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More thoughts on Iraq

Jack Balshaw 5/7/2003


I've been thinking lately about the President's running of the country and his decision to go to war in Iraq. Running the country, including foreign relations, is something we expect of all Presidents. Going to war is something else.

Much has been made of his title, "Commander-in Chief" in relation to the war with Iraq decision. The President is not supposed to be criticized while wearing his CiC hat. It's unpatriotic and maybe unfair.

It's my thought that we should clearly apply responsibility for running the country to the President and responsibility for running the war to the Commander in Chief. Perhaps the polling organizations should also split their questions to reflect those two roles.

The only problem I have with this idea is where to draw the line between President and CiC? Should our post war relationship with the international community be considered a political or military result? Is the success or failure of building a democracy in Iraq a political or military function? Do we credit or debit these relationships to the President or the CiC?

Should the cost of this war and the cost of both cleaning up afterwards and establishing a sort of democratic government in Iraq be separated from the rest of the costs of running government? Or are those costs part of the national deficit and therefore a political expense?

Should any problems that arise in Iraq and the Middle East be considered a political mistake brought on by the decision to go to war, or should they be considered as poor military planning? Benefits should be treated similarly whichever way this goes.

Another uneasiness I have is that the rationale for this war has eroded what very little trust I had in the openness of our government in its dealings with the public. After 9/11, dealing with Al Quida, the Taliban and Afghanistan seemed relatively straightforward. There was little opposition to taking action. The provocation and the retaliation were readily connected.

It didn't seem that way with Iraq. First, we had to change the regime to keep it from giving chemical or biological products to Al Quida remnants. There was no evidence this had or might be done, but our government insisted that was the reason for action.

Then we had to do this to get rid of a brutal regime that had gassed its own people and ruled them by terror. Nice thought, wonderful policy IF we were going to eliminate other dictators for the benefit of their national populations. No indication of that but that's how the case was made.

Then we were really interested in planting the seed of democracy in the Middleast.

What's to believe?

Many think we're doing it for the money and the oil, which is just another form of money. It would be nice if the Administration would pledge to make the account books, (both Iraqi funds and U.S. funds), for the reconstruction of Iraq open to UN and U.S. taxpayer inspection.

Most people in the world need to be assured that just because the Iraqi oil money is "other peoples money" we'll administer it as if it was a trust fund for the Iraqi people. Many in this country want to be sure our money isn't being wasted under the all-encompassing excuse of fixing Iraq.

Observation - while we all accepted that Saddam was a brutal dictator and ruled by terror, I find it strange that the Iraqi public was so quick to forget that and complain about the lack of electricity. Our forces got more complaints about that than they did thanks for eliminating Saddam. Strange. Gratitude is fleeting.


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