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Iraq: One Year Later

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Islamist terrorism, the eradication of which President Bush listed among his reasons for invading Iraq, has now made its way to Spain. Good show, Mr. Bush. When he says the world is safer one year after the war, one must wonder which world he means.

The Spanish are being slandered by the La-Z-Boy warriors as appeasers because right after 200 of their fellow citizens were killed in train bombings, they threw out the ruling Popular Party, under whose leadership the country was dragged into Bush’s war, and elected the Socialist Party, which vows to remove Spanish troops from Iraq. (It’s a peculiar band of socialists, since their leader says he dislikes government intervention in the economy.) The American war party and its media boosters like to throw the word “appeaser” around, along with “Munich,” “Chamberlain,” and “Hitler.” When you can’t make an argument for your position, these words create an excellent distraction.

In fact, the socialists were pulling ahead of the Popular Party before the bombings occurred. What seems to have upset the people of Spain most about the ruling party was its attempt to blame Basque separatists for the bombings and to hide the indications that the killers were most likely associated with al-Qaeda. Some people don’t like to be lied to by their government. (Alas, Americans seem not to be among them.) When millions of Spaniards took to the streets to mourn their losses, they looked angry and justice-bent, not cowed. To equate withdrawal from Iraq with surrender to terrorists is rank demagogy.

In case anyone needs a reminder, Saddam Hussein’s government had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001. That secular government was anathema to Osama bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics.

It’s got to be embarrassing to anyone who backed the war that terrorism is spreading, not receding, since the world’s mastermind of all evil, Saddam Hussein, was deposed and arrested. Iraq itself is writhing from the violence, now aimed at civilian social workers and missionaries. Any country whose government defied its people’s wishes and backed the Bush war is now at risk. That is part of the president’s legacy.

As an aside, it should be noted that if Bush’s presumptive opponent, Sen. John Kerry, had gotten his way and a full international coalition had participated in the war, many more countries would be walking on eggs today.

No matter how devastating the evidence against the administration’s policy — no weapons of mass destruction, no Iraqi alliance with bin Laden — the president and his people have only clichés to offer. “We will meet this test with strength and resolve. Democracy is taking root in Iraq and there is no turning back,” the White House press secretary said. “This is a time of testing. We will continue to stay to finish the job for the Iraqi people.” In other words, the administration continues to think the American people are morons. It’s not enough that nearly 600 Americans and thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and thousands maimed for life. The president and his people must insult our intelligence too.

You don’t believe it? When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked whether the deaths of the Americans were worth it, he said, “Oh, my goodness, yes. There’s just no question…. Twenty-five million people in Iraq are free.”

Even if those Iraqis really were free, Rumsfeld’s reply would have been abominable. Where does the president of the United States get the power to require that American citizens die for the people of Iraq? It’s not in the Constitution, which, first, confines military power to the defense of the U.S. territory, and, second, reserves the power to declare war not to the president but to Congress. (Kerry seems unaware of that.)

True, no one was conscripted for the Iraq war. But I don’t recall the troops being allowed to opt out of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Perhaps the ones who enlisted out of a desire to defend their homes would have skipped the Middle East adventure if given the chance. Ask Army Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, who refused to return to his unit after being on leave from Iraq. “I am saying no to war; I have chosen peace,” he said. The organization Citizen Soldier estimates that 600 other servicemen have done what Mejia did.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.