The Bungled War


We have passed the five-year anniversary of George W. Bush’s bungled war in Iraq. What has it gained the American people? I’m afraid the answer is nothing. Let’s look at the accomplishments.

We delivered a new ally to Iran. We lost nearly 4,000 American lives and suffered another 29,000 wounded. We spent $400 billion, by Pentagon accounting. We increased the federal deficit to $9 trillion. We’ve made the Middle East more, not less, unstable. American prestige is in the trash can. Oil is more than $100 a barrel. The military is strained to the breaking point, so we are now recruiting high-school dropouts and people with criminal records. The American economy is on the tipping point of disaster. Bush’s disapproval rating is at 65 percent.

Iraq is by no means stable. The destruction of infrastructure and loss of life in Iraq have, many say, permanently wrecked the country. The so-called rebuilding of Iraq has, from the beginning, been a cluster-blunder marked by greed, corruption, no-bid contracts and incompetence. To a large extent, we have lost our economic independence. Most of the brands you see advertised on television are Japanese; most of the stuff we buy is made in China. We are the biggest debtor nation in the world. The product of our public education system sucks when compared with most of the industrial world. If it weren’t for foreigners with Ph.D.’s in the sciences and engineering, many of our faculties would be lacking enough warm bodies to teach. You might think about that before you gripe about Muslims. The dollar has lost so much purchasing power, foreigners are beginning to demand payment in euros.

We’ve had some incompetents as president. I’ve always thought Jimmy Carter was the champion incompetent, but by golly he’s been dethroned by George Bush. The Chinese, the Japanese and the Russians think we are stupid. They may be right at the present time, but America’s ace in the hole has always been the ability to change. We do not face a single insoluble problem.

However, since all of our problems are self-created, we are going to have to change ourselves in order to solve them. I won’t say, as Henry Hull said in an old movie about Jesse James, that the first thing we have to do is take all the lawyers out in the street and shoot them down like dogs. I will say we should close about three-quarters of the law schools in the U.S. We already have a surplus of lawyers, far more than any other three nations combined. Lawyers do not create wealth; they transfer it from their clients to themselves.

On the other hand, engineers and scientists, of which we have a shortage, do create wealth. I once argued that a new American missile should be sited on law-school campuses on the grounds that their destruction would at least provide a silver lining to a nuclear war. Lawyer-politicians in Washington, however, thought cornfields in the Middle West were more expendable than law schools. Therefore, one thing you can do is make a solemn pledge to never vote for a lawyer running for public office.

We also need to regain the civic courage that our ancestors had. That means the courage to face tough questions without regard for the special pleaders who claim they will be "offended" if you discuss it. It means the courage to demand of the schools that they educate and not entertain students. It means the courage to demand that students study and study hard, because learning is hard work. It means the courage, if necessary, to toss the television and the electronic games in the garbage can. And it’s necessary if parents can’t control the amount of time their children spend on these time-killers.

Lastly, we should all post on our refrigerators the immortal words of Pogo Possum when he said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.