Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

US Diary: the Bush/Blair show, and other Iraq matters

1. The Hardest Word -- by Scott Ritter

One has to wonder as to what must have been going through the minds of those who were advising George W Bush and Tony Blair to "come clean", so to speak, about their respective shortcomings regarding the conduct of the war in Iraq. With over 2,460 American and 106 UK soldiers killed in Iraq (not to mention untold thousands of dead Iraqis), the two people in the world most responsible for the ongoing debacle in Iraq displayed the combination of indifference and ignorance that got them neck deep in a quagmire of their own making to begin with.

President Bush kicked himself for "talking too tough", while the British prime minister ruminated on the decision to disband the Ba'athist infrastructure that held Iraq together in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. Neither expressed any regret over the decision to invade Iraq in the first place.

Bush made no reference to the exaggerated and falsified claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he and his loyal ally bandied about so freely in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Blair, recently returned from a visit to Baghdad where he met with the newly appointed prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, did not reflect on the reality that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein was a more peaceful and prosperous land before British and American troops overthrew the Iraqi president and condemned Iraq to the horrific reality of insurgent-fed civil strife.

"Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing," Bush remarked, although he was quick to add, "Not everything has turned out the way we hoped". That, of course, could qualify for the understatement of the year. For his part, Blair spoke of faulty judgements, perhaps the greatest of which was to underestimate the scope and intensity of the insurgency, which he in typical fashion characterized as fighting against the democratic process, as opposed to struggling against an illegal, illegitimate and unjust occupation.

Blair shared his reflective insights at moment when the people of the United Kingdom were wrestling with new revelations concerning how he misled their attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, into putting forward a legal finding that enabled Britain to go to war with Iraq void of a second United Nations security council resolution. Blair had apparently told Lord Goldsmith that Iraq was in "material breach" of its obligations, despite the fact that no new intelligence on WMD had been unearthed, and UN weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq receiving total cooperation from the Iraqi government. Not a peep from the prime minister on this matter, though.

For his part Bush waxed eloquently about the cost of war to America. "No question that the Iraq war has, you know, created a sense of consternation here in America," the president said. "I mean, when you turn on your TV screen and see innocent people die day in and day out, it affects the mentality of our country." He added: "I can understand why the American people are troubled by the war in Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the sacrifice is worth it and it's necessary."

Of course, the president remained mute as to the current visit to Iraq by the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, who in the light of recent accusations of excessive force on the part of Marines fighting a life and death struggle in the Anbar province of Iraq, were cautioned to kill "only when justified". Some 717 Marines have lost their lives in the fighting in Iraq, most in the violence-prone Anbar province, where the Iraqi insurgency is particularly deeply entrenched. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment are accused of slaughtering scores of innocent Iraqis in the aftermath of a fire-fight that followed a deadly attack on the Marines by a road-side bomb. In the middle of a conflict not of their making, fighting an enemy as deadly and resolute as they themselves are, the Marines are now lectured by general's to destroy only that which needs destroyed, kill only those who need killed, as if war was ever that easy.

Instead of focusing on the horrific reality of the unmitigated disaster that these two politicians are solely responsible for inflicting on their own respective armed forces and the people of Iraq, Bush deflected any talk about bringing American troops home. "I have said to the American people, 'As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down,'" he said. "But I've also said that our commanders on the ground will make that decision." Blair dutifully chimed in that, in the aftermath of his Baghdad visit, he "came away thinking that the challenge is still immense, but I also came away more certain than ever that we should rise to it."

Both politicians were playing to their respective electorates, Blair in an effort to forestall his inevitable departure from government, Bush trying against hope to prevent a democratic landslide in the mid-term elections upcoming in November. But they both forgot that, to paraphrase an old military saying, "the enemy has a vote, too." And the Iraqi insurgency votes on a daily basis, its ballots counted in the bodies of those killed because of the violence brought on Iraq thanks to the decision by Bush and Blair to invade.

That decision, based upon lies and deceit, and done in pursuit of pure power (either in the form of global hegemony, per Bush, or a pathetic effort to ride Bush's coattails in the name of maintaining a "special relationship", for Blair), underscores the reality that when it comes to Iraq, both are resting on a policy that is as corrupt as one can possibly imagine.

Void of any genuine reflection as to what actually went wrong, and lacking in any reality-based process which seeks to formulate a sound way out of Iraq, these two politicians are simply continuing the self-delusional process of blundering down a path in Iraq that can only lead to more death and destruction.

