Cannot forget mistakes made
Re: 41st president
As the late President George H. W. Bush is rightly eulogized for almost a lifetime of public service, it is not possible to ignore the serious errors of his administration, the effects of which we deal with to this day.
Because Mr. Bush would, I think, have seen his expertise lying in foreign policy, we can look to the first war with Iraq, “Desert Storm,” as one of his gravest mistakes. It is argued that it was the shock of scenes of the Iraqi army’s devasting retreat along the “Highway of Death” that convinced Mr. Bush to halt military operations after 100 hours — with encouragement, or at least no vigorous objection, from Gen. Colin Powell — allowing tens of thousands of Iraqi Republican Guard, along with their stores of material, to gain the sanctuary of their home country and to fight us again a decade later.
The hard choice and the correct one, not in hindsight alone either, would have been for the coalition forces, led by the U.S., to carry their momentum all the way to Bagdhad and decisively eliminate the threat of Saddam Hussein. The reasoning for not doing so remains murky at best. Desert Storm itself is said to have fueled Osama bin Laden’s murderous outrage against the U.S., so stopping short of Bagdhad certainly would not have placated him. The coalition’s position was, with almost one million troops, never to be better to complete its ultimate mission in the swiftest, most economical way, especially since the removal of Hussein was implicit in its creation.
Most indefensible was Bush’s pass to the Shia and Kurds of southern Iraq after the cessation of formal hostilities, urging them to form an insurgency against Bagdhad and then doing nothing to support it materially. Prodded, Hussein reacted with predictable brutality, killing hundreds of thousands of the uprisers, as well as those simply associated with them by geography. The U.S. belatedly imposed a no-fly zone, but by then the Kurds and Shia had been crushed; and Hussein had embarked upon one of the greatest environmental crimes in history, the accelerated draining of the Mesopotamian marshes (it seems odd how slow progressives were to identify all of Hussein’s “crimes against nature,” including the igniting of Kuwaiti oil fields and the flooding of Kuwaiti oil into the waters of the Persian Gulf).
Ending the war when Mr. Bush did also created a hubristic sense of our imperviousness and led to who knows how many misbegotten future adventures: Desert Storm taught us, inaccurately, that the cost of intervention could be minimal. Ultimately, the overthrow of Hussein by coalition forces was merely delayed by 12 years, resulting in U.S. combat deaths across the 15 years of war of at least 10 times those of Desert Storm plus many, many times more civilian deaths, not to mention the additional expenditure of $2.5 trillion in U.S. treasure and an increased loss of faith in our government.
And we can only wonder, had we not felt obliged to deal with Hussein in 2003, because he would already have been gone, how the clearly more necessary war in Afghanistan, with no sign of ending even now, would have gone if we could have given it our undivided attention. One of Mr. Bush’s favorite words was “prudent.” Failing to finish a job at the perfect moment for its completion is truly imprudent; and we continue to experience the aftermath of Mr. Bush’s highly questionable, and faux humanitarian, decision.
Editor’s note: The word limit for this letter was waived.