Once upon a time in a mountainous land far away, a superpower came to the aid of a government that shared its political philosophy. No one dreamed that an insurgency made up of Muslims could possibly prevail against the military superpower.
Yet that’s what happened in Afghanistan, and it produced several results: It created a cadre of Muslim fighters who called themselves mujahideen; it created the mythology surrounding Osama bin Laden and his organization, al-Qaida; and it made the United States, which had helped recruit and arm the mujahideen, feel it had paid back the Soviet Union for its help to the Vietnamese.
It’s too bad that Washington is a city in which nobody seems to have any long-term memory. If someone did, it might occur to him that we are in Iraq playing the role the Soviet Union played in Afghanistan. We are the invading superpower and are every day providing on-the-job training for terrorists and jihadists who want to take a shot at us. And, for that matter, they haven’t stopped shooting at us in Afghanistan either.
No other large power — so far — is providing money and weapons to the insurgents, at least none that we know of. Iraq was an open-air ammo dump, and one of the gross blunders we made was not blowing all that stuff up. The insurgents seem to have plenty of ammunition and plenty of money. Given the Bush administration’s preference for belligerency over diplomacy, it’s not hard to imagine in the future help coming to the insurgents from Iran and North Korea, and possibly even China.
Five times in his recent speech, Mr. Bush tried to tie the war in Iraq to the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What is deceptive about that is that prior to our invasion of Iraq, there were no connections whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and the attacks on us. But, like Afghanistan, Iraq will play a role in future attacks because we are training a whole new generation of terrorists.
While Vice President Dick Cheney insists the insurgency is in its last throes, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the insurgency could last 12 years. The Bush administration cannot seem to get its story straight. At any rate, the facts don’t back up Mr. Cheney.
To use the same time span the president used to talk about progress, last year attacks averaged 40 a day; they are now averaging 70 a day. Since we turned over sovereignty (remember how that was supposed to knock the wind out of the insurgents?), 885 Americans have been killed, 74 coalition soldiers have died, and 482 car bombs have killed 2,176 people and wounded another 5,500. All told, at least 12,000 Iraqis have died and 1,735 Americans have been killed since we arrived in Iraq.
I remember the neoconservatives saying not to worry, that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the invasion and occupation. Don’t worry, they said, we will be welcomed with flowers and candy. It’s no wonder Washington prefers to operate in the Alzheimer’s mode, because memory would cause some people to be held accountable for their mistakes and bad advice.
The really sad thing about the president is that he seems to believe that a democratic government in Iraq is nirvana and that once achieved, its brilliant light will spread over the Middle East and, like a genie’s magic, change the hearts and minds of 200 million people. He seems not to know that Iran has a democratically elected government and it still doesn’t like us. Even if a democratic government in Iraq survives, which I predict it will not, it will not solve any of the other problems in the Middle East.
In the meantime, I’m sure little ads are appearing on the Internet saying: "If you aspire to be a terrorist or a jihadist, come to Iraq and get on-the-job training at killing Americans. No need to hurry. They will be here a long time."
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.