Wednesday, August 24, 2005
A scathing and important editorial from today's New York Times. Reproduced here, in full:
It took President Bush a long time to break his summer vacation and acknowledge the pain that the families of fallen soldiers are feeling as the death toll in Iraq continues to climb. When he did, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah this week, he said exactly the wrong thing. In an address that repeatedly invoked Sept. 11 - the day that terrorists who had no discernable connection whatsoever to Iraq attacked targets on American soil - Mr. Bush offered a new reason for staying the course: to keep faith with the men and women who have already died in the war.
"We owe them something," Mr. Bush said. "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for." It was, as the mother of one fallen National Guardsman said, an argument that "makes no sense." No one wants young men and women to die just because others have already made the ultimate sacrifice. The families of the dead do not want that, any more than they want to see more soldiers die because politicians cannot bear to admit that they sent American forces to war by mistake.
Most Americans believed that their country had invaded Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, but we know now that those weapons did not exist. If we had all known then what we know now, the invasion would have been stopped by a popular outcry, no matter what other motives the president and his advisers may have had.
It is also very clear, although the president has done his level best to muddy the picture, that Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. Mr. Bush's insistence on making that link, over and over, is irresponsible. In fact, it was the American-led invasion that turned Iraq into a haven for Islamist extremists.
When Mr. Bush articulated his "comprehensive strategy" for responding to the threat of terrorism, he listed three aims: "protecting this homeland, taking the fight to the enemy and advancing freedom." The invasion of Iraq flunks the first two tests. But it did free the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator and may still provide an opportunity to inspire the rest of the Arab world with an example of democracy and religious toleration.
Right now, however, the Iraqi Assembly is dickering over a constitution draft that would not accomplish any of the American goals. It would fail to protect the rights of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority and the rights of women, and it would enshrine Islam as a main source of law. It could well lead to a fracturing of Iraq into an all but independent, and oil-rich, Kurdish homeland in the north and an oil-rich Shiite theocracy in the south, while the oil-poor center was left to the disaffected Sunnis, the terrorists and the American troops. It's an outcome that would make the violent religious extremists very happy.
Preventing that kind of tragic last chapter is the only rational argument for continuing the American presence in Iraq. The president's strange declaration yesterday that the draft constitution would protect the rights of women and minorities, and his continuing attempts to clog the debate with misleading explanations, suggest his own lack of commitment to the only rationale for keeping American troops in Iraq - or, perhaps, his lack of faith in the likely outcome.
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