Three years ago, while visiting St, Petersburg, Russia, three Russian friends pointedly advised me that the Russian news media was having a field day with the stupidity of President Bush. Why? Because he not only mispronounced "Abu Ghraib" each of the three times he mentioned it during his nationally televised speech the previous evening, he also mispronounced it three different ways.
Which is why I'm curious to know what my Russian friends would say now, given the recent news that Mr. Bush didn't even know, until two months before his order to invade Iraq, that the country was largely populated by antagonistic Sunnis and Shias.
Unfortunately, we're talking about something more than a mere "bubble-boy" president, who "just doesn't get it." Rest assured, Mr. Bush infuses his appalling ignorance with self-righteous, in-your-face "attitude." One might call it "punk stupidity." And, beyond our more than 2,600 dead American soldiers, it's costing us dearly in Iraq.
Consider the evidence recently provided by journalist Tom Lasseter: "When L. Paul Bremmer, then the top U.S. representative in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily. When Saddam Hussein was captured that December, the average was 19. When Bremmer signed the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45 attacks daily. When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61. When Iraqis voted last December for a permanent government, it was 75. When U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June, it was up to 90." (Miami Herald, Aug. 16, 2006)
Bush's early response was to suggest, "the insurgency's escalation was a sign of progress." (Thomas Ricks, Fiasco, p. 248). Such pure punk stupidity made the evening news, notwithstanding its unadulterated contempt for the public's intelligence. Not to be outdone, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld referred to the insurgents as "dead enders" -- not realizing the high probability that insurgents would be fighting Americans in Iraq long after the Bush administration became "dead enders."
Moreover, simply recall the alacrity with which President Bush and his spin operatives seized upon each of these so-called "milestones" to fling Panglossian excrement into the collective eyes of America's dupes, in order to rationalize away a lost war and all the unnecessary blood on his hands. More than 3,400 Iraqi civilians were killed just last month and all those deaths are the result of the whirlwind our punk president unleashed when he authorized the illegal, immoral invasion.
Has he learned anything? Simply consider the latest example of his punk petulance: On August 16, 2006, the Boston Globe reported on two secret Pentagon studies devoted to correcting the many mistakes - such as excessive use of force, delays in establishing a working relationship with local allies and failure to make security and safety for the Iraqi people an early priority - which caused much of the alienation that fueled the insurgency roiling Iraq today.
Yet, on that same date, as the New York Times reported, "the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq." Moreover, Mr. Bush "was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah could draw such a large crowd." (NYT, Aug. 16, 2006)
Poor petulant punk! Mr. Bush just can't understand why he continues to get punked in Iraq. Yet, unlike America's military leaders, who utilize "lessons learned" debriefings to avoid being punked in future insurgencies, Mr. Bush learns nothing -- except for new ways to fling more Panglossian excrement. Even punks can fake it as men of conviction.
Bush is a punk? Yes. Always has been. Consider the following:
(1) As Ron Suskind reports in his recent book, The One Percent Doctrine, Bush was a dirty, cheap-shot intramural basketball player while a student at the Harvard Business School. On one occasion, Bush not only elbowed the opponent's star player in the mouth, he also chopped his legs "out from under him" as he jumped to grab a rebound. (Suskind, p. 215) As anyone who's played basketball knows, such tactics are those of a cheap-shot punk.
(2) Carrying his punk stupidity to the White House, Bush told Bob Woodward: "I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." ("A Rare Glimpse Inside Bush's Cabinet," CBS News, Nov. 17, 2002)
(3) Perhaps most incriminating was Bush's punk behavior immediately before his televised national address announcing the beginning of his (illegal, immoral) war with Iraq. "A camera caught Bush pumping his fist as though instead of initiating a war he had kicked a winning field goal or hit a home run. 'Feels good," he said." (Paul Waldman, Fraud, p. 8) So much, then, for his supposed concern about sending U.S. forces into harm's way.
(4) Whenever you hear someone taunt the
enemy by asserting, "Bring 'em on," while sitting safely behind a desk
thousands of miles away from the battlefield, it's a safe bet you're
listening to a punk.
