George W. Bush, now retired, thank God, has lately been home, making paintings of himself. In my favorite one, he’s in his bathtub. We see only his legs in the murky water, starting at about mid-thigh and going down past his toes, to the running faucet.
But a more substantial creation of W’s has also been on my mind: the Iraq War and its 10-year anniversary this week. By the time we’ve taken care of the last veteran, the war is projected to have cost us upwards of $6 trillion, to say nothing of the American, coalition and Iraqi lives, somewhere beyond 100,000 souls, maybe many more.
Donald Rumsfeld, two-time secretary of defense (one time for each George Bush), laid down some outrageous lines 10 years ago, about "knowing" not only that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but that "we know where they are." Also that the war would cost "something under $50 billion" and could last "five days to five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer."
Rumsfeld greeted the milestone the other day by tweeting, "10 yrs ago began the long, difficult work of liberating 25 mil Iraqis. All who played a role in history deserve our respect & appreciation." This preposterous piece of pomposity provoked a lot of purple replies.
Folks noted that while our service members are indeed worthy of respect and appreciation, Rumsfeld isn’t. One fellow called Rumsfeld a "blood gargling psychopath" and a woman simply replied with "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha."
Back in the day, Dick Cheney said, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators ... I think it will go relatively quickly ... [in] weeks rather than months." Cheney’s glib, clueless assertions are answered best by Tomas Young, a wounded, dying Iraq war veteran who this week sent a letter to Cheney and Bush reading in part, "You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage."
Interviewed last Monday on his death bed, Young said, "I just basically wanted to try to make them see the error of their ways and the consequences of their actions."
News organizations big and small have been observing the anniversary. On the small side, the Bensonhurst Bean, a blog covering the news in a Brooklyn neighborhood, told of Bensonhurst’s retired Iraq veteran Edward Chin. He chose the Marines as a way to fund his college education and ended up part of an iconic war moment when he draped an American flag over the face of the giant Saddam Hussein statue as it was toppled.
Now Chin is safely home and working for an architecture firm. His current project: building a house for a fellow Iraq vet who is a quadruple amputee. He says of the man, "He lost all four limbs, and for what?"
George W. Bush’s entirely unnecessary and ill-advised war, his terrible legacy built on lies and hubris, has left untold numbers of dead or broken warriors and civilians.
Today, the veterans of America’s longest war work to construct some sort of after-the-war lives for themselves, lives in which they’re not always sure if they’re better off than friends killed in action or dead from suicide, lives consumed by PTSD, traumatic brain injuries or blown-off arms and legs.
Meanwhile, the man responsible for it all is relaxing in the tub, blithely regarding his toes.
Barb Guy writes a twice-monthly column for Sunday Opinion.