Nearly 600 American soldiers have died in Iraq–six more just last weekend. More than 3,000 have been wounded or maimed. Reliable accounts say more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives. No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. U.S. weapons inspector David Kay has reported that they probably weren’t there, and that the U.S. government should honestly admit that it was mistaken. They haven’t.

President Bush and his administration now repeatedly say the fact that the principal argument for going to war with Iraq has turned out to be false doesn’t matter. There was no “imminent” or “urgent” threat from chemical or biological weapons and Iraq wasn’t developing a nuclear threat, as was claimed before the war.

The best explanation is that intelligence was manipulated and selectively reported to justify a worst-case scenario previously arrived at on political grounds. The worst is that the case was fabricated. Either way, the president of the United States misled the American people into going to war.

A new book based on documents from former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill makes clear that this administration decided to go to war with Iraq even before Sept. 11, and the “facts” were never the decisive factor. CIA Director George Tenet has virtually said that his agency’s efforts to prevent the Bush administration from “overstatement” on Iraq were a failure.

Iraq remains chaotic and unstable. Divided factions threaten any political solution, and the largest faction–the Shiites–may not support a new provisional government.

In July, the United States plans to turn over sovereignty to a new Iraqi government that does not yet exist, a transition that would clearly not be happening if there were no American election in the fall, again a purely political calculation.

It is indeed a good thing that the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein is over. But that worthy goal should and could have been accomplished, over time, in much better ways than a pre-emptive and largely unilateral war that has proven to be both unnecessary and unjust.

Iraq is now a big mess with no clear or responsible exit strategy in sight and is likely to remain so for a very long time.

The Bush administration’s argument that the war with Iraq was a critical battle in the war on terrorism also is not compelling. It can now be argued that the Iraq war may ultimately make the defeat of terrorism more difficult, because of the division it caused among key allies, the deeper resentment it has triggered in Muslim countries, and the failure of the war to produce the promises of democracy in Iraq or the beginning of a Middle East peace agreement, which seems further away than ever.

The war in Iraq has proven to be a great distraction and diversion from the fight against terrorism, rather than a necessary component. Already, one third of Afghanistan is again under Taliban control. Osama bin Laden has yet to be found, and the networks of terror are more dispersed throughout the world.

Indeed, terrorists from other countries are now in Iraq, where their bombings of civilians are exacerbating the already violent situation. And al Qaeda has just carried out a successful and massive terrorist attack in Spain.

In Spain 201 people died from bombs on commuter trains, with hundreds more injured. American columnists are attacking the Spanish people for caving into terrorists because they defeated the pro-American Spanish party in last week’s elections. What they don’t say is that the vast majority of the Spanish people were against their government’s decision to support the U.S. war with Iraq, which was therefore an undemocratic decision. Or that the ruling party lied to the Spanish people in an attempt to blame the commuter train attacks on Basque separatists and distract attention from al Qaeda.

What the U.S. government and its media allies seem to be saying is that the proper response of the Spanish people after being bombed should have been to vote for the policy of George W. Bush. They didn’t. Good for them.

Jim Wallis is editor in chief and executive director of Sojourners. Source: Sojourners 2003 (c)

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