Listening to President Bush address the nation on Iraq, one could be forgiven for thinking that Bush is a man without conscience, with little regard for the intelligence of the nation he purports to lead.
Clinging to the vestiges of a myth long since dispelled, Bush invoked the attacks of September 11 no fewer than six times in this speech, determined to link Iraq to a crime it did not commit. Bush repeatedly exploited the nation's grief and sorrow regarding 9/11 in a callous and cynical effort to convince someone, anyone, that by invading Iraq we handed down a just punishment for a wrong we had suffered.
Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth. Iraq had no hand, not even an invisible one, in the attacks of 9/11. Iraq was a scoff-law, led by a madman who, if given the time and the opportunity, could have done harm to neighboring countries. Saddam, however, under constant scrutiny by the United Nations, as well as regular bombing by the United States, had neither time nor opportunity. As such, Saddam was neutralized, rendered impotent. Or, as Dick Cheney acknowledged on September 16, 2001, Saddam was "bottled up."
In other words, no matter how many times Bush tries to connect these particular dots, he and the nation know that invading Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. The fact that Bush is so willing, even eager, to trade upon the misery of 9/11 in the hopes of justifying an unjustifiable war is disgusting and shameful. Bush's rank exploitation of a national tragedy reveals in awful detail the depth of his contempt for this nation and the lengths to which he will go for political gain.
In case not everyone (or anyone) was convinced that Iraq was somehow involved in the attacks upon the U.S., Bush covered his bases by declaring that Iraq is "a central front in the war on terror." On this issue, Bush is on solid footing. According to the CIA, and as should be obvious to anyone with a television, Iraq is a trade school for terrorists. Terrorists from the world over go to Iraq to hone their skills before returning home to practice their trade. As such, Iraq is indeed a central front in Bush's crusade against terror.
What Bush conveniently failed to mention, however, is that Iraq was not always thus. Iraq became a terrorist proving ground only after the U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of a nation in the heart of the Muslim world. As in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion, jihadists, offended by the subjugation of Muslims by infidels, flock to Iraq to excise the cancer from their midst. Before the U.S. invaded Iraq on the basis of concocted intelligence, Iraq was a secular regime, hated by and an enemy of the jihadists.
That Iraq is now a central front in the war on terror is the direct and proximate result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. As such, the problem of Iraq as a terrorist training center is a problem largely of our own creation. Having sown the seeds of jihad in Iraq, we are now left to reap a horrible bounty of death, violence, and mayhem.
Another issue carefully avoided by Bush in his address to the nation is that many of the problems we now face in Iraq could have been avoided. Knowing as we do that the invasion of Iraq was a foregone conclusion, it is absolutely staggering how little thought and planning the Bush administration put into the foreseeable consequences thereof. One need not even examine the Downing Street Memos for evidence of the administration's lack of vision. It is so obvious it's embarrassing.
Arrogantly believing that we would be greeted as liberators with flowers strewn at our feet, the Bush administration ridiculously claimed that our involvement in Iraq would last as little as six months, and planned accordingly. Apparently devoid of any sense of history or culture, the Bush administration never considered, much less prepared for, the possibility of either an insurgency or jihad. It lacked the wisdom or foresight to plan for securing known weapons depots throughout Iraq so as to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. It completely dismantled the Iraqi military, thereby releasing to the jobless streets thousands of resentful soldiers with no reason not to resist the U.S. occupation. It resorted to overwhelming and indiscriminate violence to "secure" Iraq, killing as many innocents as insurgents. It instituted policies of torture, abuse, and humiliation that led to revulsion and anger throughout the Muslim world. Finally, the administration taunted the insurgents and terrorists to "bring it on," thereby inviting them to kill and maim the troops Bush so cavalierly commands.
In fact, while watching and listening to Bush address the nation in the typically friendly confines of Fort Bragg, something astonishing became apparent. Normally, when Bush addresses a military crowd, a staged town hall meeting, or the Congress, his remarks are repeatedly punctuated with eruptions of raucous applause. In his address at Fort Bragg on June 28, however, the crowd of soldiers was nearly silent. Only once was Bush interrupted by the crowd's applause.
Maybe the military, like the majority of Americans, don't believe President Bush when he says invading Iraq was worth it.
Ken Sanders is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. Visit his weblog at: www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com/.
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