Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lessons for Republicans: the Iraq war

Every now and again, I feel like running an entry called "Lessons for Republicans: Cutting Through The Crap".

Because I know that the Republican Party is spreading untruths, but what worries me is that a lot of Republicans seem to think that these lies are actually cogent arguments. Now, it's one thing to lie, and say, for example, that the war in Iraq is defensible at this point. It's another to believe that it was a good idea to put so many resources and so many lives into a monstrous screwup like that.

If you're going to speak bullshit, that's bad... but you should at least have enough respect for yourself to recognize when you're speaking bullshit.

Let's look at one idea that's being spread: Iraq is the central front in the War On Terror.

Now, before we invaded, was Iraq a big terrorist haven? Well, there were some terrorists working there, mostly in Kurdish controlled Iraq. Remember the stories of the terror training camps? Yep, that's where they were, in areas that Saddam didn't quite control.

Saddam did support terror attacks against Israel, make no mistake, but we had other places where we could spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and the services of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers, to get a better return on stopping terrorism.

No, Iraq just wasn't the big terror supporter that we were worried about. There weren't large numbers of terrorists in Iraq, just waiting for the right chance to attack us.

And then we invaded, and painted a big target on our soldiers and their military equipment, and suddenly, the terrorists show up there.

Is this a surprise? Of course not. Look, when a terrorist attacks a civilian target in a time of peace, people get angry, and the terrorist is now on the run, forever. People don't forget.

What happens if a terrorist attacks a soldier in Iraq? There isn't going to be the same kind of outrage, or the same kind of investigation. It's a warzone; soldiers get attacked. Moreover, the soldiers have to move around, delivering supplies, running patrols, etc.. There are dozens of targets of opportunity.

Moreover, what happens if the terrorists decide that they'd like to go blow up a building in America right now. Are they forced to stay in Iraq? Of course not! They don't have anything tying them there! If they're there, it's only because they want to be there, because they have more, and better, targets to attack there.

Do the terrorists think that Iraq is the central front in their battle against the US? Of course they do! It's the place where we have the largest concentration of the most vulnerable people and most expensive equipment, and if they don't get killed during the attack, no one is ever going to care about what they did, ever again.

The question is, what can we do to make it so the battle hurts them more than us?

The answer is, unfortunately, not much. If the Iraqis were to suddenly becom Iraqis, more interested in Iraq than they were interested in being Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, if they were to band together and form a strong, secure government, if the militias all stopped fighting other Iraqis and patrolled the streets to arrest lawbreakers and terrorists, if the murders and torture-killings stopped, and the police stopped covering up for (or performing) these despicable acts, then we could imagine that the terrorists who attack our troops would be found and imprisoned. But right now, we don't expect that will happen.

Is Iraq a major battle involving terrorists? Yes, it is. But the way things are going now, it's not a battle that can be won. Something has to change, and it has to be a lot more than a mere tactical change. With the best tactics in the world, we'll still have our soldiers walking around, vulnerable to attacks from terrorists who, if they escape after the attack, will get away cleanly.

My feelings regarding Iraq are this: we made a terrible mess of the place, and we have a duty to help clean it up. However, that doesn't mean letting our soldiers walk around with big targets painted on them, where their attackers might be able to escape any and all punishment for hurting or killing them. So, someone should have been working on a way to change things a long time ago, and they haven't.

But, that's not the main thrust of this article. The point I wanted to raise here was, a lot of Republicans seem to think that, somehow, having our soldiers walk around where they can be attacked is a good thing, that it's "fighting the War On Terror" in a useful way, and that's pure bullshit. And I can't blame them for spreading that bullshit, because complaining about politicians lying is like complaining about babies filling their diapers. It's going to happen, when the politician, or the baby, is full of... well, you know.

But lies shouldn't be the basis of policy. Politicians need to know when they're lying. And I'm not sure that the Republican leadership realizes that they're lying, because their actions are the same as they would be if they thought they were telling the truth.

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