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American Militarism: Part Two (Charles Krauthammer)

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In 1990, thirteen years before President George W. Bush made his fateful decision to order an illegal, immoral war of choice in Iraq, prominent neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer had helped to pave the way for such wars by writing an article for Foreign Affairs which urged the United States to "unashamedly" lay "down the rules of world order and " [be] prepared to enforce them." His views were embraced by many influential neoconservatives.

In 2001, two years before President George W. Bush ordered an illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, Mr. Krauthammer blithely asserted, "we are not just any hegemon. We run a uniquely benign imperium."

But, once in Iraq, nearly 4,500 American soldiers died under that so-called "uniquely benign imperium". And under that "uniquely benign imperium" tens of thousands of American soldiers suffered serious wounds, not including PTSD.

In addition to widespread destruction, Mr. Krauthammer's "uniquely benign imperium" was directly responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Beyond provoking outrage and an increase in terrorism around the world, his "uniquely benign imperium" precipitated widespread ethnic cleansing in Iraq and caused millions of Iraqis to vacate their homes to move to other parts of the country or the world.

Moreover, as Ned Parker has written in the March/April 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, "the country has become something close to a failed state. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presides over a system rife with corruption and brutality". The Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water, and decent health care-- Thus, one could say that Mr. Krauthammer's "uniquely benign imperium" broke Iraq, but didn't fix it.

Unfortunately, the only thing that the Bush administration and neoconservatives like Mr. Krauthammer "fixed" was the intelligence used to justify the invasion. During the fall of 2002, while I was writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer to warn our citizens about the perils of initiating a preemptive war when the intelligence is not rock solid, (see http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/?p=314 ) Mr. Krauthammer was expressing his certainty that Iraq already possessed chemical and biological weapons and might acquire nuclear weapons. Consequently, he urged President Bush to launch a preemptive war against Iraq, lest evil Saddam Hussein use these weapons.

Subsequent events would prove me right about questionable intelligence and him wrong. Like so many other armchair militarists, Mr. Krauthammer never satisfactorily answered the question posed by UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix: "Could there be 100 percent certainty about the existence of weapons of mass destruction but zero percent knowledge of their location?" Being wrong, however, has seldom slowed neoconservatives like Mr. Krauthammer.

Consequently, even if he tried, Mr. Krauthammer could never atone for his decision to urge his "uniquely benign imperium" to wage war and inflict widespread death and destruction on another country. His obnoxious jingoism and mistaken certainty about Iraq's WMD are indelible stains on his reputation.

Unfortunately, he doesn't even try to atone. Rather than admit mistakes, Mr. Krauthammer flagrantly doubles down on them.

Last week, The Philadelphia Inquirer published his latest double-down, under the title "Reassessing Bush's legacy." Writing as if his mind had been deprived of oxygen, Mr. Krauthammer began his double down with a lame talking point straight out of the Bush campaign: "He kept us safe."

But, how could anyone claim that President Bush "kept us safe," when the worst terrorist attack in America's history took place nearly nine months after Bush became president? Moreover, how could anyone claim that Bush "kept us safe," when Bush's own intelligence services produced a National Intelligence Estimate in 2006, which concluded that America's invasion of Iraq had actually made the world a more dangerous place, due to the proliferation of terrorists and terrorism that it precipitated?

Had Mr. Krauthammer actually engaged in something more than sophomoric apologetics for Bush, he might have found evidence indicating that the Bush administration's early obsession with regime change in Iraq displaced the attention that should have been given to al Qaeda. Thus, rather than spouting banal propaganda about keeping us safe, Mr. Krauthammer might have urged Americans to investigate the degree to which negligence by the Bush administration permitted al Qaeda to successfully attack America on 9/11.

But, that's not the only problem with Mr. Krauthammer's reassessment of Bush's legacy. A visitor from Mars could read it and not know why Bush gave the order to invade Iraq. In his reassessment of Bush's legacy, Mr. Krauthammer claimed the Iraq war only had three parts: (1) the initial toppling of the regime, (2) the disastrous occupation and (3) the surge.
No, it did not! It has, at least, five parts. Mr. Krauthammer overlooked the first part, the part that any competent military historian would call the casus belli -- the reasons or justifications for going to war. (The fifth part, victory or defeat, has yet to be determined.)

Mr. Krauthammer's failure to mention the casus belli was predictable. First, he's no military historian. Second, he has no interest in reminding the public that he advocated false casus belli for preemptive war. Third, for militarists who believe that the United States should "unashamedly" lay "down the rules of world order and " [be] prepared to enforce them," almost any casus belli will suffice.

For the record, let it be said that the Bush administration spent months attempting to convince Americans that Iraq, led by evil Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction and had ties to al-Qaeda. They were the Bush administration's foremost casus belli -- and, after the invasion and a thorough search, they were proven to be false.

Mr. Krauthammer's failure to mention these casus belli is a serious matter, if only because Americans never would have supported an invasion of Iraq, had they not been led to believe that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD and had ties to al Qaeda.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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