In 2003, President Bush – with the tacit approval of most Democrats in Congress and the support of virtually every Republican – invaded Iraq. It was a quick and easy campaign against a nation and Iraqi military that had been ruined by more than a decade of sanctions. After taking Baghdad, Bush flew aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego and under a banner announcing: “Mission accomplished!” He declared victory.
Four years later, the war rages on. None of the original justifications have panned out: Iraq had no WMD programs, there were never ties between Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda, this wasn’t even remotely a front in Bush’s “global war on terror,” etc. The costs of this military boondoggle are immense: More than 3,000 U.S. troops are dead, perhaps as many as 700,000 Iraqis were killed and more than $360 billion of our national treasury was wasted – much of it gobbled up by the Halliburton and Bechtel corporations for the “reconstruction” of the rubble-reduced country.
Is there no end in sight? The president has told us in his state of the union address on Tuesday that we must push forward and commit another 20,000 soldiers. For what? Just as important as what Bush had to say in his speech was what he left out. He made no mention of the continuing Katrina crisis affecting the Gulf Coast. He made no serious statements about how he and his party plan to help our nation’s poor and vulnerable. The only mentions of poverty in his speech were in reference to Africa. And what about Africa? Over the past month, the U.S. military has been bombing and strafing Somalia. Do you know why? We’re told that it’s because they support terror, but this sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Islamic Courts movement in Somalia is undoubtedly no friend of human rights, but do you think the Bush administration is bombing them to help freedom fighters win the day there?
Bush also promoted nuclear power to solve US energy problems. The only other times he mentioned “nuclear” were in reference to Iran and North Korea. Both nations, he claims, seek to develop and arm themselves with a nuclear arsenal. This is probably true. But did you know that the United States has 10,000 nuclear weapons? Did you know it reserves a first strike policy? That it is the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons? Did you know our federal government is currently designing new nuclear weapons? In fact, our university is undertaking this work for the Bush administration. Do as I say, not as I do. Isn’t this a bit hypocritical? In response to Iran’s defiant pursuit of nuclear energy – and possibly weapons – Bush has ordered two aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf. Is a military strike against Iran in the works? Many now think so. What would this mean for us?
Something is deeply wrong with America – with the country I love. Our nation is being militarized and privatized for the benefit of the few and powerful. Our leaders are telling us, as Bush did on Tuesday that, “The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.” Does this mean that we will forever be invading nations like Iraq for reasons that never prove true? That we will perpetually spend more on our armed forces than any other function of the discretionary budget? Last year 57 percent of our federal budget was consumed by the military. Only 2 percent went toward aiding our fellow Americans who were affected by the worst disaster in US history. What has America become?
I second Kelly Burns’ call in Monday’s Nexus (“Community Should Address Escalating Struggle in Iraq,” Daily Nexus, Jan. 22). It’s time that our community does something to address this crisis. From here on out, things can go two ways: The American people can continue to tacitly support their government’s increasingly belligerent and militaristic plans for the future of the world by going about their daily lives as though nothing is wrong – or they can act here and now and put a stop to this madness. For those of you who embrace the second option, I’ll see you in the streets.