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Disillusioned With the War? Here's Why
Published on Sunday, July 30, 2006 by the Miami Herald
Disillusioned With the War? Here's Why
by Carl Hiaasen

Al Qaeda's No. 2 beard appeared on Al-Jazeera television the other day and urged all Muslims to join a holy war against Israel.

Ayman al Zawahri told the faithful that the whole world is their ''battlefield,'' and that they must keep fighting until Islam prevails from ``Spain to Iraq.''

Spain seems stable, for the moment. Unfortunately, Iraq is a bloody mess, and the rest of the Mideast is erupting.

The fact that al Zawahri is still alive and ranting nearly five years after 9/11 sums up the botched and misguided war on terror.

No less undead and chatty is al Zawahri's boss, Osama bin Laden, the loon who headed the conspiracy that targeted the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Osama has delivered five videotaped messages already this year, exhorting followers to pursue the jihad.

Polls say that, by a large majority, Americans are disillusioned with the president, his foreign policy and the grinding war in Iraq. It's hardly surprising.

So much of what we've been told has turned out to be bull, starting with the reason for the invasion. Who can forget these solemn declarations from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld brain trust?

• Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

• Saddam's regime has secret connections to al Qaeda.

• U.S. troops will be ``welcomed as liberators.''

• Forget what experienced battle commanders say. We've got more than enough forces on the ground to assert control in Iraq.

• Major combat is over!

• The insurgents in Iraq are just pesky ''dead-enders'' who will be vanquished in short order.

• American soldiers have been issued the top-of-the-line body and vehicle armor for protection.

• The training of Iraqi military and police forces is progressing smoothly.

• The rebuilding of Iraq will be financed by revenues from its vast oil holdings, not by American taxpayers.

• Don't worry -- this isn't anything like Vietnam.

So far, the president and his team are batting .000 in Baghdad. They haven't been right yet.

Iraq finally has a new government on paper, but Washington is running the show. Without coalition forces patrolling the streets, Iraq could explode into open civil war. It may yet.

So we're stuck in a bad place with nothing but bad options. There simply is no good, swift way out.

It's understandable that Americans are so worried about the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel -- and so leery of U.S. involvement. The scorecard in Iraq inspires nothing but skepticism about future White House initiatives, diplomatic or military, in that crazed part of the world.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the war in Iraq has cost U.S. taxpayers about $300 billion so far -- a mind-blowing sum that's been deliberately excluded from federal deficit computations.

The human cost is much harder to conceal. Iraqi civilians are dying at the rate of 100 a day as a result of ''sectarian strife'' -- a sanitized way of saying blood hatred -- between the Sunnis and Shiites.

Through July 27, the sobering toll on the American military was 2,558 dead, and many thousands more who've been injured and crippled.

The insurgency at which Donald Rumsfeld was scoffing two years ago remains aggressive and elusive today. The roadside bombings and rocket attacks have sapped the morale of many U.S. troops.

''It sucks. Honestly, it feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up,'' Army Spec. Tim Ivey told The Washington Post last week in Baghdad.

A medic, Spec. David Fulcher, said that in World War II, ``the big picture was clear -- you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This [Iraq] is like, what did we invade here for?''

It's a damn good question that millions of sane and patriotic people have been asking.

Especially when they see al Zawahri on TV, posing before a photograph of the smoking World Trade Center, beseeching Muslims everywhere to strike out against Israel and the United States.

Al Zawahri isn't hiding in Iraq. Neither is Osama bin Laden.

They're both still holed up in Afghanistan, along with a resurging Taliban that continues to do battle with the remaining coalition forces.

You remember Afghanistan? The place where George Bush was going to wipe out al Qaeda, before he brilliantly decided that Saddam Hussein was more important.

© 2006 Miami Herald


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