On April 19, the Senate majority leader said the war in Iraq "is lost."
Republicans were appalled. They accused Reid and his fellow Democrats of using their public statements about the war in Iraq for domestic political gain.
Politicians using statements about policy for political gain? I'm shocked. Are you shocked? 'Cause I'm shocked.
Republicans also accused Reid and Democrats of undermining the Iraq war effort and undercutting the morale of U.S. troops, statements which I'm sure were in no way intended for domestic political gain.
Is the war in Iraq lost? I think the best way to judge that is to list the war's long and evolving lists of objectives, and then compare them with the situation on the ground.
Before I begin, I want to assure you that none of the things I write are calculated for political gain. I'm only in this for money and chicks.
Goal: Democratize Iraq
The White House likes to remind the world that, thanks to the U.S. invasion, Iraq has a democratically elected government.
That's two-thirds correct. Iraq's Parliament was democratically elected, but it isn't a government. Iraqis cast their votes for Parliament along ethnic and sectarian lines. The result is a parliament that is as divided as Iraq itself. It hasn't passed any major legislation because no group wants to give anything to any other group.
Even if the Parliament did pass legislation, Iraq's government can't enforce it. The national government has no real authority. The elections the Bush administration brags about so much actually deepened the sectarian and ethnic divides in Iraq. "Be nice to the Americans or they'll punish you with democracy," is how one Iraqi described his government recently to a BBC reporter.
Goal: Alleviate suffering of Iraqis
Depending on whose numbers you believe, between 70,000 and 600,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion. An estimated 2 million are refugees in neighboring countries. Saddam Hussein's rule was awful, but the U.S. invasion didn't alleviate suffering. Instead of systematic, state-sponsored violence, Iraq now has a sectarian civil war.
Goal: Make the United States safer from foreign terrorism
The Iraq war diverted resources from the hunt for al-Qaeda, allowing the organization to regroup in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has also turned Iraq into not just an inspiration, but a training ground for terrorists. The war has overstretched and exhausted the U.S. military and soured the American public on the idea of waging a smart, sustained campaign against militant Islam.
Opponents of the war have accused the United States of invading for the purpose of "getting" Iraq's oil, as if Bush and Cheney were to stick it all in a giant Thermos and hide it under the White House. War supporters, on the other hand, refuse to in any way acknowledge oil as a reason to go to war, as if the fact that Iraq sits atop the world's second-largest oil supply is merely a nutty coincidence.
The United States invaded, intending to install a pro-American government that would boost Iraq's oil production, thus reducing the relative petro-power of U.S. rivals. A new Iraq could also act as a backup supplier in the event of unrest or revolution in Saudi Arabia. And of course, U.S. oil companies were poised to make a fortune in the process. But that was just another nutty coincidence, I suppose.
Iraq may yet become the new Saudi Arabia, but so far oil production hasn't increased much. Thanks to Iraq's nonstop violence, oil production is well below the Saddam-era peak.
Goal: Neutralize Iraq's WMD program
Result: Mission Accomplished
Prior to the war, the Bush administration claimed that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States because Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, and was well on its way to building a nuke. How well on its way? Not sure, said Condi Rice in January 2003, "But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
It turns out Saddam's WMD threat to the United States did not exist. Iraq's WMD arsenal at the time we invaded consisted largely of useless old chemical artillery shells — weapons that pose less danger to Americans than someone smoking a cigarette in front of a supermarket shelf stocked with bleach and insecticides.
I feel safer. How about you?