AS WE SEE IT
War in Iraq has taken a toll in lives, patience
With the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq last week we were reminded of comments made by officials with the Bush administration in the early days of the conflict. First, there was an interview Vice President Dick Cheney gave to Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 16, 2003, just days before the start of the war. Russert: “If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties?” Cheney: “Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. “I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. “And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. “The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.” Then there were the comments made by Andrew Natsios, the Bush appointee who was in charge of the federal agency responsible for rebuilding the war-damaged infrastructure of Iraq, who told a skeptical Ted Koppel of ABC’s “Nightline” on April 23, 2003, that the job could be completed with $1.7 billion. Koppel: “... You’re not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for $1.7 billion?” Natsios: “Well, in terms of the American taxpayers’ contribution, I do, this is it for the U.S. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada, and Iraqi oil revenues, eventually in several years, when it’s up and running and there’s a new government that’s been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. “They’re going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.” It all sounded too good to be true. We now know it was. One Web site, nationalpriorities.org, estimates the Iraq war is costing American taxpayers more than $341.4 million a day. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20. That’s certainly been the case in dissecting the mistakes, miscalculations and misconceptions of the war in Iraq. Perhaps that was why many Americans marked the fifth anniversary of this tragic conflict in silence. Others, like a group that held a candlelight vigil in Johnson City on Wednesday, are encouraging people to speak out on the war. Sandra Garrett of Concerned TN Citizens suggests local residents write letters to members of Congress, newspapers and blog sites. That’s a good idea. We should talk honestly and openly about this war. That would be a refreshing break from the partisan rhetoric that we hear from our politicians. Last week, President Bush admitted that the costs of the war, in terms of both lives and money, have been higher and longer-lasting than his administration projected. Meanwhile, an ABC News poll released last week found that two-thirds of Americans don’t believe the war in Iraq has been worth the lives of the 3,992 Americans killed in the conflict. Nor do a majority of Americans believe cutting federal spending for Medicaid, Headstart and community block grants here to help fund a war over there is the right thing to do. We can’t do anything about the past. Right or wrong, we are in Iraq now and we do have a responsibility to help the Iraqis to rebuild their government. But let’s not forget our government has a greater responsibility to the taxpayers of this nation and to the parents and spouses of the men and women who are being asked to risk their lives in Iraq. Some say it is impossible to avoid marking a sixth year of involvement in Iraq. Maybe so, but it’s unconscionable to think we could be observing a seventh or even an eighth anniversary of this war.