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Problems in Iraq will continue after Bush

MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann ends his nightly telecast with a tally of how many days it has been since President Bush declared victory in Iraq. Olbermann, who gained fame in the mid-90s as a part of ESPN's Sports Center team along with Dan Patrick, is an open critic of Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. He has feuded with conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly - whose program runs on Fox opposite Olbermann's each night - and even referred to fellow MSNBC anchor Rita Crosby as &#8220nice, but dumber than a suitcase of rocks.” (He apologized and to her credit, Crosby replied: &#8220Keith got it wrong. I'm not that nice.”)

Olbermann is smart, witty, outspoken and more than a bit arrogant.

And he may just be right.

For three years we've struggled to make sense of Iraq. Why are we there. Who are we fighting. How much longer is this going to take.

We went into Iraq armed with a righteousness granted us by the 3,000 dead Americans lost on 9/11. It was our excuse to become judge, jury and executioner. To launch a war of aggression against a country that had very little chance of acquiring nuclear capabilities before the century was out, much less in an immediate timeframe. Our minds would have been better focused on Iran, where a saber rattling Islamic extremist for a president is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear technology. Or North Korea, where a midget dictator already has nuclear warheads and is working on a way to deliver them to the mainland of Japan or the United States. Or Afghanistan, still, where ground gained in the months following 9/11 has quickly degenerated into civil war.

So are we winning the war in Iraq? Are we losing?

Iraq, it appears, has become a purgatory for the Bush administration. Neither Heaven nor Hell. The &#8220V” for victory has evolved into the &#8220V” for Vietnam. Similar circumstances. 58,000 American soldiers were lost in the jungles of a foreign country. Away from home. Away from the mother, the baseball, and the apple pie they grew up on.

While the war in Iraq has not cost nearly the numbers of Vietnam, it's undeniable that families have been devastated by the loss of our sons and daughters to a conflict many question the validity of.

American novelist Tim O'Brien - who fought in Vietnam and has become one of our nation's finest writers on the subject of that war - said the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam is a &#8220potential quagmire where we just get deeper and deeper and deeper involved, and when that happens it's harder and harder and harder to get outŠThe justifications for the war are also, as in Vietnam, incredibly suspect. The weapons of mass destruction we can't find. So, we make up a new reason for the war, after we've already begun the war, which is illogical and immoral. You don't go off to war telling your country you're going for these reasons and then make up new ones afterward: &#8220There's this bad guy, and we got rid of him.” It's manipulative. So, I see a lot of similarities, and it's not identical of course, but it's similar enough to scare me.” - (University of Dayton Flyer News, Oct. 2003)

The road in Iraq will be a long one. The only sure conclusion to draw is that the administration that initiated this conflict will be out of office long before our day in Iraq is done.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: editor@greenville.advocate.com.