4000 Dead: A Grim Milestone One Moment

It seems like yesterday when I stood starry-eyed and declared the Iraq war a fake. It was two or three days before the war was declared – at least publicly by the president. I was convinced he was peddling half-truths through his teeth. I didn’t know the man named Barack Obama, neither had I bothered to check with gullible Hillary Clinton, who was reportedly then parroting the lines of Dick Cheney for an all out war with Iraq. But I was convinced. One man convinced me, when many could not. His name was Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was then a CNN/MSNBC foreign affairs analyst. He was a lone man crying in the wilderness– at least that which was not Chicago where Barack was mounting his own lonely campaign. I was right then, but unlike Brzezinski and Obama, I did nothing about it- or could do nothing as I thought.

I was an ordinary foreign student in a rural outpost of Texas. One of the immediate victims of the raging xenophobia after the 9-11 attacks. The American public was convinced (and quite justifiably) that foreign students were the primary source of terrorism. Given that quite a few of the hijackers on that fateful Tuesday were foreign students, it was natural that the knee jack reaction of the public and its government was to tighten the noose around our necks. In the mix, I had analyzed the price of hysteria and paranoia. Here were millions of students, who over the years had been the engine of America’s innovation being crucified for a sin they knew next to nothing about. I was not sure if I had the guts to come out to save the America that we loved so much, but yet detested our presence at that moment. But one thing was clear, George Bush and his principals were being plain dishonest and the gullible public (including Hillary Clinton) was being sold a phantom!

As I sat there rooted to my sit, as Colin Powell disingenuously wove together a tortured argument to convince a skeptical world of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, in the process destroying four decades of meritorious public service with no thanks, I was even surer that this was a disaster in the making. Mine was a conviction I expressed openly to my then room mates, sparring mates with whom I shared a passion for public policy discussions, so grounded it will put the United Nations and those easily bamboozled talking heads on TV to shame. Today, they are my only living witnesses to the cowardly decision I made not to write and pen my objections. Unlike Barack Obama and Dr. Brzezinski, I “punked” out! Big time.

This had great ramifications down the road. Today my best friend is serving in the front line. Having been his best man at his wedding few months before his deployment, his situation today is as much personal as my punking out was a personal disaster. However, few years back I made up my mind to make up for my courage gap by penning the article titled: “A Sensible “Cut and Win” Strategy for Iraq”, widely published in print and electronic. In it I outlined a strategy which can be summarized in a paragraph and I quote:

“This strategy sums up a cut ( i.e. cut Kurd Region out of the united Iraq, and send troops to secure her borders from militia infiltration) and win (withdraw troops and declare total victory while maintaining special military forces in the now freshly minted Republic of Kurdistan to the North of Iraq) strategy for America. In doing so, America can remove herself from the festering tea pot of civil war that is slowly brewing in Iraq. The truth is that, Iraq is making locked and definite steps towards an all out war and Americans need not stand in the way of this war. If Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis have decided to fight themselves, why stand in their way? Is it not better they fight themselves than they fight you? Why sacrifice the lives of your young boys for oil that will never materialize?”

I have underlined one sentence for emphasis; because there lies at the heart of my thinking then and now the ramifications of my argument. Staying in Iraq is not only stupid, but highly irrational. Postulating that the humanitarian needs of Iraqis will be any worse than America met it if she pulls out is disingenuous. Suggesting that a chaotic Iraq is a likely and disastrous scenario for the United States is a lack of understanding of the larger Machiavellian thinking of “the house that stands against itself cannot stand”. What harm does a divided Iraq do to the United States? What harm does a Sunni backed Al Qaeda in Iraq involved in a scorch earth struggle with Shiite backed Al Sadr brigade in the short and medium term going to do to the United States? What long term harm was inevitable, regardless of our options now given the way the threesome of Bush, Cheney (who retorted “so?” when asked on America’s perception of his missteps), and Rumsfeld led the world into?

Well, before all hell breaks loose let America consider her options. “In this election, and this moment…” Americans have an opportunity to take their country away from charlatans, peddlers of half truths and discounters of great promises and hopes. Will American public be gullible again as they were in 2004 in buying into a hundred year war treatise? Will they settle for the phantom, middle of the road – will say anything to get elected, and does nothing to get reelected Hillary Clinton? Or will the goodness of the American public be reflected in their choice of one of the lone voices of reason when the rest of us were hushed. The man and the legend, Barack Obama who in a difficult senate race laid out an apt but succinct argument against the war and I quote:

“I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne…That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength…

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

“I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars”

While Senator Hillary Clinton, the fighter for the phantom cheese and vain bravados, chose to be just one of the gullible Senators; one Senator-to-be, faraway in Illinois spoke those words up there. He stood up to the powers that be, and spoke the minds of millions like yours sincerely who had no voice. Like the doctor, he spoke with wisdom and aptness. Unlike many, he chose to be a leader. Like few others, in choosing to oppose this war, he took a risk; one for which posterity shall judge him. In our votes we carry this posterity, but in his implementation he bets his chances.

Barack Obama in framing the Iraq pull out debate for the fall general elections must do so carefully. In doing this he must appeal to the patriotic sense of the American public, while injecting commonsense into a debate far often dominated by vain emoting and cowboy gun slinging. In doing so, Barack must not come across as a cut and run John Kerry, but as a President seeking to cash the check of victory in Iraq. A check long delayed by the current administration’s own dalliances with the military industrial complex, a rash thirst for blood and revenge and an abiding desire for war profiteering. He must play the Nixon card, and declare victory had been won but its declaration only delayed.

In initiating a pull out, he must be willing to remind the American public that victories are defined by goals. And that whereas the initial goals of the war changed from finding WMD , which we since know is a flat out lie, to regime change; which has since been achieved, then it is time to bring our troops home in a blaze of glorious victory. Let us roll out the drum; the war was won three weeks after it started, it was sealed few months after it began with the capture of Saddam and today it is concretized in a new government no matter how imperfect for the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein six feet under. The conflict unmitigated is one that wastes then nation’s resources on a war already won, hurting the nation’s economy and making the nation unsecured on the global scale of things.

Let us wait then for John McCain to remind us of the altruistic notion of squandering quarter of a trillion dollar every year on a nation filled up with certain groups that loathe our civilization so much but yet at war with one another; while our schools decay, our bridges crumble and our homes are seized by failing banks whose disappearing stock symbols from our retirement accounts is more of an abracadabra moment than a cold nightmare that it is seemingly becoming by the day. Some moments are made, some others are manufactured. This is your moment, America!

P.S: If you have not seen it, take your time to watch the scintillating eye-opener, the PBS Frontline Documentary, Bush’s War. You cannot but come off with the feeling of how “the boys” have been running and ruining this great country.

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