View From Lodi, CA: On Veteran's Day, Our Sad Sacrifice In Iraq

Since the Iraqi War began, I have been a harsh critic of it and its leading architect, President George W. Bush.

As early as May 2003, I unashamedly called Bush "dishonest."

I take no pleasure in having accurately predicted that the war is a doomed venture. Even less enjoyable is how easily I saw through the transparent and utterly useless Bush.

Bush's failure has spelled nothing but trouble for the nation—most especially for our soldiers put unnecessarily into harm's way by his incompetence.

In various columns I wrote, "the insurgency is unbowed," "insurgents cannot be defeated on their own turf," Bush's war is "filthy and futile," and "time has run out for Bush."

I was wrong on one count, however. Earlier this year I wrote that in Iraq, "one week is pretty much the same as the next."

But October, when ninety-six soldiers were killed—57 from roadside bombs—was one of the deadliest months on record.

During the last week of October, insurgent attacks on coalition troops averaged 80 a day.

Only two weeks ago, much was made of the 2,000th American casualty.

(Military Has Lost 2,000 in Iraq, Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, October 26, 2005.)

Now, on Veteran's Day, the death total is 2,057 with an additional 16,000 wounded.

Taking my earlier observations one by one, it's still hard and unsatisfying to say, "I told you so."

  • First, the insurgency is not now and never will be quelled. Anyone who lived through the Vietnam War—as Bush did—should know this.

Even though U.S. and Iraqi fighters have killed 1,300 insurgents and detained another 9,000, those forces have immediately replenished themselves.

The Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research center, estimates that as many as 50,000 insurgents in total have been killed.

Yet the total number of insurgent forces active today remains at 20,000, the same as last year according to Gen John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command. [Insurgents' Ranks Quickly Replenished, Expert Says, Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, November 4, 2005]

The invisible Vice President Dick Cheney may think that the insurgency is in its "last throes" but he is about the only person on the planet who does.

  • Second, to understand better the degree of near impossibility of bringing democracy to Iraq, consider the argument made by Johns Hopkins University professor Francis Fukuyama in his new book, State Building.  

Fukuyama analyzes the conditions necessary for "nation building." Among the most important factors for creating a democratic state is a broad middle class and an agreement to abide by the legal and constitutional procedures called for in secular law.

Since Iraq does not possess these prerequisites for a democratic state, Fukuyama argues that "nation building" in Iraq faces very long odds.

  • Third, and perhaps of most importance to Americans, has time really run out on Bush? Can the country stagger through three more years of his incompetence?

According to Capitol Hill insiders, influential Republicans have told Bush that he can still salvage his presidency. But to do so, Bush will have to move quickly and forcefully.

Among the steps Bush must take, say GOP strategists, is to fire advisor Karl Rove. With Rove out of the way, Bush should immediately retool his cabinet by asking for the resignations of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card should also resign.

Once a new team is installed, surmise party professionals, Bush must then go to the nation and apologize for misleading it into Iraq.

Disgruntled Republicans predict that if Bush ignores this advice, he would effectively end his presidency.

In turn, that would lead the loss of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

But others close to the White House say that Bush has no intention of abandoning Rove. And based on Bush's recent comments that the Iraq War will "will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve," an apology seems unlikely. [Bush: Iraq War Will Require More Sacrifice, Will Dunham, Reuters, October 25, 2005]

As scandals continue to surround the White House, more indictments seem probable. Iraq is poised to become more deadly. Can the government function in this atmosphere?

The answer is "No," says retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, 31-year military veteran, former director of the Marine Corps War College and Secretary of State Colin Powell's right-hand man.

Addressing a group of journalists at the New America Foundation, Wilkerson said, "I'm not sure the State Department even exists anymore. It, like so many other things, has been destroyed by George W. Bush's 'cowboyism.'"

As for Rice, Wilkerson called her "extremely weak." [Colonel Finally Saw Whites of Their Eyes, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, October 20, 2005] 

But, of course, the country will somehow or another stumble through Bush's misadventures. 

Unfortunately, we'll be a long time in cleaning up after him.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.