It Worth It?
April 9, 2003
As with any purchase, most Americans want to know if they
are getting what they paid for. In other words, we want to
know if we're getting the most "bang for our buck". In these
cynical times of infomercials, telemarketers, network marketing
schemes, spam, and a perpetual barrage of advertising, Americans
tend to be rightly skeptical and cautious before committing
their hard-earned dollar. Should we not expect the same from
our government? Ask any conservative, watching our budget
like the proverbial bean counter. Surely our government would
not resort to the same cheap, desperate tactics these other
low-level marketers utilize when rolling out a new product?
So America, here is your invoice to date: at least $80 billion
dollars (that's $80,000,000,000 for the fuzzy-math challenged),
80 American soldiers' lives thus far, not to mention 7 POWs,
several MIAs, and over 150 wounded. There are also British
casualties to be considered - but maybe they need their own
invoice. Throw in a few domestic and foreign journalists.
No accurate numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties exist, but
the deaths are reported to be in the hundreds, and the injured
are reported to number in the thousands. Most Americans would
consider this to be worthy of a separate invoice as well,
but I consider the blood of innocents to be a price our great
and moral nation should be willing to at least go Dutch on.
Then there are the fractured relationships we must attempt
to mend in the international community. "We don't need no
stinkin' U.N.", comes the cry from the heartland. Fine, if
reduction of American reputation, safety, and international
goodwill, as well as severed alliances and strategic partnerships
are the price we are willing to pay, then certainly we must
include these in the bill. After all, greater presidents than
Bush - including his father - spent the last century investing
and building up these relationships. The bennies included
greater security for America and American interests, better
business opportunities, and allowed us to win the Cold War.
And let us not forget that the true cost of this war may
not be felt any time in the immediate future. The admitted
increase in resentment in the Arab world and any resulting
terrorist actions that our Iraq adventure may be breeding
now may not be felt right away. We hope and pray that such
reactions are not forthcoming, but we may never truly know
how many bin Ladens we've bought these past couple of weeks.
I ask again, was it worth it? What amounts to a new reality
TV show for many of the most ardent war supporters, as they
crack open beer cans and snacks for the nightly viewing, doesn't
even have the blood and violence of any of the new video games.
I've seen better pyrotechnics displays on Monday Night Raw
than from Shock and Awe. If you want to see the latest and
greatest toys of our military, there are a number of shows
on Discovery, TechTV and the History Channel to satisfy even
the biggest Jane's fans among us.
So what exactly did we pay for? A false sense of security?
Even a thoroughly Anglo-American, locked down, patrolled,
martial-law imposing occupation of Iraq will not be able to
stop desperate men there from conducting future operations.
Just ask the Israelis. And the likely increase in terrorism
as a result of this war - documented by numerous experts including
Tenet and Ridge, along with the decrease in intelligence cooperation
from our "allies" makes me wonder if we were not sold a dry
bill of goods.
Did we buy the Iraqis freedom? And is this the same kind
of freedom we have here, where anti-war protestors are threatened,
arrested, slandered and told to keep quiet for the good of
the country? Please let me know, because if I'm paying for
Democracy I want to make sure that I'm not getting the reduced-rights
And while we're on that subject, can we make sure they have
a better electoral system in place? I mean, is there really
much of a difference between the "Saddam - Yes/No"
ballot and the ballots the Supreme Court filled out?
Speaking of democracy, do you wonder if the Afghans are getting
a little jealous of the attention Iraq is getting considering
it's been almost two years since we "liberated" them, and
they still haven't seen the fruits of what we promised them?
Listen, I am no apologist for Saddam Hussein and will be
very happy to see him go, but at what price? I find it ridiculously
hard to believe that the average conservative gives a damn
about the plight of the Iraqi people. They sure as hell don't
give a damn about many of their fellow Americans. How odd
that the gassing of the Kurds is such a horror, 15 years after
the fact. How odd that these very same Kurds, whom the pro-war
crowd is so pumped up to rescu,e were not a big deal when
Bush 41 turned his back on them and they were slaughtered
- as were the Shias.
But selective rescue is not a new concept for America. For
all the blathering about "saving the French's asses" and the
comparisons made about Hussein to Hitler and how great we
were for stopping Hitler and not appeasing him - I'd like
to remind my patriotic friends that we did not enter World
War II until we were attacked, almost three years after
the war started. We also turned down visa requests to thousands
if not hundreds of thousands of Jews and others seeking asylum
from Hitler's brutality.
And how long did it take for us to get involved in Bosnia?
And how much criticism was heaped on Clinton for doing so?
And how many other repressive, brutal despots and dictators,
many of them with ties to terrorism and WMD exist today
that we are not taking action towards? The short list includes
North Korea, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, Iran - but arguably includes
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Now it turns out that the real reason for this war, at least
the one that was initially marketed - WMD - and not the one
that has been gradually shifted to in the past few weeks -
Iraqi liberation - may also turn out to have been oversold.
Even if some evidence is found in the coming days or weeks
- it would be highly suspect to think that Hussein would not
have used them by now. It reminds me of that old Robin Williams
riff about Qaddafi. "There is a line of death, you cross it
you die!", "Okay, you cross this line, you die!"," Ok, this
line!", etc. And, knowing that Hussein chose not to
use these weapons, if he has them, even with impending death
facing him directly, I am even more unconvinced of this threat
than before the war began.
Further, realizing that our military has thus far obliterated
opposition in a relatively quick and easy manner due to our
overwhelming tactical and technological superiority - much
like putting Mike Tyson in the ring against a paraplegic -
I am even further unconvinced that Iraq posed any threat whatsoever
to us or its neighbors. It is ironic that the fratricide ratio
is about even with the number of deaths caused by the Iraqi
opposition. And through it all was our great leader claiming,
much like the crusaders of old, that victory was not only
certain, but divinely granted.
Which is rather curious. Without getting too religious here,
as I wish Bush would as well, it seems odd that the divine
power would, like the pro-war crowd, selectively choose convenient
moments to rescue the Iraqis. Bush's dad didn't have this
divine seal of approval, or at least it wasn't spoken of.
But he did manage to get the French on board, so that's something.
Does any of the pro-war crowd stop to consider the reasoning
behind Bush 41's desire to not close the deal (which
was actually to avoid a power vacuum in the region vis-à-vis
Iran)? And keeping in mind bin Laden's fate, and knowing Hussein
has still not been captured or killed, one questions if Bush
43, like his father, is not a finisher. Almost makes you wonder
where those twins came from...
The sad truth in all of this is that this war has not even
been paid for. We have put it on the card, and we are expecting
future generations to pay off the balance. Not just financially,
but diplomatically and with potential long-term increases
in threats to our security. We have not scratched the surface
of post-war Iraq and the subsequent costs this will entail.
Again, I am reminded of Afghanistan. We have been promised
the coupons of Iraqi oil to provide a discount to offset these
costs - but most of us are able to see through this as the
cash cow to American oil interests that it is. Corporations
will pay back the access to these opportunities in the form
of soft-money donations to the Bush administration, to keep
them in power so they can hunt for more opportunistic bargains.
Ah, the power of the pyramid scheme. I wonder how so few
Americans seemingly cannot see how bad a deal they were dealt.
How, like the victims of a bad alarm salesman, they so easily
fell for the fear pitch. Or the bait and switch of the WMD
- no wait, Iraqi liberty - at reduced prices. Act now!
And perhaps most disturbing of all, why did so many of my
fellow Americans never bother to read the fine print?