Better Off Going to Mars

It's a well-established fact that Texas produces the nation's best bullshitters. It was the presidents from Texas who brought us the full-blown Vietnam War, the first war on Iraq and the current wa

It's a well-established fact that Texas produces the nation's best bullshitters. It was the presidents from Texas who brought us the full-blown Vietnam War, the first war on Iraq and the current war in Iraq.

Lyndon B. Johnson told us the Vietnam War was an effort to help a democratic country resist communist aggression. In fact, the war was a popular resistance to foreign occupation, first by the French and then by the United States. George H. Bush told us the Persian Gulf War was an effort to free Kuwait. In fact, the U.S. military restored an absolute monarchy that had been overthrown by Iraq.

George W. Bush told us the invasion of Iraq was necessary because of a military threat posed by Saddam Hussein. In fact, Iraq had none of the weapons of mass destruction that Bush warned it would use to harm the United States and its allies.

Remember the somber predictions as the American forces neared Baghdad in April 2003? "Now Hussein will start using biological weapons."

They didn't exist.

We have become so accustomed to the big lie behind this war that we miss the joke inherent in the language used to frame the administration's explanation: The president acted on "bad intelligence."

Agreed. The war was a stupid idea.

Saturday is the second anniversary of the war, and more than 1,500 American invaders have been killed in Iraq. Polite society doesn't call them that, of course. We don't see yellow ribbons bearing the message, "Support Our Invaders."

Daily newspapers take the opposite tack. U.S. casualties have been low enough that each funeral merits coverage, and each report seems to use the word "hero" to describe the dead soldier.

Heroism is self-sacrifice in service of a greater good. But what good can be said to have come of this war?

We can't say Iraq is safer under the American regime; the number of civilian casualties has at least kept pace with the rate of killing under Hussein. We can't say Iraq is more free; only the Bush administration would claim that a national election held under a strict military occupation were somehow credible.

When peace activists gathered on Fountain Square last year for the first anniversary of the war, they found their signs had quickly become outdated, decrying the death of "almost 600" American soldiers. That number had been passed by the day of the rally.

Literature promoting a peace rally this Saturday counts the dead at "more than 1,469" — a number that's similarly fallen behind, even though it's more than double last year's total.

Though the lies behind the invasion are well known, truths about the occupation are less so. At the two-year mark, it's worth remembering what we have learned:

· The American invasion didn't end torture in Iraq. It's just that now the torturers are Americans.

· The U.S. economy could well have afforded national health care or free college tuition for all high school graduates or, as Bush once promised, a manned visit to Mars — or all three. Instead we've spent the money conquering a largely unarmed nation.

· The catchy name Operation Iraqi Freedom hasn't masked the essential flaw in American designs on that country. No people willingly yields to domination by another country's army. With perverse irony, Bush has recognized that fact, demanding Syria end its occupation of Lebanon.

Predictions that Iraqis would welcome U.S. forces as liberators now constitute a cruel mockery. Instead we find ourselves fighting an insurgency that most Americans would be proud to call their own if Iraqi troops were invading and U.S. cities were being "liberated."

Having advanced a series of different justifications for the war only to have each discredited in turn, Bush now argues that withdrawing from — he uses the word "abandoning" — Iraq would lead to chaos. Sadly, even Sen. John Kerry bought into that reasoning during last year's presidential campaign.

The problem is that a murderous rage is the status quo in Iraq, precisely because of American occupation. Withdrawal might lead to more violence in the short term, but staying is certain to.

Even if Bush's reasons for the war — the need to disarm the country, the benefit of overthrowing Hussein — had been valid, they're no longer relevant. The only certainty about our current course is that more people will take up arms to oppose it.

It's time for the United States to end the occupation and end its role in the slaughter.

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