Is Anyone Listening?
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
They should know better. Supporters of this war, apologists for this war, defenders of this war, participants in this war — they should all know better. The evidence is there, but is anyone listening?
Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Objectivists — they should know better. Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Jews — they should know better. Ministers, teachers, doctors, managers, fast food workers, housewives should know better. Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, and reservists — they should know better. Flag wavers, patriots, veterans, yellow ribbon wearers, "God and country" and "God bless America" Christians — they should know better. All Americans should know better. The evidence is there, but is anyone listening?
They have the word of Pentagon insiders. They have the word of Bush administration insiders. They have the word of the Army War College. They have the word of army generals. They have the word of members of Congress. They have the word of the Founding Fathers. They have the word of war veterans. They have the word of Iraq war veterans. They have the word of the vice president. They even have the word of the president himself. The evidence is there, but is anyone listening?
Karen Kwiatkowski retired as a USAF lieutenant colonel after spending her final four and a half years working at the Pentagon. She accelerated her retirement "because of the ethical difficulties brought on by witnessing the misuse of intelligence in order to support an agenda for an unnecessary, unwarranted war of choice against Iraq." She describes the current U.S. military and civilian leadership as "politicized, emasculated, obedient to the bureaucracy and ignorant of the Constitution." Is anyone listening to Colonel Kwiatkowski?
Lawrence Wilkerson, a former colonel in the U.S. Army, a decorated Vietnam vet, and a life-long Republican who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, has recently stated that Powell's February 2003 speech before the United Nations that sought to justify the impending war against Iraq was "a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council." He further stated that "there were major doubts inside the intelligence community about everything that was being said about the Iraq threat, even as Powell's speech was being planned and delivered."
Jeffrey Record, a professor in the Department of Strategy and International Security at the U.S. Air Force's Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama, and former professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, writes in Bounding the Global War on Terrorism, published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, that the war in Iraq "has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda." The nature and parameters of the global war on terror (GWOT) "remain frustratingly unclear." The declared objectives of the GWOT are "unrealistic." The goals of the GWOT are "politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable." The GWOT is "strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate scarce U.S. military and other means over too many ends." Is anyone listening to Professor Record?
Lieutenant General William Odom (Ret.) calls the war in Iraq "the greatest strategic disaster in our history, not in terms of its present body count, but rather because of its radiating consequences for the region and the world." Invading Iraq "was never in the U.S.' interests and has not become so." Brigadier General Andrew Gatsis (Ret.), who was awarded numerous medals for bravery during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, says about the war:
We never should have gone in there in the first place since we weren't immediately threatened. There were no weapons of mass destruction; Saddam Hussein's regime had no connection to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and wasn't responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center; and there wasn't any evidence to back up the claim that Iraq was building nuclear weapons capability. All the reasons given by the administration to justify this war have been shown to be false.
We invaded a country that posed no threat to us. What's different about what we have done in Iraq and what Hitler did when he sent his forces into Czechoslovakia in 1939? This war in Iraq has already cost the lives of 2,200 Americans, wounded over 15,000 more, and left at least 30,000 Iraqis dead, most of whom were non-combatants caught in crossfires or victimized by Islamist terrorists. And look at the billions of dollars being poured into this flawed effort. It saddens me to see all of this happen to our troops — and all for an unjust cause.
Is anyone listening to these generals?
Representative John Murtha (D-PA), a decorated Marine combat veteran and the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress, has recently called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, concluding that the war has increased both terrorism and instability in the Middle East. He now terms the war "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." On the Republican side of the aisle, there is the heroic Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), an Air Force veteran who has opposed the war from the beginning. Is anyone listening to these congressmen?
The Founding Fathers of this country issued numerous warnings about the dangers of wars. We know that Thomas Jefferson said: "Never was so much false arithmetic employed on any subject, as that which has been employed to persuade nations that it is their interest to go to war." But let's hear the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, on how the state uses war to strip its citizens of their liberties:
If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.
Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.
Is anyone listening to the Founding Fathers?
Veterans for Peace, which includes veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and other conflicts, as well as peacetime veterans, is calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In a letter sent to each member of Congress, Veterans for Peace stated that "this administration's war on Iraq, in addition to being increasingly unpopular among Americans, is an unmistakable violation of our Constitution and federal law which you have sworn to uphold. In our system, the remedy for such high crimes is clear: this administration must be impeached." The president of the group further says that "we believe that when our government conducts a war of aggression on Iraq and commits a growing and appalling series of what must legally be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity in the execution of that war, it violates Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18 U.S.C. § 2441), and numerous international treaties which are legally binding on our nation."
Tim Goodrich, one of the founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War, charges the president with "deceit, lack of planning, and arrogance." He says that
for a real victory plan, the best course of action would be an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Our continued presence only serves to fuel terrorism, not defeat it. Not only would an immediate withdrawal prevent the unnecessary deaths of more of our country's honorable military personnel, but it would also increase the security of our nation by allowing our troops to do what they signed up for; defending the country.
Is anyone listening to Iraq war veterans?
After the First Gulf War, then secretary of defense and now vice president, Dick Cheney, in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in April of 1991, said about Saddam Hussein and Iraq:
I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.
What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?
I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.
And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?
And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.
All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques.
Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq.
Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there.
I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
Is anyone listening to the vice president? Is the vice president even listening to himself?
As the whole world now knows, and President Bush has himself acknowledged, two of the major reasons given for undertaking this war in the first place were simply not true. Iraq was not responsible for the September 11th attacks. "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th," said the president in answer to a reporter's question on September 17, 2003, after hundreds of U.S. soldiers had already died for a lie. There were no weapons of mass destruction. "It is true that most of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," said Mr. Bush in a speech on December 14, 2005, at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., after the death count had by then passed the 2,000 mark. Is anyone listening to the president? Are any soldiers listening to their commander in chief?
I am afraid that too many people have the same mindset as the president, who says that even "knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."
Since human lives are at stake — American lives and the lives of the U.S. government's enemy of the week — those in the military ought to be more diligent than the average American in finding out about the justness of a war. And American soldiers who claim to be Christians ought to be even more thorough in their investigation. Is anyone in the military listening?
February 20, 2006
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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