Implications of Pointless War

Robert Koehler

What does it mean that the New York Times, upon the occasion of President Obama’s announced drawdown of forces in Iraq last week, called our seven and a half years of invasion and occupation of the country “a pointless war”?

The editorial proceeded to do what Obama himself seemed to be under enormous political pressure to avoid: It skewered his predecessor, mildly perhaps, but repeatedly throughout the 645-word editorial: “the war made America less safe,” “it is important not to forget how much damage Mr. Bush caused by misleading Americans,” etc. The editorial even acknowledged an Iraqi death toll: “at least 100,000.”

Why am I underwhelmed — disturbed, even — by this evidence of mainstream disavowal of the disastrous war that had such overwhelming support at its bloody, shock-and-awe onset? While Obama said it was time to “turn the page” on Iraq, the Times and the constituency it represents apparently feel compelled to wad it up as well and toss it into the dustbin of history. And thus, even though 50,000 U.S. troops, a.k.a., “advisers,” remain in the shattered country and our commitment there, let alone our responsibility, is far from over, the Iraq war has officially become a consensus mistake, right alongside Vietnam.

Considering that I agree with the editorial, I marvel at how agitated it makes me. Maybe what troubles me is the unappreciated enormity of the phrase “pointless war” and the easy, consequence-free blame for it assigned to George Bush and his inner circle. Between the lines, I feel the rush to move on, to learn nothing, to throw berms around the insidious spread of responsibility (my God, what if it reaches us?). Better to cut our losses than to cut the Defense budget.

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