A friend asked me that as the Iraq war was drawing to a close and jubilant Iraqis were showing their feet to torn-down images of Saddam Hussein. It was a friendly jab, referencing my prewar skepticism and my early-war criticism of the pro-war gang’s hubris. (Click here.) Confused, moi?
I opposed the war on the basis that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein–more a potential threat than an actual one–did not warrant full-scale invasion and occupation, and that his defiance of the United Nations should first have been met with aggressive and intrusive inspections, perhaps inspections with a military component. But Bush took the cowboy approach. The war–as devastating as it was to the thousands of Iraqis (civilian and military) who lost lives, limbs, loved ones, homes and business–went well (for a war, that is), despite early concerns about the war plan. And only a war critic brimming with resentment and rooting for George W. Bush and the United States to receive their comeuppance (at the expense of the Iraqi people) could not have been heartened to see happy Iraqis celebrating the end of Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. Their “liberation” did not, ex post facto, justify the earlier claims that this war was being waged for liberation. The war was mostly sold–too often with lies and distortions–as necessary to protect the United States from a madman supposedly wielding weapons of mass destruction and who was (as Bush claimed without evidence) “dealing” with al Qaeda. The toppling of Hussein’s dictatorship is a positive result of what was a cynical and truth-defying campaign for war.
With the United States more or less in control of looting-ridden Iraq, there was nothing confusing about what should come next: a swift transition to an Iraqi interim government, international participation in the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq, the fulfillment of the US commitment–in terms of money and attention (but, one could hope, not too many troops)–to a democratic Iraq that serves the interest of its people, and an embrace of humility by the conquering Bush crowd as it basks in the glow of victory.
And it is certainly not confusing that there will be fights over much of this, especially the humility part. Even before the looting was over, the Bush administration official was issuing very public threats against Syria. If indeed Syria had been permitting anti-American fighters to cross its border into Iraq and allowing Iraqi officials and weapons scientists to head the other way, US warnings could have been conveyed through phone calls, diplomatic channels, and intelligence-service-to-intelligence-service communications. The Bush gang quite deliberately chose to throw their elbows around for all to see–just at a moment when other nations and populations might have felt a bit reassured about US intentions if a measure of restraint had been demonstrated.