The main fighting is over in Iraq, the tyrant is gone, the statues have been pulled down, the mass graves are being dug up, and I still say the war was a crime and a blunder.
I'm happy that Saddam is gone, and I wish the Iraqis the best. But I think all talk of an Arab democracy is still fantasy. So far the only political forces that have shown any strength in the country are the Shia mosques, led by mullahs committed to various degrees of Islamic fundamentalism, and the Kurdish separatists. Rampant crime and other problems of order provide the perfect backdrop for a dictatorship, whether it turns out to be a theocracy or just another in the long line of Iraqi strongmen. Whatever affection the Iraqis felt for their American liberators has already been sapped by looting, crime, prolonged power outages, and other problems. Rather than admit that they sent an inadequate force to do a nearly impossible job, the Pentagon has recently sacked the leadership of its postwar transition team, which leads me to think that they are still lost in a fantasy land where a prosperous democracy can be created by a quick military victory and a few proclamations. I think the future for Iraq is anything but rosy.
The signs for America's future are worse. Claims that Iraq had vast arsenals of chemical and biological weapons and was on the verge of making nuclear bombs now look even less plausible than they did when they were made. We were lied to. The scope of the lie is astonishing. Americans were persuaded to launch a major war by repeated lies that came from every major figure of the Bush Administration. What's more, they seem to be getting away with it. The President's popularity remains very high and his reputation for honesty is untouched. Anyone who tries to call attention to this abomination is dismissed as unpatriotic or partisan. We live in a republic of media manipulation and outrageous dishonesty, and Bush and his warmongering friends look poised to keep their bullying up through five more years.
World affairs look equally bad to me. The war was somehow supposed to "kick start" the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, but Powell's recent mission did nothing but expose the grim intransigence of both sides. Bush is still trying to intimidate the UN into rubber-stamping US decisions about Iraq, which will only exacerbate ongoing problems there. We panicked North Korea into provoking another nuclear crisis in Asia, and despite the common threat our relations with South Korea are at their lowest point in 50 years. Afghanistan continues its slide back into warlordism, al Qaeda is alive and still dangerous, and several Indian politicians have called for a "preemptive war" against Pakistan, which is pure bluster but underscores the danger of our having released that mad doctrine into the world.
If this is a victory, I would hate to see a defeat.
April 1, 2003
We must not let the principle of violence prevail.
--George W. Bush