IN IRAQ, OUR HAND IS IN THE FIRE NOW
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- As Iraq burns, how can I not ask: if I knew way back then, why didn't they?
It's not as if the CIA comes round to brief me. As a rule, they hardly ever get to Dummerston. It's not as if I'm a personal friend of George Tenant, or even George Bush. I'm just a dinky little writer living on top of a mountain in Vermont.
Yet when the Bush Administration began selling America on a war with Iraq, I knew it was all a shuck. And when millions of people around the world took to the streets in protest, it was clear that I wasn't alone in my knowing.
How did I know? Simple. The Bush Administration wasn't making any sense.
First of all, we all knew by then that on 9/11, Bush was flying around in Air Force One like a scared chicken. Then, we never heard any discussion, much less saw any proof, that 9/11 was actually caused by Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaida.
In fact, it was nothing short of miraculous how bin Laden suddenly became a full-scale bogey-man in the American press while most of us were still scratching our heads and wondering, "How does the government know so quickly who is behind the attacks?" And, "If they know that quickly, doesn't it mean that they knew about these people before?" And, "So then, why didn't they do something to stop them?" And, "Who the hell are these people and why do they hate us so much?"
Then we went to war against the Taliban - which had been our ally only a short time before. Everything was happening too quickly. America was making momentous moves without taking any time to discuss them or think them through. Most of us spend more time trying to decide whether to buy or lease a car than Bush did deciding to invade Iraq.
Soon we were hearing about "weapons of mass destruction" so often that they became an acronym, "WMD." We were told that Saddam was a monster, but we knew that already. After all, we had put him in power. He had biological and chemical weapons. No big surprise, we sold them to him. He was an evil dictator. But there are many evil dictators in power today. Why is it our job to remove them? Of what concern was Saddam to us? Saddam's son-in-law, when he defected, told American intelligence that Iraq's missiles had long ago been destroyed. Saddam knew this; he invited UN weapons inspectors to search his country. They found nothing.
Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. It didn't make any sense. There were no Iraqi 9/11 terrorists. Why weren't we talking about Saudi Arabia? Most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. That's where a significant amount of al-Qaida financing comes from.
Those of us who argued against the war warned that America knew nothing about Iraq, its language and its culture. We were getting ourselves into another Viet Nam quagmire, we said. We would inflame the passions of the entire Middle East, we said. We need to devote our resources to eliminating terrorism, we said. It defies common sense to concentrate on Iraq when there is so much real danger in the world, we said.
And look what we have now.
Bush tells his supporters, "They hate freedom and we love freedom," and at the same time his Administration closes down a Iraqi weekly newspaper - so much for democracy and freedom of speech - because it doesn't like what it says. The newspaper is owned by a radical cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. By shutting his paper we inflame him and his supporters. A dozen American Marines are killed overnight. We deliberately bomb a mosque and kill over 40 Iraqis. We have started a religious war.
In another part of the country, in Fallujah, underpaid, overworked and over-stressed American soldiers are dying to avenge the deaths of the overpaid American mercenaries whose charred bodies were barbarically hung from the girders of a bridge. We attack the town. We start a tribal war.
All told, we have lost 600-plus Americans and counting; thousands of Americans are now missing arms or legs or eyes; we don't even keep a count of the dead and wounded Iraqis.
We create new terrorists every day. "Iraq is currently serving as a focal point for foreign jihadist fighters, who are united in a common goal with former regime elements, criminals, and more established foreign terrorist organization members to conduct attacks against coalition and Iraqi civilian targets," the State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, told Congress recently according to The New York Times. "These jihadists view Iraq as a new training ground."
George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were monumentally stupid to start this war. They owe the American people an explanation, and there is none. Oil? Then explain why American gas prices are climbing to record rates, why the dollar is sinking because of the national debt, and why OPEC is slowing its production because it is losing money due to the failing dollar.
Because they looked like wimps when they failed to capture Saddam after the last gulf war? Well, they've caught Saddam, no one cares, and our beloved American soldiers are dying in Iraq.
Because Saddam put a hit on Bush's father? If Bush is using the bodies of American soldiers to settle a family feud then he should be arrested and tried for treason.
Because even though Saddam couldn't threaten us, he could threaten Israel? Is this a proxy war?
If your son was playing too near the stove, wouldn't you warn him about putting his hand in the flame? And if he did it anyway, wouldn't you be frustrated and upset? Here, the son is deliberately holding a hand in the flame and watching it burn. And it isn't his hand, it's ours. I listen to the news every day and it makes my stomach turn. I scream, No! This is wrong! And if I knew it back then, why didn't they?
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.