Sunday, July 11, 2004

On the passage of time

Okay, so there are dozens of reasons given as to why Bush invaded Iraq. And except for the fact that not a one of them holds water better than a cheese grater, they all sound really nice. But what has struck me recently is actually the timing of it all; how did the invasion get so urgent, so suddenly? Where did it all come from?

Let's go down the list. Iraq was threatening the no-fly zone and violating UN resolutions. Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical leader who terrorized his own people. Hussein wouldn't let UN inspectors in because he had weapons of mass destruction. There were all kinds of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda and September 11. The Iraq threat was "grave and growing."

Let's, for a moment, ignore the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. That we actually never got any farther than "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." That no connection was ever found between Iraq and September 11, and that the Bush administration is now denying that such a connection was ever implied. Let's concentrate, just for now, on the fact that the above justifications for war have all been going on since 1991.

It's certainly something Bush couldn't have missed - his dad was president at the time, and in light of everything Saddam was doing in the Middle East, Bush Senior decided not to invade Iraq. But Bush Junior decided to go ahead and do it, at the risk of hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi. Why? I mean, sure, I know why he's said, I know the reasons given, but why now? What made him such a threat that he had to be invaded then, when nothing has changed in the eleven years since it was last decided that Iraq wasn't worth invading? If he has been such an ongoing threat, why didn't we hear about him when the second Bush took office in 2001?

In 1991, Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. We knew that because he was using them against his own people, and against the people of Kuwait. At that point, the UN told him to disarm, and he didn't, and they told him to get out of Kuwait, and he didn't. So the US went in and kicked him out of Kuwait, but decided not to go into Iraq while they had the chance, because that just wasn't our objective. Since then, Saddam hasn't made a single credible threat against the United States. Allegations of his involvement with al Qaeda and September 11 have been dismissed as political posturing. And UN weapons inspectors poking around Iraq found... nothing. He wasn't invasion-worthy in 1991, he wasn't invasion-worthy in 2001 - since then, what has changed?

Usually, at this point, I'd get all pithy, and you dear readers would discover that, hey, I had answers to those questions all along. See, sometimes, I ask rhetorical questions - just for effect, you know. But at this point, I don't have any answers for the questions above, pithy or no. I don't have any answers that would condemn Bush, or any that would vindicate him. That's the thing: I just don't freaking know. And I hate the feeling of not knowing. I hate the idea that between 11,000 and 13,000 Iraqi civilians and over 1,000 coalition troops have died in the conflict. I hate the idea that the Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan and and al Qaeda is flourishing again because Bush got distracted and didn't finish the job because he just had to invade Iraq when he did.

In his TV address 48 hours before he blasted the everliving crap out of a country that had never threatened the US, Bush said that "we are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over." Well, Mr. President, if that was the case, wouldn't we have been even better off invading three years ago, when Iraq's capacity for harm would have been even less? Or did it really take you this long to find a good excuse to settle an old grudge?

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