By Nathaniel Batchelder
Printed in the Daily Oklahoman, Wednesday, February 8, 2006
In January three years ago, almost 2,000 Oklahoma City citizens participated in an interfaith Spiritual Walk for Peace, expressing hope in prayer that war in Iraq could be avoided. Many of us had supported the U.S. effort to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but it seemed the 9/11 terrorist attack was being used to justify a war in Iraq that some had wanted for years. Most Americans now believe the war was a mistake but go along for a host of reasons. It’s tough to challenge your government when your government is waging war, but, many of us see a bad decision bringing worse outcomes. Some 2,200 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. More than half a trillion dollars has been spent. Many believe this war inflames antiAmerican sentiment throughout the Middle East, assisting the recruitment efforts of America’s enemies there.
Before the war, U.N. weapons inspection leaders Hans Blix and Scott Ritter said they were finding no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were ridiculed by the Rush Limbaughs on U.S. radio, but today we know they were right. The assertion that Iraq already had nuclear weapons has proven groundless. Iraq’s alleged mobile chemical weapons labs didn’t exist. The American people and Congress were whipped up for war with allegations of dangers for which no evidence has been produced.
Our leaders said the war would be quick. When American forces reached Baghdad and toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, President Bush announced victory from the deck of an aircraft carrier before a banner proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished.” At that point only about 150 Americans had died in Iraq. Since then, another 2,000 have been killed, and untold thousands wounded and maimed.
Many have asserted, and I believe, that the U.S. presence in Iraq is the primary fuel for the continuing insurgency. Of course, I pray for the best possible outcome of this tragic violence. But many also believe that no government installed by the United States in the Middle East will be tolerated without permanent military and economic support. Many predict Iraq’s religious and political factions will descend into civil war without a perpetual military presence holding them in check. Since the Shiites make up 60 percent of Iraq’s population, Iraq could become a political ally of Iran.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has resorted to torture and humiliation of Middle East prisoners, compromising our national reputation for supporting human rights, and deepening resentments against us. Around the world the U.S.’ is seen as a threat to world peace. Would this war ever have been waged if Iraq and the Middle East were not the world’s center for oil production? Shame on us if we went to war for oil.
The United States must engage the international community in seeking oversight of Iraqi security while we remove our military forces, which fueling the insurgency. In any case, peace walks and demonstrations will continue in Oklahoma City and around the world to decry what we see as a tragic misuse of U.S. military force.
We love the troops. We want them home.