Sunday, June 27, 2004
The L.A. Times gives 'em hell -- sort of
In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States.... It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."
The current president outlined a far more aggressive policy . . . declaring that in the war on terror "we must take the battle to the enemy" and confront threats before they emerge. The Iraq war was intended as a monument to his new Bush Doctrine.... It now stands as a monument to folly.
Residents of the Middle East see the U.S. not as a friend but as an imperial power bent on securing a
guaranteed oil supply and a base for U.S. forces. Much of the rest of the world sees a bully.
All the main justifications for the invasion offered beforehand by the Bush administration and its supporters — weapons of mass destruction, close ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, a chance to make Baghdad a fountain of democracy that would spread through the region — turned out to be baseless.
The U.S. is also poorer after the war, in lives lost, billions spent and terrorists given new fuel for their rage. The initial fighting was easy; the occupation has been a disaster, with Pentagon civilians arrogantly ignoring expert advice on the difficulty of the task and necessary steps for success.
A year later, more than 90% of Iraqis want the U.S. to leave their country. The president boasted in July that if Iraqi resistance fighters thought they could attack U.S. forces, "bring them on." Since then, more than 400 personnel have been killed by hostile fire.
A Litany of Costly Errors
The missteps have been many: listening to Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who insisted that their countrymen would welcome invaders; using too few troops, which led to a continuing crime wave and later to kidnappings and full-blown terror attacks. Disbanding the Iraqi army worsened the nation's unemployment problem and left millions of former soldiers unhappy — men with weapons. Keeping the United Nations at arm's length made it harder to regain assistance when the need was dire.
It will take years for widely felt hostility to ebb, in Iraq and other countries. The consequences of arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into Americans' memory banks.
Preemption is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster. The U.S. needs better intelligence before it acts in the future. It needs to listen to friendly nations. It needs humility.
As brazen as this editorial may seem by the standards of American media, it is really quite “restrained.” Nowhere does it mention that executing the doctrine of preemption is a war crime. And it is important for it to be understood as such, as much or more than that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime.