Apolitical Deconstruction

The title of this blog refers to my journey of self-transformation from someone loathe to publicly express his personal opinions on political matters to...well, keep reading and see!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

An Important Anniversary

On Tuesday March 20th, my friend Baghdad Treasure published a post to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He wrote to a group of Iraqi and American bloggers and requested that they answer a few questions about their thoughts prior to the war and now four years later. I was honored that he asked me to participate! Below are his questions and my answers. I encourage my readers to visit Baghdad Treasure's post (using the link above) to read some of the other respondents answers to the same questions. I read them all, and I found some of the answers to be very educational, perhaps you would, as well. Thanks for your interest!

1.) What was your opinion when the US decided to invade Iraq in 2003?

I had mixed feelings. I felt certain that Saddam and his sons were profoundly evil people. I knew that Saddam had killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, gassed to death thousands of Kurds, and brutally suppressed the Shia in southern Iraq after the first gulf war uprising. After the U.N. presentation on Iraqi WMD by Colin Powell, I thought that Iraq may well have chemical and biological weapons (we all know better now!). However, I did not think that Saddam would be stupid enough to use them against Americans. I listened to the U.N. inspectors who were saying that they were making progress in Iraq and needed more time. I thought why not give them more time? Iraq did not seem an eminent and dire threat to any other country. Also, I was wondering about Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar were still on the loose. I thought, shouldn't we finish our business with the people who really attacked us?

After the bombs of "shock and awe" began to fall on Baghdad, all I could think was that I hoped there were no civilians sitting under those huge explosions, but I knew that there must be some. I hoped that the military campaign would be short and that the death toll would be small. When the war began, I really didn't have much understanding of the social dynamics within Iraq (neither did Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld!). There was no inkling in my mind of the possibility of sectarian violence or civil war. I never imagined, that Iraq could become a worse place to live with Saddam gone!

2.) It has been four years since the invasion. Has your opinion changed since then? Why?

After four years, I certainly have a much different perspective. The lies and manipulations of the Bush administration, that enabled their rush to war in Iraq, are now public knowledge. More significantly, though, in the past three years I have become friends with a number of Iraqi bloggers who have really opened my eyes to the true costs of this war for the Iraqi people.

3.) Whom do you blame for the insecurity in Iraq? Why?

Ultimately, Bush is responsible, but I have always perceived him as little more than a puppet. Cheney has been more or less the power behind the throne from the start of the Bush Presidency, so a lot of the blame must rest squarely on his shoulders. The absolute incompetence of Rumsfeld, who thought he could have a war on the cheap, under-manned and under-funded, is blatantly obvious now. The abject failure of the administration to produce any sort of plan to keep the peace after their "Mission Accomplished" celebration, led first to the looting of Baghdad, next to the rise of the insurgency, and finally to the horrific sectarian violence prevalent today. The biggest single mistake was probably the disbanding of the Iraqi police and military forces. No doubt some were hard core Saddamists, but I think that most of them were just trying to support their families. I certainly don't think that all the violence and death of the past four years could have been prevented, but I do think it could have been dramatically reduced with better planning and competent leadership.

4.) What do you think should be done to quell the violence there?

I strongly believe that any potential solution to the violence must come through dialog among the Iraqi people themselves. I also think that Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia should be involved in the discussions. These countries all have interests in Iraq and will suffer if the violence there escalates. I don't think that the current surge of American troops within Iraq will have any lasting beneficial effect. These troops will probably reduce the violence in the short term, but they are like putting a heavier lid on a boiling pot (to paraphrase some recent remarks by Colin Powell). The pot is still boiling, and when the lid is lifted, it may well boil over.

5.) Do you think the US should withdraw its forces from Iraq now or not? Why?

I think the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces would be a very bad idea. There are millions of vulnerable civilians whose lives could be placed in jeopardy, were that to happen. However, I do not have any objection to a planned and publicized timetable for the reduction of U.S. forces, or to a deadline for the withdrawal of all forces. I think that setting a schedule with hard deadlines, combined with intensive political dialog and diplomacy between all Iraqi parties and neighboring countries, would be conducive to crystallizing the thoughts of the major players and forcing them to make the hard compromises needed to reduce the violence and rebuild a civil society.

6.) Do you think the war was worth it? Why?

No, absolutely not! The war has cost the lives of at least half a million Iraqi people. How many more have been severely injured or maimed for life? How many people have been psychologically scarred by the loss of loved ones, by the loss of their homes, by the loss of their sense of security, or by the loss of their livelihoods? What about the women of Iraq? They are now losing many of the freedoms they have known for decades. More than 3000 American soldiers are dead, and at least 20,000 more have been seriously injured or disabled. America has lost much of the worldwide respect that it enjoyed prior to the war. The so called "war on terrorism" has created many times more new terrorists than have been killed. America has wasted more than 300 billion dollars on this misadventure which it did not have to spend. Bush cut the taxes of all Americans, but especially those of the super rich. The money to fund his war was borrowed mostly from China and Saudi Arabia, who are the biggest buyers of U.S. Treasury Bills. Now, that just doesn't seem like a very sound fiscal or strategic policy to me!