War’s fifth birthday

The Center for Public Integrity recently released a report, False Pretenses, that details every single lie told by the president and top administrative officials between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. Total number of lies: 935.

Five years ago this week, the United States invaded Iraq.

Since then, in addition to uncovering and enumerating the 935 lies (see column note) that were told by the president and his top aides, we’ve seen Iraq fall into chaos and civil war. At least tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of Iraqi civilians are dead by violence. Simmering feuds between rival factions have erupted into outright warfare. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on the war, and spending grows at a rate of $200 million per day. In hearings on the cost of the war conducted by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the total cost was amplified, estimated to exceed $2 trillion. It’s already cost almost 4,000 American lives.

We’ve witnessed our elected representatives debating whether or not the practice of waterboarding (which induces the feeling of drowning) qualifies as torture, parsing the limits of what is and is not abuse in a way that can only be called Orwellian. We’ve seen photos of American soldiers posed with prisoners wearing dog collars and women’s underwear on their heads. We’ve seen American soldiers charged with rape and murder, while names like Abu Ghraib and Haditha enter the lexicon in the same way that My Lai once did.

We’ve seen the suicide rates for troops swell. We’ve seen returning injured soldiers treated in a hospital that was not fit for veterinary care. We’ve seen young men and women return from service with post-traumatic stress disorder, and we’ve also seen a new twist: ever-rising numbers of soldiers with traumatic brain injury, the result of explosions that caused closed head trauma and result in long-term cognitive and memory difficulties.

Meanwhile, the only legitimate reason America had to wage war—to seek, capture and try the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on our country—has foundered. While the United States has continued to slog away in Iraq, success in Afghanistan has slipped away.

Last week, the United Nation’s expressed concern that the government of Afghanistan had allowed the illegal drug trade to reach “unprecedented levels.” Meanwhile, another 3,200 U.S. Marines will be deployed there, less than military experts believe necessary to stabilize the situation, but all that are available due to the overextension of U.S. forces.

In spite of the Defense Department’s claims that the situation is improving, more terrorist violence, including suicide bombings, as well as continued unrest in the regions that border the already unstable Pakistan, call that assessment into question. Al Qaeda has been re-establishing its strongholds in the border regions. The situation has gotten so bad that some allied nations, such as Germany, are refusing to allow their troops to participate in offensives in Afghanistan.

And Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, still has not been apprehended. In fact, that doesn’t seem to be on the table at all.

It’s time to end this two-front madness. We need a serious reassessment (or perhaps a first, coherent look) at what reasonable goals for the regions might be, and an invitation to neighboring states to meet, under the auspices of the United Nations, to seek a resolution to the terrifying spectacle that our “War on Terror” has turned out to be.