The Daily Star
---- — Were it not so galling and tragic, the hypocrisy of those war hawks in Congress criticizing President Barack Obama over recent events in Iraq would be almost laughable.
With Islamic insurgents taking over several cities and large swaths of territory, hundreds of civilians being killed by bombs in Baghdad, and Iraqi troops trained by U.S. forces discarding their weapons and uniforms — running away instead of fighting — we are left with three awful questions.
Did the more than 4,100 patriotic Americans who died in Iraq perish for nothing?
Did the thousands of soldiers who came home without arms and legs or with post-traumatic stress disorder sacrifice so much for nothing?
If they did, whose fault is it?
Republicans in Congress, most emphatically Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are blaming Obama for not keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq and are clamoring for more military action. It should not go unnoticed, however, that those two senators were among those most supportive of getting us into this mess in the first place.
To be fair, Democratic senators such as Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer also supported President George W. Bush’s invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003 because they believed he had “weapons of mass destruction.”
As it turned out, he didn’t. When none could be found, the mission changed to provide Iraq with a vibrant democracy, which remains a pipe dream given the enmity between Sunni and Shia in that tortured country.
Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, warned his president in 2002 about what going to war in Iraq would mean.
“You are going to be the proud owner of (Iraq’s) 25 million people,” he told the president, according to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward. “You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.”
It has since come to be known as the “Pottery Barn rule.”
“Once you break it, you are going to own it, and we’re going to be responsible for 26 million people standing there looking at us,” Powell recounted years later. “And it’s going to suck up a good 40 to 50 percent of the Army for years. …”
There is no doubt that despite the removal from power and the execution of a brutal dictator in Saddam, Iraqis are far worse off than they ever were under his regime. Untold thousands of civilians have been killed, millions are displaced, and a religious civil war rages with no end in sight.
The McCains and Grahams blaming Obama hope we have short political memories. Obama, while making certain to protect American interests and citizens, is resisting getting us sucked back into a costly quagmire.
We broke it, but we don’t want to own it, anymore.