To eliminate weapons of mass destruction. To depose Saddam Hussein. To create a peaceful democracy that will serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East. To destroy terrorist cells. To protect our freedoms and way of life. I’ve heard many reasons for why we’re fighting the war in Iraq. Every time those reasons are proven wrong or the public starts to question them, the Bush administration comes up with a new one.
When we originally went to Iraq, we were told that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction.” Now for most Americans, that meant nuclear warheads. Of course we didn’t find any nuclear warheads or much of anything else that most people would consider a WMD. Apologists for the president will tell you that plans, research, test results for such weapons have been found, and the liberal media just is not reporting these stories. They accuse liberals of having too narrow a definition of “weapon of mass destruction.” But we weren’t the ones who used the phrase to justify military action. In a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, George W. Bush said, “(Iraq) possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021007-8.html) The president told the American people exactly what he was looking for. He didn’t find it. So then the Republicans tried to redefine WMDs. Most Americans didn’t buy that, so G.W.B. and company switched tactics and began justifying the war as a means of deposing a murderous tyrant.
Now that’s an effort I can get behind. Saddam Hussein murdered thousands of his own people. He was evil, and I am glad he is gone. But his regime was toppled in April of 2003. Saddam himself was captured in December of the same year. Three years ago. With Saddam gone, we needed a new justification for our continued presence in Iraq.
President Bush’s reasoning shifted to the establishment of a peaceful democracy that can become an example “for free and decent governments throughout the Middle East.” (President’s Radio Address, October 29, 2005) The Iraqis held elections; they established their constitution. American forces have been “training” Iraqi police and military forces for years now. Where is the peace? Turns out that things were just a little more complicated than anticipated. It seems that not everyone in Iraq was all that keen on the United States’ plan for their country. Plus, we’re dealing with the problem that every time our troops accidentally kill an innocent Iraqi, they create enemies in the family and friends of that person. It’s rather like cutting the head off a hydra.
With things spiraling out of control, Republican justification of the war had to be re-focused yet again. We are fighting terrorism in Iraq. And in Afghanistan. And in Iran shortly. If the war on terror is as successful in other locations as it has been in Iraq, we will be at war forever. Which seems to be where we’re headed anyway.
Of course, the Bush administration really can’t go to the American people with the message that the war on terror is a slippery slope, and we are looking at an endless fight. So they’ve begun talking to us about preserving our own freedoms and protecting our way of life. Ironic to hear this message coming from a president who also tells us that we have to surrender some of our precious freedoms to fight the war on terror. This afternoon, a U.S. District judge declared Bush’s surveillance wiretaps unconstitutional. The administration appealed the ruling, reminding us that we must “use every tool in our arsenal to respond to emerging threats” (Bush predicts courts will uphold security wiretaps, Reuters, 8/18/06). If we’re already giving up some of our freedoms to fight terror, then what freedoms are we fighting for?
So now I’m left wondering – when they run out of excuses for killing Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers, will they finally pull our troops out of Iraq?