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Letter: Ignoring the past dooms us to repeat history

I would like to dispute the conclusions about the Iraq war offered by the Fargo Forum Editorial staff in their guest editorial in the June 25th issue of the Detroit Lakes Record.

The majority of Americans are not willing to end the debate on the reasons that the U.S. went to war in Iraq in the first place. This is simply a conservative talking point meant to deflect attention from an administration that has proven it's incompetency to wage war. The strategic tactical blunders ranging from splitting our limited troops to fight on two fronts to allowing Al Queda the opportunity to gain a foothold in an area where they had never been welcome may go down as some of the worst military decisions in history. If President Bush would have been satisfied with sending enough troops to Afghanistan to rout the Taliban and capture Bin Laden, he would have been considered a hero. Instead he used the 911 tragedy to invade Iraq when there was solid intelligence that showed Iraq was not an immediate threat to the U.S. Since this decision was made, this administration has shown no remorse in lying to the American public as long as its perceived ends were justifying the means.

The editorial used the analogy of "Closing the barn door after the horse ran off ". It suggested there was no sense in debating the Iraq debacle because now we have to finish what we started no matter how immoral. Surely, we should not be upset that over 4000 brave American soldiers have died, that over 600 billion borrowed dollars have been spent, or that over 2 million Iraqi's have been killed or displaced when we can look at the gains we have made in the past few months. We call them gains but even are top commanders say they are tenuous at best. There is genuine debate whether the security in Iraq has improved because of the Surge or because troops loyal to the Cleric al Sadr have agreed to a cease fire. We do know that whenever the cease fire is broken that the death tolls go up quickly. We also know that the majority of Iraqis view us as occupiers and would like to see us leave as soon as possible. Most of them felt they were better off under Saddam Hussein.

I feel a more apt analogy is driving your car to Fargo. You will never get there if you turn the wrong direction at Detroit Lakes and drive east. You can keep going east as long as you want but you will end up in the Atlantic Ocean before you get to Fargo. A mistake of the magnitude of going to war in Iraq needs to be admitted and corrected as soon as possible so we can get back on the right direction. John McCain says we should stay in Iraq for a 100 years if need be. I hope he brings his Scuba gear if he ever drives to Fargo.

When the Treaties were signed in 1973 to end the war in Viet Nam, the army made no attempt to review the strategies that failed. They simply acted as though it never happened and blamed the failures on the Media and all the activists at home that would not support them. We were unwilling to take the hard, honest look at what went wrong and went on to repeat several of the same mistakes in Iraq.

Among those mistakes that were repeated; 1) underestimating the resolve and strength of the enemy. 2) Putting a puppet government in place and thinking the common Iraqi/Vietnamese would support it. 3) Judging the battle was about fighting for an ideal (stopping Communism or Terrorism) rather than a civil war. 4) Over confidence that superior technology and superior troops would overcome a willingness by our enemy to die and fight forever for their beliefs. 5) Underestimating how long the general American public was willing to support a war on foreign soil and watch their children die.

  The Forum editorial says we should not assess the war from the mistakes that pushed this nation into armed conflict six years ago. These mistakes are simply too embarrassing to review and will not help us in developing new policy today. I suggest that by ignoring the past we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We are sitting at a crossroads right now as a lame duck administration with the help of Israel is attempting to push us into another war. This time we need to save the world by defeating the evil empire of Iran. This is not the time to become complacent and forget about all the mistakes that were made leading up to our invasion of Iraq. This is the time to hold all those people who view war as a viable alternative instead of the last possible recourse accountable for their actions.

-- Donald Johnson, Detroit Lakes