May 02, 2013
Bonnie Erbe, To The Contrary Host Bonnie Erbe, To The Contrary Host

By Bonnie Erbe

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor rocked the world this week when she admitted to the Chicago Tribune that the Justices probably should have not have agreed to decide the now-infamous Bush v. Gore case. That case put George W. Bush in the White House and brought us, among other debacles, the Iraq War.

O'Connor told the Tribune: "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

Uh, yeah, right. She's a little bit late perhaps, but absolutely correct. Unfortunately the ineradicable damage has already been done.

The ruling set up a presidency that many, including this writer, have called the worst in U.S. history. Bush v. Gore also allowed the tyranny of an extremely conservative minority to turn the country back on a host of social issues. It wreaked fiscal havoc on the nation (turning a small Clinton-era surplus into a looming Bush-era deficit.) And it killed at least 4800 U.S. servicemen and women, as well as 116,000 Iraqi civilians, for what even those who launched the invasion now admit was no good reason.

I have felt burdened since 2003 by a huge sense of guilt. Although I opposed the war even before it began, I still feel guilty for what happened to our service personnel and to their families. I feel guilty for the countless other Iraq war veterans who were blown to bits and came home alive but with unimaginable disabilities. And I feel guilty about the Iraqis we killed and wounded and the damage we did to their infrastructure and economy. 

Imagine my surprise, then, when I spoke to a group of Iraqi journalists this week. They were part of a group brought to the U.S. by the State Department on a cultural exchange. I was asked to talk about the state of advancement for women and persons of color in the U.S., which I did (full disclosure: I was not paid to speak.) But during the end of the question and answer period I started asking them questions.

They included about a dozen reporters and correspondents for print/online, radio and TV networks. They were quite a well-educated group. There were four women, at least one Christian and one Kurd.

I asked them if things were better for them since the U.S. invasion. They engaged in a lively to and fro on that question, but the gist of it was, they were largely in agreement that they as journalists were better off.One woman said she preferred working as a journalist more under dictator Saddam Hussein because there were very clear rules about what one could and could not write, and she appreciated knowing where she stood. Another man said there was no such thing as true journalism under Hussein, only reporters rewriting government press releases. Those who disobeyed the rules were thrown in jail or killed.

Another man noted that under Hussein, Iraqis subsisted on horrific food rations of flour and rice that wasn't even fit for animals to eat. But they all agreed under Saddam Hussein, there was no need to worry about car bombs or neighborhoods being shot up by snipers.

I have no idea if their opinions match those of the general Iraqi public. It's quite plausible only educated Iraqis are better off with greater civil rights. One journalist did say he was recently imprisoned for eight hours for covering an anti-government demonstration. Several others noted they fear the country is on the brink of civil war.

No matter, I still believe the Justices should have taken the right and quite frankly the only legally proper approach and refused to hear Bush v. Gore. The case was clearly a matter for the Florida Supreme Court to decide. The losses we suffered (including 800 billion dollars spent to seize weapons of mass destruction that never existed) were just not worth it. And we're no longer the world's police, able to topple dictatorships just because we'd like to do it.