Note: This was in response to an article that appeared in The Oklahoman newspaper in which columnist Tom Lindley interviewed some Oklahoma World War II vets. Of course, the subject of Iraq came up.
Dear Mr. Lindley,
I read your interview with several Oklahoma heroes of World War II in Sunday's paper. At one point you state, "One of them is afraid that every soldier's death on the front page of hometown papers across Middle America will wear and wear on our sense of resolve until it takes the heart out of our will to fight." Another added that though we have lost over 2000 soldiers and counting in Iraq "we've got to remember that terrorists killed more than 3,000 civilians on 9/11." The gist of your column is that we, in our time, seem to be lacking in our ability to finish the war on terrorism compared with these men of the greatest generation.
I can only respond from my perspective as to why public attitudes towards the war in Iraq have taken such a nosedive in recent weeks. My belief is this: we went into Iraq on a lie and that lie is sapping at our national soul and weakening our resolve.
Your article in several places equates the war in Iraq with what we are doing in Afghanistan seeing them both as part and parcel in the war on terrorism. They are not. Afghanistan was the home base of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Our military effort augmented the local insurgency. Few who I know in the current anti-war movement disputed the need for our efforts there.
Iraq has been another matter. We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that he was in league with Al Qaeda, that he aided in 9/11, that defeating him was necessary to defeat terrorism, and that we would be welcomed by an Iraqi population making our stay in Iraq short and our casualties there light. All of this has been proven to be a deception.
Hussein was a tyrant, who we at one time supported, and the fewer tyrants we have the better, but that doesn't remove the fact that we began and have continued to fight this war under false pretenses. To fight a war based on a lie does something to our national soul.
Mainly fighting this war on such a basis makes us grow more and more doubtful of our sacrifices in it. We know that the young men and women who sacrifice their lives and their bodies are our heroes, as great as any American who ever sacrificed his or her life on the field of battle.
But their sacrifice does not sanctify the lie for which they have fought any more than the heroic sacrifices by the brave Americans in General Lee's army sanctified, in the words of General Grant,"the worst cause for which anyone ever fought".
So the fading support for the war in Iraq is not, in my opinion, due to any lack of national character. It is, instead, due to the fact feeling we feel less confidant that we are fighting this war on a moral basis. No country can claim moral authority when has it deceived itself. No country will long sacrifice the flower of its youth for such a deception.
Actually, I am not at all pessimistic about our battle with terrorism. I think that we have a great capacity to recognize our mistakes even when our leaders are horribly blind to them. But the present war in Iraq does not bring us closer to that goal. It has done quite the opposite. Before our invasion, there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Now there is. And if we think for a second that this means the terrorists will stay there, we need only look to Madrid, London and elsewhere to end that self-deception.