What to call it? Maybe “Iraq II, the Saga Continues”?
As serious, deadly and costly in many ways as this latest Iraqi conflict has been, the slower ones among us (and that would be me) are starting to awaken each morning with the growing realization that the boots-on-the-ground involvement of American soldiers is not going away any time soon. There may also be the realization among some of us that maybe this is not exactly what we were told a year ago?
Of course, if the political pundits are correct, and George Bush beats Wesley Clark or Howard Dean or whoever the Democratic nominee is next year, then at least by 2008 we can count on the new commander-in-chief ending the Iraqi conflict once and for all – especially since by then we’ll be reminded that President Hillary Clinton wasn’t too crazy about the war to begin with.
I know that comes as shock to some of you. Not the Hillary thing. The fact that we could be struggling for many years to restore Iraq to a nation that will make all of us Americans proud. (The Iraqis may not be too crazy about it, but hey, that’s there problem.)
But I suppose as a device for justifying what we’ve already “accomplished,” we’re beginning to see silly things creep into the public dialog that defy logic.
First and foremost are those TV commentators and government officials who, with increasing frequency, like to compare the current Iraqi rebuilding campaign to the historic Marshall Plan of World War II – a war that took years, not weeks, to win, in two completely different theaters of conflict, with many countries involved. Not to mention the millions of lost lives and the millions more wounded on all sides.
While Saddam (wherever he is) might have talked loudly and carried a small stick, Hitler was literally taking over the planet, piece by piece. Is it a possible hint that a national leader may wish to assume control of another country by callously bombing it into submission and rolling his tanks down the streets of its major cities? Not very subtle, Hitler, was he? No room for debate on whether he is, or is not, a monster who needs to be put out of his misery. Quickly. And on the Asian front, you would have to conclude that bombing Pearl Harbor could be seen as a possible act of war, don’t you think? A direct threat, in every sense?
And what overwhelming threat, in comparison, did Saddam Hussein pose to our shores? We’re still looking for that answer. Weapons of mass destruction, perhaps? Again, we’re still looking for the evidence. Oh, but what about 9/11? What about it? There’s still not one tiny shred of evidence of any ties between Saddam and Bin Laden (even if most Americans would swear that there is, judging from recent polls).
What’s wrong with this picture?
In fact, this could be the first war in history involving U.S. troops where the reasons for starting it, and fighting it, are not finalized until long after the war has been fought and concluded.
So let’s get real. The Marshall Plan (which amazingly cost no more than the current Iraqi rebuilding plan, even in today’s currency) was engineered to rebuild much of Western Europe. The lone country of Iraq hardly compares in breadth and scope to the Nazi and Japanese war machines of half a century ago.
Saddam and his deceased sons were hardly a match for the alarming threats posed by WW II. Thugs in Baghdad, perhaps. But immediate threats to the peace and stability of Washington, Dallas, San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, New York or Kansas City? Who believes that? (Because the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale this month, if anyone’s interested.)
So when we hear the so-called experts start comparing the ongoing Iraqi rebuilding campaign to the Marshall Plan of the 1940s, you may want to pause a moment and reflect on reality.
We may be serving a noble purpose in what we do in Baghdad and those other desert towns where Americans are getting shot at on a daily basis. But we did not just save the world from the onslaught of another Hitler or Stalin.
Already a growing number of American families have paid the ultimate price to help rid the world of Saddam. We can only hope it will all be worth it in a lasting sense, especially since few other nations are shedding blood alongside the U.S.
Still, six decades ago they were counting the casualties in the millions. Between Iraq and the Second World War, there is no comparison in any respect. Let’s hope those talking heads on television get the message.
John Merli has been a Prince William County resident since 1984, and a Potomac News columnist since 1985. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years. E-mail him at: [email protected]