Every once in a while, like on the third anniversary of the Iraq War, it's good to step back and ask some basic questions, like: What are we doing there? Well, as you remember, originally our goal was to rid the world of the threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and to put an end to Saddam's training of al Qaida terrorists. Both these goals would be accomplished at once by overthrowing Saddam.
We did get rid of Saddam, but as the whole world now knows, there were no WMDs whatsoever in Iraq. Moreover, Saddam, as the world now knows, never trained al Qaida or gave money or materiel to bin Laden's cause. The alleged links--remember the secret meetings between Atta and Saddam's emissaries in Prague?--have all turned out to be fiction.
A person of integrity would say "oops," but Bush put on a flight suit and said "mission accomplished."
Saddam is gone, but we are still there and still fighting a war, three years after our blitzkrieg and two and a half years after Mission Accomplished.
So new goals seem to be needed. Though, like most things Republican, our official goals float freely in the winds of expediency, two seem to be drift by most often. One is to establish democracy. The other is to fight terror.
By democracy we mean an elected secular government friendly to our interests. We did at least hold an election. But so far we have not gotten a government at all, much less a secular one, and whatever government emerges from chaos and civil war is likely to be a theocracy friendlier to Iran than to us. The public is slowly becoming aware of this, no thanks to the mainstream media, which is probably the reason for much of Bush's decline in popularity.
The only way a friendly secular government could emerge in Iraq would be via dictatorship. Perhaps Karl Rove, who regularly inverts normal English for partisan ends, could be assigned to this problem, such that we could purchase and set up a friendly strongman, start referring to his government as a democracy, and all would be well. It is probably too late for that. Besides, we had exactly that kind of democracy with Saddam up until the end of the Iraq-Iran war, but we somehow screwed it up. For another thing, events have now spun out of control. We don't have the power to install anybody, plus our entourage of mud-wrestling dwarves have exhausted themselves in their struggle, and no strongman has emerged.
As for fighting terror, killing somewhere between 30,000 and 150,000 Iraqis (the Lancet 100,000 estimate, though disliked by Republicans, is statistically sound and is now certainly an underestimate) and reducing their country to misery probably isn't in the fighting terror manual. We seem to be using the Mi Lai manual instead, even though we found out long ago that that manual doesn't produce good results.
In fact we see here one of the problems with Republican terminology inversion. Murdering large numbers of people and ruining the lives of the survivors looks exactly like terrorism to anyone who is on the receiving end. When we instead call it "fighting terrorism" those who survive our good intentions will look on us with disfavor, to put it mildly.
Bush seems to have realized we've run out of goals in Iraq, so it's time to move on to Iran. Bush mentioned IEDs 24 times in his speech Monday, and said Iran is supplying our enemies with these IEDs. That sounds familiar. The next day Marine General Peter Pace, when asked if he had proof that Iran was doing this said "I do not, sir."' (Reuters). It's fair to say General Pace is either looking at rephrasing his four word summary of the matter or else he is looking at early retirement.