US Invasion of Iraq, Ten Years On: No Shame

Written by Steve Pauwels on March 23, 2013

Marine_at_Sunset_standing_at_postI’d like to think the ranks of constitutional conservatism were immune to the scourge of “trendiness” — but, embracing the biblical concept of man’s fallen nature, I know better. Even “right-wingers” like myself can be susceptible to societal fads. 

For a few years, for instance, it’s been au courant in some precincts to claim political conservative bona-fides while trashing the incomparable Rush Limbaugh or Fox News.  More common is the growing,  “edgy” tendency to own “fiscal restraint” and “small government” convictions while junking traditional “social issues”. 

This past week, marking the tenth anniversary of America’s Iraq invasion, another example of flaky conservative vogue rears up: pronouncements that military action against Saddam Hussein was wrong-headed,  a squandering of sacred American blood and treasure.

Up my way just days ago, a solidly conservative, pro-military, America-first local radio host bemoaned last decade’s Babylonian violence. Meanwhile, Wednesday’s Yahoo News featured an open letter from Tomas Young, a  disillusioned and dying Iraq War vet and subject of Phil Donahue’s 2007 anti-war documentary Body of War. In his missive, the paralyzed 33-year-old curses George W. Bush and — of course — Dick Cheney for “egregious war crimes … plunder and …   the murder of thousands of … my fellow veterans.” 

Although Young’s accusation was published on the frothily Leftist, I suspect, across America, not a few Republicans, Reaganites, military families, even national security hawks were nodding their heads in quiet approval. 

Oooooo, how cutting-edge of them.

Well, count me out of that claque.

Criticism of the manner in which “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was prosecuted (too restrained, overly cautious, excessively fretful about world opinion)? Have at it.

Beefing about the United States’ post-incursion “Nation Building” policy or diplomatic pirouetting? No problem with that, ether. 

But the initial decision to take it — with extreme prejudice — to Saddam , his socio-pathic spawn Uday and Qusay and their Republican Guard goons? I’m still, proudly and unapologetically, on board with that one. It was, and remains in hindsight, a sturdily defensible response to a sadistic megalomaniac who hated America and was motivated and positioned to hurt her if given opportunity. 

Ten years removed from that March evening in which American forces launched to overthrow a homicidal tyrant, self-assured Monday-morning-quarterbacking can lull analysts into forgetting: 

Saddam already had mercilessly fired up chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): during his conflict with Iran and against Iraq’s Kurdish minority. By the early 2000s, the whole planet — every intel agency that mattered and Republican and Democratic leaders — was convinced he maintained stockpiles of chem-bio munitions; and was willing — eager? — to use them once again. Against the insistence of the world community, the Baathist despot defiantly refused to confirm his benignity, bearding weapons inspectors with half-hearted, disingenuousness efforts to come clean. 

Daily firing on U.S. jets patrolling the northern Iraqi no-fly-zone? Check. Attempted assassination  of George Bush 41? Check. Bankrolling Palestinian terrorists and convincingly suspected of involvement with al-Qaeda? Check and check. 

Granted, no warehouses brimming with WMD were found, but means for resuming their lethal R & D were uncovered. And, following his capture, Saddam copped to interrogators he’d been waiting for a handy occasion y to reconstitute his chem/bio/nuclear weapons capabilities. 

Then there were his stores of yellowcake uranium. What yellowcake uranium? 550 metric tons of the stuff — commonly used for weapons enrichment and what the  Associated Press fingered as “[t]he last major remnant of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program” (emphasis mine) — surreptitiously airlifted by American troops from Iraq to Canada in early summer 2008.

Not hip to this bit of Iraq-war-validating minutiae? Don’t beat yourself up — it went virtually unreported by the formerly Bush-ridiculing, now potentially red-faced, media. 

Finally, before his execution, the imprisoned Nebuchadnezzar-wannabee disclosed to FBI interviewers he had purposefully wanted other nations to conclude he was a WMD-packing, Middle-Eastern tough guy. He played that card persuasively. 

And George W. Bush called his bluff , taking steps any grown-up president — any Commander in Chief, that is, who regarded seriously his constitutional duties —  would take: Saddam Hussein was neutralized . 

I’m haunted by columnist Thomas Sowell’s grim reflection that one, down-the-road danger of Iraq-War hangover could be some future president’s timorous choice not to act in the face of a “gathering threat” (to borrow GWB’s phrase). Dreading libel as George W. Bush 2.0, he’s paralyzed into dawdling passivity; an inchoate security threat, thus, is permitted to metastasize into a devastating reality. Result for the Land of the Free? Calamity. 

The 9-11 attacks germinated in Osama Bin Ladin’s curdled soul, recall, because he deemed America a “weak horse”. The American-hating sheikh had diabolically noted: our running away in Vietnam; on the heels of 1983’s horrific Beirut-Marine Barracks bombing, no two-fisted retaliation unleashed; Islamist assaults against U.S. citizens through the 1990’s, essentially, unanswered. America, supine.

Not this time, vowed Bush the younger.

History is choked with samples of warfare properly categorized as venal or pointless — America’s martial exertions in Mesopotamia, however, shouldn’t be ranked among them. When my fellow conservatives fall for that, they’re wrong.

No doubt, “war-on-terror fatigue” has set in. This asymmetrical conflict with fanatical, supremacist Islamists is certainly unsettling, unlike anything we’ve experienced before. It’s a major drag the jihadists aren’t accommodating our discomfort and weariness — they’re settled in for the long, bloody haul; conceivably a generational conflict. The burden of sustaining a world-class — the world-class — military force can be backbreaking.

Still, that’s just the way it is; a mature and responsible people — who want to survive — will deal with it. I’ll paraphrase another GW, our first president: We must take the nature of things as we find them.

For all the conspicuous shortcomings of his tenure, George W. Bush did that, a decade ago, when confronted with a menace bristling out of Baghdad.

Tomas Young wasn’t mortally wounded participating in a dishonorable or feckless, never-mind  criminal, campaign in a far off land. Further to that, neither did my eldest, former-Marine son throw away the two years he spent stationed along the muddy waters of the Euphrates or patrolling the Iraq/Syrian border. They served properly, nobly. Our nation did right.

The globe’s bad guys were — and are — watching.

Image: Dusk for a Marine in Iraq; date: 2005; author: Sergeant James McCauley; public domain

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.