The war in Iraq gets worse every day. Americans want to end it, but how? Cut and run? Partition the country? Bring in the U.N.?
We've heard the politicians' spin, but it seems that's all they do. And as they spin and bob and weave and cover their political behinds, people continue to suffer and die.
We sent politicians a message in the 2006 election. We have their attention. Now is the time for us - as citizens, as voters - to capitalize on our clout and tell them what they must do: impeach, convict, imprison. It's the only way we can begin to end the war.
Unless the Bush regime is stopped, Iraq will get even worse. We might also end up in a deadly conflict with Iran. Bush & Co. have already deployed the same scare tactics they used to launch their illegal war against Iraq. Yes, illegal. It's not a "mistake" or "blunder." It's a crime, a violation of U.S. and international laws. No one's being prosecuted for it. It can happen again.
President Bush said he takes "responsibility" for "mistakes" in Iraq. So what? No one's holding him accountable; he can go on and make more "mistakes." Illegal war, warrantless wiretaps, "extraordinary rendition," torture - all illegal, all unpunished. Bush et al. are literally getting away with murder. It's the perfect crime.
A recent poll shows that 71 percent of Iraqis want foreign troops out of their country. "They told us they would bring democracy, life would be better than it was under Saddam," one said during a fiery street battle, "but they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad."
Death, destruction, opposition - none of it matters to the Bushies. When asked what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution against Bush's "troop surge" (i.e. war escalation), Vice President Dick Cheney said, "It won't stop us." What will?
Impeach, convict, imprison. It's harsh; it has to be. We must demonstrate that we take responsibility for what our government did and are willing to punish the government for doing it. We must deter future governments from more illegal wars. Think about it: If Richard Nixon had been imprisoned for war crimes instead of just resigning over Watergate, would we be in this quagmire now?
The Bush regime has severely damaged America's reputation. The world no longer sees America as a defender of human rights, a bastion of freedom; no longer the victim of terrorism, it is the architect of it.
Our government - in our name - has lied us into war, tortured innocent people, created chaos and new generations of insurgents and terrorists, and destroyed a sovereign nation of 24 million people. Iraq's civil society and infrastructure are decimated. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Less than 30 percent of Iraqi students can go to school. Most of Iraq's middle class, professionals and their families have fled, leaving behind the poorest of the poor. Fear and violence rule their daily lives.
The U.N. estimates that 34,000 Iraqis died in 2006. Iraq Body Count calculates up to 60,000 dead since the war began. In short, Iraq has suffered 20 9/11s. Thousands of Iraqis have been executed for a crime they didn't commit.
Stephen Kinzer's book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," observes that the U.S. invasion of Iraq "was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew 14 governments that displeased them for various ideological, political and economic reasons. ... Most of these adventures have brought them, and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation."
And disgrace to Americans. In 1902, William H. Walker's cartoon about hypocrisy during the Philippine-American War showed Americans torturing a Filipino as five European empires stood behind. The caption: "Chorus in Background: Those Pious Yankees Can't Throw Stones at Us Anymore."
The end to war - and our disgrace - requires that we first redeem ourselves in the eyes of the world. We must lead our leaders and demand that they stop America's century-old rampage of empire. We must prove that we honor the right of all people to live in peace. And we must, at first and at least, prosecute the Bush regime for its crimes. If we don't, we are no less than accomplices. If we don't, we are no more than "Pious Yankees."
Mike Konopacki is a freelance labor cartoonist. Kathy Wilkes is a retired editor. Both live in Madison.
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