Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shock and Awe was Wrong!

Ten years ago I was dragged into some kind of reluctant support for the war in Iraq by a pack of lies foisted on us by the George W. Bush administration.
by Charlie Leck

Ten years ago, on the night that the terrible war in Iraq began, I was in a very nice hotel room in Manhattan. It was a marvelous night. I could look out over Central Park and take in the wonder of life in America. I was struggling to get myself into white-tail for an evening dinner and meeting at the Knickerbocker Club, just up the road on Fifth Avenue. The television was on and I watched the CNN live coverage of the beginning of the frightening American attack on Bagdad. It is a horrible memory that will not go away. I supported our invasion that evening because of what Secretary of State Colin Powell had said a few days prior at the United Nations. He convinced me, as President Bush could not, that Iraq really did have a significant number of dangerous “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).

It turned out to be a lie. Not a mistake, mind you, but an out-and-out lie. The lie made that evening’s attack one of the most disastrous events in the history of the United States. It ended up costing us trillions of dollars and thousands of human lives.

And, it was a lesson for me. I would not be led easily into such things again. I would be a doubter forever when it came to things the government told me. I would forever demand significant evidence and irrefutable proof.

The War in Iraq was a mistake and it was wrong. It was a huge blemish on the reputation and character of our nation. It was as wrong as that war in Vietnam, from which I thought we had learned a significant lesson about believing the government. Iraq was clear testimony that we had not.

As the awful war in Iraq dragged on and the truth began to seep out, there was no way for the administration to explain or defend its actions there. Support melted away quickly

George Bush was never able to make a convincing argument that satisfied the American public. After we realized that WMD was a myth, the President and his administration lacked motive and reason. It became an empty war without goals and purpose. America was thrashing around and could not find direction.

At our gathering that evening, I sat at the dinner table very near John Seabrook, one of the wisest and most successful men I’ve ever known. We were all somber, chatting about what we had seen on television as the war began.

“I’m very afraid,” Mr. Seabrook said, “that we have started something we may not be able to finish. I think this will all work out to be something like a Greek tragedy.”
The moment I got back to the hotel, I wrote those words down in a journal that traveled with me. Only quite by accident, I came upon the journal a couple of days ago when I was searching my file draws for something totally unrelated to the historic event whose 10th anniversary we observe this week.

Year after year, mistake piled on top of mistake in Vietnam. We had gotten involved in an unnecessary war and it cost us terrible losses of lives and fortunes. So many of us thought that we had, at the very least, certainly learned a valuable lesson from that debacle. Now we realize that we had not.

Someone, perhaps the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, said: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Indeed!

It is, I am certain, why President Obama refused to take the lead and put “boots of the ground” in Libya and why he is so reluctant to get involved in the current problems in Syria. Who can blame him?

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