What has Bush wrought?

Thursday morning, July 12, President Bush stood before the press to further explicate his Iraq policy. It was a performance seemingly so detached from reality that it bordered on the surreal. Reduced to one line, it amounted to: "Stay the course." This was followed by a description of the chaos, not just inside Iraq but throughout the region, which would follow should we precipitously withdraw. The justifications were familiar and tired; little has changed. At least not for this president.

And then came the now frayed and reflexive statement that the president has used countless times before, as if the consequences, both intended and unintended, have not been fully weighed: "Iraq is the front on the global fight against terror. It's better to fight the terrorists over there than over here."

Turning Iraq into a "front in the battle against terror" is said so casually that the implications of what that means to the people of Iraq seems not to be considered at all. It is the height of arrogance or denial or the result of an intellect that can't seem to grasp the full meaning of what he has wrought.

As well, to characterize the sectarian war now ongoing in Iraq as a "front on terrorism" is also stunningly disingenuous. What we have done is turned loose the dogs of war and are powerless to gain any semblance of control. Surge or no.

Some estimates put the death toll of civilians since the invasion at 600,000. A staggering though not easily verifiable number. What is known is that massive numbers of innocents have been leveled in market places, kidnapped, brutally murdered, and dismembered. The country is being turned into rubble.

We also know that some 4 million Iraqis have been displaced since the invasion &

almost half inside the country, the remainder have fled to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and Turkey. Most hold no hope of ever returning. Many are unemployed (Iraqis can't work in Jordan or Syria), and live in desperate fear of not having their visas renewed, and wondering how they will support themselves and their children. It is an existence balanced on a precipice.

According to World Vision's report, "Trapped," 43 percent of the children surveyed in Amman, Jordan, witnessed violence in Iraq, and 39 percent reported losing someone close through violence. The children inside Iraq and those who have left do not receive adequate medical attention, not to mention care dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. Children have been kidnapped and held for ransom, witnessed brutal home invasions, suicide bombings, and murders. While in Iraq their lives were unbearably precarious; yet, having fled to Jordan, when polled, more than a quarter still do not feel safe. As refugees, many children have no option but to work as laborers, while contending daily with the threat of deportation. They have no routines that anchor them, such as going to school, nor do they ever feel a sense of permanence. All is tentative.

Think of what is done here, in America, if children experience a violent event at school, such as a shooting: the campus is inundated with counselors, parents are given direction in how to deal with emotions that may be delayed but very real. Great efforts are made to offer all of the assistance that these children may require to process the event.

There will be a generation or more of Iraqi children who will have been deleteriously impacted by this war. Some will be emotionally devastated. Others may never recover. How they will cope is beyond comprehension.

Two months ago the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called a conference to address the Iraqi refugee crisis. The response of the U.N. agency thus far, according to World Vision, has been little more than silence. "An entire generation of Iraqi children is now trapped in one debilitating limbo or another, either refugee outside of Iraq without the official status to ensure critical services, or caught in the crossfire of carnage inside their country," the World Vision report stated. "These children, hundreds of thousands of them, require immediate access to education and adequate healthcare. We need to start rebuilding their ability to hope, to find reasons to work for their own futures."

some estimates, the total number of displaced children, inside Iraq and out, is 2 million.

So, it is one thing to stand on the podium, leaning casually on one elbow, telling the press and the American people that it is better to fight the terrorists over there than over here, followed up by the comment that, "Sure, this is going to be hard work." Well, the people doing the hard work are our troops who, like the children, are caught in the crossfire between sects who care not a wit about unification or peace or democracy or the consequences of their internecine war. And let's be clear, sectarian violence is not the creation of the terrorists (though al-Qaida is now present to exploit it), but the result of centuries of animosities. Stay the course and soon there will be no there there. That's what this president has wrought.

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