Quagmire is the hated word and we have been careful not to call it such too early. We wanted to watch the Iraqi situation long enough to see if the United States intelligence and policy apparatus might just be on target that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capable of threatening American people. That Iraqis would overwhelmingly receive American power and American troops as saviors and models to emulate we had serious doubts about from the beginning.
It certainly does not appear so now. In Iraq, anti-American resentment and resistance mounts by the day. Civilian deaths and American casualties grow (40 dead American soldiers in the first 10 days of November). American generals despair of having no useful intelligence while the soldier on the ground grows hair on his trigger-finger. Frustration and anger grow apace. The dictum speaks now of hammering with overwhelming force. Two thousand pound bombs drop again. Trent Lott called it not long ago in his remark about "mowing them down," if need be.
With America on the brink of war back in November 2002 we stated the lives of many - including American Indian soldiers and citizens - depended on the good judgment of President George W. Bush and the people around him in power in America. Given the tremendously high stakes and dangers weapons of mass destruction pose (should they fall into the hands of murderous ideologues), it was entirely appropriate for the world community to cooperate on holding Iraq accountable and halting their proliferation. On that point it seems the world agreed. But on the rush to war it did not.
We further stated the safety of American people at home and particularly abroad - the very perception the world has about Americans - perhaps for decades to come, hangs in the balance. That balance has now titled away from America as it has become more clear that the Administration's judgments were based on bad or fictitious intelligence and motivated by foreign policy and national security strategies that, while they may have looked good on the blackboard, have not squared with political, social and cultural realities on the ground.
More and more people seem to notice that Iraq has gone from a despicable and controlled society, to a chaotic violent situation, extremely difficult to rein in and one that fuels on itself as spiraling social violence always tends to. Blame the Baathists, terrorists and the Jihadists, but this is like blaming sharks for coming to blood in the water. You knew there were sharks and how they respond, yet you spilled the blood and then left your people in the water.
With the smart bombing, so-called collateral damage - that is, the killing of innocent civilians - mounts accordingly. Mowing them down, as predicted by Lott, seems to be happening. Here, the American-appointed mayor of two million Shiites in the town of Sadr, is shot to death by soldiers supposed to be guarding his compound; there, six professional Iraqi oil workers are shot and killed in their van by an American patrol. Nationalism and resentment entwine while the talk at high administration levels is to remold the present Iraqi Council, an almost whimsical shift in policy that only proves to everyone what everyone already knows - that the whole democracy-building exercise in Iraq is a singularly American adventure. Growing hatred of the outside occupier leads to even less intelligence, even as foreign Jihadists (who never would have dared under Saddam) work to carve out a piece of Iraq for themselves. It is an old pattern for occupying armies. Throughout history, the specter of war without end spelled the final collapse of many an empire.
America can not change that historical pattern with war. America must lead for peace. Resolving old hatreds is not easy and calling to dialogue, even with your own worst enemy, is the only true path to peace and world prosperity. Nothing else can work, even for a country with the power to destroy the world. Americans, by definition, tend to talk to a certain class of people - the technocratic rational world of professionals, which understands itself, regardless of country. The common people everywhere, however, endure differently and suffer most horribly. Among the masses of suffering families, mostly the emotional commonality rules. Any foreigner that makes your family suffer long enough, that kills enough of your people, regardless of purpose, will incur intense and long-term wrath. This is a rule of both family and country that throughout history has proven inevitable and incontrovertible in its truth.
We troubled about this likelihood as the American neo-conservative movement circled its wagons around President Bush to hastily pursue the strategy of war on Iraq. It did not seem right to commit a huge chunk of the American army to permanent guard duty in the most dangerous corner of the world. It did not seem at all strategic or wise to insult and disregard the importance of a United Nations structure in these perilous times. What seemed proper and not at all idealist to us was for the U.S. to lead global dialogues for peace in the world, which hosted by the greatest superpower on earth, would set a tone and a pace for a true and new international agenda. This to be done while moving resolutely to squash Al Queda, thus continuing to directly attack the main source of violence against the U.S. We could see that the world relished U.S. enforcement against Al Queda, and understood the need for the Afghanistan campaign. But the invasion and occupation of a country not currently a threat, and as it now appears under poor and false intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction, and misleading pretexts in its dealing with the international community, seemed prematurely adventurous and ill-conceived.
Perhaps the intent was positive in the minds of some of the war planners. Certainly the valor of so many U.S. servicemen and women is heart-strengthening. But as the weeks drag on, security indicators are all clearly negative. The new war policy has clearly harnessed the most intensified international condemnation and hostility ever directed at the American people, with layers upon layers of enemies. The Muslim world sizzles with undercurrents of boiling anger that drives a cruel, all-or-nothing strategy, while Europe as a whole looks with condescension upon an American folly.
America is in Iraq full force. It can not stay without shedding blood and from all indications, it can not afford to leave. An adventure of great magnitude now leads the U.S. through a war-without-end, with young Americans of every race and color, including American Indians, dying merciless deaths over political designs and cultural hatreds beyond their understandings and certainly not of their making. Sure seems like a quagmire now.