After all this time, after all these deaths, after all this money, what can you say about this: The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has ended. Nothing was found.
WMD, as they are casually called now by Americans, were the reason the United States went to war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime, we were told repeatedly, had ongoing programs to produce biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and it might use those weapons against the United States, or it might give those weapons to a terrorist organization targeting America. That was all a bunch of hooey.
A sentiment frequently expressed by the political right is that critics of President Bush seem to display an unseemly hatred for the man. That's really not the case. The anger is at his policies: They are wrongheaded. And nothing demonstrates this more fundamentally than Bush's adventure in Iraq.
Actually, "adventure" is the wrong word; it has a playful ring to it, and Iraq is anything but playful. More than 1,300 Americans -- every one of them a beloved father, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister -- have died in Iraq. More than 10,000 have been wounded, many so horrifically that they face a lifetime of medical attention and disability. As for the toll of Iraqi civilians, who did not ask for this war, no one knows for certain, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands.
War is perhaps a necessary evil in this world, but it should not be waged casually. That was the lesson of Vietnam, which claimed 58,000 American lives and 3 million Vietnamese lives, all for a mistaken policy crafted in Washington by people who truly did not know what they were doing.
There are those who claim that WMD were really not the reason for going into Iraq; it was to free the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator or to initiate a democratic revolution in the Middle East. That's rewriting history. The war was waged for one reason, and with the end of the WMD search, that reason has evaporated.
What's most appalling about this "situation" is that no one has been held accountable for the Iraq mistake. The American people reelected President Bush in November; that was their right. But it is impossible to understand why the nation is still stuck with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his sidekick Paul Wolfowitz and assorted hangers-on who have so totally messed up the Iraq issue.
Bush can dissemble all he wants about the reasons for war, but the fact remains: He sold the American people on a quick, clean war of necessity. What they got instead was a dirty, protracted war of convenience that day by day is bleeding the American people of both the blood of their sons and daughters and the money from their billfolds.
It should never have happened, and every day it continues is a very sad day for America.
© 2005 Star Tribune