10 Years Later, Invasion Boast Rings Hollow

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ten years later, I had to admit to her that I had been woefully wrong. It didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned when I boasted of American battle strength as we invaded Iraq.
The cost — more than a trillion dollars and 4,487 American troops — is staggering considering what we have to show for our loss of blood and treasure. We’ve turned Iraq over to a different strongman, one more enthralled with our enemy Iran than President Obama. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Dictator Saddam Hussein, we know now, was a champion bluffer.
Often I have replayed my 2003 conversation during a neighborhood chicken stew with Ingegard Olsson, 75, of Sweden, who was visiting relatives, my neighbors, a decade ago when I forecast a new dawn for the Middle East. She’s back this week, and it was finally time to confess that I, like President George W. Bush, didn’t foresee the troubles our invasion of Iraq would cause.
We hit a tar baby.
“Yaah,” she said, in her wonderful accent, biting her lip. She was too polite to say, “I told you so” even though she did.
She likes America. Her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are American citizens. A decade ago she detected hubris in our plan to export American ideals to the Arabian Peninsula.
Why were we so intent on war? Because we were attacked viciously on 9/11 — civilians targeted, I told her. Vengeance is required. We will ferret out those monsters in their caves and kill them.
My blood-thirst shocked her.
She is well versed in world news and speaks knowledgeably on a wide variety of topics. She is neither Republican or Democrat and thinks free of the bondage of the American political factions. Unblinded by our party labels, she can see the glaring faults of both President Obama and President Bush.
Her favorite recent United States president is Bill Clinton.
“All the women love him,” I deadpanned, and she got the joke.
We talked about World War II, Finnish resistance to the old Soviet Union, European socialism, labor unions, the teetering Euro, Wikileaks, neo-Nazis, troubling assaults on the Jews, the influx of Muslims in Europe … and the United States’ overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ten years ago I boasted that American troops would bring freedom to the Middle East, the dawning of a new age of Arab liberty that would bring peace and prosperity to a civilization that had been under the thumb of tyranny. I must have sounded like Vice President Dick Cheney.
She worried that America was headed for trouble beyond our imagination.
“America loves a good fight,” I said then. We still do.
She doesn’t understand our swagger, our cowboy mentality and rush to fight. Europeans don’t admire that about us, even as they relax under our military umbrella …