Guest View: Are we oppressors or liberators?
Five years ago last month, the United States invaded Iraq. Several reasons were advanced to justify that pre-emptive action. Every one of those reasons – such as Saddam Hussein’s possession of critical nuclear technology, the existence of al-Qaida in Iraq, or weapons of mass destruction being made and stored in Iraq – was determined not to have existed.
Either we were misled by unbelievably faulty intelligence – a possibility that is frightening as to its consequences to our national security – or our leaders intentionally misled us to gain our backing for that otherwise unsupportable invasion. I believe the latter conclusion to be the correct one.
We also were told by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that we would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people. “They will greet us dancing in the streets,” was the promise of Rumsfeld.
Again, that faulty intelligence was quickly discredited, as we were considered by the Iraqis not as liberators, but instead as occupiers. We were greeted in the streets of Baghdad not by dancing, happy Iraqis, but by explosive devices planted in those streets by angry Iraqis aiming to blow up our troops.
The president, most unconvincingly, assures us we now are acting as liberators to assure freedom for Iraqi citizens. We have switched from false claims as to the necessity of invading Iraq to this final assertion that we are there because we wish to liberate Iraqis from oppression and build a new nation for them. Yes, we apparently are into the heretofore GOP-denounced policy of “nation-building.”
A million Americans have fought in Iraq these past five years. We have lost 4,000 honored warriors in combat, and 29,000 of those brave young Americans have been wounded. And we are spending $275 million per day “to bring freedom to Iraqis”! Does anyone honestly believe that our courageous troops should be fighting and dying for the sole purpose of assuring freedom to Iraqis, or that those same Iraqis support and admire us for sacrificing so much for them? Get real!
Nonetheless, Bush and his minions continue to insist that the Iraqi people respect and admire us. Probably the best sense of how successful we have been in attaining the respect of Iraqis is to be found in a series of polls taken by American sources over several years to determine exactly how the Iraqis feel about us being in their country. The sample poll consisted of 3,000 Iraqis.
No statistic found in those rigorously conducted polls is more discouraging than the brutal answer to the question: “Is it acceptable to attack U.S. forces?” In 2004, only 17 percent of Iraqis supported attacks on U.S. forces. But three years later, the percentage of Iraqis who support attacks on our military forces has leapt to 51 percent! And the Sunnis are nearly unanimous in their belief that American military personnel should be engaged in combat. To conclude the examination of whether we are considered liberators, as we claim to be, or occupiers, as Iraqis seem to believe: 78 percent of Iraqis in 2007 now oppose the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.
I believe those figures to be accurate. But the Bush propagandists have criticized those polls as being inaccurate. Well, the only way to solve that problem in a free, democratic society would be to hold an election in Iraq with the question: “Do Iraqis wish to continue to have U.S. troops stationed in the country?” That is a simple question, and the answer would be instructive.
Such an election would not be unusual. Three years ago, Iraqi citizens by the millions, for the first time in their lives, freely voted to create a Parliament. Their inked fingers, indicating that they had voted, were proudly displayed all over the country. The president justifiably praised their wide participation in that election.
So if we honestly believe we are not hated by a majority of Iraqis, let us put that question to the test of a national election in Iraq. That would be a convincing demonstration of the ability of Iraqis to govern themselves after enduring five years of our incompetent tutelage as supposed liberators.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Bush, who controls the Iraqi government, never would trust the Iraqi people in a free election to express their views as to whether we should leave or stay in their country. He knows all too well that they would vote overwhelmingly for us to get out of their country, and the sooner the better.
And were I to vote in that election, I, too, would vote for us to get out of Iraq and to come home where we belong. I am not certain as to exactly what the president’s agenda is for remaining in a country whose people despise or fear us, but I am positive it is not, as he claims to be the case, to assure freedom for Iraqis.
– Jerome Waldie is a former U.S. congressman, a Placerville resident and a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board.