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Mon, Jan. 20

Column: War was destined to be lose-lose battle

March is the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. There is nothing better we can do to support our troops than to avoid wasting their precious lives in vain.

My columns from the time recapture the outlook.

On Nov. 26, 2001, I wrote in support of Bush's invasion of Afghanistan. "We needed to destroy the terrorist camps. The Taliban has been foolish enough to connect themselves with this guy...."

The piece also warned that if we didn't quickly find bin Laden, "Having bombed a few important targets, well away from the population, there isn't much more to do by an air war that's effective and necessary. Going too far only creates more enemies. We need some patience in this. We can tie up bin Laden's finances, monitor communications and apprehend his operatives, thereby preventing him from doing anything serious. ...With that policy in place we could wait awhile. The Taliban will fall eventually and so will bin Laden."

On Sept. 30, 2002, six months before the invasion, with Bush talking about Iraq, my reaction was that invading Afghanistan made sense, but invading Iraq didn't. "If I were convinced that Iraq had significant weapons of mass destruction ready to use... I'd be in favor of sending in the bombers tonight.

"We have to be convinced that the danger of not removing Hussein is suddenly so large and imminent that a war will cost fewer lives ... that leaving him in power will lead to loss of life. We know with certainty that war will.

"...many US soldiers will be fighting a dirty urban war.

"This whole scenario that Hussein is on the verge of unleashing weapons of mass destruction makes no sense. Hussein is conscienceless and power-hungry, but he's not stupid.

"It takes a large stock of these weapons for a country to use them effectively... No one I've read has suggested Iraq is close to this. ...Hussein is not going to lob just one chemical weapon... That would be like poking a bear in the eye.

"...we could find ourselves still there years from now.

"We should take Iraq up on inspectors... block materials for making weapons... watch with our satellites and spy planes... and wait him out. ...Hussein will never again be able to do... any significant harm, and we could avoid a whole lot of trouble that would go with a war."

A column on Oct. 14, 2002, was in part about an upcoming rally in Prescott against the potential war.

In a column a month before the war, on Feb. 17, 2003, I asked "what if?" "Suppose we overrun Iraq and scour the country for all those dangerous materials... but we find they're not there?

"What if we sacrifice many of our soldiers and many Iraqi citizens, and establish a new precedent of initiating war, only to find there wasn't much of a threat?

"What if we win, but we find the compromises we made of our own principles have diminished us as a nation?

"We have to fight terrorism, but let's do it in ways that make us proud.

" are we, and our children, going to look back on how we handled this challenge? That we did the job, but paid too high a price in our principles?"

In early March 2003 there was a massive outpouring of humanity around the globe against the war. An historical first I wrote about recently on Feb. 20. In a column then, on March 17, 2003, days before the invasion, playing on the popular WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) phrase, I asked WWGLD? What Would a Great Leader Do? Speculating on what Bush could do if he was a great leader set on avoiding war, I laid out a plan that would not let Hussein off the hook, but not rush into war so quickly. Which would leverage the outpouring of the world for peace, strengthen our position as the strong and peaceful leader of the world, keep Hussein under our thumb and neutered, and still hold the option to do more later if needed.

Later that month, inspectors having scoured much of the country and finding nothing and asking for a little more time to complete their task, Bush, apparently seeing his rationale for invasion slipping away, told them to cut the job short, get out of the country, and launched the invasion.

Looking at the first images of the smoke rising up from the bombed buildings, in a column on March 31, 2003, I was struck by two biblical analogies. That this rising smoke must literally stink in the nostrils of heaven. That this smoke was like Cain's sacrifice. When his sacrifice was rejected, the smoke must have been reluctant to rise, clouding the ground and anyone nearby, coating them all with the stench of this rejected act.

You can read "Smoke rising to heaven" and the other columns referenced at through the links with this column.

There is simply nothing to say but this: Let us, each of us, not allow this to happen again.

Tom Cantlon is a longtime local resident, business owner and writer. Contact him at

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