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Friday, September 10, 2004

Bob Herbert

Good column in the NY Times today. Excerpts:
Eventually there'll be a fine memorial to honor the young Americans whose lives were sacrificed for no good reason in Iraq. Yesterday, under the headline "The Roster of the Dead," The New York Times ran photos of the first thousand or so who were killed.

They were sent off by a president who ran and hid when he was a young man and his country was at war. They fought bravely and died honorably. But as in Vietnam, no amount of valor or heroism can conceal the fact that they were sent off under false pretenses to fight a war that is unwinnable.

How many thousands more will have to die before we acknowledge that President Bush's obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein has been a catastrophe for the United States?
The insurgency in Iraq will never end as long as the U.S. is occupying the country. And our Iraqi "allies" will never fight their Iraqi brethren with the kind of intensity the U.S. would like, any more than the South Vietnamese would fight their fellow Vietnamese with the fury and effectiveness demanded by the hawks in the Johnson administration.

The Iraqi insurgents - whether one agrees with them or not - believe they are fighting for their homeland, their religion and their families. The Americans are not at all clear what they're fighting for. Saddam is gone. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The link between Saddam and the atrocities of Sept. 11 was always specious and has been proven so.

At some point, as in Vietnam, the American public will balk at the continued carnage, and this tragic misadventure will become politically unsustainable. Meanwhile, the death toll mounts.
We've put our troops in Iraq in an impossible situation. If you are not permitted to win a war, eventually you will lose it. In Vietnam, for a variety of reasons, the U.S. never waged total war, although the enemy did. After several years and more than 58,000 deaths, we quit.

We won't - and shouldn't - wage total war in Iraq, either. But to the insurgents, the Americans epitomize evil. We're the crazed foreigners who invaded their country and killed innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, by the thousands. We call that collateral damage. They call it murder. For them, this is total war.
You would think that John McCain and John Kerry would understand this. I think they do. I also think both will continue to put politics ahead of truth, and ahead of the lives of our troops and Iraqis as well.