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First Iraq War Set the Stage for Current Conflict

DANIEL SCHORR, reporting:

There is evidence of real progress, says President Bush.

ROGERT SIEGEL, host:

News analyst Daniel Schorr is one of those reflecting on the third anniversary of the war in Iraq.

SCHORR: We continue to make great progress, echoes General George Casey. We are in a civil war, says former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Three years after the launching of the Iraq invasion, you can play it upbeat or downbeat depending on whether you consider 2,300 American lives and some 35,000 Iraqi lives as necessary losses on the road to democracy, never mind the multi-billion dollar cost.

I think of this as not only a three-year anniversary, but also a 15-year anniversary in a father and son war, and I wonder what the two presidents might have done differently were they given the gift of advance hindsight. Once Kuwait had been liberated, would President Bush the elder have continued the pursuit of Saddam Hussein's army all the way to Baghdad instead of calling the forces home for victory parades?

Having called on Iraq's people to rise up against the dictator, would the president then have abandoned the Kurds and the Shiites to Saddam's fury using the helicopters that he'd been allowed to keep?

In the end, the president was forced by public opinion to declare a no-fly zone to save the Kurds and the Shiites from being massacred.

Would Mr. Bush have endorsed a United Nations Oil for Food program had he known that Saddam Hussein would misuse it to strengthen his regime and lay the foundation for another war with another President Bush?

And when it came time for President Bush the younger to mount the stage, would he act as though he had to finish a job that his father had left incomplete? Would he have embraced as gospel the notion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, possibly nuclear, had he known that Saddam Hussein was spreading word of imaginary arms as a form of psychological warfare?

And once the war had started three years ago, would he have reveled in the swift advance to Baghdad, proclaiming victory, had he known that the invaders were leaving behind them the makings of a sanguinary insurrection? And if he had known that he underestimated the number of troops needed to pacify Iraq, would he have rebuked General Eric Shinseki for testifying that several hundred thousand troops were needed?

But we are not given the miracle of advance hindsight, and so the president no longer proclaims victory in the war that he inherited from his father, just progress.

This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.