Since the onset of the Bush administration’s ill-defined mission and subsequent “long, long war on terror”, the American people, even the whole world, have fallen victim to an utterly flawed, yet barely contested voice of reason. Despite the Vietnam-like debacle in Iraq, in which the US administration has willfully immersed the nation, fallacious logic continues to be infused, with the same enthusiasm and doubtlessly with the same grievous outcome.
An independent and thorough study prepared by the Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group recently concluded that at least 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 45,000 have been wounded since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. According to the study, four times as many victims died at the hands of US-led forces than from the flaring insurgency. And yet the numbers produced by the study hardly tell the story. For one, they must be examined against the backdrop of another comprehensive study commissioned by the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, last autumn, which deduced that at least 98,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the ongoing strife.
But most importantly, regardless of whose computation we embrace, mere numbers can hardly capture the madness, bloodshed, terror and insecurity sweeping Iraq from north to south. Undoubtedly, one can confidently argue that the invasion of Iraq has weakened the internal security of the entire region and has manifested itself in desperate terrorist attacks targeting civilians in Europe and elsewhere.
Considering the many scattered lies and forgeries put forth to rationalize the war and to further defend its disastrous aftermath, while keeping in mind the remarkably similar Vietnam fiasco which continues to stain the US reputation like no other, one would think that a more sensible and judicious foreign policy stratagem might prevail.
Not in the least.
Recent events on Capitol Hill and new resounding statements made by top US administration officials prove that sanity is not much of a priority on the agenda of President George W Bush.
On Wednesday, July 20, the House of Representatives resolved that an early withdrawal from Iraq would “embolden terrorists”, therefore any such notion must be scrapped. Written off as well by the House decision was the idea of a measurable timetable for any pullout. A withdrawal of the 160,000-strong US forces is only possible when national security goals are met, according to the measure. It also argued that such a move would “undermine the morale” of US and allied forces.
Capitol Hill’s elite, as ever detached, perhaps willingly, from national and international realities, are determined to disregard or diminish the untold losses suffered by the military, economy, and their country’s reputation, not to mention the morale of the entire nation. According to a recently disclosed US Army report, triggered by an inquiry into the alarmingly high suicide rate among American soldiers in Iraq, morale among troops is at its lowest, as is the confidence in their units’ ability to perform their mission. Fifty-four percent of soldiers rated their units’ morale as low or very low, reported the Associated Press.
This dwindling spirit and lack of confidence on the battlefield is met with increasing agitation with Bush’s war, as more than half of the American population now believes that the war has made their country “less safe”. The tiring argument that terrorists are attacking us because of our freedom and way of life is losing its constituents, and it is becoming clearer by the day that the price for such hollow rhetoric can no longer be swallowed.
One must not subscribe to the illusion that the Iraq debacle is just a temporary nuisance that can be weathered by a few billion dollars and a few thousand lives; that questioning the Bush administration’s actions is not only unpatriotic, but in fact it provides the enemy with a moral boost and fuels their insurgency; that the insurgents are a bunch of disgruntled Sunnis without a cause, randomly blowing up people because they despise democracy and the spreaders of democracy for marginalizing them, and so forth. Even the US administration finds it difficult to stick to such simplistic views.
Speaking to reporters regarding the Pentagon’s quarterly assessment on the situation in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted, once gain, that the insurgents are “effective and adaptable”. Coupled with Bush’s remarks following the terrorist bombings in London that his “war on terror” is a long, long one, one can be assured that the morale of the army, much less the entire nation, is likely to deteriorate even more.
Meanwhile, the news from Iraq, aside from the daily fighting and loss of life, predicts an equally grim future for the US military. A newly declassified Pentagon assessment disclosed, among many other alarming findings, that only three of the 107 Iraqi military battalions have achieved the needed standards to plan, execute and sustain independent counter-insurgency operations. In short, the Iraqi army will not be capable any time soon of controlling the anti-occupation forces that are gaining momentum throughout the country. It also means that the US military, which presently seems pushed to the limit, will have to face its antagonists, for the large part, alone. One must wonder if the 291 representatives in the House who voted against an early and scheduled withdrawal are aware of the bleakness of it all.
Republican Congressman Tom Delay commented, “To establish such a deadline [for withdrawal], all but ensuring disaster, would be morally and strategically indefensible.”
But does Delay need reminding that a disaster in Iraq has already been ensured; that it is preposterous to speak of moral objectives after years of daily killing resulting in the deaths of at least 25,000 civilians; that his attitude, one that is defining American foreign policy as a whole, is what has in fact “emboldened terrorists”; that denial of the calamity that he and his colleagues brought upon their nation could only contribute to what is culminating into a new Vietnam and perhaps, strategically speaking, even worse?
Alas, deceptive logic has once again prevailed and will continue until the American people and those who earnestly represent them take control of the present and the future of their country, salvaging its debased honor and tarnished reputation.
-Ramzy Baroud, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches Mass Communication at Curtin University of Technology. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising (Pluto Press, London.) This article originally appeared on Asia Times (July 26).