Every day that passes, Americans will be less welcomed in Iraq, and I wouldn’t take lightly the warning of an Iraqi cleric who said, "You should leave before we force you out."
An army that won’t fight is one thing. Twenty million people willing to stab you in the back, cut your throat or toss a grenade in your soup are quite another. Our Army is trained and equipped to fight set battles against other armies. It is not trained to cope with a hostile civilian population. It will not do well, and if we insist on staying, the Iraqis will force us out, just as the Lebanese forced the Israeli army out.
And remember, life isn’t a TV show. The plot won’t unfold rapidly. Slowly and gradually our victory over Saddam will turn to dust, and all those snazzy plans of the arrogant neoconservatives for a new, enlightened Middle East will turn to ashes. The Middle East is full of the ruins of superpowers.
I wrote the above three paragraphs in early May 2003, shortly after U.S. forces entered Baghdad. Just wanted to remind you that I wasn’t in the crowd that jumped on the bandwagon for war, as well as point out that what has happened in the past three years was easily foreseeable, even by a country boy turned journalist with no official sources.
If you want to go back even further, to 2001, you’ll find that in August 2001, I warned that Americans could expect a terrorist attack inside the United States. Again, no official sources. I just used the one commodity most missing in Washington, D.C. — common sense.
You don’t inject yourself into somebody else’s war without getting shot at sooner or later. As it happened, we got shot sooner, just a few weeks after I wrote that August column.
Nor do you need a degree from an Ivy League university to understand that people don’t like to be occupied by a foreign army. All foreign armies that have occupied other people’s countries have used the excuse that they came to liberate the people. Nobody believes that anymore.
Now President Bush has let the cat out of the bag. After all this jabber about listening to the officers on the ground, he said the other day at a press conference that "future presidents" will likely make the decision to bring the troops home from Iraq. So he’s talking at least four years, if not eight. If they’re really going to stay until Iraq develops into a Western-style democracy, try 30 years.
But they won’t stay anywhere near that long. The American people’s patience with foreign wars — provided the casualties aren’t too heavy and there is no cost to those at home — is about five years. The president has about two years left before he will have to brand whatever corrupt authoritarian regime that emerges in Iraq as "a great victory." A man who lies us into war will not hesitate to lie us out of one.
Then Americans will have to face the costs. After all the thousands of America’s finest have been buried, after all those artificial limbs have been attached, all those mutilated faces reconstructed, all those blind given Seeing Eye dogs, all those mental cases put on a drug regimen, all those billions of dollars added to the $8 trillion American debt, then comes the question, the important question everybody is ignoring right now: What will we have bought for this terrible price? Another corrupt dictatorship in a still-unstable Middle East.
We had that before the war. Our corrupt political leaders just didn’t like their corrupt political leader, so they decided on "regime change." We certainly will not have purchased a safer America. At the end of this sorry episode, America will be weaker and more hated than it is today.
What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end of Euro-American domination of the planet. When the emperors start being idiots, the empire is on the way to the ash heap of history. If you have any grandchildren, you might suggest that they study Chinese.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.