In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s chances to unseat Jimmy Carter improved dramatically when he asked one simple question of Americans during a debate: “Are you better off now then you were four years ago?”
With inflation running rampant, Americans held hostage in Iran and mortgage rates at 18 percent, the answer from the masses came back a resounding: “No!.”
Today, if you asked the average Iraqi the same question you would get the same answer.
Four years ago, Iraqis enjoyed electricity in most of their homes, walked the streets of Baghdad without fear and, as long as they stayed out of the crosshairs of Saddam Hussein’s campaign of terror, led relatively normal lives. More Americans, per capita, died from crime on our streets than from crime in Iraq.
Not so today. Fewer homes in Iraq have electrical power now than before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Iraqi civilians die on city streets daily, victims of a growing war between the occupying forces of the United States and the insurgents who are much better at waging war than American soldiers.
Instead of liberating Iraq we have driven it deeper into poverty, despair and danger. Instead of bringing freedom to the nation we have brought anarchy, death and disruption. Polls of Iraqi citizens show they are angry at the United States for what they see as the destruction of their nation.
I talked recently with a National Guardsman home on leave. He says Americans are hated, despised and feared by those they were supposed to have liberated.
“We worked with an interpreter, an Iraqi who faces retaliation from the insurgents for helping the military, and he told the recently that Iraq would be better off today is we had never invaded their country and had left Saddam Hussein in power,” said the guardsman, who asked that his name not be used because he fear retaliation by his commanding officers if he speaks out. “If what he says is true, then why are we there? Why have friends of mine died?”
Why indeed? With a majority of Americans now believing President George W. Bush lied to justify his invasion of Iraq and an even larger majority saying the invasion was a mistake, the question should be: How many more must die, Iraqi and American, before this country admits it was wrong.
Saddam Hussein was a dictator and despot. There’s no doubt about that. He killed thousands upon thousands of his own people in periodic purges.
But Americans have proven themselves capable of atrocities. On March 15, near Balad, Iraqi police reported:
“American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including five children, four women and two men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals.”
The report continued: “autopsies revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.”
In Haditha late last year, on November 15, Marines carried out revenge after an insurgent bomb attack on a U.S. force. A nine-year-old survivor of that massacre told Time magazine: “First, they went into my father’s room, where he was reading the Koran, and we heard shots. I couldn’t see their faces very well, only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.” The Marines killed 15 Iraqis, including women and children. The Pentagon said they were insurgents but no connection with the insurgency was ever established.
Because of incidents like this, many Iraqis feel America, as an occupying force, is no better than Saddam or other butchers in history. Illinois Congressman Richard Durbin recently compared American fighters to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime–Pol Pot or others–that had no concern for human beings.” Durbin later apologized for the remarks but it is easy to understand his frustration at our behavior in Iraq.
In March, Iraqi civilians died at the rate of 75 day. While most of these deaths came at the hands of insurgents, it is clear that too many Iraqis also die from American atrocities. In war, where victory is measured by perception and attrition, America may have already lost.
“I think the calculation on the part of the insurgency now is that if this gets into a war of attrition and significant civil conflict, they’ve defeated the U.S. anyhow,” said Anthony Cordesman, an expert on the Iraq conflict at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The world has always had its dictators and many still exist today in places like North Korea and China. Even our so-called “allies” in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia or Dubai, are nowhere near the kind of Western-style democracies the U.S. is trying to ram down Iraq’s throats.
Iraq posed no immediate threat to the U.S. We know that now. I suspect our elected leaders knew it before the invasion but chose to withhold that information from the American people, Congress and our allies. Such conduct is considered criminal in most civilized societies but America ceased to be a civilized place a long time ago. A civilized society does not torture civilians or massacre women and children.
America is a bully, an international thug that uses fear, lies and deceit to advance the personal agendas of its leaders. Bullies do not deserve respect. Bullies do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Bullies are beneath contempt.
Unfortunately, as long as Americans tolerate the despotic rule of George W. Bush, we share responsibility for the shame our leadership has brought upon a once-great nation called the United States of America.