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Sat, Dec. 14

Column: Surgical strikes should be US war policy

When my wife and I moved to Prescott in May of 2004, our son was still in Iraq recovering from injuries he received in Fallujah in April of that year. A few months later, I wrote a letter to the editor in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which the Daily Courier published. My friend, Jerry Jackson, sent me an email disagreeing, in a friendly way, with my letter. Jerry felt that we should not have invaded Iraq at all. I don't recall for sure, but I believe Jerry thought we should have left Afghanistan after the Taliban was defeated. In retrospect, I believe Jerry was right and I was wrong.

Don't get the wrong impression. I think we had every right to go into both Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, the Taliban in Afghanistan wouldn't turn over Osama bin Laden to us after he had masterminded the 9/11 attacks. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had violated the cease-fire agreements from the first Gulf War by firing on our aircraft numerous times, by failing to allow UN weapons inspectors access to certain areas and by violating something like 16 other violations of UN resolutions.

But those who said, "Bush lied, people died," are deluding themselves. If Bush lied, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright lied on Feb. 18, 1998, when she said that the possibility of Iraq using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies "is the greatest security risk we face." And Nancy Pelosi lied on Nov. 17, 2002, when she said, "Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons, there's no question about that." And Senator Jay Rockefeller lied on Oct. 10, 2002, when he said, "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons." And then Senator Joe Biden lied on Aug. 4, 2002, when he said on "Meet The Press," "We know (Saddam Hussein) continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability."

The point is that President Bush - and these Democrats - were not lying. They all believed what they were saying was true, and Saddam was certainly acting like he had weapons of mass destruction and was attempting to acquire more. The first obligation of a government is the protection of its citizens and President Bush and Congress acted properly, in that sense, in proposing and voting for the war in Iraq. The constitutionally correct thing to do, however, was for Congress to declare war.

Jerry was absolutely right if he was suggesting that we shouldn't have stayed there after Saddam was defeated. In the eight years we were in Iraq, our military lost 4,487 killed and had 32,223 injuries. What do we have to show for it? Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government already appears to show signs of eroding into what that region of the world had been for centuries, a constant killing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and the mini-sects within each of those groups. Another experiment in nation building that didn't work.

Afghanistan is much worse. President Hamid Karzai was re-elected in 2009 under the shadow of a low voter turnout and reports of massive voter fraud. In addition, his brother is reported to be the country's biggest crook in growing and selling opium and the opium poppy. If and when our combat troops finally leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, our military deaths will exceed the 2,177 that was the figure for January of 2013. We will still have support troops in country. We will leave behind a corrupt government ripe for the Taliban to re-conquer or negotiate some form of a coalition.

In both of these wars, we handcuffed our fighting soldiers and marines with rules of engagement that were geared to win the "hearts and minds" of the indigenous people. I wonder how many of our fighting men and women were killed, when the rules forbade them from firing on mosques, even when they were taking fire from them. How many were killed when they were forbidden to fire on armed enemy combatants until they were fired upon first?

As Americans, we are hardly pacifists, but neither do we like long, drawn-out, endless wars. So, what is our response supposed to be to terrorist attacks like 911? Michael Scheuer, former CIA intelligence officer, chief of the Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999 and Special Adviser to the Chief of the bin Laden Unit from 2001 to 2004, had made the statement that if such an attack happens again we should go to wherever these terrorists are, kill as many as we can and leave. I would think a judicious use of drones should be part of the equations, too. Scheuer does not think we can win the "hearts and minds" in tribal societies. With many energy experts saying that with new technologies, we have enough fossil fuel reserves to last more than 100 years, we should pull all of our troops and military bases out of the Middle East, and let the Sunnis and Shiites battle it out. We really don't have a dog in that fight.

Buz Williams is a retired Long Beach, Calif., police officer who has lived in Prescott since 2004.

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