by Jim Davies, 9/2/2010
Here's what was said on PBS' News Hour by Mark Shields, a Democrat, on August 31st about the Presidential speech:
"But I think it's an awkward speech for the president, because the president still believes and argued throughout his career and certainly in his presidential campaign that it was a preemptive war, it was indefensible, that it was a national catastrophe, that the United States went to war against a country that had never threatened the United States, never attacked the United States, had no weapons of mass destruction, represented no threat to the United States, had nothing to do with 9/11.
"And it's damaged the United States. It has left the United States with less ability to put together a coalition elsewhere, with less respect in the world, with less capacity militarily, [and] with a depleted military."
It's devastating, and Shields was right on all points. This is what happens, when you give a bunch of people the power to wage war. It remains to be seen how big a disaster this one will be, in the end, but so far it has made matters much worse than they were. Ugly fact: 4,400 Americans have died in Iraq in vain.
To give Mr Obama a little credit: he promised to end the Iraq war by mid-2010, and by "ending the combat phase" and taking out two thirds of US troops, he has fulfilled two thirds of his promise. If he also removes the rest by end-2011, he'll have kept it fully, but by taking 3 years instead of 1.5 he fulfilled it half way. Half or two thirds is a heap more than we normally see out of politicians' promises.
The 50,000 still there are, he says, for "support" only, not for combat. They are, even so, armed to the teeth and advising the Iraqi military how to be more effective, so any enemy of the Iraqi military or police is going to target them, and if targeted we may expect them to shoot back. This therefore looks like a distinction with very little difference; a play on words, so as to pretend the promise was kept. When George W Bush prematurely announced his 2003 "Mission Accomplished" he could at least claim his immediate aim - conquest of Saddam's government - was complete; now, seven years later, nothing is complete.
There has never been a good war, or a bad peace. Governments wage war as a matter of course, so the only hope of peace for humanity is not to let them exist.