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Petraeus the Hero?

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I still don’t get why Gen. David Petraeus is portrayed as a hero by public officials and the mainstream press for his leadership in the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Even with the passage of time the discomforting facts about the Iraq War have not disappeared.

There was never a declaration of war issued against Iraq by the U.S. Congress, which is what the U.S. Constitution requires as a condition of waging war against another country.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land. It’s the law that we the people have imposed on public officials, including those in the military. Just as public officials expect the citizenry to obey the laws that they impose on us, even the ones that we consider nonsensical (e.g., drug laws), we the people expect public officials to obey our law — the law of the Constitution, even when they believe that our law is nonsensical.

Thus, it cannot be denied that from the standpoint of our form of government, the U.S. government’s war on Iraq was illegal. With his military leadership in that war, Petraeus was a lawbreaker.

Of course, people might say, “But Petraeus is a victim. His commander in chief ordered him to invade Iraq. He had no choice.”

Oh? Even if Petraeus was just following orders, how does that excuse his participation in an illegal invasion and occupation of another country? Moreover, isn’t a soldier supposed to disobey unlawful orders? Doesn’t that principle apply doubly to a high military commander? Indeed, didn’t Petraeus, like every other U.S. soldier, take an oath to support and defend the Constitution? Doesn’t the willingness of Petraeus to ignore the Constitution and follow the orders of the president confirm, as a practical matter, that that oath is nothing more than a sham and that the loyalty of the troops is actually paid to the president, not the Constitution?

Furthermore, it is undisputed that the U.S. government was the aggressor in this conflict. Neither the Iraqi people nor the Iraqi government ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. The U.S. military, the most powerful military in the world, attacked, invaded, and occupied Iraq, a Third-World nation with a third-rate military, and killed and maimed countless people in the process, not to mention the horrific destruction wrought upon the country.

People say, “But U.S. officials honestly felt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash on the United States, and so we were just defending ourselves.”

Oh? If that was true, then why did President Bush spend so much time going to the United Nations and lobbying for UN authorization to conduct his invasion? If the United States were genuinely under an imminent threat of attack by another nation, would the president really be spending months lobbying the United Nations for permission to defend against such an attack?

Of course not. The WMD claim was bogus from the get-go, but U.S. officials knew that once they raised the specter of mushroom clouds over American cities, Americans would blindly support their invasion and war of aggression against Iraq.

After all, once it was conclusively determined that the WMD scare had been fake and bogus, did the U.S. government apologize for the death and destruction it had wrought upon the Iraqi people up to that point? Were U.S. forces ordered to immediately withdraw and return to the United States?

Of course not. Instead, the invasion and occupation simply morphed into a democracy-spreading enterprise. From that point on, the massive death and destruction that Petraeus and U.S. forces brought to Iraq was now supposed to show how wonderful and benevolent the U.S. government was. All that death and destruction was now justified not in name of defending the United States from an imminent WMD attack but instead in the name of bringing democracy to the Iraqi people.

The truth is that the Iraq War was nothing more than another U.S. regime-change operation. Seizing on the deep fear arising out of the 9/11 attacks to garner support from the American people, U.S. officials invaded and occupied Iraq to accomplish what 11 years of their brutal and deadly sanctions had failed to accomplish — the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power and his replacement with a pro-U.S. regime.

Should an American soldier who is waging war in violation of U.S. law ever be portrayed as heroic? Should an American soldier who wages a war of aggression in violation of international law ever be portrayed as heroic? Should an American soldier who is waging a war based on fake and bogus justifications ever be portrayed as heroic?

Perish the thought! There is nothing heroic in any of that.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.