Arguing With Bush
Yet one question has surely been settled – that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.
Actually, it is unclear what “taking the fight to the enemy” means in Bush’s ill-conceived “war on terror.” He is probably still trying to sneak Iraq into the struggle against al-Qaeda through the back door. If so, that dog won’t hunt. By launching an unprovoked and illegal war of aggression on a major Arab Muslim country, Bush hasn’t “carried the fight to the enemy” but has rather dishonored the 9/11 dead by using their killings as a pretext to carry out his own preconceived and Ahab-like plans to “take out” Saddam Hussein. Nothing could be better calculated to increase the threat of terrorism against the United States than an attempt militarily to occupy Iraq, with all the repression and torture it has entailed. And, if Bush was so good at taking the fight to the enemy, why is Ayman al-Zawahiri still free to taunt him by videotape. Al-Zawahiri was a major force behind the September 11 attacks. Why is he at large?
Bush then claims some successes in breaking up terror plots. But these plots were broken up by old-fashioned detective and intelligence work, with some substantial dependence on our allies. It has even been suggested that Bush broke the news about the alleged airplane liquids plot in the UK before British intelligence was ready for it to become public. In any case, it is hard to see what these counter-terrorism successes have to do with his expansion of the US military or his quixotic war in Iraq.
Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in Nine-Eleven is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a Nation at war.
Do we have to be at war? Couldn’t we just be vigilant and do good counter-terrorism. Isn’t “war” a distraction from the latter?
Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty.
Yes but it isn’t so important what your enemy’s intentions are. You always have enemies with bad intentions. What is important is your enemy’s capabilities. Al-Qaeda was never very large or powerful, and it is increasingly clear that the September 11 attacks were a fluke. The fact is that al-Qaeda cannot overthrow the Egyptian government, or any other government, and cannot actually harm the United States or its way of life in any prolonged or serious way. This small band of 5,000 to 12,000 men in Afghanistan, now largely killed or scattered, cannot possibly be a pretext for keeping all Americans on their toes all the time, and keeping them willing to cede their constitutional liberties to Bush.
It has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah – a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.
The major Shiite religious parties with long histories of anti-American rhetoric and activity are the Islamic Call or Da’wa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Both of these Shiite religious parties are now allies of Bush. The Iraqi Da’wa actually helped to form the Lebanese Hizbullah in the early 1980s. A major figure in its Damascus bureau at that time was Nuri al-Maliki, now the Prime Minister of Iraq and a Bush ally. Al-Maliki supported Hizbullah versus Israel in the war last summer. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is close to the Iranian regime but whom Bush hosted in the White House on Dec. 4.
So if these Iraqi Shiite parties and militias can be brought in from the cold, why is it that Bush demonizes and essentializes other Shiite groups that are equally capable of changing their policies given the right incentives?
As for the Lebanese Hizbullah, it was formed in 1984 and so was not responsible for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. That was carried about by the Islamic Amal faction of Abbas al-Musawi. Elements of the latter may have later joined Hizbullah.
Hizbullah’s energies have not been put into killing Americans during the past two decades, but rather into getting the Israelis back out of their country. In fact, it isn’t clear that the Lebanese Hizbullah has done anything to the US for 20 years.
It is arguably the Israeli invasion and military occupation of south Lebanon that created Hizbullah in the first place. Prior to that, the southern Lebanese Shiites weren’t very political and often were pro-Israel.
What every terrorist fears most is human freedom – societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies – and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security . . . we must.
First of all, “terrorists” are just political activists who commit violence against noncombatants. Lots of political movements have used this technique including some whose goal was liberal democracy. So it simply is not true that all those who deploy terror have the same goals.
Second, people in capitalist democracies resort to terrorism all the time. Indeed, the most horrific regime of modern times, that of the Nazis, came out of the liberal parliamentary Weimar Republic and was elected to office. The Baader-Meinhoff gang in liberal West Germany, the Japanese Red Army, the McVeigh-Nichols “Christian Identity” terrorism in Oklahoma– all of these examples prove Bush’s premise wrong.
And, even if it were the case that capitalist democracies don’t produce terrorism (which it is not), Bush cannot spread democracy in the Middle East by his so-far favored military means. Ask any Middle Easterner if he or she would like to have a situation such as prevails in Iraq. They will say, if that is democracy I want none of it. Bush has actively pushed the Middle Eastern publics away from democracy for an extra generation or two.
