The Real Side
A Fool's Errand
America should have heeded opponents of the Iraq War
Before the war, we stood on Central, by the UNM bookstore, waving little signs. How could we see so clearly what was coming in Iraq, and the rest of country be so blind? Police barricaded Central to prevent drivers from noticing us. Then they came with gas and clubs. Our children washed their burning eyes across the street at the Frontier Restaurant.
We regrouped and marched by the thousands from Kirtland Air Force Base to downtown Albuquerque. Though we were many time zones from Baghdad, we had it right. The war was stupid. Iraq was the wrong target. Americans killing women and children in Baghdad wouldn't stop terror, it would breed it.
We were forced to march through a gauntlet of lawmen looking like Darth Vader with shotguns cradled in their arms. Mothers pushed strollers, while grandparents did their best to keep up with college students. All of us moved forward, undeterred, because we knew we were right.
We stood with other veterans on a traffic island in Santa Fe, where St. Francis joins Cerrillos. The wind fluttered empty sleeves. Some of us leaned on crutches. We counseled peace. We prayed for it. Too many of our brothers had died and been maimed, too many of us had killed, when another president had lied us into another war.
A kid, twenty-something, driving his father's Humvee, screamed at us to "Find another country!" We stayed at our posts, in the burning sun, breathing auto exhaust, hurt at being called traitors, when it was the treason of lunatics we were hoping to stop.
We tried to squeeze in a dissenting word on KOB's talk radio, where the hosts rooted for war like it was the Lobos versus BYU. The Albuquerque Journal ignored us. Yard signs were stolen from our homes until we taped them to garages and chimneys where they might last the night.
We saw friends' minds shutter when we warned America could be in Iraq for 10 years, when we pointed out that UN inspectors had found no WMDs, and that the cheapest, least sanguinary way to contain Hussein was to continue doing what we had been doing for more than a decade, without the loss of a single American life.
We sought the attention of our congresswoman, hoping her doctorate in international relations had given her wisdom. But when we gathered to walk past her house, a line of uniformed men with guns blocked our path. Behind us, police towed our cars.
We were ridiculed, cursed, banished to France. Friendships were strained, some snapped. We were called mad, when madness was driving the nation we love across the threshold of killing and torturing innocent people, on a course history does not permit to be erased or forgiven.
It was all so obvious to us, though we live far from the centers of decision-making, far from the frontlines of what should be the very best information. If we could figure out that conquering Iraq would be one of the most foolish, most abhorrent moves in American history, why couldn't our leaders in Washington see it as well?
Our fears have been realized. Our sons and daughters were sent around the world on a fool's errand. Tens of thousands have come home maimed or in a coffin. Our nation has killed thousands without justification, and set loose forces that have killed thousands more. We have slipped from any pretense of self-defense to being aimless participants in an insane orgy of gore. The nation of Washington and Lincoln is now choosing sides in a distant civil and religious war we triggered. For every "insurgent" we destroy, two or three more spring up to avenge American killings of their families and drive the hated foreigner—us—from their homeland. And America, once the beacon of decency and hope, is feared and despised across the planet.
The new prime minister of Iraq recently laid a wreath on the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini, who had branded our country "the great Satan." Iran promises military training for the Iraq army and will soon be refining Iraqi oil. Bush's war has brought together numbers one and two in Bush's Axis of Evil. The new Iraqi constituiton will be based on Islam and deny women rights they enjoyed under Saddam. And the most influential man in Iraq, Ayatollah Al-Sistani—an Iranian—refuses even to meet with any American.
Instead of a hobbled Hussein, we face ayatollahs who despise us. That's what we have bought with the lives of nearly 1,800 Americans.
A "told ya so" would be out of line. But, since we were so horribly right once, just maybe America will listen to what we have to say now: We can't undo the damage we've done. More bloodshed won't justify the blood already spilled. Continuing to occupy Iraq only makes matters worse. It's time to come home.
Why listen to us? What do we know? For starters, we've got a better track record on this than the president and most of Congress.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail email@example.com.