Perhaps the advisors of Bush and Blair thought they were going to put a human face on two leaders who had been so vilified over the Iraq debacle. If so they failed. The joint press conference was little more than a pathetic show where two failed politicians voiced their continued support of failed policies, which had gotten their respective nations embroiled in a failed war. To quote Blair: "What more can I say? Probably not wise to say anything more at all."

(Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and Marine Corps intelligence officer. He is the author of " Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein.”)

2. The War Takes its Toll -- by Les Payne

The letters-to-the-editor page this Memorial Day period is ringing with at least as much wisdom - and far more passion - than the editorial pros instructing the masses on what they should think about their government's war on Iraq.

Sometimes the message is muted and the passion somewhat subtle, as with the following letter that appeared last week in the Orlando Sentinel:

"Last Wednesday night I was on a US Airways flight to Orlando International Airport. Forty-five minutes prior to landing, the pilot announced our plane was carrying the remains of a fallen Marine, and that he would be honored in various ways upon arrival.

"I did notice a passenger in his dress blues and shiny shoes, but did not know until the pilot made his announcement the Marine was there to accompany his comrade's body, and would join the Honor Guard when the coffin was taken from the belly of the plane.

"Orange County Fire Rescue was on the tarmac to greet our plane by soaking it with massive arcs of water. The Marine passenger was escorted off the plane first while everyone applauded.

"Once inside the terminal, I was struck with silence; not the usual hubbub with which one is greeted upon arriving. It was a 9 p.m. arrival, but there were hundreds of people of all races, ages and socioeconomic status, four deep, staring out the windows, watching the ceremonial proceedings with absolute respect.

"Thinking about the young man's arrival, being transported in that way to his family, brought me to tears. We often have read and heard about these 'homecomings' since the beginning of the war (and certainly many wars previous). But as the news stories get more horrific and mind-boggling, we tend to become numb to their effect on us.

"Although this hero was a stranger to me, knowing that he was inside the same plane carrying us both home, I was slapped out of numbness into the stark reality of the difference in our individual homecomings."

This letter from Starlyn J. First, printed again here in full appreciation of its sentiments, shares a stranger's view of a brush with war. Distant, yes, but nonetheless poignant and relevant to each American no matter his or her view of the Iraq War.

This muted message from the Winter Springs stranger puts us in touch this Memorial Day weekend with a life lost for a shared circumstance. To the body in the box it no longer matters whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or that President George W. Bush took the country to war over a series of calculated lies. What matters, postmortem, is that the Marine has not been forgotten, at least by friends and relatives - and those strangers at the airport who share a common circumstance.

President Bush has barred strangers from the airport when the bodies are returned. The administration fears that the very real image of flag-draped coffins might remind Americans of his ongoing, ill-advised war. The media whose duty it is to inform the citizenry have been forbidden to record images of those coffins bearing U.S. soldiers back from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base. The media have meekly complied - publishing pictures only by military photographers - as they have with so much else from this Bush White House.

So too has Congress so far gone in cowardly self-interest. As for that other Constitution-empowered check on the executive branch, the U.S. Supreme Court differs from a rubber stamp on Bush policies only in that the latter leaves an impression.

It took a bold FBI raid last weekend on the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), a senior congressman suspected of bribery, to remind this august, national legislative body that the Constitution's separation of powers still applies to the executive branch. As for the press, the U.S. attorney general, one Alberto Gonzales, is thumbing through its dossier in search of line-of-duty indictments. It is upon just such feet that totalitarianism creeps in.

Meanwhile, those flag-draped coffins continue to slip silently into the hometowns of America. To date, it is the men and women of the military who are being sacrificed upon the altar of a presidency run amok. Tomorrow it might be Congress. Then the press. Then it will be too late.

3. Bush at West Point: Vows Long Middle Eastern War, Spreads the Fallacy of the Cold War Analogy -- by Matthew Rothschild

At West Point’s graduation ceremony, President Bush gave a none too subtle hint that the United States will be waging war in the Middle East for years and years to come. And not just in Iraq.

“So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security,” he said. He added, a few sentences later, “The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation.”

Since Bush delivers the promise of freedom by gunpoint and in a bomb crater, people in Syria and Iran ought to take note.

And we, as citizens of the United States, ought to take note, too, that Bush’s appetite for war is not yet sated.

Neither has he curbed his penchant for distortion.

About his Iraq invasion to topple Saddam, Bush continued to dissemble.

“When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime.”

