Opinion » Viewpoint

Clarifying Iraq

The war was wrong, therefore the war must continue.



Like a lot of people, I've had trouble following the twists and turns of logic in media coverage of the war in Iraq. But maybe it's starting to make sense. Sort of.

Of course, four years ago, during the last phase of agenda-building for the invasion, a key message was clear: Iraq, under the despotic Saddam Hussein, menaced the region and the world. Most of all, the tyrant was said to be brandishing weapons of mass destruction.

Now, with the fifth year of the war set to begin in a matter of weeks, we might wonder why the U.S. war effort continues at full throttle. The polls show that most Americans are finding the pro-war claims to be unpersuasive. Those claims rely on a multitude of buzzwords and rhetorical flourishes.

In the 48th month of war, the media lines that sustain it are quite notable. Beyond the standard methods of spin, eminent war promoters seem to realize that they would be ill-advised to state the essence of their position with clarity. But I think I get the picture of the underlying case for more war:

The U.S. government gave Saddam's regime appreciable support during most of his worst crimes, but he crossed Washington with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and was really bad ever since.

The American invasion was necessary due to weapons of mass destruction that the Iraqi government didn't have. The presence of WMD in Iraq was crucial to rationales for going to war, but the actual absence of WMD is irrelevant to the legitimacy of that war and to the necessity of continuing it in 2007.

During the last few years, we've been told U.S. troops must remain in Iraq or that country will descend into civil war. Now, Iraq is in the midst of a terrible civil war, and U.S. troops must remain to prevent a civil war.

The president refuses to abandon his administration's purported effort to promote democracy in Iraq. All independent polls show that a strong majority of the Iraqi people want U.S. troops out of Iraq, pronto. But, as a force for democracy, the U.S. troops must not leave.

The longer the occupation continues, the worse the situation in Iraq gets. And the occupation must continue.

Virtually every major claim and prediction that President Bush has made during the past five years about Iraq has turned out to be false or disproved by subsequent events. Today, his assertions are still being reported with great credulity and scant journalistic skepticism.

We live in a democracy, and the polls show most Americans want withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin now rather than at some indefinite time in the future. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is actually increasing.

The United States is using its military to further inflict violence upon Iraq, and there is more violence in the society as a whole. Meanwhile, top U.S. officials say that the "surge" of American troops into Baghdad is an effort to quell violence.

Many of the same politicians in Washington who avidly supported the invasion of Iraq are the ones now being accorded the most media prominence and credibility. Meanwhile, the politicians who were strongly opposed to the invasion before it began are still accorded little media prominence and are often tacitly dismissed as the usual anti-war suspects.

While the realms of politics and media offer profuse accolades to U.S. troops, the veterans who return from Iraq are getting grievously short shrift. The health care and other services available to returning vets are scandalously inadequate. The news coverage of Iraq-war-scarred veterans is routinely an evasive exercise in cherry-picking that dodges the horrific consequences in the aftermath of combat.

The war was wrong. The war is wrong. The war must continue.

Got it? Norman Solomon's latest book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, is now available in paperback.

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