bring 'em on!”—daring insurgents to attack our troops? That may be the only goddamned thing he's said in this entire war that has panned out, as 2,311 flag-draped coffins now attest—more than a score of those from our own community. What was that son of a bitch thinking, sitting smug and secure half a world away when he hadn't even equipped our troops with working body or vehicle armor? If it's such a noble war, why aren't his kids there instead of carrying on the family tradition of keeping barstools safe for democracy?
I wonder how many goats have been killed in this war? How many pots, pans and bowls destroyed, along with the mothers who used them? How many children with limbs blown off? Some estimates place this war's civilian dead at more than 100,000, which is a hell of a price to pay to be rid of a despotic leader the U.S. helped foist on the Iraqis to begin with. Are they better off without Saddam? Sure, eventually, when they can stop grieving for their dead, when the dying stops, when they have an economy, jobs, electricity and potable water again, and when the chaos we've stirred up ever finds an end.
War is a blunt instrument. Saying war was a good way to get rid of Saddam is like saying a hurricane was a good way to get stray dogs off the streets of New Orleans.
Nearly since the war began there's been the second-line argument that even if our reasons for going to war were wrong, we've got to stay the course until—depending which side of the aisle you sit on—we've (a) got the lid back on this Pandora's box we opened or (b) given this grand experiment in democracy a chance to flower.
One thing that's for sure, according to polls: if Iraqis could vote on whether our troops stay or go, more than 80 percent of them would have us gone. Whatever our uniformed guys' best intentions, most Iraqis see us as an occupying army, and things will never get right until we're gone. How enthusiastic would you feel about your freedom if Chinese tanks were rolling down PCH, Alton in Irvine, Main Street in Santa Ana? If Chinese propagandists were writing the news in your papers, and the Chinese were holding your brother without charges in an unknown cell with a bag over his head, and the only ones profiting amid all this misery were the Chinese corporate cronies of the Chinese government? Chances are you wouldn't feel like eating Chinese tonight.
As deadly wrong as things are over there, this war and its proponents are just as surely killing this country. Using the actions of 19 murderers with knives as justification, Bush is physically and morally bankrupting this country: throwing hundreds of billions into the wrong war; flouting the Constitution; claiming repressive new executive powers in perpetuity; tossing out rights at home and long-standing treaties abroad; and spying on peaceful Americans who oppose his policies.
Ever wonder how you'd look in a government surveillance photo? Come join your friends and neighbors Saturday at noon at Hart Park in Orange for the “I Want You to Bring Our Troops Home Now!” rally, where once again Commie Girl is plotting to upstage me, and who knows what sort of facts and reason screen legend Mamie Van Doren, Democratic congressional candidate Steve Young, Aliso Viejo Council Member Karl Warkomski and UCI history professor Mark LeVine have up their sleeves?
Me, I'll be twisting balloons into the shape of a neo-con's logic.
For a list of OC's fallen, click here.