William Polk: The Blame Game (Iraq)

Roundup: Historians' Take

You might be interested to compare the remarks in the attached reports [among others, the news that Richard Perle now opposes the Iraq War] with the essays (on my website) I wrote in 2002 and 2003 before we lost 2,800 young men and women dead, over 20,000 maimed, another 50,000 suffering life-long results of concussions, about 40,000 or more with serious psychiatric problems and who knows how many more likely to get cancer from the use of depleted uranium (which on impact produces a particularly lethal isotope that locks on to DNA in the bodies of everyone within range) and were complicit in the deaths of -- I wrote in my last book 100,000 -- Iraqis for which I was charged with exaggeration. The best estimate now is six times that many, about 600,000. The war will cost us in Congressional outlays alone about $500 billion and, in the whole impact on our country, between $1 and $2 trillion. And ran up huge overseas debts: $540 billion in 2004 alone.

Now, it is a little late to begin the "blame game." Who was most responsible? Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Bush? Our most senior and experienced generals have blamed them. Of course, they are right. But that they are only the top of the pile. It is we who are ultimately responsible. Truman was wrong. The "buck" does not stop with the president in democracy. It stops with the citizens. We did not demand answers to even simple questions, accepted half-truths and lies at face value. The press let us down, as at least a part of it now admits, but we did not demand it do better. Congress totally ducked its responsibility, never calling to question those who were making the decisions, never trying to educate itself and certainly not the public with public hearings. Nothing comparable to what Senator Fulbright did during the Viet Nam war was even thought of in the Senate or House.

We just sat, fat and happy, in "the best of all possible worlds" until the roof fell in on us. It hasn't finished falling yet. And much that is ugly and illegal has yet to come out. Billions of dollars were stolen in Iraq. $9 billion right off the top during the "watch" of Paul Bremer. That was money turned over to him by the UN on the condition of accountability. It belonged to Iraq. It was never accounted for and has disappeared. Hundreds of millions of other dollars "were disappeared" as they say in another context. One I have just learned about is that when the two sons of Saddam were killed by our forces, they found nearly $100 million in their hideaway. That money vanished. Who could have taken it? The only people there were our men. Allegedly, throughout Iraq, where we were handing out American taxpayers money for a variety of purposes much -- certainly in the millions of dollars -- was stolen, more was paid in kickbacks and still more in questionable activities. And, as you have read in the last few days, a senator slipped a rider in a bill to abolish the post of inspector general. Better not to know. What a change for America. If you go back and listen to reports during the Viet Nam war, we all then believed that at least Americans were incorruptible. Our people may not have been the smartest but we were sure they were honest. Now we cannot be so sure. Does anyone care? Apparently not, but if we allow our own system to be corrupted, we are truly in mortal danger.

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Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 11/11/2006

I would like to compliment you on the first honest article I have read since the Vietnam war. It is about time someone has the courage to tell the truth to the American people. Honesty is no longer considered a virtue in a nation that claims its greatness in a world of evildoers where everyone who opposes our policies of globalization is a potential Adolf Hitler.It is we the people who are responsible for our present disaster because of our inability to discern right from wrong, and our habit of electing leaders we know have lied to us throughout our history. We appear to be headed for the New Dark age where we are ruled by ignorance and fear.It might help if we went back to reading again and learning history that has become lost to modern technology and its entertaining gadgets. "Those who fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Instead of retaining our present status as wimps we might do well to look for a few twenty first century Henry David Thoreaus and then, it might be possible to hold our leaders accountable.