Reading my post back then...
"The world has gotten uglier... and I don't expect it to get better anytime soon.
Don't get me wrong... I'm angry. I'm not angry at anything or anyone in particular, though."...."No, what makes me mad is the inevitability of it all... how the violence has escalated on all sides. How the might of the U.S. government will now be turned against not terrorists, but nations, and probably on a fundamental basis against the entire Arab world. How we will, through a need for security, probably have to give up that much more freedom in the process."...."What makes me mad is how peace and justice will be trampled in a largely futile attempt to strike back against an invisible enemy that cannot be vanquished. We will target the effect without addressing the cause..."
and last year's post...
"War against Iraq could perhaps be easily winnable... or it could be a war fought by urban guerrillas" .... "followed by a lengthy, dangerous, expensive occupation and rebuilding process. I have little doubt that the US can win a war against Iraq, but even if we ignore the cost in human lives (which we should never do), who can ignore the cost to our economy?" .... "Ultimately, 9/11 (and our government's response to it) is an act of theft -- a theft of time and of opportunity on the colossal scale."
So, let's talk about the waste in human terms. The WTC tragedy has so far been compounded by the approximately 370 US servicemen killed and over 2000 seriously wounded around the world in the war on terror. This doesn't include the hundreds of dead and wounded coalition troops around the world. The British, the Canadians, the Spanish, the Afghanis, the Iraqi policemen, etc. Nor does it include the aid workers who have been killed and wounded in Iraq and in Afghanistan... there must be over 50 so far, with over 22 killed in the UN bombing alone, and well over 100 wounded. It also doesn't include the 17 journalists killed in Iraq or the twenty killed in Afghanistan, many by US forces.
Of course, there is the cost in human lives to those we have conquered... the Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Approximately 3400 in Afghanistan and 7000+ in Iraq, with over 30,000 civilians injured.. These numbers, of course, don't count the casualties that are more hidden, though just as fatal during and after wartime. No electricity, a disrupted medical establishment, shortages of medical supplies, disease through contaminated water, kids playing with unexploded ordinance, etc. Better be prepared to add several thousand deaths on top of those we already know about. Nor does it include the deaths by chaos and violence in the midst of war -- Iraqi and Afghani civilians still find themselves in the middle of the conflict, and are sometimes killed by either side in the conflict, as well as facing higher crime and murder rates. In Baghdad today, more people die of crime in a single month than die in Washington D.C. in a whole year. The number of murders in Baghdad on a monthly basis has jumped over twentyfold.
And, of course, it doesn't include the tens of thousands of those who served in the Afghani and Iraqi armies who were killed or wounded. There are no accurate numbers for these soldiers, though one can only guess the human cost, with just a single day's foray into Baghdad having killed approximately 3000 Iraqi fighters alone. Unlike Iraqi civilian casualties, nobody is counting the Iraqi war dead. Nobody asks where they came from, what their motives were, or talks about their grieving families, or the children they left behind. It is too inconvenient for them to matter or even be counted. They are to be personified as evil, subhuman monsters that literally don't count, but they clearly suffered the most from the US' "pinpoint aggression".
There are some things we can say with reasonable certainty, however. In two short years, the United States has compounded a great tragedy by bringing about the deaths of around 30,000 - 50,000 people and wounding another 100,000 or so in the process. The cost, both in lives and in money, make the grevious losses of 9/11 seem minor in comparison. Only they weren't minor. Not at all.
So, why did these tens of thousands of people have to die? What greater good does it serve? Did they have to die in order to make the US safe from terrorism? That is what we are told, even as we are targeted routinely by homemade mines, gun and mortar fire, and carbombs. Sure, another 9/11 hasn't happened since, but that is no bellweather, because something on that scale has never happened before. The war on terror didn't stop terrorists from blowing up the UN compound in Baghdad or from killing over 200 people in Bali, including over 90 Australians, 23 British, and 7 US citizens... and, yes, Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, and al Qaeda is growing once more.
In short, there is no credible evidence to suggest that the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have done anything meaningful to combat terrorism. In fact, terrorism/resistance against westerners now exists in Iraq where none existed before. The US invasion of Iraq hasn't helped the Israeli/Palestinian situation as promised, either. Bush's halfhearted, hypocritical attempts to bring about peace in Israel have failed utterly, and the US' use of force in other parts of the world have been used by Israel to justify even greater acts of repression against the Palestinians, further polarizing an already bad situation.
