Friday, January 12, 2007

Yeah, yeah, I'm back. I know I wasn't gone long, but...

An observation:

The closing item on the NBC Evening News tonite was the story of an elderly woman in Georgia who says good-bye to all the soldiers leaving for the middle east from an airbase outside Savannah. It has been estimated that she has bid adieu to around 56000 men and women as they boarded planes over the last three and a half years. She is a grand, somewhat blousy cracker of a woman. It's a great gesture on her part.

Over the last few years there have been a number of similar stories of extraordinary support of our troops and/or their families, like the various groups across the country that have provided properly insulated helmets to soldiers in need of them, that the government failed to provide.

Similar stories made the airwaves during the much briefer Gulf War in the 1990s and, of course, during the seemingly interminable Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s. It is truly great when people come to the fore to help the young men and women placed in harm's way in service to their country. We often see that, while war can and does bring out the worst in us, the best instincts of humanity also tend to surface.

As great as all that is, one is left to ponder why all this is necessary in the first place. Our military is killing and being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Ostensibly to stem the tide of terrorism. I won't go into all of that. We know the drill, the reasons Bush & company gave for the Iraq invasion. We also know that most of those "reasons" were not substantiated. No Al Qaida connection, no 9/11 connection, no WMDs. Let's see. What does that leave? Saddam Hussein was a murderous, eminently evil bastard, a despot of the first order, who killed thousands of his own people. Horribly true. Is there anything regretable about his fall and subsequent execution? No, nothing.

However, all of that does not meet a litmus test for our going to war. Does anyone believe that things are better in Iraq now? Iraqis are dying by the score daily. In the end does it really matter who is doing the killing? Saddam, Americans, or your neighbors? Not only is Iraq in a state of chaos, the entire region is becoming unsettled owing to the sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis. There are both Shiites and Sunnis in Iran, Syria and several other countries in the area. It is not that much of a stretch to see how the violence could spread. Additionally, terroist groups like Al Qaida and others have taken advantage of this situation by instigating violence in such a way as to cast blame on one sect or the other. If what is going on there presently does not qualify as civil war, it's the next thing to it. To argue the point is splitting hairs.

Bush's obsession with bringing down Saddam has cost us dearly. We are now mired in a conflict from which there is no graceful exit. This is reminiscent of our involvement in Vietnam which was nearly twenty times as costly in American lives, and probably dozens, perhaps hundreds of times more costly in the combined American, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and other lives than all those lost in the Iraqi conflict to date.

The 57000+ American and countless other lives lost in the Vietnam conflict absolutely died in vain. The so called "domino" still fell, and to what effect? Now, Vietnam is a country that has largely rebuilt itself with an economy that is on the upswing and is generally well respected in the world community. And all of those people died for what, again?

The same can be said for our involvement in Iraq. At some point we will withdraw most or all of our troops from Iraq perhaps quietly, perhaps ignominiously as in Vietnam. What will be left behind? A unified country with a strong democratic government as Bush hopes? Perhaps. More likely Iraq will further devolve into total chaos and all out civil war. The entire middle east could be left a virtual powder keg.

George Bush may well be left with a legacy that he never imagined when he made his triumphal "mission accomplished" appearance on the carrier, USS Lincoln, or when he uttered his loathsome "bring 'em on" challenge to the Iraqi insurgents. The whole region could be engulfed (no pun intended) in sectarian war. Terrorist groups will be having a heyday. Israel will be rendered more vulnerable to attacks from all directions. The United States will have so much egg on its face that we will be indiscernable from a western omelet.

And all of the death will have been in vain. But, hey, maybe we can get cheaper gas.


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