If December 7, 1941, was a date that will live in infamy, March 20, 2003, was a date enshrouded in ignominy. Ten years ago the United States was led shamefully into a futile scavenger hunt for imaginary booty called weapons of mass destruction. In the process we shed much of our moral stature and planted seeds of Middle East instability.
In October 2002, President George Bush said “We know the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents …” Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2003 said, “We will be greeted as liberators … I think it will go relatively quickly … weeks, rather than months.” In November 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld predicted the war would not last longer than “five days or five months;” after the bombing started he insisted “we know where (the weapons of mass destruction) are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad …”
The ruse for invading a country that had neither attacked nor threatened us was sold to us with lies in a manner that sharpies would sell defective products. It was bought by most Republicans and many Democrats, hyped by most talk show hosts and went largely unchallenged by the media.
We skeptics were called unpatriotic. One of my cousins, a right-wing zealot, told me “People like you of faint heart … who (don’t) support our country in this war will always take a pessimistic view as that is fundamental to your emotional base!”
In fact, our pessimistic view came not from faint heart, but from a realistic assessment of the invasion’s ultimate consequences, an assessment long since vindicated. Those self-serving stout hearted war hawks got their war, but it wasn’t what they bargained for.
As we dwell in the moral and fiscal ashes left in its wake, the answer to the jingoistic fervor resonates today.
Support of country isn’t defined by blind faith to policies that undermine the nation’s centuries-old core values. It demands that we reject policies that take us to war for ill-founded reasons. Such rejection is supportive of the country and its ideals. History is in the process of rapidly confirming that bleeding America of its manpower and finances for no good reason is obviously against the national interest. Our Iraq war’s consequences will be felt by succeeding generations.
That war gained nothing, yet it cost us plenty: 4,400 American lives who died for the whims of neocons who sent them into battle but who themselves had shirked military service. More than 30,000 Americans were injured. Count 1 million Iraqi casualties. The estimated $2.2 trillion spent on the come defines today’s national debt which today’s Republicans want to charge against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We are reeling from a decaying infrastructure that cannot be adequately redressed because of the Iraq war debt. Their remedy? Cut taxes for our high-income earners; flee from investing in American growth. Call it “cut and run.”
It’s ironical that at the time we’ve reached the decennial of our invading Iraq, we may be approaching a critical confrontation with a real enemy.
Clouds are developing in the Far East. North Korea has detonated its third nuclear weapon and has openly tested long-range missiles designed to reach the United States. Its new young leader, Kim Jong-un, is making bellicose threats against us. Senior officials here have expressed concern about his potential for impulsive actions.
Weeks before the Iraq invasion, U.S. intelligence confirmed that North Korea had restarted a reactor at its primary nuclear facility that potentially could produce plutonium for making nuclear weapons. Just as he had walked from hunting Osama bin Laden with his famous comment “I really just don’t spend that much time on him,” the New York Times reported that President Bush “played down” that 2003 North Korean event. He was too busy concentrating on building the misguided case for war in Iraq.
Rapidly moving developments during the past 45 days have received only moderate press coverage. Pyongyang has declared its 60-year-old armistice with South Korea nullified. Kim has openly threatened the United States mainland with nuclear missile attacks. Defense Secretary Hagel just announced a 46 percent increase in west coast ground-based interceptor missiles. A joint United States-South Korea military agreement was signed two weeks ago. Former Defense chief Leon Panetta worries about cyber sabotage.
A great nation that uses its military as an instrument of foreign policy must discriminate between imaginary and real threats. American exceptionalism is not about boasting. It’s about what we do. The Iraq War was our exceptionalism’s exception. Diligence vis-à-vis North Korea will not be.
— Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities. The views expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent those of Regal.