The war in Iraq is over. The world’s most powerful country vanquishes a small-time dictator of an impoverished nation in a matter of weeks. The embedded media, which behaves more like a giddy cheerleader than a watchdog, is now engaged in a collective orgy of self-congratulation.
A Boston Globe reporter was of the view that this was the right war—that Saddam had to be removed—fought at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, that Bush failed to lead or engage the rest of the world in this effort.
I think Bush’s failures are far more serious. He has alienated traditional allies and effectively destroyed the United Nations. He has transformed America from a lead-by-example democracy into a don’t-you-dare-do-what-I-do imperial power.
Even though there was no evidence linking the Iraqi regime to the 9/11 attacks on America, Bush railed for months against Saddam for possessing weapons of mass destruction. It must be embarrassing—if anyone in this administration is capable of that emotion—to find no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush is backpedaling on his WMD rhetoric, preparing the public for the possibility that they may never be found. Like Osama, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, who by all accounts is alive and well in Pakistani territory, WMDs will soon disappear from public discourse, having served their purpose.
In post-war Iraq, Iraqis are beginning to express their views more openly than they could before. And what are they saying? From what I can tell: Thank you for getting rid of Saddam. Now please leave. The administration is blaming neighboring Iran for the anti-American sentiment, but the blunt fact is that Iran is not occupying Iraq.
If free and fair elections are ever held in Iraq—or anywhere else in the Arab world—the resulting government will strongly support Palestinian rights. This is the overwhelming public opinion in the Arab world, indeed the rest of the world. You can’t wish it away and you can’t blame it on Iran or Al-Jazeera. When are we going to come to terms with this reality? Or will we, like empires of the past, attempt to reshape the world, by force, in our image?
In defying the United Nations, we haven’t shown much respect for world public opinion or international law. How do we bring democracy to the rest of the world without practicing it ourselves through our own actions?