"But this is about freeing the people of the Middle East!" some might argue... which might perhaps mean something if that was indeed what we were doing, or even the reason used for going to war in the first place. The justification for the war was the real, palpable presence of WMDs in Iraq. Frankly, the "liberation of Iraq" wouldn't have been a legally defensible reason to declare war. Sure, Saddam was a violent leader, but most fail to point out that most of the Iraqis that he killed died over a decade ago due to internal revolts. Even today, political stability in an ethnically and religiously disunified Iraq carries a blood price. A good question to ask now before the numbers get incredibly ludicrous may be "how many Iraqis are the US prepared to kill in order to put down internal revolts too?" At what point do we become a kinder, friendlier Saddam?
So, let's examine the liberation. First, there's Afghanistan... After nearly two years, the majority of Afghanistan is run by warlords, and US and UN forces are primarily holed up in compounds surrounded by very thick walls, where they are routinely mortared and shot at. The Afghani government controls Kabul and little else, and hasn't been able to bring the warlords in line in any meaningful way, much less disarm them or stop the opium trade. In fact, the Taliban were far more effective at reducing the cultivation of opium, and Afghanistan is once again the leading world exporter of heroin. That money isn't going to the central Afghani government, however... it's going to the warlords. In other words, the US are backing a status quo that allows drug lords to flourish, until such a time as they find a way to take control of the whole country. Okaaay.
In Iraq, we are rebuilding the nation via US companies at vastly inflated prices which US taxpayers are fronting the money on... of course, we'll try to bill as much of it as possible to the future income of Iraq. In other words, the US is actively preventing free market capitalism from taking place and slowing down the rebuilding of Iraq by choosing to follow a practice that is essentially colonial-era mercantalism. What doesn't matter isn't having mobile phone communications up and running as soon and as affordably as possible. No, what matters is that it be a mobile service provided by US companies using our technology, even if it is incompatible with every single neighboring country to Iraq. Forget about mobile roaming, I guess.
Liberation in Iraq also doesn't mean democracy... in fact, the US are terrified of democracy in Iraq, as they see it a way for the Shi'ites to bring about Islamic law. What isn't mentioned is that Islamic law exists in many countries in a very peaceful manner, and even peacefully exists alongside other forms of law, such as in Singapore.
So, what does liberation mean in Iraq? It isn't the right for electricity or fresh water or the right to work and make a living -- over 65% of Iraq is unemployed --it isn't the ability to walk around safely in public... especially if you are a woman. So, what is democracy? It appears to be the right to say whatever you want, so long as you aren't inciting violence against the US / coalition forces there, or making yourself a target by cozying up to the Americans. Still, when we listen to what the Iraqis have to say, their voices are angry and frustrated. Can you blame them?!
So, I'll leave you with some predictions for the future. More of the same.
More terrorism, including some "real" terrorism in other parts of the world outside Iraq. More US soldiers getting killed, more aid workers getting killed, many more Iraqi civilians getting killed... Yes, some steps will be made towards establishing stability and possibly even finding Saddam, but if those acts do happen, then the Iraqis will have a stronger case to say that the US has overstayed their welcome, which could lead to greater acts of violence against the US. There will probably be some kind of expansion of UN involvement in Iraq, but it will still be done in a reluctant, halfhearted manner. Iraqi religious leaders will build stronger paramilitary organizations around themselves, and the more extreme may discreetly support violence against coalition forces in order to keep Islamic law on the table, but they will stop short at publically advocating violence against the US until they can get away with such statements. There will be more protests, which could lead to wider violence if things get out of hand.
Arab anger against the US will feed upon itself, especially if the Israelis expel Arafat. Expect widespread condemnation by the Arab media if this happens, which could spill into greater unrest in Iraq via the Arab media. The Israelis will not necessarily have an easy time expelling Arafat, and if they do, it will be a bloody exercise that incites greater conflict and terrorism. If they do expel Arafat, he will attempt to take the high road, but it could lead to a return of the bad old days of the PLO too.
Ultimately, more of the same isn't going to happen, too. Things will change, primarily due to political reasons. Some of those pressures might manifest themselves in Britain, Spain, and Italy first, but Bush might turn over greater power to the Iraqi coalition on the eve of his election, tempting us with the idea of "bringing the boys back home", while still leaving Iraq as a current issue. He needs to make sure that defense and security are still issues in the next election, because the economy will rebound a lot slower than most people think, and the debt will become a much bigger issue.
Really, I expect that he has the next year or so scripted for maximum effect... which leaves the unexpected, of course. There's little doubt as to how Bush will try to sell his administration to the people, but what will matter between now and then will be what other people will do to write their own scripts. If Bush's version of reality isn't a convincing enough facade in a year, he's in trouble... but it's depressingly easy to fool this nation, so I'm hardly hopeful yet. He'll probably win reelection, but I'm certainly hoping that he doesn't.