Arguing with Bush
“The terrorists who attacked us and the terrorists we face murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.
“Terrorists” are not a cohesive ideological category like “Communists” as Bush suggests. Lots of groups use terror as a tactic. The Irgun Zionists in 1946 and 1947 did, as well. Also ETA in Spain, about the terrorist acts of which Americans seldom hear in their newspapers (they are ongoing). The Baath regime in Iraq engaged in so little international terrorism in the late 1990s and early zeroes that it was not even on the US State Department list of sponsors of terrorism.* Bush could take the above rationale and use it to invade most countries in the world.
“To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill: in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali and elsewhere.
Yes, and these were al-Qaeda operations, and you haven’t caught Bin Laden or al-Zawahiri.
“The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us.”
This is monstrous and ridiculous at once. The people in Fallujah and Ramadi were not sitting around plotting terrorism three years ago. They had no plans to hit the United States. Terrorism isn’t a fixed quantity. By unilaterally invading Iraq and then bollixing it up, Bush and Vines have created enormous amounts of terrorism, which they are now having trouble putting back in the bottle.
“Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others.”
Maybe 8 percent of the fighters in Iraq are foreign jihadis. Of the some 25,000 guerrillas, almost all are Iraqi Sunni Arabs who dislike foreign military occupation of their country. You could imagine what people in Alabama or Kentucky would do if foreign troops came in and tried to set up checkpoints in their neighborhoods.
Moreover, many of those jihadis fighting in Iraq wouldn’t even be jihadis if they weren’t outraged by Bush’s invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.
The fact is that the US went in and convinced the Sunni Arabs of Iraq that we were going to screw them over royally, driving them into violent opposition. They aren’t inherently terrorists and could have been won over.
There are no Iraqi military units that can and will fight independently against the Sunni guerrillas, so all those statistics he quoted are meaningless.
Almost all the coalition allies of the US have a short timetable for getting out of the quagmire before it goes really bad. Bush’s quotation of all that international support sounds more hollow each time he voices it.
An interesting Flash presentation on Coalition casualties can be found here, demonstrating their geographical extent throughout the country.
The political process in Iraq has not helped end the guerrilla war. It has excluded Sunnis or alienated them so that they excluded themselves. It offers no hope in and of itself.
There was nothing new in Bush’s speech, and most of what he said was inaccurate.
Tomdispatch.com takes apart Bush’s moral relativism or amoral relativism and is worth a read.
*This statement was a mistake on my part. Iraq was taken off the list in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s. It was on the list in the late 1990s and early zeroes, but the annual report noted that it had undertaken no terrorism against the US since 1993. See this set of reader responses.