First, a memory from my spotted past:
It's 1961 and my wife and I and our two-year-old first
child are still in our first year in Lincoln. We think it's an
idyllic place. We're sitting out on our front porch watching nice
people walking and driving and bicycling by.
And that's when I hear a commotion coming through the
screen door two houses down the street from us. A woman is yelling
something. She sounds like she's in some distress. I'm not all that
long out of Boy Scouts, so I go to the house to see if I can help.
I ring the doorbell and a middle-aged woman comes to the
door, red-faced and sweating. "Yeah?" she says.
I heard you crying out in great distress," I say. "Is
there anything I can do to help?"
"Yeah," she says just before the slams the door shut.
"Mind your own damned business."
"Oh," I say, and I go back home.
"What was that all about?" my wife asks.
"I don't know," I say. "It was none of my damned business."
"Oh," she says. "I wondered if it might not be."
I thought of that little misadventure earlier this month
when I read an Associated Press story datelined "Baghdad, Iraq" and
quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saying that Iraqi forces
are quite capable of taking care of his country and that U.S. troops
can leave Iraq "any time they want
.We say in full confidence that
we are able, God willing, to take responsibility completely in
running the security
if the international forces withdraw at any
time they want."
Then an A.P. story by Ben Feller last Wednesday began with
this ominous lead: "President Bush, trying to justify the Iraq war,
cited intelligence reports Tuesday he said showed a link between al-
Qaeda's operation in Iraq and the terrorist group that attacked the
United States on Sept. 11, 2001."
Here's what Feller reported the president said: "The
merger between al-Qaeda and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of
killers, and that is why the finest military in the world is on their
On the surface, the president's implied rationale for our
war in Iraqthat it's the home base of those SOBs that killed
several thousand Americans in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagonmakes sense. On the surface.
But his argument confuses cause and effect.
To imply that our war in Iraq is simply a counter-attack
on the 9/11 villains ignores some important facts. Here are two:
The director and sponsor of the 9/11 attacks was Osama
bin Laden. He is not an Iraqi. He and the late Iraqi dictator,
Saddam Hussein, couldn't stand each other. Given the opportunity,
either one of them would have gladly arranged the death of the other.
The Truth, Mainly
Bin Laden is still at large, but not in Iraq. Our
president doesn't seem much interested in tracking him down.
And, according to Feller's A.P. story, "Al-Qaeda had no
active cells in Iraq when the U.S. invaded in March, 2003, and its
operation there is much larger now than before the war, U.S.
intelligence officers say. The war itself has turned into a valuable
recruiting tool for al-Qaeda, senior intelligence officials concede."
So one might justifiably decide that al-Qaeda's presence
in Iraq is the effect of our invasion, not the cause. We're not in
Iraq because al-Qaeda's there. Al-Qaeda's in Iraq because we're
there. We came before they did.
That makes more sense than the Bush argument that we're
still in Iraq because of 9/11which had nothing to do with Iraq.
The kindest thing we can say about that argument is that
the president is badly confused. A less kindly interpretation comes
from Sen. John Kerryyes, he's the Democrat who lost the 2004
election to President Bush. He says that the president "is trying to
scare the American people into believing that al-Qaeda is the
rationale for continuing the war in Iraq
.The president is picking
the wrong rationale for this war. Al-Qaeda is not the principle
killer of American forces in Iraq."
One of Prime Minister al-Maliki's aides, Hassan al-Suneid,
was quoted as saying that the U.S. was treating Iraq "as if it is an
experiment in an American laboratory judging whether we succeed or
fail," and that the U.S. military was "committing human rights
That from one of our allies in Iraq.
Makes me wonder what the Prime Minister meant when he said
that U.S. troops can leave Iraq "any time they want." Makes me
wonder if he was telling us that it's time for the Bush
Administration to understand that, despite its oil, Iraq is none of
our damned business.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail