Looking back, moving forward

As President Bush’s approval ratings continue to plummet, the American public can rely on one thing: A continued insistence that we must stay the course in Iraq for the safety of our country. In the past three years the number of American soldiers killed has reached 2,311, and those maimed has exceeded 17,000. This does not factor in the number of American civilians, working for contracting companies and NGOs.

Then there are the numbers of Iraqi civilians to consider -- some 37,754. As the number of casualties has risen, so too has the fever pitch of the president’s insistence that leaving Iraq, indeed, even discussing leaving Iraq, would send a message to the enemy that we are weak, vulnerable.

Over two years ago, U.S. intelligence officials warned the Bush administration that the Iraqi insurgency was fueled, not by foreign terrorists, but by local conditions. The National Intelligence Estimate drew a direct connection between the presence of U.S. troops, and a strengthening insurgency. President Bush has made clear that this war was, and continues to be, unencumbered by the burdens of effective planning and reliable intelligence.

Even conservatives have come forward to address the Iraq war as a mistake. The intelligence was wrong, the confidence that we would be in and out in no time was wrong, and the assumption that manpower and weapons could instantaneously overwhelm the deep-seated resentment fueling the insurgency was wrong. While there is a satisfaction in hearing conservatives such as George Will and Francis Fukuyama address these critical flaws in the president’s failure as our Commander in Chief, they’re still missing a critical point.

As Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization writes,


The first and overarching error of neoconservatives…is their willingness (nay, eagerness) to use war to achieve their ideological objectives…War must be a last resort, undertaken with great reluctance, when no other option is available--appropriate only when necessary to defend ourselves against an immediate aggressor (as international law recognizes). If neoconservatives understood that war is appropriate only as an absolutely last resort to defend ourselves against an attack, the war would never have happened.
To some extent, there is little to be done. No amount of dissecting the false pretenses that led to the war will stop it. Once you create a front line, that front line exists in a very real way -- the millions of people living in an ongoing war zone can attest to that.

But the analysis that we have been afforded -- pointing to the use of war as a tool to advance an ideological agenda is a critical realization that Americans should remind themselves of every day. While the president has made the Iraq war the bedrock of his administration’s focus on national security, the evidence against the genuineness of these claims is mounting.

There is a wise adage that, when trying to assess someone’s character, you should pay attention to their actions rather than their words.

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