Last week, I ended my column here (pegged to the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq) with a question: What reasonable defense is there to prolong such a futile war?
Many of you wrote in. Interestingly, the e-mails more or less reflected the polls.
The majority of you agreed this war is a bad one. A minority of you disagreed and gave your reasons for supporting it. Unfortunately, not all of you war supporters made your arguments in a terribly civil fashion.
One refreshing and very welcome exception was Bob Faison, a Sylvania man who summed up very well points that others also tried (far less successfully) to make. His e-mail is worth consideration and includes my reply.
Ms. de Boer,
The answer to your question 'why prolong the Iraq war': We now owe the Iraqi people. Just that simple.
Your analysis of the situation is pretty much on the nose. [But] you didn't mention there are two wars here: the War in Iraq and the War of Personality waged against George Bush.
You quoted many statistics about economic conditions in Iraq. Those are equivalent to the expectations, economic and personal, of any country at war in which it is the battleground. Iraq had an economy based on oil. Oil production is stymied. At the end of the war, oil and the economy will flow again.
The calumny against George Bush is unconscionable. It precedes the war - it predates his first presidency, perhaps predating his governorship. The probable originator [writer Molly Ivins] recently passed away, which took her invective out of the syndicated columns. The Bush haters have not focused on the Iraq war as it involves millions of people. As the spotlight includes "Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales and others, the real focus is the embarrassment at any cost, of George Bush, the man.
There was no war in Iraq when we went there. Although (by your stats) 75 percent of Americans approved of the war in 2003, and now 60 percent disapprove, those stats mean little against the current facts. Yes, we probably entered the Iraq pre-emptive war with the wrong facts under the wrong premise.
Don't scream "George Bush, George Bush!" I don't excuse him or the Congress. The fact remains that we have turned Iraq into a battleground for whatever our purposes, and morally we cannot now just turn away. All the numbers and situations you describe can be rebutted by the Iraqis saying:
"That ain't our fault. You have big expenses and some personnel losses. Well, Americans, you took this on. Whether your premise was right or wrong, whether your president was Al Gore or George Bush, you put the power and prestige of your country behind your war to be fought in our country. The mistakes you have made don't change your present moral liability one bit."
We must stop this "Hate George Bush" war at any cost.
It is a tremendous roadblock, stalemating the Iraqi war, and tying up the Congress as it tries to come up with more ways to thwart or embarrass the President through the war. Mistakes have been made. But Hating George Bush isn't going to correct them.
"Hate George Bush" involves waiting another two years during which we expend money and troops while awaiting a Democrat president who will inherit, in the least, the same conundrum, two years and perhaps two trillion dollars later. Meantime we will still owe this tremendous moral debt to the Iraqi people.
Thanks for your e-mail, which was especially appreciated for being both literate and civil.
One point you raise has long weighed heavily on my mind, and that is the issue of what our moral obligation is to the Iraqi people. That "Pottery Barn rule" - we broke it, we buy it - grows increasingly applicable. Like you, I have great concern about what is owed by us to the Iraqis. Our inability to provide security, let alone infrastructure, is troublesome. I suppose my chief qualm in this regard, however, is that I'm not convinced a military solution is the only and best one.
Can you disagree that our military presence there has caused much greater anti-American sentiment and further destabilized the region?
On the matter of George Bush, I'm afraid we agree less. The bitter and divisive political climate now is a direct result of the GOP's maneuvering to achieve and maintain a political stranglehold. To cry "unfair" now, when Bush's poll numbers are so low and when there is finally significant disagreement with Republican policies, strikes me as hollow.
I don't agree with you, when you call dissent with the Bush Administration a War of Personality against Mr. Bush. Indeed, if there was recently a true War of Personality against a sitting president, it would be the one waged against Bill Clinton, who was attacked not for his policies but his peccadillos.
When you urge, "Don't scream 'George Bush, George Bush!'•" my question would be: If not the president and commander in chief, who else is accountable?
Again, thanks for your e-mail. It was a pleasure to read.