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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

It is the 10-year anniversary of invasion of Iraq. (PHOTO: Shuttlestock.com)

10 years after Iraq; don't expect any apologies


On the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, what strikes me most is the fact that even when you're proven right, sometimes it doesn't matter.

Ten years ago this week a U.S. led coalition attacked Iraq after then President George W. Bush decided to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom, which he said was necessary due to Saddam Hussein's continuing refusal to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

Back in March 2003, the acronym "WMD" became the stated reason for America's attack on a sovereign nation that would last nine years with 4,480 U.S. soldiers killed, including 91 from Wisconsin according to WisconsinWatch.org. There were also 32,000 American soldiers wounded, with many of those who will need treatment for the rest of their lives.

And yes, we have to take note; more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians also lost their lives.

The Iraq war also cost about $806 billion to taxpayers, which doesn't include all of the health care costs of wounded soldiers or other costs related to the war.

Many of us can remember the way the Iraq War split the nation during the Bush administration. Just like today, it seemed half the country supported the president while the other half had serious questions about the rationale used to justify sending US soldiers into battle.

A Milwaukee schoolteacher who was opposed to the Iraq invasion remembered being called unpatriotic and much harsher names whenever she participated in local protests against the war.

"After all this time later, I bet nobody apologizes for being so wrong," she told me this week.

The main problem for folks like her – and me – back then was the lack of any real evidence of the WMDs that Bush and his war ministers seemed to mention in every public speech. A bigger worry was the transparent attempt by Bush and others to switch concern about Al-Qaeda terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 to a Hussein regime that was guilty of horrible human rights violations but represented little or no threat to the US.

For some of us, it seemed like a classic "bait and switch" routine. We were astounded so many folks in town went along with it.

I remember writing columns in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time opposing the Iraq War and being blasted by the town's right-wing radio squawkers who had fallen in lock step with the WMD hype. I also remember being called unpatriotic by some readers who insisted – just like Dick Cheney did at the time – that American soldiers would be greeted as liberators when Iraq fell.

Well, that never really had a chance to happen. The invasion of Iraq quickly plunged the nation into a downward swirl of civic unrest and attacks on U.S. soldiers who were perceived as an invading army by Iraqi citizens, mainly because they were.

Ten years later, most agree serious mistakes were made by the people running the war that included everything from serious miscalculations about the ability of the Iraqi police force to maintain order to ignoring the myriad dysfunction within the population that prevented any meaningful coalition to emerge in support of U.S.-led coalition.

Even after Hussein himself was captured and killed, many came to the realization in the end it wasn't really worth it.

The revisionist thinking 10 years later has some people still making excuses about a wrongful war that never delivered on what the warmongers promised. Some conservative politicians claim the invasion of Iraq did spark democratic movements by citizens in the Middle East during a so-called Arab Spring in recent years but there's no real evidence of that by most diplomatic experts.

I still hear some people insist the WMD flap was no big deal; they remind me that Democrats like Bill Clinton believed the same faulty intelligence reports Bush did and viewed Hussein as a real threat.

They also remind me about all the Democrats in Congress who voted to approve the Iraq invasion under pressure from the Bush administration.

As if that matters.

Ten years later, it's clear to me the reason President Obama won so handily in 2008 was due to voters rejecting a Republican party that many came to believe had led the nation into such a disastrous military episode. Obama struggled with resolving the mess in Iraq and is still dealing with Afghanistan. True to form, many of his political opponents blast his economic policies and the tremendous federal debt while conveniently ignoring the cost of two wars mainly instigated by a Republican president.

Many Americans are fed up with war these days even as the same war-mongers in D.C. emerge from time to time to insist the U.S. get tougher with nations like Iran and North Korea that haven't attacked us yet. Some of them continue to beat their chests in an attempt to scare all of our enemies instead of reasoning with them.

I believe the only real lesson learned from the Iraq War was that sometimes our leaders can lead us to places we really don't want to go. That makes choosing the right leaders more important than ever.

