There were many reasons why US and other allied forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The only one that remains valid is that Saddam Hussein was a nasty man/genocidal killer/psychpath and that his people should have the chance to govern themselves without the capricious terror that underpinned Saddam's rule. This is the Christopher Hitchens line, the reason why all those ex-Marxists find themselves comforted by the kindness of strangers in the US Republican and Australian Liberal Parties.
All the rest of it, the WMDs and all that, has fallen away. It was all rubbish, Cheney and all the rest of them who put it about knew it was rubbish, a pretext to get others to act when the real reasons for acting weren't strong enough to motivate others to come through.
This isn't a rant about Halliburton and what the late Molly Ivins called "the awl bidness". This is about the failure of those who enabled the situation in Iraq to desert those who misled them into an untenable situation.
If someone lies to you to get you to do something, and you find out about the lie, you should - for your own self-respect - stop doing whatever you were misled into, and abandon both the situation and the liar who dropped you into it in the first place.
The phenomenon whereby victims end up identifying with and defending those who have coerced them into an untenable situation, and end up attacking those who seek to rescue them, is known as Stockholm Syndrome. In reading this article, and others like it about Australian, UK and US politics, it would seem that a
Bush, Cheney et al. lied to get troops into Iraq. As soon as the non-existance of the WMDs were discovered, once Saddam was found and detained - once the US Congress went Democratic, that should have been it. Straight out. Bush and Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, Blair and Howard on trial, what-did-you-know-and-when-did-you-know-it, testimonies from mothers, widow(er)s, maimed veterans. Going to war is serious business and lying in order to procure one is a massive crime against the state - it really is a form of treason.
Failing to acknowledge that you were lied to in voting for war, and to condemn that lie, shows a sorry case of Stockholm syndrome in regard to Baghdad. Surely the healthy response is to admit that you were lied to, disavow any responsibility and turn on those who put you up to it. What's stopping them?
Australian politicians did business with Saddam's Iraq because they were a major market for one of our major exports, wheat. Now the Americans have elbowed us out of that market, what are we defending by keeping forces there?
- The US alliance? When a sizeable proportion of the US population is dead against Iraq, having an ally in the same position is hardly a break. Aussies left Vietnam in 1972 and while the hawks in the Nixon Administration might have been less than impressed (including a young Dick Cheney), so what?
- The poor set-upon Iraqi people? It's not clear that they are doing as much as they can to make their society peaceful and prosperous, and without such a commitment Australian troops can't do much. As it stands, Australians are only guarding Japanese troops rather than contributing meaningfully to the welfare of Iraq - as already indicated, we're there because we're there.
- Standing strong on western values? As if. There's more than enough to do within five hours' flying time from Australia, including education and getting serious about habeas corpus, for a middle-ranking power such as us. Air traffic controllers aren't going to be doing much evangelism about western culture to descendants of Hammurabi.
It's stunning that the Republicans have made the Democrats out to be timid pacifists:
- Democrats led America through two world wars and made the running in Korea, and ramped up the war in Vietnam to a half-million-troops peak.
- Republicans led America to stalemate in Korea, botched democracy in Iran, botched Vietnam, and put up the shutters against Latin America. Yeah, they were there when Communism fell apart but they didn't do much good with that, either.
What is stunning is that the Democrats think they have to look tough by ramping up their commitment to a war that can't be won. US Senator Joe Lieberman is in a similar position to Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in that he cannot back down on committing troops to Iraq without his credibility suffering irreperable damage; both are old men and cannot turn back now.
Senator Hillary Clinton is not necessarily stuck fast - her supporters are keen to the point of embarrassment to forgive her, if only she'll ask. But she has a tin ear for that as well. Like George Bush I she'll only win if her opponent is absolutely unelectable; surely her supporters will come to realise that. If you're going to become the change you want to see, then turning your back on the cashed-up, tightly-programmed, control-freak candidate has to be the way forward for Democrats in 2008. Hillary Clinton's supporters want her to be a bold point of difference from Bush, but she doesn't; and her wishes must be respected if her position can't. She's not going to change.
Senators John McCain and Chuck Hagel were brave men in Vietnam; less so in Washington. When Senator John Kerry likened the hopelessness of Iraq to that of Vietnam, Bush demanded an apology - and got one.
The reason why Senator Obama and Opposition Leader Rudd enjoy such high poll ratings is their perceived freedom to concentrate on terrorism without being distracted by Iraq. Let's hope that perception has a sounder basis than the WMD.