Over the past few days, I've seen a series of smug articles from war hawks asking the question "Where have all of the war protesters have gone since the American troops were welcomed in Baghdad?" After all, with France seeming to soften its anti-war line and many of the doves in Congress oddly silent, it seems that the anti-war crowd lost their fight.
Well, I can only speak for myself and those around me, but for us, the war did not magically become "all right", in fact, I can think of ten very good reasons why the hawks shouldn't be so smug about their "victory".
(Note: All of this information is accurate as of 4-27-2003)
1. No Weapons of Mass Destruction – In the few days since the American occupation of Baghdad and the complete fall of Iraq, exactly zero weapons of mass destruction have turned up. Though I've counted four false alarms including a supposed sarin-tipped missile (further tests came back negative), an active nuclear program that turned out to be using legitimate low-grade uranium (not fit for weapons use) and those famed mobile laboratories which, apparently, were used only for conventional weapons. Supposedly, this was a war about disarming Iraq, a feat that's yet to be accomplished since nothing to disarm has been found.
2. No Terrorists – Also in the days since the fall of Iraq, exactly one terrorist arrest has been made in the country. However, the man in question Abu Abbas has no connection to Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Sept. 11 or anything else to do with terrorism in the United States. Instead, he was the mastermind of a 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship, an attack in which one passenger died. While it's nice to have him in custody, it's not exactly the kind of terrorist find the hawks were touting.
3. The financial toll – Some estimates of the cost of war and reconstruction put it at around 200 billion dollars. As one democratic senator pointed out, for that amount of money, the United States could insure every individual under the age of eighteen. This, of course, begs the question, which is a greater threat to America's youth, their inability to get adequate healthcare or a nation that lacks weapons capable of reaching our shores?
4. The Iraqi toll – How many Iraqi lives were lost in this affair? Sure, there were less than 150 coalition fatalities, but don't the Iraqis who died, civilian and military, count for something? Conservative estimates for Iraqi losses put them at over 1,000 civilian deaths and potentially over 10,000 military. Though loss of life is part of any war, to smugly tout the relatively minor loss of life on the coalition side without mentioning the other is to say that their lives were meaningless.
5. The Looting – Iraqis in Baghdad have taken to the street looting their city. While no one can blame them for looting from the regime that stole from them so long. Among the buildings that were looted, while the United States was supposedly in control of the city, are the Baghdad museum, including several artifacts from the dawn of civilization, all but one of the hospitals in the city and homes of several hard-working Iraqi citizens. In short, it's pretty obvious that cheering wasn't the only thing the citizens of Baghdad were doing.
6. The Ignoring of Bigger Threats – One television commentator said it best, if you want to find terrorists, you go to Western Pakistan, you want to find a nation that's a threat to the United States, you go to North Korea. We're spending billions of dollars to invade a poverty-stricken nation with few terrorists and no weapons capable of reaching us while terrorists elsewhere are plotting their next attack against us and rogue nations with missiles capable of reaching the United States are developing nuclear weapons. I'm not the only one that thinks this is backward.
7. Weak Saddam/Osama Link – The much sought-after and never-discovered Saddam/Osama link hasn't materialized as many hawks had promised it would. In fact, the only evidence of any Al Qaeda/Iraq link involves a meeting their respective leaderships had in 1998. No evidence of logistical or financial support has been found. In fact, since the war started with many Muslim fundamentalists actually found themselves HELPING the United States overthrow Saddam's secular regime and some have, since the fighting ended, declared themselves mayors of many of Iraq's major cities. One would think that if the Saddam/Osama link held any water that these people would have rallied to fight and die in order to kill the Americans, not aid them. However, it might be interesting to see if any new evidence comes up over the next few weeks.
8. Geopolitical Problems – Thanks to this war, NATO is in tatters, the United Nations is furious at us and the world sees us as a global bully. Then again, this is hardly surprising considering that our "Coalition of the Willing" is comprised mostly of nations like the Albania, Liechtenstein, Eritrea, and Macedonia (nations that provided no military and can offer little political support) is it any shock that the world is laughing at our "coalition". Saying that it's bigger than the one in the first gulf war because it has more nations is like saying 40 pennies are larger than 30 dimes because there are more of them. However, even with 40 nations in the coalition that leaves over 140 that aren't and, considering how desperate we were for members, I think it's safe to say that those who aren't in the coalition did not support this war.
9. Protests in Baghdad – While it's very true that many of the oppressed Shiite Muslims celebrated and rejoiced as American tanks poured into Baghdad, those same people are already, after barely a week and a half of occupation, turning to protest our continued presence. Even as we send people over to take control of the country, thousands of Iraqis are protesting daily against our presence and our plans for an interim government. The situation has been made worse by a weapons explosion that killed six Iraqi civilians. While some might call the Iraqi citizens ungrateful, something I have to at least partially agree with, it shows that A) We weren't as welcome as we originally thought and B) The Iraqis have a desire to set up their own government and C) They don't want our help or our influence in making it happen.
10. No Saddam Hussein – Once again, the United States finds itself playing the "Is he dead? Is he alive? Does it matter?" game with another leader. But instead of Osama, we now can't find Saddam. Though Bin Laden proved how hard it can be to find a single person, the fact that we haven't been able to even figure out if Saddam is alive or dead is yet another black eye to American military intelligence and to the "War on Terrorism"
The truth is that no one liked Saddam, even the war protestors, it's just that many felt it wasn't worth overthrowing him with unilateral action, especially at the expense of ignoring bigger threats and larger problems, a point that still remains very much valid. The war protests didn't stop because seeing some of the oppressed Iraqis embrace the American troops made everything fine and dandy, but because the war was over and protesting a war after it's finished is beyond stupid. After all, even the protests against the Vietnam War ended after the United States pulled out.
But the main thing to remember is this; the fact that the war is over doesn't mean that it's also justified. While I think everyone is glad that the loss of American life has been kept to a minimum and our soldiers will be returning home soon, the question about whether or not this is a justified war is a question that's still being answered and will continue to be answered for sometime.
However, judging from the early indications, I'd say it's the hawks that have the most to be embarrassed about. One might even say that the silence of the doves comes more from the feeling of sweet satisfaction than bitter shame. Because, unless something big turns up and quick, it's the case of the doves that will get the biggest bolstering in the aftermath of the war, not the hawks and, when the history books are finally written, they won't be speaking too favorably about our actions