Talkbacks

emills81 | March 21, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. (report)

@HS. Your analogy is a little off. It would be more along the lines of: John doesnt like me, I dont even know John exists. John gets mad and punches me. I laugh it off and give him a pat on the head. John gets even more mad and comes back and kicks me. I get upset but still dont have him arrested and go about my day. John comes back and breaks my Arm. I then beat the snot out of John because I have finally had enough. While beating the snot out of john, Dave start throwing rocks form across the street. I slow down on wailing on John and go over and start beating the snot out of Dave. If John would have been arrested after punching or kicking me Dave would have never had an opportunity to throw rocks while my back was turned. If Dave would have never thrown rocks I wouldnt have beat the snot out of him.

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AndrewJ | March 21, 2013 at 2:07 p.m. (report)

@HeritageSpringer We're talking tom-a-to, Tom-ah-to here. @emills is correct in their assessment because if 9/11 doesn't happen, if Clinton takes Bin Laden down on any of the number of times he had the opportunity, then Bush doesn't have his catalyst to invade Iraq. So, playing the "in hindsight" game, you could blame pretty much anything on anybody. Here is a question for you though: What if the intelligence Bush was receiving actually did indicate there were "WMD"'s in Iraq? It seems given your statements that then maybe it would have been OK for him to invade, given the geopolitical events of that time. So, if that's what his intelligence was saying... perhaps it was a sound decision at the time. However, both you and Eugene seem quick to dismiss whatever intelligence he may have been getting. Unless you were working for the State Department or the CIA at the time... I'm fairly certain neither of you know what information was being shared. It's the same deal with Obama on Benghazi. He's saying he didn't know anything. He was completely unaware and had no intelligence that would have given him a reason to get those Americans out of there, or provide them with extra security. With that said... do you believe him? I don't want to assume that you do... but, what the hell, I'm gonna anyways. So then why is it that Obama is being treated with kid gloves by the media and we're just supposed to believe what he's telling us regarding his intelligence... but when Bush tells us what his intelligence said, he's a liar? It appears both were wrong. Bush never found WMD's, and Obama's regional liaisons obviously needed more security. Will Eugene be writing an article in 10 years titled: "10 years after Benghazi; don't expect any apologies"? Methinks not.

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HeritageSpringer | March 21, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (report)

@AJStanislawI said that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11, I did not say that 9/11 had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq. Meaning, that Iraq had nothing to do with what happened on 9/11. The Bush Administration tried to infer that Iraq may have had connections to the attacks, but they didnt, which is why I thought it needed to be stated. I think there are a lot of people that still think that Iraq was part of the 9/11 attacks. But you prove my point and one of the points of this article, I believe, in that Bush had no valid reason to go into Iraq so he used anger produced from 9/11, along with WMD scare tactics, even though Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. The hindsight argument, in my opinion, is stating that the Bush Administration was justified to use 9/11 as a catalyst for the Iraq invasion even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the WTC bombing in 1998, or the Cole Attack. That does not really make sense to me and that was my original point. Here is how I see the hindsight argument. Lets say a guy named John punches me in January and I do nothing about it. John punches me again in February and I do nothing about it. John punches me again in March and this time it has gone too far and he really makes me angry. Am I justified to go punch someone else that is not even connected to this fight just because I did not take care of John in January or February? I would think you would say no to that, but that is exactly what the hindsight argument is stating. I cannot justify punching someone else, that isnt related to any other attack (punch) on me, just because John really pissed me off in March.

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AndrewJ | March 21, 2013 at 8:03 a.m. (report)

@HeritageSpringer So wait... you say 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq making @emills comment not applicable... but then you say Bush and Cheney used the anger from 9/11 to start the war. So, which one is it? You're contradicting yourself. 9/11 was absolutely the catalyst for the Iraq war. No questions asked. That's what makes @emills spot on in talking about hindsight. If 9/11 never happens, Bush has no excuse to go into Iraq at that time. The "WMD" act would have never flown if the country wasn't all riled up about 9/11.

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HeritageSpringer | March 20, 2013 at 9:07 p.m. (report)

@emills...Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 so your comment doesn't really apply. Bush went in there for WMD, not 9/11. As a result it had nothing to to with OBL. Bush and Cheney just used the anger from 9/11 to start a war they wanted from day1 in office.

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