By Michael Goldman
At one point in the early 21st century, 90 percent of Americans not only supported the war in Iraq but also treated the United States president who wrongly dragged us into that needless, and now seemingly endless, quagmire as a hero.
Today, 90 percent of Americans can't wait for the last American troop to depart from a nation most of us have come to accept was never a location we should have invaded in the first place. Somehow back then, while others climbed on the war train to Baghdad, I always saw the endgame of the encounter with Iraq as evolving into a possible mirror image of our exit from Vietnam, with every American soldier's mother and spouse back home praying their loved one wouldn't be the last one killed for this mistake.
More important, I said so almost nightly to the chagrin of listeners on the national radio show I then hosted years ago on Bloomberg Radio in New York City.
Afghanistan was the appropriate target, I said back then, because that's where we believed Osama bin Laden was hiding and America's two real enemies, the Taliban and al-Qaida, were located.
Instead of listening, the Bush-Cheney tandem allowed Bin Laden to slip away to Pakistan. They allowed the Taliban to recede into the countryside. They allowed al-Qaida to scurry away like rats and hide in the shadows. All while we bizarrely eliminated Saddam Hussein, the only foe our bitter enemy Iran hated more than us, because he allegedly took part in the funding, planning and implementation of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (he hadn't). And, because he allegedly possessed uranium cakes, weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons (he didn't).
Sadly, if the reports from Fallujah are true, then a distant city where too many American's fought and died not so many years ago is now in the hands of al-Qaida, the very people we were sent to defeat at the start of the conflict in Afghanistan, along with Bin Laden.
Saddam is long dead, as is Osama, but America's two longest wars stretch on with no end in sight.
If only we had stayed the course in Afghanistan, destroying al-Qaida and the Taliban once and for all and capturing Bin Laden sooner, there would be no Fallujah takeover by America's enemies today.
Would have, could have and should have.
Meanwhile, a second horrific prediction of mine from years ago also seems to be coming true, albeit not exactly in the way I predicted it would.
I used to tell all who would listen of my recurring nightmare in which I would awaken one morning to read that all the inhabitants of a single, small town had been found dead. The cause of the disaster was the erosion of an illegally dumped metal container, which over time slowly had leached into the town's water supply killing all. As the dream continues, full panic ensues across America, with residents in town after town across the United States getting sick and dying.
By the end of the dream, every water supply in America had become contaminated by the disintegration of thousands of similar illegally buried barrels.
The real-life state of emergency in nine counties of West Virginia came not from an illegally disposed barrel of toxic materials but rather from the spilling of 5,000 gallons chemical, used to wash coal of its impurities, into the Elk River. The chemical reportedly "can cause headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and can also cause a skin rash."
Will people be hauled off to jail for causing this nightmare, especially since the company was slow to report the accident, waiting until long after it was required by law to have done so?
I think not!
My guess is a very slick lawyer will make the case that since this is just a facility that stores rather than produces the product, they have limited liability. Meanwhile, will my nightmare scenario also turn out to be true some day?
After this accident, I wouldn't bet against it.
Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.