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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
9 Aug 2014
A Poll Apart

A long time ago, maybe in the first Eisenhower administration, my precinct committeewoman taught me the … Read More.

2 Aug 2014
Nixon's 'Gift'

The U.S. Supreme Court, including former President Richard Nixon's own appointees, ruled 8-0 that Nixon must … Read More.

26 Jul 2014
Guns in the Workplace, NOT for Pro-Gun Politicians

Its official title is the "Safe Carry Protection Act," and when it was signed by Georgia's Republican Gov. … Read More.

Needed: An Honest Debate on War


Our country in September 2014 needs an open, serious and honest public debate so that this time, we can make an informed decision on whether to once again send Americans into war in Iraq. Tragically, the most recent time, 12 years ago, before the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, there was no such honest public debate. Republicans on Capitol Hill failed to question the Bush administration's campaign of misinformation in support of military action, while too many Democrats, apparently fearful of being tagged "soft" on terrorism on the eve of a national election, followed suit.

Let's give credit to three U.S. House members — Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass. — who have just written a letter to House Speaker John Boehner arguing that "the situation in Iraq is a grave one and before sending our uniformed men and women into danger we owe it to them and the people we represent to fully debate the matter and have a vote." They urge the speaker to bring a resolution to the floor for debate and a vote when the House reconvenes Sept. 8. This does not make Lee, Jones and McGovern popular with many of their colleagues, because, as former Republican Senate leader Bob Dole candidly explained, members of Congress like to make tough speeches and to avoid casting tough votes. The Obama White House has shown no interest in seeking either congressional authorization or debate on Iraq.

It is worth noting just how misleading and dishonest the Bush administration's case for war was. On Aug. 26, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars' national convention: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." What the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group would learn, after 18 months of investigation, was that Saddam had terminated his nuclear weapons efforts in 1991, and his biological and chemical research efforts had been ended in 1995.

How long would the U.S. war in Iraq last? In November 2002, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld confidently announced, "Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that." What about the cost? Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress, "We're really dealing with a country that could finance its own reconstruction." The war, which the Bush administration initially predicted would cost $2 billion a month, has now exceeded a total of $1 trillion.

Advocates for going to war against Iraq were wrong about WMD, wrong that U.S. troops would be "welcomed as liberators," wrong that Iraq's emergence as a thriving democracy — instead of a land crippled by sectarian strife — would lead to a veritable domino effect of democracy throughout the Middle East.

Before we go to war once again — even to stop such hatefully barbaric extremists as the Islamic State — we must understand that an army does not fight a war, that a country fights a war. And if we, as a country, are unwilling to fight a war, we must never send our army. We must also accept that war truly demands equality of sacrifice, which means that we must be willing, as Americans have done since the Civil War, to tax ourselves more to pay for the costs of war — something we did not do last time. Lee, Jones and McGovern are right: Congress needs to vote, and the country needs to decide.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




5 Comments | Post Comment
You want honesty???

Here's honesty about war in the last 12 years: The United States perpetrated one of the greatest, perhaps THE greatest mass-murder war crimes in the history of its existence by invading Iraq.

I want to vomit when I hear all the rhetoric about the poor U.S. soldiers' casualties, and I damn Shields to hell for buying into that crap. How many innocent Iraqis were killed, maimed, or had their lives utterly ruined by that war? Who is providing any data on that embarrassing and disgusting bucket of statistics?

How would Americans react if some almighty power had invaded us because its leader did not like George W. Bush and wanted to take him out, and who cares about all of the innocent civilians who suffer because some macho idiot wants to prove his point?

Mark, Mister Honesty, why not talk honestly about the Iraqi casualties that resulted from that mass war crime? Why not talk honestly about how that episode of the worst in history of American idiotic abuse of power made everything a thousand times worse? If Hussein was still there, there would not be any ISIS. Admit it.
This is the elephant in the room. The U.S. thinks ISIS is bad because it cuts off heads. Well, the fact is, when you die you die, and when you are maimed you are maimed. And when your entire life has been ruined by war, it has been ruined.

Bush lost us our moral high ground and credibility. We will not begin to gain it back until we admit what we did wrong and move to correct our errors.

