Bush’s speech on Iraq policy at 8:30 pm Sunday night struck me as weak compared to past addresses of his on the War on Terror. He seemed to me distracted and nervous, no doubt aware that after the UN and Najaf bombings, and with the steady drumbeat of US casualties, things are not going well.
The biggest logical failure of the speech was its attempt to situate the Iraq War in the War on Terror. Although eccentric billionnaire reactionaries like Rupert Murdoch and Richard Mellon Scaife have managed to bamboozle 69% of Americans into believing that Saddam had something to do with September 11, he did not. And any informed person knows he did not. High al-Qaeda officials have told the US that Bin Laden ordered them to have nothing to do with the infidel, Saddam. Now Bush seems to be saying that because the US knocked the Baath out of power and made Iraq a magnet for al-Qaeda wannabes, the US military has to stay in that country for 7 years to fight a terrorism that did not exist last February. ????
He went over the successes in the War on Terror. But what he didn’t say is that most of the al-Qaeda operatives in custody were actually captured by the Pakistanis. He claimed to have uncovered al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US, but so far such cases haven’t held up very well. The only major successful operation was launched from Hamburg, and 99.9999 % of US Muslims couldn’t care less about Usama Bin Laden and the crackpots around him. The little proven al-Qaeda activity in the US certainly does not warrant Ashcroft’s attempt to gut the Bill of Rights.
“ In Iraq, we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the centre of the Middle East .”
But Iraq isn’t at the center of the Middle East. Egypt is. Egypt’s ruling National Party is drafting a new election law. All the US would have to do is lean on them a bit, and Egypt could suddenly be much closer to being a democracy. But the US coddles Mubarak’s soft police state because it is a US ally. Apparently you have to virtually declare war on the US to have any hope that the Americans will turn your country into a democracy. Otherwise you are stuck with pro-US dictatorships. As for a decent and democratic society, what the Iraqis have so far is a peremptory American administration of the country, a huge crime wave, lack of electricity and potable water, and an unemployment rate hovering around 60%, not to mention deep insecurity from huge bombs going off.
“And we acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, “
Iraq used chemical weapons in the late 1980s. Chemical weapons are battlefield weapons, not weapons of mass destruction. The British colonial administration was the first to use them in that country.
Note that there were no significant post-1998 WMD weapons programs in Iraq, and certainly not nuclear ones. There aren’t even much in the way of remaining stockpiles of mustard gas. Americans wouldn’t have gone to war over a few barrels of expired mustard gas. The Bush administration should drop “weapons of mass destruction” from its vocabulary. It is an embarrassment.
and for 12 years defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council. Our coalition enforced these international demands in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history.
The Afghanistan war was probably pretty humane with regard to civilian casualties (1000 civilians dead?). Iraq, it isn’t so clear. Experts say about 6,000 civilian deaths, 20,000 injured. Who knows how many Iraqi soldiers (they are human beings, too, and most were miserable conscripts)? That’s “humane?” Plus the US has offered the victims no compensation. I will concede that Saddam killed many more, tens of thousands of more, and might have again. But the President should not mislead us about the real cost in human lives of the war.
“The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism.”
Or it could just go on muddling through. Either/or propositions usually leave out lots of possibilities. As for tolerance and democracy, it hasn’t come to Afghanistan yet. There was a stage managed Loya Jirga. Karzai is mayor of Kabul with lots of warlords running around. The Taliban are coming back. As for tolerance, the chief judge of Kabul has ruled against several cable television channels and Ismail Khan in Herat has imposed severe restrictions on women. The US has put almost nothing into rebuilding Afghanistan compared to the needs, and Bush even forgot to ask for an Afghanistan appropriation last year.
“Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front.”
I really don’t think the American people are going to put up with a seven-year war, Mr. Bush.
Anyway, the speech was flawed and the situation is dire. If all the Bush administration can do is go on invoking al-Qaeda to justify the Iraq war, it will lose public opinion. The American people want a short to medium term end-game. Bush isn’t giving them one. He is giving them big think about reshaping the Middle East. They don’t care about that. They complain that we are already giving too much money to damn furriners (even though Us foreign aid is chintzy). The $87 billion he asked for for Iraq is going to stick in their craws. Mark my words.