March 19 will mark the fifth anniversary of America’s war in Iraq. There is no doubt that the misconceived Iraq adventure was the work of a dangerously clueless president, George W. Bush.
Bush, of course, was aided and abetted by two henchmen, Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
This aggressively arrogant duo, in turn, was egged on by a cohort of neoconservative advisors whose geopolitical hubris was exceeded only by their seemingly willful ignorance of Iraqi and Islamic realities.
The tragic missteps of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were enabled by a Congress that failed to heed the painful lessons Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon’s administrations should have taught: presidents can — and will — lie.
That the nation was by and large hoodwinked places a responsibility on the grassroots. Overwhelming margins of voters want American troops out of Iraq, yet are understandably confused as to the best way to exit. They need to make their elected representatives aware that we ought to leave Iraq as soon as possible.
In a wide-ranging and sobering interview in this issue of the Phoenix, Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz makes the argument, in extremely concrete terms, that the nation is throwing good money after bad the longer this conflict endures. Stiglitz, together with professor Linda Bilmes of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has written a critical study, titled The Three Trillion Dollar War, that outlines the real costs of our presence in Iraq. If it is possible to summarize the results of a painstakingly researched and cogently argued 300-plus page book, it is this: Iraq was a bad gamble going in; it is an even worse bet the longer we stay.
The Iraq War has polluted the nation’s political culture, as Vietnam did 40 years ago. When he withdrew from the Republican race for the presidential nomination this past month, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that if he were to continue his quest for the White House, his candidacy would contribute to a dangerous division of public opinion. “In this time of war,” Romney said, “I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
Romney’s reasoning was both false and fatuous, and it is indicative of the phony choices Bush’s war has visited upon us. The sooner the US comes to terms with this mistake of a war, the sooner the nation can begin mending our economy, repairing our standing in the world, and healing our nation’s soul.
Following up on the news
Phoenix writer David S. Bernstein’s disturbing report on how shockingly shoddy police work — perhaps infected with wrongdoing — led to the wrongful conviction of the late Stephan Cowans has prompted Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis to order a review of the evidence that led to this miscarriage of justice. Davis, who was not with the department at the time of Cowans’s 1998 wrongful conviction for shooting a police officer, is to be commended for his action. It is a welcome departure from the department’s usual practice of ignoring criticism and uncomfortable facts. Boston police are fighting a daunting battle to stem waves of violence and murder in many of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. To succeed, they need the respect and cooperation of residents who themselves are under siege. Unfortunately, for a variety of complex reasons, an ingrained suspicion of the police too often compromises the department’s efforts. Davis’s action is the latest in a series he has taken to make the Boston police as good as they need to be. It is another reminder to the city that there is a new cop on the block.
It is about time: the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has finally come to its senses and dropped an obviously bogus criminal charge against Milan Kohout. Phoenix readers will remember that Kohout, a long-time member of the Mobius artists group, was arrested this past month in front of a Bank of America branch in the Financial District, near the historic Old State House. Kohout was staging a political performance, for which he stood in front of a hand-lettered sign bearing the provocative title “Nooses on Sale” with several rope nooses scattered at his feet. His intention was to shed light on the nation’s subprime-mortgage scandal, which has — or will — cost as many as two million Americans their houses and, in many cases, their life savings. The nooses were meant to signify the suicidal tendencies of both consumers and the financial industry. He was subsequently charged with operating without a peddler’s license, a trumped-up charge that was a clear violation of his constitutional right to free speech. Kohout, justice, and the US Constitution have all been served now that Municipal Court Judge Annette Forde has dismissed the case and allowed the artist to again practice his politically grounded work.
As the Phoenix goes to press, news comes that the trustees of the Boston Public Library and the City Treasurer’s office have reportedly reached a compromise in a dispute that threatened the library with political interference. If the terms of the truce hold, it appears the library’s trustees have drawn a line in the sand: the board has agreed to account in more detail its expenditures from library trust funds, while City Hall has agreed to release the funds the library needs to carry out its business. There is an air of a phony crisis about this — one precipitated by City Hall — but compromise seems preferable to confrontation.