During President Bush's State of the Union speech last night and during Senator Jim Webb's Democratic Party response, two key observations were made that put the President's continuing mishandling of his illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq into sharp focus.
Although Mr. Bush correctly observed that, "in the minds of the terrorists, this war began well before September 11th," had he been honest, he would have added: "And, yes, we planned to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq long before September 11th. We simply used September 11th as a pretext, in order to exploit your fear and rage."
But his most telling sentence was uttered immediately after he admitted: "In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia - and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day." Bush then admitted: "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in."
Hello? Indeed, the Bush administration told us that the fight we entered was supposed to be a "cakewalk," in which Iraqi civilians would be greeting U.S. troops as liberators and with flowers, not IEDs. It was supposed to be a fight justified by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (which proved to be nonexistent) and his ties to al Qaeda terrorists - another lie. And it was supposed to be a fight that would bring democracy to the Middle East, although international law prohibits unprovoked wars of aggression, even in the name of advancing democracy (itself the height of arrogance).
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In fact, before Bush's illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq, most experts doubted the Bush administration's assertions (now seen to be egregious lies) about Saddam's alleged nuclear weapons program. Remember the alarmist lies by Bush and Condoleezza Rice about a "mushroom cloud?" And now we know that Cheney's lies about Saddam's ties to al Qaeda were not only based upon fabrications concocted outside the regular intelligence channels, but were rebutted by no less than five legitimate intelligence reports - which Cheney dismissed as "crap."
Beyond raising the question of whether an invasion to overthrow Saddam might have unforeseen implications for the Sunni/Shia balance in the Middle East, perhaps strengthening the influence of Shiites in Iran, countless experts on Iraq and the Middle East cautioned, before Bush's reckless invasion, that an invasion to depose Saddam Hussein might be met with an insurgency that could bog American forces down in a quagmire. Indeed, how many experts cautioned that it is easier to start a war than end one?
Finally, you'll recall that many experts cautioned, before Bush's reckless invasion, that the insurgency might explode into a civil war, precisely "not the fight we entered in Iraq." Nevertheless, Bush's obsession with "taking out" Saddam caused him and his administration to throw caution and deliberation to the wind. Now, there remains but one more unfulfilled horror that the experts cautioned about before Bush's reckless invasion of Iraq; the possibility that civil war in Iraq will embroil the entire Middle East in a regional war.
Indeed, Mr. Bush, the war has turned out to be quite different from "the fight" YOU "entered in Iraq." Encouraged by the neoconservatives - who have been proven wrong on virtually every aspect of their war-mongering advice concerning Iraq -- you insisted in unleashing the whirlwind there. Every day, Iraqis and/or Americans are dying, thanks to your recklessness. Not only do you have the blood of untold tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis on your hands, as Senator Jim Webb told America last night, you have failed in your duty to support the troops.
A military veteran with a son in Iraq, Senator Webb put Bush in the cross-hairs of irresponsibility last night when he asserted: "Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues, those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way."
As almost everybody in the world now knows, "the President took us into this war recklessly." And "the war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who stepped forward to serve."
Senator Webb might have added that Bush's reckless invasion of Iraq has transformed international terrorism into a growth industry. And he might have added that Mr. Bush has severely damaged, if not wrecked, America's military. Yet, when he asserted that "the majority of our military" no longer support "the way this war is being fought, Senator Webb's challenge was quite clear: How dare you claim that you are supporting our troops?
Radicals in the Middle East? Let's first get rid of the radicals in the White House!
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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