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By Scott Ritter

U.S. Tour of Duty
August 19, 2005

Outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier who died in combat in Iraq, waits with a growing number of concerned Americans for the opportunity to ask George Bush, in person, about the "noble and selfless cause" that took her son's life on April 4, 2004. So far, the President has refused to meet with Cindy Sheehan. The Sheehan vigil, with its attendant media coverage, could not have come at a worse time for President Bush. August 2005 is well on track to be one of the bloodiest months in the ongoing American occupation of Iraq. The Bush White House finds itself confronted by the need to placate an increasingly frustrated American public which is rapidly backing away from its once unbridled support of Bush's Iraq adventure.

For a public grown weary of casualty lists, the politically expedient solution appears to be as simple as promising a significant draw-down of American troops in Iraq. However, the Iraqi government, ostensibly the cause for which American soldiers and Marines keep dying, has shown itself utterly incapable of either defending itself, or drawing up a constitution which would define a cause worth defending. The August 15 deadline for the submission of a draft Iraqi Constitution has come and gone with no resolution. The Bush administration has emerged from the shadows and has publicly weighed in with compromise language in order to salvage the process. But this American intervention only continues a process of missteps and miscalculation that has doomed the Bush adventure in Iraq from the start.

The Bush policy on Iraq has, from the very beginning, been 180 degrees in the wrong direction regarding every aspect of a modern Iraqi state. Increasingly, Iraqi observers are becoming aware of the harsh reality that Iraq was better off with Saddam Hussein in power, rather than this faux-democracy which threatens to tear Iraq apart at the seams. By removing Saddam Hussein from power, together with the Ba'athist Party infrastructure that held Iraq together as a nation state, the United States caused the implosion of what was prior to the US-led invasion a viable Iraqi nation. In its place, the Bush administration has created a multitude of competing nightmares, from the empowerment of a radical Shi'a theocracy which has seized the reigns of power in Iraq under the guise of "freedom and democracy," to a Kurdish "autonomy" which operates as little more than a front to enrich themselves and their supporters with the wealth derived from the oil fields of Kirkuk, and a disenfranchised Sunni minority whose only salvation is now found in waging a bloody insurgency.

The current deadlock over drafting a constitution in Iraq is reflective of the reality of the failure of America's Iraq policy. Whatever document is eventually produced will not be the product of genuine democratic processes taking place in Iraq today, but rather reflective of American-brokered compromises designed to temporarily shore up the numerous fatal flaws that plague Iraq today. One thing is for certain -- any government that emerges from the morass of lies and deceit that reflects the constitutional process in Iraq is doomed to fail. By inserting itself in the Iraqi constitutional process, and by taking the lead in training Iraqi forces designed to defend any state produced by this constitution, the Bush administration only further corrupts the legitimacy and survivability of both. The insurgency in Iraq continues to feed off of the incompetence of the American occupation and the illegitimacy of the American-controlled government in Iraq. Far from wallowing in its "final throes," as Vice President Dick Cheney opined last month, the insurgency has become much more sophisticated in both its military and political approach towards defeating the United States and its proxy Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Even the most ideologically loyal advisor in the White House understands that any withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at this point in time would result in the rapid dissolution of the current government in Baghdad, and with it the onset of sectarian violence throughout Iraq that would, literally, rip that country apart. This reality is politically unacceptable for those who supported the decision to invade Iraq. As such, there will be no draw down in American combat power in Iraq for sometime to come. Indeed, as the insurgency grows in size and intensity, the Bush administration and its supporters in Congress will require a larger combat force than currently exists. But this larger force will never be able to defeat the insurgents, but rather simply maintain a status quo which cannot achieve victory, and only delay the inevitable American retreat. The war in Iraq is not, and has never been, about the national security of the United States. Americans today die in Iraq not in pursuit of victory in the defense of our homeland, but rather in defense of the political careers of those who ordered this war, and continue to support this war.

Which brings us back to Cindy Sheehan and the ongoing vigil taking place outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. While Cindy Sheehan has become the focus of the media's attention, we should never lose sight of the fact that her vigil is not about herself, or the thousands of mothers and fathers who have lost their children as a result of Bush's invasion of Iraq. Her vigil is about her son, Casey, the more than 1,850 Americans who have lost their lives to date in Iraq, and the unknown numbers of additional sons and daughters of the United States who will have their lives terminated or torn asunder in the prosecution of this senseless war. Her vigil is about the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have likewise perished in this conflict.

Cindy Sheehan and the others who demonstrate against President Bush in Texas do so in an attempt to find an answer to their question as to why their sons and daughters died in Iraq. The answer to that question is obvious: because of the lies and deceit of the Bush administration. But even once this deception has become part of the public awareness, the harsh reality is that Americans and Iraqis will continue to die in Iraq, in increasing numbers, on a daily basis. Bush's war in Iraq has become America's war. Congress, the American media, and even the American people themselves are complicit in this war, from their collective embrace of the false justification for the war (the phantom weapons of mass destruction) to their unquestioning acceptance of the revisionist notion, put forward after no weapons of mass destruction were found, that the Iraq war was somehow about spreading liberty and democracy.

After this hollow lie has been exposed (even the Bush administration has backed away from its earlier optimism about creating a model society in Iraq), America remains trapped in Iraq by a dangerous combination of arrogance and ignorance which has many clinging to an idealized notion of defending our national honor by continuing to wage war. America's national honor cannot be restored by force of arms. Iraq did not attack us, we attacked Iraq. American service members will continue to fight and die in Iraq until which time the American people accept the reality that the only way national honor can be restored is for America to leave Iraq, the sooner the better.

The only way such a withdrawal will occur is for Americans to address the root cause of the quagmire in Iraq -- the politicians in the White House and Congress who elected to get our nation embroiled in a war that didn't need to take place. Cindy Sheehan is right to protest outside the President's ranch in Crawford, and it is good that so many are coming to join her. But her cause will not be fully supported, or fully realized, until similar vigils are organized outside the homes and offices of every representative and senator, Republican and Democrat alike, who voted in support of the war in Iraq. A "yes" vote for the Iraq War must become a universal badge of shame, a modern-day scarlet letter which marks the bearer as a moral coward indifferent to both the rule of law and the senseless sacrifice of American youth like Casey Sheehan in the cause of political expediancy. Because the United States is a democracy, and because this truly is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," we, the American people, will likewise wear this symbol of shame until we purge those who failed us so egregiously in representing our will from the halls of elected office.

Scott Ritter is a former (1991-1998) UN weapons inspector in Iraq and the author of "Iraq Confidential," to be published in October, 2005 by Nation Books.

U.S. TOUR OF DUTY presents former UN weapons inspector SCOTT RITTER in person with Iraq veterans and military families direct from Camp Casey. A special clip from "Uncovered: The War on Iraq," and "Caught in the Crossfire," a 16-minute film about the U.S. bombardment of Falluja and its aftermath, will be screened. Come hear first-hand accounts and see exclusive, uncensored documentary evidence of the war being fought in America's name.

Monday, August 22
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
SMU Hughes-Trigg Student Center
3140 Dyer Street
Dallas, TX 75205
Co-sponsored by Dallas Peace Center, Peace Action Denton, True Majority, and SMU Chaplain's Office
Free admission - Donations accepted


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