Sunday March 31, 2013

RICHMOND

For the past few weeks, pundits have been highlighting the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq, most of them taking vengeance for being bamboozled by former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the smarmy neocons who swarmed around them.

I am not a pundit, but I was taken in by the savagery of Saddam Hussein and his alleged ability to either blow us to kingdom come or poison our water systems or commit other atrocious acts against us poor benighted Americans.

In short, I was all for invading Iraq.

Despite his inexperience in global matters, George W. Bush came into office cocky as they come. He was determined to show the world that we were again No. 1, having "kicked the Vietnam Syndrome," and we were ready once again to kick derrieres if need be. Under his command, unlike his father's Kuwait "victory," we were going all the way to Baghdad.

And we were going to do it with air power alone, bombing the Iraqis, as Rumsfeld put it, to "shock and awe." What they didn't even consider was what we were going to do with the Iraqis after we created immense piles of rubble. The Bush team sent squadrons of young, inexperienced ideologues to run our new colony, capture the "hearts and minds" of the populace and turn the government into a bastion of democracy. As a sidelight, we would have control of all that oil.

But the occupation didn't go well and eventually Gen. David Petraeus worked the press and the White House into giving his distillation of counterinsurgency a chance. It worked fairly well, especially with the infusion of a surge of new troops, but the Iraqi dissidents weren't that impressed. We were an occupation army that was killing civilians -- men, women, children -- compensating for "collateral damage" by paying so much a head for the killed, wounded and injured.

The untested young ideologues who had been sent over to govern the various areas went about supposedly to provide electricity, building schools and providing teachers, institute garbage pickup, furnish medical care and get people jobs. They proved completely inept at each and every one of these responsibilities and billions of dollars, as much as $10 billion, were used to fill the pockets of corrupt Iraqi officials and in building scores of unused factories where today they lie rotting in the hot sun.

And we personally had our day on May 1, 2003, when President George W. Bush, clad in a flight suit straight out of Hollywood, flew onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and stood under a gigantic banner that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" for us and the world to witness. And here we are 10 years later rummaging through our history to try and find another incident as deceitfully embarrassing as that.

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We persuaded all kinds of other nations to send contingents of military to make our shameful escapade as international as possible, and only Washington knows how much was spent to bribe these groups to form our makeshift backup. Now the Republicans are screaming that we must cut government back and pay off the debit that Bush and his adventurers racked up after coming into office with a Bill Clinton surplus that was rather extraordinary.

What Bush did accomplish was to organize the Islamic world into an entity that will be against us forever. We are dealing with an uncountable number of Islamic cells with different leaders and different goals. In addition, they all have tribal loyalties and hatreds that will exist until the end of time. Most of our drone kills have consisted of supposedly wiping out the second in command of this group or that group or maybe another. But they have all kinds of rabid followers who are more than willing to move up to No. 2 whenever we open the spot for them.

One of the ways the Bush administration got around the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was to hire private armies. According to the Financial Times, private companies were paid $138 billion to provide "private security, building structures and feeding the troops." Halliburton, Dick Cheney's former bailiwick, received $39.5 billion of taxpayer funds. A portion of this money was given where no bids were allowed, and many of the private contractors will still be there when our troops are gone. Private guards for our super-fort embassy in Baghdad will cost $3 billion. That's not a lot when you read that experts have estimated that a high of $60 billion might have been squirreled to their own nests by private contractors.

The whole thing was best summed up by comedian Andy Borowitz. The headline to his little piece read as follows: "Cheney Marks Tenth Anniversary of Pretending There Was Reason To Invade Iraq." "The ceremony," says Borowitz, "held on the grounds of the Halliburton Co. brought together the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other key members of the lying effort. Former President George W. Bush, who was said to be otherwise engaged, was represented at the event by a nude self-portrait."

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle
contributor.