Published on Thursday, October 2, 2003 by UExpress.com
America's Best Main Course: Humble Pie
by Ted Rall
Haughty as it was, George W. Bush's request for United Nations help in Iraq deserves credit. It is, after all, his first tacit acknowledgement that his war is a fiscal, political and military catastrophe. Democrats and Republicans differ on how much command authority to cede to the U.N., but everyone agrees that we should replace as many of our besieged occupation troops as possible with peacekeepers from other nations.
For the first time since 9/11, Americans are on the same page. Common sense is back: Bush's popularity ratings are at a record low. People finally understand that this war is killing too many and costing too much. (The original Congressional estimate of $50-$60 billion has mushroomed to $87 billion--and that's just for a few months. Another five years of occupation could run more than half a trillion dollars.) Unless something changes fast in a big way, there's no end in sight. "It reminds me of Vietnam," Marine General Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. Central Command, says. But we don't have to keep on keeping on. We can get out of Iraq early, save lives, and reduce anti-Americanism around the world. But we'll have to do something new.
Let's apologize! Here's how:
"Being American has meant never having to say 'you're sorry,'" Bush should tell the U.N.. "We've long been powerful enough to do as we please. But a great country must learn from its mistakes. And we are brave enough to admit that we made a mistake in Iraq.
"The invasion was the result of a terrible error in judgment. We relied on intelligence that convinced us that Saddam Hussein represented a grave threat to the security of the world, but that information turned out to be out-of-date. Experts warned us that Iraq might fall apart after we deposed its tyrant, but we were in denial, dismissing our critics as partisan foes. We convinced ourselves that liberation would naturally yield to democracy. We were wrong. Instead, it created a power vacuum. Worst of all, in our rush to protect our own nation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, we jeopardized the most important principle of international security, that of freedom from unprovoked attacks, respect for self-determination and national sovereignty.
"On behalf of my Administration and the people of the United States, I am truly sorry. If I could go back to March of this year, I would. I wish I could bring back the 300 American servicemen and the thousands of Iraqis who died as the result of our horrible mistake. But what's done is done. No one can change history.
"As a Christian, however, I believe that one is required to make penance for his sins. That means asking forgiveness for what one has done wrong--while doing as much as one can to reverse the damage one has caused. I have given serious consideration to what the United States should do to make penance for its war against Iraq.
"First, we must rebuild Iraq's economy and provide real security so that its people can rebuild their society and take control of their own destiny. Unfortunately, our occupation force is composed of the same American soldiers who killed and maimed innocent Iraqis during the invasion, and whose swaggering presence continues to provoke anger. 'We should have been culturally sensitive,' a Special Forces officer admitted to Time magazine. 'We should never have gone into people's houses. Saddam's soldiers never went into houses. We don't understand how things work around here.' It's too late to make a good first impression. Not only do the Iraqi people resent our soldiers, they've become the targets of Islamist extremists from other countries. The longer they stay, the worse things will become--for them, for us, for the people of Iraq. Should the international community agree, we propose the withdrawal of every last American soldier from Iraq. They should be replaced by 400,000 U.N. peacekeepers--ideally led by those from Arabic-speaking countries--to police the streets. We ask for no control and no input in this operation. Send us the bill. We'll pay whatever it costs, for as long as it takes.
"Second, we will compensate whatever Iraqi government ultimately emerges from the U.N. mandate for the damage we've caused to infrastructure and public buildings. U.S. companies will be prohibited from doing business in Iraq.
"Third, we will issue generous compensation packages to the families of individuals who died or otherwise suffered injury at the hands of U.S. forces. We know that it won't bring back loved ones, but it's a gesture of our true regret.
"Finally, those who wage war before attempting to resolve conflicts through diplomatic means must face personal responsibility for their actions. Therefore, I will immediately turn myself, my vice president, the officials of my cabinet and certain members of Congress over to the international tribunal at The Hague for prosecution for war crimes in connection with our illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In accordance with this decision, I hereby resign the office of President of the United States, and respectfully await instructions from Secretary Annan as to where to present myself for surrender.
"May God bless you, and may He forgive me and my country."
Ted Rall is the author of the graphic travelogue "To Afghanistan and Back" an award-winning recounting of his experiences covering the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It is now available in a revised and updated paperback edition containing new material.
COPYRIGHT 2003 TED RALL