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So That's Why We're in Iraq

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? U.S. President George W. Bush meets with the crew aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, left, where he announced the end of all major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters File Photo)

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? U.S. President George W. Bush meets with the crew aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, left, where he announced the end of all major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters File Photo)

Finally, after many fits and false starts, President Bush has given us a good reason to support the war in Iraq. We must fight the war in Iraq, he says, to honor the soldiers who already have been killed fighting the war in Iraq. In a speech to a VFW convention in Utah, he mentioned that we have lost more than 2000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and said: 

“Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty.

“We’ll honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists.” 

Make your heart swell with patriotic pride? Well I should say. And it makes sense. 

If we hadn’t invaded Iraq we wouldn’t have anyone to honor, would we? We might as well be Switzerland. And the beauty of the reasoning is that the longer the war goes on and the more of our soldiers get killed the more reason we’ll have to fight it. 

The hard-hitting White House press corps was turned to butter by the President’s performance. It pointed out that it was virtually the first time he had acknowledged that American troops were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and, not only did he prove he knew it, he knew how many, giving lie to those who say he’s not on top of things. 

He went so far as to mention the survivors of the dead in his speech, another first. “Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home,” he said. 

He did not, however, mention Cindy Sheehan, an actual grieving mother who camped outside of his Texas retreat trying to get a word with him. She’s unhappy with his war policy. 

But you know what they say: There’s always one sorehead who complains no matter what. So she lost a son. She got her tax cut didn’t she? 


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After making the speech, Mr. Bush went off to fish and bike at Tamarack Resort overlooking Lake Cascade in Donnelly, Idaho. 

The new rationale for the war comes just in time for Mr. Bush. One of the old ones---that we invaded Iraq so that we could bring democracy to the Arab world---is beginning to look a little dicey. It seems that the Shiite majority has adopted the Tom DeLay, winner-take-all philosophy of democracy. They have the most votes so they can pretty much do what they want, which is to control the south of the country where most of them live and, more importantly, most of the nation’s oil is. 

The Sunnis---who under Saddam Hussein used to run the place and got the lion’s share of everything, oil included---object. They want a national government that will divvy up the oil spoils equitably. 

The Kurds up north don’t care about the Sunni-Shiite dispute so long as everybody leaves them alone and lets them have the oil in the north. 

At this writing, they were trying to write a constitution that reconciled these irreconcilable aims but were having imperfect success. Unless the problem is solved, however, a civil war is virtually inevitable, constitution or no constitution. I know, some say they’re in a civil war over there already but if the Sunnis decide there’s nothing in a united Iraq for them and throw in with the extremists, the resulting strife will make what’s going on now look like an Easter egg roll. 

Would we then stick around to try and referee the fight or would we leave? It depends on how much honor the nation can stand, I suppose. It took 58,000 dead before the American people got truly sick of the Vietnam War. 

Right now, we’re about 3 percent of the way there. 

As for me I’m going to do my part to support our troops. I’m going to buy an SUV. With all those kids dying to keep us in oil, it would be unpatriotic not to use as much as you can.

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul wrote newspaper columns for half a century, beginning with a long stint at the Des Moines Register that made him a household name (in a good way) throughout Iowa. Kaul, who was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 1987 and 1999, wrote for OtherWords for many years, right on up to his retirement. He passed away in July 2018 and was lovingly memorialized throughout Iowa, the Midwest, and the journalistic world.

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