By BOB HERBERT
NY Times Op-Ed
York Times" --- - How long can this
Saddam is dead. The weapons of mass destruction were a
mirage. More than 3,000 American G.I.s and scores of
thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Voters in the
United States have made it clear that they no longer
support American involvement in this exercise in
sustained barbarism. Incredibly, the U.S. military
itself is turning against the war.
And yet the president, against the counsel of his
commanders on the ground, apparently is ready to
escalate - to send more American lives into the fire he
set in Iraq.
In a devastating critique of the war, the newsweekly
Army Times led its current edition with the headline:
"About-Face on the War - After 3 years of support,
troops sour on Iraq." The article detailed a Military
Times Poll that found, for the first time, that "more
troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war
than approve of it."
Only a third of the service members surveyed approved of
the president's conduct of the war, while 42 percent
disapproved. Perhaps worse was the finding that only
half of the troops believed that success in Iraq was
The service members made it clear that they were not
attacking their commander in chief personally. His
overall approval rating remained high. What has turned
them off has been the wretched reality of the war. In
the article, David Segal, director of the Center for
Research on Military Organization at the University of
Maryland, said, "They're seeing more casualties and
fatalities and less progress."
In other words, they're seeing the same thing everybody
else is seeing - except, perhaps, Mr. Bush.
On New Year's Day, readers of The New York Times could
see the excruciating photo layout of the latest 1,000
American service members to die in Iraq. As in all wars,
most of them were young. Many of them were smiling in
the photos. All of them died unnecessarily.
The war has been an exercise in futility and
mind-boggling incompetence, and yet our involvement
continues - with no end in sight, no plans for
withdrawal, no idea of where we might be headed - as if
the U.S. had fallen into some kind of bizarrely
destructive trance from which it is unable to awaken.
And who is paying the price for this insanity - apart
from ordinary Iraqis, who are paying the most grievous
price of all? The burden of the war in the U.S. is being
shouldered overwhelmingly by a contingent of Americans
whom no one would categorize as economically privileged.
As Lizette Alvarez and Andrew Lehren wrote in Monday's
"The service members who died during this latest period
fit an unchanging profile. They were mostly white men
from rural areas, soldiers so young they still held
fresh memories of high school football heroics and
teenage escapades. Many men and women were in Iraq for
the second or third time. Some were going on their
fourth, fifth or sixth deployment."
There is no way that this can be justified. It is just
I've said many times that if a war is worth fighting the
way to do it is to mobilize the entire country, drawing
the warriors from as wide a swath of the population as
possible and raising taxes on everyone as part of an
all-out effort to defeat a common enemy.
This war is not worth fighting. And if there were ever
serious talk about enacting a draft or raising taxes to
fight it, you'd see quickly enough that the vast
majority of Americans would not find it worth fighting.
There must be a leader somewhere who can shake the U.S.
out of this tragic hypnotic state, who can see that it
is beyond crazy to continue our involvement in this war
indefinitely, to sacrifice another 1,000 young lives,
and then another thousand after that.
All of the tortured, twisted rationales for this war -
all of the fatuous intellectual pyrotechnics dreamed up
to justify it - have vaporized, and we're left with just
the mad, mindless, meaningless and apparently endless
Shakespeare, in "Henry VI," said: "Now thou art come
unto a feast of death."
We should end our participation in the feast of death in
Iraq. It is criminal to continue feeding our troops into
If there were politicians here at home with some of the
courage of the troops in the field, we could begin
saving lives rather than watching helplessly as the Bush
White House continues to sacrifice them. Three thousand
and counting is enough.