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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

A year's reflection on Iraq

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, March 19, 2004

On March 19, 2003 at 8:36 p.m. Central time, two U.S. F-117A warplanes dropped a payload of bunker buster bombs on a building in Baghdad in a failed decapitation attack on Saddam Hussein, beginning our second war against Iraq in slightly more than a decade. One year later, questions about the wars legitimacy continue to make headlines around the globe. Unfortunately, much of the so-called debate about the Iraq war has been shrill, superficial and not particularly logical. Did Husseins regime kill 8,000 Kurds in 1988 and 300,000 Iraqi dissidents following the 1991 Gulf War? Yes, and Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. did nothing to intervene at the time. The final verdict on the no blood for oil argument: it was great for conspiracy theorists, but kind of disappointing for those of us who enjoy a good fact-based protest chant now and then. Are wars bad? Yes. Are they sometimes necessary? Also yes. Did George W. Bush lie to the American people about the threat posed by Iraq? I, for one, dont really care. Lets move on to the question that actually matters: Was the Iraq war good for the long-term strategic interests of the United States? I believe the answer is a clear and resounding no. We now know that pre-war Iraq was not an imminent threat, possessed no weapons of mass destruction and had no meaningful ties to al-Qaeda. Although its not really kosher to say so, the truthful reason we attacked Iraq is simple: Saddam Husseins defiant attitude toward the United States further tarnished the image of American military hegemony that was flagrantly assaulted on Sept. 11, 2001. One problem with the Iraq war, however, is that it has hardly projected a strong image of American strength. So far, more than 550 U.S. soldiers have been killed, with 3,000 more seriously wounded and no end in sight. The Al-Jazeera T.V. network routinely broadcasts images of smoldering U.S. helicopters to captive audiences across the Middle East. Ambassador Paul Bremer, the American head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has consistently been politically outflanked by Shiite clerical leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. With Iraq creeping toward a bloody civil war, the American image on display is one of weakness and ineptitude. Another major problem with the Iraq war is that it was an enormous detour from the war on terror at a critical time. During the buildup to war, the U.S. military shifted special operations forces, intelligence operatives and spy satellites from tracking al-Qaeda, which has declared holy war on America, to toppling Saddam Hussein, a failed dictator who, according to Newsweek, spent the weeks leading up to the March 2003 invasion writing an allegorical novel titled Be Gone, Demons! Meanwhile, in the wake of the Iraq war, Osama bin Ladens terrorist organization has reaped enormous benefits. A study by the International Institute of Strategic Studies noted that the war has inflamed radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al-Qaedas recruiting power and morale. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed, predicting that the war on Iraq will produce one hundred new bin Ladens. By fighting the wrong war at the wrong time, President Bush has ensured that the broader war against terrorism will continue for generations.

Finally, the costs of the Iraq war and reconstruction have become a colossal burden for American taxpayers, with estimates ranging from hundreds of billions of dollars to $1.6 trillion over 10 years. When one considers that the same money could have been allocated domestically for pro-growth economic policies, improving homeland security and preparing Social Security for the retirement of the baby-boom generation, it becomes clear that the war in Iraq was an expensive misadventure that will deeply hurt our country in the long run.

Bush deserves credit for providing strong leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But he also must be held accountable for embroiling the United States in a hideous foreign policy debacle that has hindered the war on terror, damaged our countrys international prestige and precipitated an economic disaster that may take decades for America to fully absorb.

Staff Writer Carl Schroeder is a junior from Minneapolis, Minn. He majors in music composition.

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