The fifth anniversary of September 11th will tap our shoulders next month. It will warn of another year of war that waits raving and eager along that same terrible path down which this country's grief over that day has been misled for more than three. War, such as it is, always waits raving and eager, always ready to gather up its victims from the land of the living, and set them down in their early graves.
War is an enduring if terrible fact of human existence. And it is always a defeat for humanity. It never creates the security or the harmony desired. Worst of all is that war turns away no one - men, women, children, there's always room for one more.
Throughout history, leaders have glorified wars and given them justification. History is filled with such figures, and with nations that to their sorrow put their faith in them. Just such a figure is George Bush.
Mr. Bush's war has been a war born of lies and half-truths, sustained by the same, and productive of more every day it continues. His has been a war which in its origins and conduct was and remains a colossal and blood-drenched fraud. Were we even to be generous, and give him the benefit of the doubt by allowing that in his "gut" going to war was the right thing, the tragedy remains that scores of thousands have died for a war waged on little more than a hunch and a grudge.
This war was not thrust upon us - George Bush chose it for us. Rather than fighting the terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, Mr. Bush went looking for them in the sands of Iraq. Rather than finding the chief culprit of September 11, he rode off in search of windmills named "evil" and "darkness". Rather than chasing bin Laden to the ends of the earth, he decided instead to chase our nation's fortune into the mouth of an omnivorous and never-ending war.
Mr. Bush's war "against terror" has produced far more terrorists than it has eliminated, to say nothing of the terror it has, in fact, caused millions of everyday Iraqis young and old. His war has been a recruiting sergeant for the very forces he set out to destroy. His war to "fight them there, so we don't have to fight them here" has, in fact, greatly increased the likelihood we'll someday fight them here.
Mr. Bush's war has cost thousands of young Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, their lives and limbs. His war has sapped our military, our credibility, our economy, our morale, and our moral standing. His war has alienated us from the world, and set our country on a path which continues to dismay our dwindling friends and delight our growing enemies.
Bad as all this, perhaps worse is that Mr. Bush's war has proven once again that force and right are not always on the same side. His war to "bring democracy" to the Muslim world on Abrams tanks has instead led a billion Muslims to believe that democracy and liberty are synonymous with invasion and occupation, and the abuse and death of prisoners. Mr. Bush's gift of democracy delivered by a gun has converted a people into enemies possessed of a hatred which may take centuries to erase.
Soon the fifth anniversary of September 11th will remind us how many times Mr. Bush has evoked the memory of that horrible day to justify unrelated pursuits careless of lives and country. Five years on, we have simply to look back at the war-strewn path from whence we've come to know that staying the present course is no longer an option, if ever it was.