In the last two years, we have seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East – and we have been sobered by the enemy’s fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution … drove out the Syrian occupiers … and chose new leaders in free elections.
What universe does Bush live in, that he brings up Lebanon as though it were not in flames these days, with 3 killed and 100 wounded in the opposition strike. I mean, he did once admit he doesn’t read the newspapers. But couldn’t he listen to the radio or something?
Note, too, that the “Cedar Revolution” government was joined by the Lebanese Hizbullah. It was a national unity government. The US ambassador in Lebanon encouraged this development. What destabilized that government was the brutal Israeli war on Lebanon of last summer. Bush collaborated in that war and even worked against the early cease-fire called for by the Seniora government. Bush can’t pretend to be a friend of the Lebanese government and yet approve publicly of a sanguinary war on it by Olmert. Bush puts all the blame for instability in Lebanon on Syria, which is implausible.
Bush then goes on to complain that “the enemy” has adjusted its tactics and thrown up new challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in reality, Bush just imposed a ‘winner-take-all, devil-take-the-hindmost’ situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, generating profound ethnic and religious resentments that have exploded into violence.
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.
Puh-lease. Spare us the Rumsfeldisms. Either we are in charge or we are helpless leaves being blown by the wind of the enemy. If we aren’t in charge, then we have already lost.
As for the idea that we still have the power to shape the outcome, that is contradicted by his previous admission that we have been maneuvered into a different kind of war that we hadn’t planned on. We couldn’t shape the outcome, which is why the war is going badly. We cannot now shape the outcome by main force. We have to negotiate, with the insurgents and with Iran and Syria, if we are to avoid a catastrophe.
We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq – a plan that demands more from Iraq’s elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission.
You don’t have a new strategy. You may have some new tactics, but that remains to be seen. Iraq’s government in any case has already rejected the idea that it must meet artificial US ‘benchmarks.’ And, the “government” is anyway weak and divided. Most of the major political figures are linked to guerrilla or militia groups. It cannot stop the fighting because its members provoke the fighting.
And in Anbar province – where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them – we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.
I’m confused. I thought Bush and Cheney maintained that Iraq under Saddam was already a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Now he is saying that he won’t let Iraq become such a safe haven, implying that it wasn’t before.
Bush’s cynical use of “al-Qaeda” to confuse the American public hides the simple fact that the vast majority of violence in Iraq is perpetrated by Sunni Arab Iraqis who want an end to what they see as a foreign military occupation of their country. Most are either Baathists or Salafi Sunni revivalists. There isn’t really any al-Qaeda in Iraq in the sense of a group directly tied to Bin Laden. How would they even find him to give him fealty?
If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country – and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective.
Yes, Mr. Bush, and you are the one who got us into this mess. Nor can you get us back out by ‘staying the course’ or with a mere 21,500 further troops. Any other ideas how to extract us from the dilemma?
And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens… new recruits … new resources … and an even greater determination to harm America.
When Britain got out of Kenya, no Kenyan terrorists took advantage of the withdrawal to plot bombings of London. Kenyans were pretty happy about the British getting out. When the US got out of Vietnam, no Vietnamese terrorists followed us to the US mainland to inflict terrorism on us. Bush’s charges are just propaganda.
The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through.
The struggle against al-Qaeda proper is over with. No big new arrests have been made in its ranks for years. There are other counter-terrorism targets, which should be monitored and broken up on a continual basis. That isn’t a war and doesn’t require the Pentagon. The ‘war on terror’ as a trope won’t succeed Bush by even a day from his last moments in office.
Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle – because we are not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism.
Of all the lies and misrepresentations, this is the most egregious. Bush’s policies have left the US isolated and deeply unpopular throughout the world. Some 75 percent of Indonesians had a positive view of the US before W. It has more lately been around 30% and at one point fell to 15%.
The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agcency hasn’t certified that Iran even has a nucear wapons esearh program. Iran was, at least a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Bush may be pushing it out of the treaty.
Bush has exacerbated conflicts throughout the Middle East. He has contributed heavily to the outbreak of three civil wars, in Iraq, in Palestine and Lebanon. His incompetence and self-contradictory policies have deeply endangered Americans and American interests. Now he is holding his own failures over our heads to blackmail us into throwing good money after bad.