Wave the Flag To Deceive

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"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." These immortal words of Samuel Johnson leapt to mind when I read Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s "Support Our Troops" on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (September 2).

To avoid culpability for the strategic blunder of the Iraqi invasion, which is turning into a tar baby of serious dimension, the scoundrel Wolfowitz hides behind World Trade Center widows and idealistic generals with tears streaming down their faces.

To justify the war, the scoundrel Wolfowitz dishonestly points his finger at a Muslim response to the invasion he orchestrated: "more than 200 captured foreign terrorists who came to Iraq to kill Americans." Terrorists daily praise Wolfowitz for putting our troops in their sights.

The American invasion of Iraq is the most gratuitous war in human history. Not since Woodrow Wilson manipulated American patriotism to enter World War I and FDR manipulated American patriotism to enter World War II have Americans been so deceived.

At least in the two world wars, aggressive powers were on the march. Our "mother country" needed our help, and so did the French, who had helped us achieve political independence. Some might regard the plight of the English and French as extenuating circumstances that gave some reason, however weak, for our involvement in foreign entanglements. But where are the extenuating circumstances in Iraq?

"The plight of Israel," reply the neo-Jacobins. We had to make Israeli democracy safe in the Middle East.

Israel has a powerful military and numerous nuclear weapons. Yet we are supposed to believe that this country, which in the heyday of Soviet power, simultaneously defeated three Soviet-supplied Arab armies in six days and still occupies some of the conquered territory, stood in dire danger from Saddam Hussein. We had to take Saddam out before his military, 25 years out of date, rolled up Israeli democracy, leaving nothing but tyrannical regimes in the Middle East and no outpost from which to deracinate Islam and substitute American values in its place.

According to economist Thomas Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College for a conference at the University of Maine, since 1973 Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion, or $5,700 per American.

This sum could be much reduced and still remain an extraordinary commitment to a nation of 5 million people. Surely we don’t need to add the arms, legs, and lives of our soldiers as well.

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

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