When the U.S. decided to pre-emptively attack Iraq, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa predicted that the invasion would “open the gates of hell” in the region.
As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This administration had a grand vision of ‘bringing democracy to the region’ and did not stop to check that vision against historical precedents for conflicts where religion plays a significant role, nor moral precedents against pre-emptive war.
Americans have got to try to get this into their heads: everything is not all about us. There is no solution for Iraq that is not both political and regional.
Our first step in getting out of Iraq is to confess the blind arrogance that got us there and accept the fact that we share the world with others. When U.S. leaders looked at Iraq immediately after 9/11, they saw only themselves distorted in the mirror of conquest. If they (and we) don’t look back and realize the cause of past blunders, we will keep making the same mistakes.
We can’t go forward in Iraq because it seems that our current leaders cannot look back with honesty and integrity and confess that this was an ill-considered and dangerous venture.
Some knew and they said so. Our leaders and the country could have listened.
Back in 2002, when the relentless drum beat of war was being sounded by this administration, those who raised the specter that civil war would follow the ouster of Hussein were simply ignored. Sen. Joseph Biden , on the CNN program ‘Larry King Live’ said “I have not been very enamored with the way half this administration has gone about this effort without thoroughly going into what happens the day after Saddam is down. … The president said that, ‘What could be worse than Saddam?’ Well, what could be worse than Saddam would be a major civil war in the region.” Two days earlier Sen. Robert Byrd had asked, on the floor of the Congress, “What plans do we have to prevent Iraq from breaking up and descending into civil war?” He didn’t get an answer then.
In September 2004, CIA intelligence officials warned this administration that Iraq could spiral into a civil war over the next 18 months. These officials were called ‘pessimists and naysayers’ and the President called their report a ‘guess’—a description of their assessment that drew consternation from these officials.
How can we as a nation, and certainly this administration that claims to take religion so seriously, have drastically underestimated the impact of religious differences on the post-Hussein Iraq, to say nothing of the impact on religious groups both inside and outside Iraq of an invasion by a so-called “Christian” country? Once again, instead of looking at Iraq with clear vision, we looked and saw what we wanted to see.
When the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, what is the temptation? The devil tempts Jesus with political conquest. “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory…’” Jesus, you may recall, said ‘no.’ The American people and their leaders didn’t have the wisdom to say no before.
Now’s the time. Our leaders and indeed the nation need to confess that we were tempted by “all power and authority” and we need to give it up. This act will permit others to enter in to a political and regional solution which is the way forward both morally and practically.
It won’t be easy since the trip back along the road to hell is rocky. But this I know and I tell you truly. The first step out of Iraq is to confess that it was a huge mistake. Admitting you were wrong is the first step anyone needs to take in order to make positive change. Ask yourself this: Why don’t our leaders know that?