Readers of the new book by Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, know that the author lowers the boom on both Bush and his administration. Although he pays little attention to questions about the war's legality and morality -- the book's major flaw -- Mr. Ricks does fault Bush's "incompetence and arrogance," (p. 4) and boldly concludes: "It already is abundantly apparent in mid-2006 that the U.S. government went to war with Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information - about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda's terrorism - and then occupied the country negligently." (p. 3)
Moreover, instead of "punks," Ricks uses the word "donkeys," as in "lions led by donkeys." (p. 308) German generals introduced that phrase during World War I as a way to disparage the British civilians and officers who so poorly led the lions in the British army.
Nevertheless, Ricks persuasively demonstrates that America's donkeys - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle and Bremmer, abetted by the incompetent Generals Franks and Sanchez, as well as the sycophantic Generals Myers and Pace - woefully screwed up the strategic planning, especially Phase IV, for war in Iraq. "In military terms, there was a disconnect between the stated strategic goal of transforming the politics of Iraq and the Mideast and the plan's focus on the far more limited aim of simply removing Saddam Hussein's regime. (p. 116)
As a consequence of this royal screw-up, "the U.S. military would fight hard and well but blindly, and the noble sacrifices of soldiers would be undercut by the lack of thoughtful leadership and the top that soberly assesses the realities of the situation and constructed a response." (p. 129) Ricks is undoubtedly correct when he asserts: "Ultimately, however, the fault for the lapse in the planning must lie with Rumsfeld." (Ibid)
Inside Rumsfeld's steel-trap mind was the conviction that Iraq could be defeated and pacified with a ridiculously low number of soldiers. It was the "mother" of all the Bush administration's donkey mistakes, coming in slightly ahead of Bremmer's two disastrous decisions, the disbanding of Iraq's army and the de-Baathification of Iraq's society.
Ricks quotes an unnamed active-duty general who concluded: "Tactically, we were fine. Operationally, usually we were okay. Strategically - we were a basket case." [p. 308] And that's the beauty of Rick's exceptionally informed book. He allows the brave American soldiers to describe the hellish, no win, situation that the Bush administration donkeys (punks) placed them in.
Take, for example, Army officer Paul Arcangeli, who blames Paul Wolfowitz "for all this shit in Iraq. Even more than Rumsfeld, I blame him." Wolfowitz is "dangerously idealistic. And crack-smoking stupid." (p. 17)
Or take, for example, the Bush administration official who claimed that "Feith ought to be drawn, quartered and hung… He's a sonofabitch who agitated for war in Iraq, but once the decision is made to do it, he disengages. (Note: Feith was nominally responsible for planning the post-invasion occupation. For more information on Feith's role in offering up bogus inflammatory intelligence about Saddam's ties to al Qaeda, see my article, "Fixed" Intelligence from Feith's "Gestapo Office," the CIA and the Bush Administration's Impeachable Lies about Iraq's Prewar Links to al Qaeda).
Moreover, Fiasco is an exemplary case study of civil-military relations under the Bush administration. As such, and assuming it receives the wide readership it deserves, Americans will find a new frame of reference to aid them when attempting to decide which congressional candidate(s) should get their vote this upcoming November.
Armed by the information in Fiasco, Americans will get a sense of the passion with which many of America's senior military leaders (both active and retired) opposed both the very reasons for invading Iraq as well as the (now demonstrably crackpot) strategy to be employed there. And they've been vindicated on both counts. (This reader felt compelled to contemplate how close America came to a coup d'etat.)
In addition, voters armed by the information contained in Fiasco will be able to ask their incumbent candidates:
(1) Did they vote in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq? And, if yes, were they one of the mere handful of incumbents who actually read all 92 classified pages of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMD before voting in favor of war?
(2) Did they stand up for America's soldiers, when their senior officers, especially in the Army, so presciently opposed both the very reasons for invading Iraq as well as Rumsfeld's crackpot strategy? Or did they support the donkeys that ordered America's lions into their self-generated quagmire?
Although the prospect of a coup was always remote and morally problematic, the prospects for regime change in America now seem quite promising. And, thanks to Thomas Ricks, Fiasco might advance that cause by demonstrating to voters precisely how Bush administration donkeys (punks) betrayed America's military lions in Iraq. His book sheds fresh light on the subject of "supporting the troops."
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). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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