Actually, Saddam had been cooperating, to a large extent, with the U.N. weapons inspectors. And he had no weapons of mass destruction to disarm. Weapons inspectors were begging the Security Council for more time, but Bush refused to give it to them. And Bush acted like was doing the Security Council’s bidding by invading when, in actual fact, the Security Council refused to give its blessing to the invasion.

That’s why Kofi Annan called it illegal.

At West Point, Bush also spread the fallacy of the Cold War analogy to terrorism. He spent eleven paragraphs waxing nostalgic about the fight against Communism and exalting Harry Truman and his “ideological struggle between tyranny and freedom.”

Bush did so for a reason: He wants the American public to be at least as afraid of Al Qaeda as it was of Stalin's Soviet Union.

And so Bush did a crude compare-and-contrast.

He acknowledged that “the enemies we face today are different in many ways from the enemy we faced in the Cold War.” But he did so only to make Al Qaeda out to be even more dangerous than Moscow.

“In the Cold War, we deterred Soviet aggression through a policy of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the Soviet Union, the terrorist enemies today hide in caves and shadows. . . . The terrorists have no borders to protect, or capital to defend. They cannot be deterred.” Bush neglected to point out a much bigger difference: The terrorists cannot destroy the United States, however. Stalin could have.

As Bruce Ackerman reminds us in “Before the Next Attack,” we should not let Bush exaggerate the threat from Al Qaeda and, by sleight of hand, have us believe that we are more imperiled now than ever before. “Osama and his successors won’t ever occupy the country in the manner threatened by Hitler or Stalin,” Ackerman notes. “Territorial conquest is beyond their power. If anybody destroys our freedom, it will be us.”

But Bush wants us to think we face a challenge akin to the ones posed by Hitler and Stalin. Bush said that terrorists are trying to acquire “weapons of mass murder”—evidently, “weapons of mass destruction” is no longer the term of choice.

“If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.”

Really now?

The Soviet Union had thousands of atomic weapons and the means to deliver them on intercontinental ballistic missiles. It could have incinerated the entire United States several times over.

Islamic terrorists have not been able to obtain one nuclear weapon, much less thousands.

This is fear mongering of the most grotesque sort.

In part, Bush wants to be Winston Churchill, whose name he invoked and whose rhetoric he mimics: “We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory,” Bush said.

But Bush is no Churchill. And, anyway, he can’t achieve “complete victory” against Islamic terrorism. Even Al Qaeda—much less “Islamic terrorism”—is not a single hierarchical entity under Osama bin Laden’s direct control anymore. Now, in part because of Bush’s botched Afghanistan War and reckless Iraq War, Al Qaeda has disbursed itself.

Groups that are ideologically sympathetic operate independently; there are a lot of freelancers out there. And as Bush’s own CIA has acknowledged, the Iraq War has created new recruits for Al Qaeda and its cohorts.

In typical propagandist fashion, Bush said of the terrorists, “Our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision.” And he’s right about that; Al Qaeda demonstrated that on 9/11, and Zarqawi demonstrates it with every bomb explosion in Baghdad markets. The problem is, Bush also believes that “the innocent can be murdered.” To serve his own messianic vision, he has brought about the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

There was almost a casual cruelty to Bush’s West Point blessing: “Now the Class of 2006 will leave for the battlefield.”

He, as commander in chief, is sending them off to battle in Iraq, which is a war that had nothing to do, except pretextually, with the so-called war on terror.

And Bush’s terminology at West Point, his constant use of the phrase “war on terror,” serves not only to inflate his own historical importance but also to further his aggressive and repressive purposes.

When he says we’re just in the “early stages” of “the long war with Islamic radicalism,” he is preparing the public for the next stage to come. And if it’s all part of the same war against Al Qaeda, and Congress already gave him a blank check for that one, Bush might easily say he doesn’t have to go back to Congress to wage war against another country—say, Iran. (After all, we’ve already seen how far he stretched that original Authorization of the Use of Military Force; he says it gives him the right to monitor our phone calls.)

And if Bush can convince the American public that we face an enemy as lethal as Hitler or Joe Stalin (a name Bush also conjured up), he can then coerce Americans into giving up more of their freedoms. Forced to choose between survival and civil liberties, Americans will readily give up their liberties. Bush knows that. That’s why he frames the issue this way.

The better to protect you with, my dear.

(Matthew Rothschild has been with The Progressive since 1983. His McCarthyism Watch web column has chronicled more than 150 incidents of repression since 9/11.)


Post a Comment

<< Home