On May 1 ten years ago, President George Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln just off the San Diego coast, and under a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq War. There has been some debate about whether the banner referred to the carrier’s 10-month deployment or to the war itself, but it soon became an ironic symbol of our involvement in the Middle East.
President Bush didn’t help matters when in that speech he stated, “In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” And in a message to the troops in Afghanistan at As Sayliyah on June 5 of that same year, he said, “America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.”
On this 10th anniversary we are reminded of these two historical events by what happened in Dallas this past week. On April 25 the George W. Bush Presidential Center was dedicated. Located on the campus of the Southern Methodist University, this $500 million complex includes a Presidential Library and Museum, a Policy Institute, and the offices of the George W. Bush Foundation that raised the money for the center.
The institute will seek to advance four causes that Bush adopted as his own while in office: human freedom, global health, economic growth, and education reform. The museum, however, will focus more on events such as 9/11 and the Iraq War, and provide visitors an introduction to Bush’s decision-making role as “Decider-in-Chief” and his version of history.
One wonders how critical the museum’s analysis will be. The drumbeat for war on Iraq by the U.S. political establishment began almost ten years before 9/11. Dominating the Middle East and controlling its oil supplies were viewed as crucial for the U.S. economy and imperial expansion. “Operation Desert Storm” was expected to usher in a new world order of unfettered American global dominance.
In the months before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, more than 300 retired generals, admirals, high ranking officers, national security officials and diplomats spoke out against any invasion. Retired General and former Director of the National Security Agency Bill Odum called the invasion the most strategic military blunder in our history. Will these be mentioned?
Along with the Iraqi war came a serious disregard for legal and justice issues. Will the museum, in its presentation of the role of our nation’s Decider-in-Chief, refer to any of these? In 2002, in violation of international law and treaties, the U.S. government instituted a new doctrine of “pre-emptive self-defense” and regime change as a goal for military intervention. It came with free fire zones, the use of antipersonnel weapons in dense urban settings, the torture of captives, and lies about the enemy having weapons of mass destruction.
Have the costs been worth it? The war has taken over one million Iraqi lives and created 5 million refugees. It has caused over 5,000 American fatalities and suicides, 200,000 injuries, illnesses, and traumatic syndromes, and a huge debt for U.S. taxpayers. According to economist Joseph Stiglitz, these taxpayers over time will be paying an estimated $3 trillion for this unfunded war.
The museum will have special electronic instruments for visitors that will allow them to interact with some of the exhibits. It will be interesting to see what kind of interaction will be possible on the subject of our nation’s mission.
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.