What are Americans dying for 0anow?
By Derrick Z. Jackson
Wednesday 18 June 2003
OIL IS TO DIE for. More to the point, oil is precious 0aenough for the government to send off your children, your husbands, your wives, 0ayour partners, your brothers, and your sisters to die for. That is a rapidly 0aescalating conclusion as American soldiers continue to die at the rate of one a 0aday in Iraq without destruction have been found. What we do have are sniper 0ashootings, grenade attacks, and the deaths of nearly 50 US soldiers 48 days 0aafter Bush said major combat operations were over in Iraq.
On May 1, Bush said, ''We've begun the search for 0ahidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites 0athat will be investigated.''
Seven weeks later and with no vile vials in hand, Bush 0agave a speech Monday in Elizabeth, N.J., where he did not make a single 0areference to weapons of mass destruction. Instead, Bush chose to distract 0aAmericans from his Nixonian erasing of his justification for war by criticizing 0ahis critics as ''revisionist historians.''
Meanwhile, Bush's fellow Republicans in Congress were 0asuppressing history by fighting any formal investigation into the possible 0acooking of intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Their 0ajob, for the time being is being made a piece of cake by a Democratic Party that 0acannot spell the term ''opposition party'' if you spotted them all the o's and 0ap's.
As the Republicans sit on the intelligence, as Democrats 0asit on their thumbs, and as Americans plan summer vacations depending on the 0acheapest gasoline for the biggest cars in the world, our soldiers - many of them 0ateenagers - are halfway around the world, taking bullets for a mission that is 0arapidly losing meaning - at least the stated meaning.
Oh, yes, a lot of angry e-mails attempt to remind us ''revisionist historians'' that the current absence of weapons of mass 0adestruction really does not matter because the mass graves of Iraqis who were 0abrutally murdered by Saddam proves the humanitarian aspect of the invasion was 0astill worth it. That does not hold up.
We went to Somalia a decade ago for what was supposed to 0abe a humanitarian mission, after 300,000 people died in war and starvation. We 0afled within months of a failed raid by Army Rangers that ended in the deaths of 0a18 soldiers and the searing photographs of the corpse of a US soldier being 0adragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
Back then, the call for the United States to get out of 0aSomalia was stunningly bipartisan. Since the White House was then occupied by a 0aDemocrat, Bill Clinton, it was no surprise that Republicans leaped on the sad 0aturn of events, with Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico saying, ''We can't 0acontinue in that quagmire.'' Then-congresswoman Olympia Snowe of Maine, now a 0asenator, said, ''I cannot express my disgust at watching on television the 0atreatment of our soldiers.... There really isn't a reason for the US to be in 0aSomalia now.''
The criticism was just as blunt from many Democrats. ''If 0ayou asked all 535 members of Congress today, almost all of them would say let's 0aget out of Somalia now,'' said Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.
''More and more senators are saying, `We gave them food, 0awe gave them medicine, and now they're shooting at us. Let's get out,''' said 0aSenator John Breaux of Louisiana.
Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey said, ''I think we 0aought to leave now.'' Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said, ''Americans by 0athe dozens are paying with their lives and limbs for a misplaced policy.... 0aLet's vote and get out.''
When it came to Somalia, Dole asked: ''What is our 0apurpose? What is the cost? And how long do we stay?'' A decade later, the same 0aquestion should apply. In the Iraq invasion we lost 139 soldiers, according to 0athe Pentagon, while 3,240 Iraqi civilians had died as of the most recent 0acounting by the Associated Press. The AP said the final toll is sure to be much 0ahigher. Now, nearly another 50 soldiers have died in nebulous situations that 0arange from justifiable self-defense to dubious overreactions more reminiscent of 0athe shootings of American students and rioters by National Guardsmen in the 0a1960s.
On May 1, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that ''one of 0athe most successful military campaigns ever waged'' displayed to the world ''a 0anew American way of war.'' The new American way is already dissolving into a 0adisgusting result that has grown old in the half-century after World War II - a 0aquagmire. It is about time to ask why we accept a quagmire for Iraq when we 0awould not do it for Somalia.
Without the weapons of mass destruction, it has to be for 0athe oil.