But what are we doing now? Oh, no more war. We are done with that. We whacked the hornets' nest and we are running away. You all over there can tuff it out. It's your problem. We're outta there.

Now that the true results of U.S. idiocy in foreign policy are being realized in the form if ISIS hegemony and the general deterioration of civilization in a good part of the entire Middle East, we are saying “sorry, we aren't up for more war,” just at the time when we finally have a legitimate reason to land troops in the Middle East and wipe out the cancer.

Our President, the second worst we have ever had (Bush has first place in that category), has a brain filled with sugary rhetoric and a gelatinous spine. This is why we fail.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:17 PM
P.S. Lest I be misinterpreted, I do not in any way diminish the suffering and casualties of our U.S. soldiers being sent over to die or be maimed in the great Bush/Cheney adventure. I grieve as much for them as for the Iraqis. They were all savaged and had their and their loved ones' lives ruined for no good reason, and I hope Bush and Cheney burn in their Christian hell forever because of that.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:21 PM
"The Constitution vests Congress with the power to declare war,therefore no offensive effort can be undertaken until they have deliberated on such an effort and authorized it". George Washington. Its time for Mark Shields and the other media journalist to ask Congress why it hasn't done it job for the last 60 years.The "debate" is supposed to be Congresses. Passing an authorization for the president to decide is an abrogation of the responsibility of Congress.It is not the presidents role to decide on war.Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress within 3 days of Pearl Harbor and asked for such a declaration of war.That was America's last "just war".The subsequent wars,Korea,Vietnam,Iraq,Afghanistan,and a few little ones have been the resulting mess because the Congress and therefore the nation did not have what Shields calls a "debate".It is not a debate,it is the LAW.The Constitution we are supposed to follow.
Comment: #3
Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:28 PM
Sir;...You can elect people to office, but you cannot elect them to intelligence, to morality, or knowledge. Mr. Bush was elected because he had Rove who was a master manipulator who put winning above everything good and right about our limited democracy. We went into war because our House and Senate were cowed by the fear of being smeared as unpatriotic. If you can tell me how such gutless cowards in government who put their own position and office above the lives and health and futures of many thousands of human beings deserve any consideration from Americans; you must have the wisdom of the ancients at your fingertips.
It was not only Mr. Bush who is an idiot, or Rove who has found the weakness of majority rule. It is the whole system and all it touches who are corrupted and corruptable. The enormity of such vast sacrifice of life and happiness for political gain is beyond rational understanding. What if, to be elected, each of these people had to kill a single human being. What if each had to slice the throat of a child, a defensless woman, an old man, a paretic, a wall mart shopper to be worthy of office, while we watch? We do not elect people to be as powerless as ourselves, and moral as ourselves because we cannot act on our desires and instincts, or even in our own defense. We elect people to be free as we cannot be free, of every moral and physical limitation. Does it matter if a person lies if they have the intent and ability to make true their lies?
The BIG LIE is that our society, and our religion is more healthy than those Muslim religions and societies. Let us pledge to pess away the last of our dwindling public wealth to disrupt settled social situations and invite that horror of horrors to all rational people in every age: The Civil War.
Lowell Thomas who wrote of Lawrence in Arabia, noted the rise of the Wahabis, and of militant Islam. That we were kicking a hornets nest in attacking whole peoples to get rid of a handful of tyrants should have been evident to even the worst educated in government. What is technology against will, distance, geography and determination. What is Christianity seldom practiced here against Islam universally practiced and accepted there? The weakness of our defense should have been evident long ago. The weakness of our political system should have been evident since the war of 1812. If we continue to put our trust in these idiots who can play upon our ignorance which they feed to have power over us, then our lives and our future are so much in doubt. 911 should have brought the government down. Instead we allowed it to empower the very people who had failed us, and so gave them the power to fail us to an even greater degree. If this political system and the constitution that stands behind it is no defense to this people, it should fall so we can live. To see this nonsense stand while so many struggle for their lives and wellbeing here is to be the witness of a crime.
Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Aug 31, 2014 6:45 AM
The only debate that this Congress ever has always revolves around some "scandal" (real or mostly imagined). If you want a debate, call the New Iraq War somehow the result of a corrupt Obama Administration. Then they'll debate it until the cows come home.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:09 AM
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