Roger L. Simon

Shallow Talk about Iraq on the Brink of South Carolina

What with the emergence of W and the latest Pronouncements of Donald, suddenly the Iraq War is back in the limelight on the cusp of a fateful primary in South Carolina.

Much of that talk of Iraq is shallow, if not dishonest. And I’m not just referring to Trump being caught in flagrante delicto on Howard Stern’s show saying he was in favor of the war after having bragged to the American public throughout the electoral campaign that he had been against it. Compared to the pathologically mendacious Hillary Clinton telling 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley that she believed she has never lied, that hardly amounts to a fish story — maybe not even a fib.

No, I mean the obfuscatory manner in which just about everyone discusses Iraq now. Let’s begin with this. Donald and others  can scream all they want about the WMDs and exploit it for electoral purposes, but it is, and even was, largely a side issue. It was no more than a casus belli, an excusethat may or may not have ever been.  Did Saddam have weapons of mass destruction? The argument will go on forever and is largely beside the point.  It’s even irrelevant whether he had anything to do with 9/11. (He probably didn’t.)

The real reason most of us wanted to go to war was far grander, far nobler and, alas, far more mistaken. We wanted to transform the Middle East, free that benighted part of the world from the brutal religious and secular dictatorships that oppressed its people for generations by giving them democracy and bringing them into the modern world.  Yes, we wanted to “nation-build,” and there was nothing inherently evil about that. The impulse was positive, idealistic. It just happened to have been dead wrong.  It couldn’t be done, at least not in the way we were willing to do it. (We brought democracy to Germany but we had to firebomb Dresden first.  Also, the Arab Middle East was and is far more primitive and tribal than Japan or Germany.)

So now everybody blames the so-called neoconservatives as if they are some nefarious secret society, but in truth almost everybody was neoconservative then to one degree or another, including George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Donald Tump, Howard Stern, most of Congress and, yes, me, among tons of others. We wanted to do good. It misfired. Badly.

But ironically, if we had done nothing, things may not necessarily have ended up any better than they are today (they could have been worse).  The clash between Islamic civilization and the West has been coming to a head for a long time.  Who knows if it was even speeded up by the Iraq War.  Something had to give.  The mullahs hated the West and were in conflict with the Saudis.  The Wahabis didn’t care for us much either.  Bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center before we went into Iraq.  If  we never had, would he and his cohorts then have raised a white flag and declared peace?  Not bloody likely.  They wanted a caliphate too, before ISIS.

So George Bush had to ride a whirlwind, holding on with the Surge, until Obama took over.  Then everything got worse.  Radical Islam, ludicrously not even named, spread on many fronts from Asia to Africa.  Just today it is being reported that the mullahs are in Moscow, making a 14 billion dollar arms purchase from the Russians so Iran can have a “modern army” — all this thanks to our execrable current president, whose Iran deal Trump quite rightly calls the worst ever.

And now we are going to the polls in Nevada (Democrat caucus) and South Carolina (Republican).

Nothing has really changed much since 2003, except for the worse.  Bernie Sanders may blather on like an imbecile  about Wall Street as the root of all evil, forcing his pathetic opponent to pretend she agrees with him, but Hillary undoubtedly knows the obvious truth — that Wall Street will be a trivial concern for the next president, who from day one will be embroiled with those same mullahs, plus ISIS, plus Hezbollah, plus a resurgent China, etc. etc.  The world is at war.

And Republicans are making their decision today in South Carolina. They will be looking for the next commander-in-chief.  Godspeed to him, whoever it is.