by Chris Haire
Like many of you, I've spent the better part of the morning revisiting the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
I'm in Greenville at the moment, and so I've had a chance to look at today's issue of the Greenville News.
In addition to that, I've checked out Salon and Slate and Drudge and HuffPo. Later, I'll head to Barnes and Noble and pick up a New York Times for what I expect will be the definitive collection of 9/11 articles.
So far, only Charles Krauthammer's article on 9/11 has left me particularly incensed. But I knew that going in.
Krauthammer is one of the nation's most war-hungry neocons, a bomb-them-back-to-stone-age member of the intelligentsia who fights his wars over heavy hors d'oeuvres and highballs at Washington's poshest clubs and gatherings. The only camouflage he has ever worn is the one that covers up the fact that he doesn't know jackshit about on-the-ground combat. The horrors of war are alien to him. Even worse, he doesn't care.
Which is why I shouldn't have been surprised to find that Krauthammer chooses to honor the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11 by penning a justification for our invasion of Iraq and the ongoing wars we're fighting there and in Afghanistan.
In the Washington Post, Krauthammer writes:
The new conventional wisdom on 9/11: We have created a decade of fear. We overreacted to 9/11 — al-Qaeda turned out to be a paper tiger; there never was a second attack — thereby bankrupting the country, destroying our morale and sending us into national decline.
The secretary of defense says that al-Qaeda is on the verge of strategic defeat. True. But why? Al-Qaeda did not spontaneously combust.
What turned the strong horse into the weak horse? Precisely the massive and unrelenting American war on terror, a systematic worldwide campaign carried out with increasing sophistication, efficiency and lethality — now so cheaply denigrated as an “overreaction.”
From that point on, he declares that Iraq was the central battleground in our successful defeat of Al- Qaeda.
Iraq, too, was decisive, though not in the way we intended. We no more chose it to be the central campaign in the crushing of al-Qaeda than Eisenhower chose the Battle of the Bulge as the locus for the final destruction of the German war machine.
Al-Qaeda, uninvited, came out to fight us in Iraq, and it was not just defeated but humiliated. The local population — Arab, Muslim, Sunni, under the supposed heel of the invader — joined the infidel and rose up against the jihadi in its midst. It was a singular defeat from which al-Qaeda never recovered.
The subtext here that Krauthammer alludes to is that this showdown with Al-Qaeda was nothing more than a happy accident and not the result of the Bush administration's policies. And an admission that our justification for invading Iraq — in part because Saddam Hussein was in league with Osama bin Laden — was erroneous.
Krauthammer's proclamation that the Iraq War was a good thing also ignores that the U.S.'s ultimate opposition in Iraq did not come from Al-Qaeda forces, but from a local population increasingly angry with their American invaders and occupiers.
While it's certainly true that some of the insurgents had ties to Al-Qaeda, I would argue that most simply proclaimed that they were part of Al-Qaeda much in the same way that a group of neighborhood thugs in Topeka, Kan., say they are members of the Bloods or the Crips, two LA gangs. They are unauthorized franchies.
As for the remainder of the insurgents, they were largely a combination of sectarian forces, Iraqi patriots, local warlords and neighborhood bosses, and angry young men.
In the end, Krauthammer says that our foreign policy expenditures bare little responsibility in bringing the U.S. to near financial ruin.
The total cost of “the two wars” is $1.3 trillion. That’s less than 1/11th of the national debt, less than one year of Obama deficit spending. During the golden Eisenhower 1950s of robust economic growth averaging 5 percent annually, defense spending was 11 percent of GDP and 60 percent of the federal budget. Today, defense spending is 5 percent of GDP and 20 percent of the budget. So much for imperial overstretch.
Yes, we are approaching bankruptcy. But this has as much to do with the war on terror as do sunspots.
The columnist's argument is disingenuous. He's hiding behind percentages and he knows it.
One-eleventh of the national debt is still a tremendous amount. And his comparison between the modern era and the age of Ike ignores that spending overall is out of control and that at 20 percent of the budget, defense spending still accounts for a huge chunk of our spending. The point is that the U.S. government spends too much on everything — defense included.
He also ignores the fact the $2 trillion spent on the Homeland Security Department and other security measures.
Also, he neglects to mention that the Iraq and Afghanistan-related spending was spending that did not have to take place. It was not for the regular upkeep of the military but for additional operations above and beyond normal expenditures. The cost of invading and occupying Iraq and the ongoing nation building in Afghanistan is a cost that we should not have had to bear — and that this gross misappropriation of funds only further taxed an already financially failing federal government.
The truth is Krauthammer is wrong. So horribly horribly wrong. And it is because of the detached mental masturbation of men like him that we have been fighting for over a decade overseas and have turned our backs on the very real problems at home.