The one thing in this war and the coverage of this war that bothers me to no end is how American-centric it is. Every news channel had big reports last week about 4000 dead. We lost multiples of that at Okinawa alone in a week, not to mention the loss of life in the Civil War. It seems to me that because this war doesn't include conscripts, just volunteers shanghaied under stop-loss and other fine print, we Americans don't feel the loss as we might have in Vietnam (when any young man might be drafted.) There's really not that many kids dying, so who cares? The US is not vested in a war until there are really serious casualties, especially if they are conscripts.
But what about life in general? Iraqi deaths are immeasurable, but to Americans they are either ignorant or ambivalent. You rarely hear about the cost of this war to the Iraqi, who, believe it or not, is just as much as person as any American. You only hear the party line that we've invaded to secure their freedom. Meanwhile, conservative estimates put the Iraqi loss of life around 100,000 and liberal estimates are closer to 600,000. Refugees by the millions have poured into neighboring countries. I've heard numbers associated with Syria and Jordan, but Iran has certainly had its own share as well. Iraqis that stay live in a poor state with Baghdadis getting but one hour of electricity per day. Their drinking water is disease-ridden filth and they shit in the streets. Employment, such as it is, is rare. Those employed are targets for assassination by militia.
I don't mean to say that life under Saddam was a piece of cake or that freedom doesn't come without a price. I've been watching the HBO series on John Adams lately and learned that freedom does certainly come with a price. The American Revolutionaries decided on their own to be indepenent and free, not at the gun-barrel of a superpower like France. But John Adams' freedom was his own choice and his fellow countrymen were free to disagree and take up arms alongside the British as Tories.
I think it is astoundingly arrogant to think that we can decide others' fate without their input. In the case of the Iraq war, we substituted the plebiscite of the Iraqi people with nefarious politicking by Ahmed Chalabi and many other untrustworthy informants. As a result of their input and the policy decisions made by those who's opinions were shaped by Chalabi and curveball, we've displaced millions, and killed hundred-thousands without hearing their voice. Who knows what they may have chosen? There were other options other than outright invasion. What if, this time, we really assisted the Shi'a with a coup, instead of leading them to the slaughter like we did after the first Gulf War? Our decision making seems not only arrogant, but anti-democratic.
I'll state again that our invasion of Iraq has been the greatest present ever to our enemies in Iran and our enemies in Afghanistan. GW was duped. General bin Laden caught General Bush in the pincer movements of all pincer movements. Bush's team of idiots was flat outsmarted by a dude living in a cave, and a tin-horn dictator.
Getting back to the genesis of the enterprise, the war was never about freedom and the "domino effect" in the Middle East. That was something Cheney made up after he didn't find his precious WMD's. This war never was about terrorism, that's just the rationale given now by McCain which is really just a result of unintended consequences. "The US ran into a morass in Iraq, that's a friendly place for us terrorists to go blow them up," so goes the al-Qaida thiking.
But Bush now contends we're fighting terrorists, surely to stoke up the flag on the lapel crowd (I'm frankly offended that the flag has been co-opted by the right, but that's another post). This is hogwash. Al-Qaida makes up much less than 10% of the violence, many studies agree. But this is Bush's only political move to keep his numbers from dropping far below Carter or Nixon. Keep conflating 9/11 with Iraq. It worked in 2004 with an assist from Fox. I'm waiting to see if McCain stoops to this level.
So why the hell are we there?
Maybe it's just geopolitics and we need airbases? Seems like the new "State of Forces" agreement (which is really a treaty that should be ratified by the Senate) aims for permanent bases.
Maybe it's a Shakespearean tale of revenge against a vile dictator that put out a hit on Daddy?
Maybe it's just hubris. We didn't feel like Afghanistan was enough of a retaliation for 9/11 and we just needed to kick some more ass (Henry Kissinger's viewpoint).
Maybe it was just a power grab for Iraqi oil. If that's the case, I'd like to know who was getting Iraqi oil before the war (Russia, China?) and who is getting the oil after the war (ExxonMobil)?
Maybe Bush's second SOTU speech was true and he seeks to spread democracy around the world, like god told him to do. And he's a moral absolutist that sees just good and evil. Eh, no.
Truth is...oil. We wouldn't give a shit about Iraq if it wasn't for oil. And given his presidential charge, he may be right. Oil is the blood of our livelihood. Not just cars, but manufacturing (here or elsewhere), consumption, you name it, petroleum is in it. The American economy, and therefore the American life doesn't exist these days without oil from the Persian Gulf.
I believe this calls for a Manhattan Project for this century. Tell me where to join up.