We've been led astray

Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 12:18 a.m.

Time for reflection as the year ends.

The United States is again on Orange Alert, more than two years after the massacre of 3,000 innocents in New York and Washington. President Bush responded forcefully and appropriately to that outrage by going after Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and its host Taliban in Afghanistan and by beefing up domestic security. Then things went weird.

Bush pronounced a new and unprecedented strategy of "preemptive" or "preventive" war, which was then used to justify the U.S.-led "coalition" (but essentially unilateral) invasion of Iraq, to preempt the "imminent" threat to U.S. security posed by Saddam Hussein.

As we all now know, this threat was a fiction; as this became more and more apparent, the Bush administration shifted the war's motive with admirable success to that of freeing the Iraqis from their brutal tyrant and to the goal of transforming Iraq into a democratic beacon of freedom.

Polls show that 60 percent of Americans "approve of the way the war is going." Meanwhile, Afghanistan is a basket case, with the Taliban resurgent, much of the southeast of the country in the hands of warlords, the poppy fields again in full bloom and Osama still at large.

So one must ask just what this 60 percent of Americans are thinking. Our newly-compassionate concern for oppressed peoples has of today cost the lives of over 470 young Americans. Two thousand seven hundred have been, as the comforting euphemism has it, "wounded" (read "maimed," "blinded," "disfigured," "crippled for life"). More than 10 percent of the service men and women returning from Iraq are suffering severe psychological trauma requiring long-term counseling. Scores of billions of taxpayers' dollars are being poured into this magnanimous - and delusional - project to somehow make of this multi-ethnic, tribal, deeply-fractious land a democracy in the U.S. image.

Is this the policy that 60 percent of Americans are consciously supporting? Do they feel we should also intervene elsewhere in the many lands where the citizens are oppressed, murdered, tortured? How many American lives and how many dollars should be offered up in this new-found spirit of international compassion? Should not our efforts be focused solely on the ominous threat still posed by bin Laden and al-Qaeda? Haven't we been led astray?

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