Bush's war exercise: the
BY RUSS BAKER
Russ Baker is a
journalist and essayist who writes frequently about
March 17, 2004
Anniversaries are a time of remembrance. We look back
at an event and recall what was. Or, in the case of the invasion of
Iraq, which began one year ago, we look back at what
What wasn't turns out to be almost anything George W.
Bush and his associates said was. First, there were "weapons of mass
destruction" in Iraq, then there weren't. First, Saddam Hussein was
a "grave and growing danger," then the war was really about "regime
change." First, we were going to go it alone in postwar Iraq,
without UN help; now we aren't. First, the United States opposed
real elections in Iraq; now it doesn't.
In an October 2002
speech in Cincinnati, Bush declared: "Tonight I want to take a few
minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace and America's
determination to lead the world in confronting that threat. . . . It
arises directly from the Iraqi regime's own actions, its history of
aggression and its drive toward an arsenal of terror."
truth was Hussein at that time posed absolutely no threat, and the
Iraqi history of aggression and its onetime possession of
biochemical weapons had a lot to do with encouragement and
assistance from the United States, including from people who are now
senior officials of the Bush administration.
Today, more than
500 American soldiers are dead and thousands wounded, while
unknowable tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead. Iraq, a mess
physically, economically and psychologically, has become a cause
celebre for a new generation of global terrorists.
this humiliation, the administration's Department of Corrections now
claims the goal was always regime change and democracy-building
abroad. In 2000, however, Bush ran largely on a plank opposed to
In any case, the emperor's newest clothes
prove transparent when contrasted with an October 2002 assertion by
Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, as reported in the Washington
Times, "that America would accept the continuation of Saddam
Hussein's regime if Iraq disarms." Since we now know that Iraq,
under pressure from UN inspectors, had already disarmed, which part
of the Powell-Rice statement makes any sense at
Backpedaling has become a Bush administration hallmark.
In December, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz declared that
bids on 26 prime contracts for Iraq were open only to countries that
supported hostilities. But, on Feb. 11, the administration, with
troop casualties mounting and the presidential election looming,
announced that all countries could bid on $6 billion of Iraq
contracts. "It's not necessarily a change in policy because this is
how we normally do contracting," a Pentagon official said, in the
Orwellian newspeak typical of this administration. "So there is no
shift in policy here."
Last month, Iraqi security forces,
which we were assured were well-equipped to take over local
security, suddenly weren't. Following a bloody raid on the police
station in Fallujah, in which 23 Iraqi policemen were killed and
many dangerous prisoners released, American officials began
admitting that locals would not be ready to take over by the July 1
target date. Nevertheless, U.S. forces continue to pull back,
leaving Iraqi forces to go out on increasingly hazardous
Have you been wondering about those heartfelt
expressions of gratitude that our invasion was supposed to trigger
from liberated Iraqis? On Feb. 20, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld promised PBS' Jim Lehrer that our troops would be met with
"There is no question but that they would be
welcomed. Go back to Afghanistan - the people were in the streets
playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that
the Taliban and the al-Qaida would not let them do." Yet on Sept.
25, when quizzed by a reporter about these statements, Rumsfeld
responded with a total disclaimer: "Never said that. . . . Never
did. . . . I never said anything like that because I never knew what
would happen and I knew I didn't know."
They didn't know what
might happen from this dangerous gambit, and they knew they didn't
know. Yet Bush, faced with a stinker of an economic situation, is
seeking re-election today based largely on his stewardship of
security matters. It is a sign of the depraved state of
statesmanship in our republic that he can do so with some confidence
in his chances.
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