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Why I was wrong about the war

Ever since the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled from its pedestal, my e-mail’s been jammed. Hundreds of people, asking the same question: When am I going to apologize?

After all, readers and viewers pointed out, the war was over in three short weeks. We won easily. Iraq has been liberated. Residents of Baghdad ran out in the streets to applaud the arrival of American troops. You can’t argue with success. Bush was right and I was wrong.

Well, here it is. The column and the apology you’ve been waiting for … don’t hold your breath.

Yes, I willingly admit, there are some things to cheer about. The citizens of Iraq are far better off without Saddam Hussein. That’s a big plus. Which will get even better if Iraq, indeed, evolves into a more democratic form of government.

And all Americans are proud of the tremendous job done by our young men and women in uniform. They fought hard. They won a quick and decisive victory. Yet they also went out of their way to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage. The conflict in Iraq may go down, as one Pentagon spokesman suggested, as the most “humanitarian” war in history.

But those good results don’t outweigh why I believed this war was a mistake before it began – and still do today.

Let’s be honest. There was never any doubt the United States would win the war. That is, if you can even call it a war. It was more like a hostile takeover. Our forces met little resistance. There was no battle of Baghdad. The elite Republican Guard wasn’t so elite after all. The Iraqi army was even smaller, weaker and less well-equipped than it was in 1991. War in Iraq was the battlefield equivalent of pitting the Washington Redskins against your local jayvee football team.

And, no doubt, the world’s a better place without Saddam Hussein. But remember, we did not go to war in Iraq because he repressed his own people or tortured political prisoners. Otherwise, we would also be obliged to invade China, Egypt, Syria, Cuba, Colombia, Iran, Rwanda, Libya, North Korea and other intolerant regimes.

According to President Bush, we went to war in Iraq for three reasons: to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, to make Americans safer from worldwide terrorism, and to hasten the spread of democracy in the Middle East. There is no evidence yet that any of those goals has been achieved.

Hussein has been disarmed of conventional weaponry, but where are those weapons of mass destruction? Despite all the pre-war hysteria, Saddam never used biological or chemical weapons against American or British troops. And even though special investigative teams have been scouring the country for almost a month, no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered so far. If none are found, President Bush’s entire justification for war in Iraq will be seen as bogus.

As for terrorism, there is still no proven connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. And, while it’s too early to say whether Americans will be safer after Iraq, prospects don’t look promising. President Mubarak of Egypt, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, predicted that after the war, there will be “one hundred Osama bin Ladens, not just one.” Other Arab leaders have warned that, by invading Iraq, we have given birth to another whole new generation of American-hating terrorists.

That hatred will only grow if, under the doctrine of pre-emptive war, the United States continues the practice of invading any country, any time, to depose anyone we believe might someday be a threat to somebody. But it looks like that’s where we’re heading. Secretary Rumsfeld and other hawks are already shooting war arrows at Syria.

Bottom line: The war in Iraq is over, but the fundamental arguments against it remain valid: It was rushed into, before inspectors could finish their job. It was undertaken outside the legitimate umbrella of the U.N. flag. It was based on an exaggerated threat of Saddam Hussein’s connection to the al-Qaida terror network and threat to the United States. It’s the first exercise of a dangerous new policy of pre-emptive warfare. And, I fear, it will generate more terrorism against Americans, not less.

So, here’s my answer to all your e-mails. Here’s my apology for opposing the war in Iraq. Not.