If you look at the cover of each week's City Paper, on it you'll see a number. Note how close it is to 4,000. That is the number of U.S. military casualties from the war in Iraq.
Five years ago this past Monday, March 17, President Bush told us, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people."
Is it any wonder that this administration has no credibility left on the world stage? Is it any wonder that when anyone mentions Colin Powell as a possible running mate for John McCain, the response is, "What about that speech he made to the U.N.?"
That day the president said, "We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms."
Now the torture chambers are ours. Now the rape rooms have been immortalized as the actions taken by Americans at Abu Ghraib, on orders from officers trained in abuse at Guantanamo Bay. And now, if there are any wars of aggression against Iraq's neighbors, they will likely be because hypermacho policy-makers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the remaining unrepentant hawks in the right-wing media, led by head cheerleader William Kristol from the pages of The New York Times, think that the United States should attack Iran before the possibility of a Democratic president arrives at the start of 2009.
But here in March 2008, five years after Bush said that Iraq would become a safe haven of freedom, Cheney has to sneak into Baghdad unannounced, while Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad rides in accompanied by cheers.
After Cheney has spent five years telling anyone who he deigns to speak to publicly that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida, the Pentagon finally released a report showing conclusively that there was no such connection.
If "the bureaucracy," as Bush derides any part of his administration that creates a product that conflicts with his worldview, creates such a report, will it get the attention it deserves? Not if the Bushies have their way.
Last week, when the Pentagon released the report, ABC News found out that the Pentagon "canceled plans to send out a press release" about it, killed a background briefing with its authors, and refused to put the report up on its web site. No one there would even e-mail it to reporters. Anyone who wanted the report has to ask for it, and then get it on a CD via regular mail from the joint forces command in Norfolk, Va.
Is there any greater sign of political interference than that? Why not have it printed on typewritten sheets and delivered by media mail? How about stone tablets delivered by pack mule?
Of course, once ABC News received its copy, it was up on the ABC web site, accessible to anyone.
Right now the media is in full-bore election mode, with the clash between the Democratic candidates for the nomination sucking up all the media attention away from anything else on the radar screen, and the biggest victim of this is the fact that we still have more than 100,000 troops on the group trying to stabilize a country where we are the irritant the Republicans are hoping will produce a pearl.
Any time a poll is taken, you wouldn't know it, but the Iraq war is still the primary topic on the minds of Americans when they talk about what concerns them. Sure, gas prices have tripled under Bush, and we are about to enter the second recession of his tenure, but neither of those things will send your relatives home in a body bag in the middle of the night.
Five years ago Bush and Cheney started this war on the basis of misinformation and lies. Five years later we still have to be subtly reminded of the toll it has taken in American blood. Five years is longer than U.S. involvement in the Civil War, World War I, or World War II. The only real comparison is Vietnam, another unpopular war built on fear, machismo, and deceit.
Some time in the next month, it's likely that the number of the cover of City Paper will reach 4,000. The saddest thing is that we won't be able to take that number down for a long time, no matter who is elected in November.
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