War on His Mind

It has been just over two years since President Bush — in commander-in-chief mode — landed on the USS Lincoln and spoke these words in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. But the mission was not accomplished, for out of the 1,614 American combat deaths in Iraq, 1,477 occurred after Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech. How many more Americans must die before Bush’s “mission” is accomplished? When the number of Americans killed in Iraq surpassed the 1,000 mark in September of 2004, Bush said of the families of the dead during a campaign rally: “My promise to them is that we will complete the mission so that their child or their husband or wife has not died in vain.” Then in January of 2005, Bush invoked his mission once again: “American troops will be leaving as quickly as possible, but they won’t be leaving until we have completed our mission.” But how many more Americans must die before Bush’s “mission” is completed? As long as Bush is in office, there will be no “mission accomplished” or “mission completed.” Like his predecessors Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Johnson, Bush is now a war president — and seems to relish his role in this elite society. It has been a little over a year now since Bush uttered the following words during an interview in the Oval Office with Tim Russert for NBC’s “Meet the Press” that was broadcast on February 8, 2004: I’m a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind. Since Bush made this admission, I have written four articles in which I mentioned the number of American troops that have been killed in Bush’s “splendid little war” against Iraq. On July 9, 2004, in “The Horrors of War,” I related that before the phony transfer of power to the Iraqis on June 28, 855 American troops had died. On November 5, 2004, in “For Whom Would Jesus Vote,” I pointed out that Bush’s undeclared, unconstitutional, immoral war had resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 American soldiers. On May 2, 2005, in “What’s Wrong with the U.S. Global Empire?” I said that there were 1,569 military deaths in Iraq. And most recently, on May 9, 2005, in “The Warmonger’s Beatitudes,” I used the figure of 1,601 dead Americans. The death count is now up to 1,614, with no end in sight. At the rate things are going, by the time Bush’s second term comes to a close, the number of American serviceman killed in Iraq will surpass the number of Americans killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Depending on the source of your information, the official death toll in the New York City terrorist attacks was 2,752 (NYC), 2,774 (AP), or 2,784 (USA Today). Since some of those killed were foreigners, the actual number of Americans killed will be less than any of the above figures. Perhaps it is time for President Bush to have American soldiers on his mind instead of war on his mind. American soldiers that could be guarding our borders, patrolling our coasts, and actually defending us from terrorist attacks instead of dying halfway around the world trying to impose American-style democracy on a country and a people that have never been so inclined. It is the American people that need to have war on their mind. How many more billions of dollars will have to be spent before the American people demand an end to this obscene waste of their money? How much higher does the body count have to go before the American people are outraged enough to demand an end to this senseless war? Every new casualty should be met with increasing contempt for the state and its wars. Bringing democracy to Iraq and ridding the country of Saddam Hussein is not worth the life of one American. What kind of government they have and who is to be their “leader” is the business of the Iraqi people, not the United States. I continue to be amazed that those who oppose the war and don’t want to see the blood of Americans shed on foreign soil are labeled as un-patriotic and anti-American. Real patriots don’t want to see their country hated because of interventionism and militarism. Real patriots don’t want to see even one American used as cannon fodder for the state. Real patriots want their country to be admired not scorned. And yet, Americans continue to support and make apologies for the state and its wars. In spite of growing opposition to the war in Iraq, I am not very optimistic about the American people as a whole demanding the complete withdrawal of American troops and American influence from Iraq. And here are some reasons why. First, oil: As long as drilling for oil in the United States is demonized and there is oil in the Middle East, the United States can be counted on to intervene in Iraq and everywhere else in the Middle East. Second, Vietnam: The deaths of 58,000 young American men, the wounding of 304,000 more, and the permanent disabling of 75,000 of those wounded — all in the jungles of Vietnam — should have forever turned the American people away from supporting another foreign war. It didn’t. Third, September 11th: As long as many Americans continue to believe that Iraq was behind the September 11th attacks (a belief that even the president does not hold), there will never be sufficient enough outrage at anything that happens in Iraq. Fourth, the U.S. empire: The stationing of U.S. troops abroad is so pervasive (we now have troops in 150 different regions of the world), and has gone on for so long (we still have troops in Japan and Germany even though WWII ended in 1945), that the American people don’t seem to mind when the latest overseas U.S. military adventure is announced. Fifth, the military: Abu Ghraib notwithstanding, the military is still held in high esteem by too many of the American people even though very little of what the military actually does has anything to do with defending the country. Sixth, the Religious Right: Conservative Christians, who would know better if they spent as much time reading their Bible and studying history as they did reading the Weekly Standard and listening to Republican propaganda from their pulpits, should be the first to denounce any new foreign war that will lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Yet, many of them continue to defend anything the president does with the lame excuse that “he is a Christian.” What is really tragic about this president is that the things he thinks of when war is not on his mind are things like faith-based welfare schemes, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, steel tariffs, and Social Security “privatization.” It would be nice to have a president with the protection of life, liberty, and property on his mind. A president who actually followed the Constitution he swore to uphold, like “the last good Democrat,” Grover Cleveland. Even though Bush will leave office in a few years and cease being a war president, and even though the war will some day be forgotten, there are some people that will always have war on their mind — the parents, children, and spouses of the U.S. servicemen who lives continue to be wasted in a country the average American could not, until just a short time ago, even locate on a map.