From The Forbidden Tree
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Saturday 06 September 2003
Of all responsibilities granted to our president, none are more momentous than command of the United States Armed Forces. And of all conceivable abuses of power within the executive branch, the misappropriation of the U.S. military -now plainly the case concerning Mr. Bush's ill-fated War on Iraq-is the most serious. There is a Forbidden Tree inside the stratums of presidential power, and to choose from this tree-namely to use the U.S. military for reasons contrary to the best interests of the American people-is to accept the responsibility for the dreadful consequences that inevitably follow.
The Iraq debacle involves more than just the reality that Mr. Bush and other members of his administration presented an artificial bed of facts to the American people to gain support for the war. The American public was, of course, guaranteed that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, but Bush officials knew this was not enough justify war. The Bush administration, therefore, had to further conclude that: these weapons were operational; these weapons were powerful enough to reach America; these weapons were accurate enough to strike America; Saddam had motivation to strike America; Saddam, disregarding fear of retaliation from the U.S., had decided to strike America right away; America would be unable to prevent such a strike; ergo Iraq must be invaded and Saddam overthrown. As the dust settles in postwar Iraq, we are learning none of these assumptions have a scrap of merit.
When confronted with facts learned in the aftermath of the war-namely that Iraq was no threat to the U.S. or any of its allies-the Bush administration has traditionally turned to threats of terrorism to justify the war. But, as of today, nobody in the Bush administration has explained why billionaire Saddam Hussein would have been preoccupied with selling weapons to terrorists, most of whom openly despise him for his aversion to Islamic fundamentalism. It was Mr. Bush, after all, who declared, "The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment Saddam Hussein is disarmed." Yet four months after the end of major combat operations, no evidence has been found linking Saddam with any terrorist organization.
In reality, it appears Mr. Bush's War on Iraq has actually created an environment conducive to terrorist activity. "We're taking some casualties among the coalition forces," said Paul Bremer, US administrator in Iraq. "The security problem now has a terrorist dimension, which is new." This "security problem" is doublespeak for a widespread guerilla uprising by fundamentalist Muslims, many of whom are politically aligned with Iran and want the U.S. expelled from Iraq. In the last month alone, car bombs have exploded at a mosque in Najaf, the Jordanian Embassy, the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and a Baghdad police station. The Iraqi citizenry, previously unfamiliar with terrorist activity inside their country, are beginning to blame the U.S. for the attacks. The bloodiest of these, which killed 120 Iraqis and a beloved Shiite cleric, drew thousands of angry Iraqi demonstrators to a funeral where Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, a member of the U.S. picked Iraqi Governing Council, rebuked the U.S. occupation. Al-Hakim declared, "This occupation force is primarily responsible for all the blood that is shed over Iraq every day. Iraq must not remain occupied andthe occupation must leave so that we can build Iraq as God wants us to do."
There is a great deal of evidence suggesting this Iraqi angst is evolving into organized revolution against the U.S. Kenneth Katzman, Middle East Affairs Specialist for the Congressional Research Service stated, "We are on the leading edge of a Sunni-led revolt against the U.S. presence that will cause progressively escalating difficulty for U.S. forces, and will prevent an early stabilization of the situation in Iraq." Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN also said. "Iraq is now shaping up as the worst foreign policy problem that the United States has faced since the Vietnam War. If we leave, chaos would result and it would become a new center for terrorism. If we stay the course, it's going to be long and costly, and we're going to have to develop a strategy that works, because the first four months since the president declared victory have been absolutely terrible for the United States."
Furthermore, Caroline Hawley, BBC Correspondent in Iraq, recently confirmed, "Ordinary citizens of Iraq feel life was better under Saddam Hussein." Reporters are also verifying that Sunni Muslims in central Iraq and Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq have armed themselves and have vowed to defy the U.S. occupation. In addition, many Baath Party loyalists are organizing into covert political parties, ready to lead armed resistance against the U.S. picked Iraqi Governing Council.
These appalling facts are reminiscent of the situation in Vietnam during the 1960's, and bring to mind a word made famous during that era: quagmire. And this Iraqi quagmire, as it is coming to be known, is developing into a major intelligence scandal for the Bush administration. In the rush to war against Iraq, the Bush administration neglected to produce any report on the probable condition of the country after Saddam was ousted. Furthermore, Mr. Bush disregarded reports by the CIA and the State Department that said postwar Iraq would be violent and uncontrollable. The present strategy for maintaining peace in Iraq is reflective of this decision, and was clearly based on a myriad of false assumptions.
Peter Hitchens of The American Conservative recently wrote, "Iraqis, once one of the most educated, civilized people in the Middle East, have gone back to the ways of the caveman. Everything that made Iraq a country is gone. There is no single source of power or law, good or bad. In the festering slums, a firearm provides the only security. The telephones are dead. Electricity is intermittent and unreliable. The water, tainted with sewage, is not safe to drink. There is no fuel for cooking. And, in the world's second greatest producer of oil, there is little or no gasoline." The Bush administration's dismal failure to establish order after the war is now impeding any chance that a peaceful democracy, respectful of human rights, will emerge in Iraq. Instead of creating a structure that would facilitate the formation of a democracy, the U.S. is now policing a country in political and economic chaos.
Sen. Robert Byrd, commenting on the quagmire, said: "What has become tragically clear is that the United States has no strong plan for turning Iraq over to the Iraqi people and is quickly losing even its ability to maintain order. Despite the best hopes for an Iraqi democracy, the Iraqi people and the world see only the worst fears of occupation. Instead of inspiring steps toward self-government, we witness hit-and-run murders of U.S. soldiers, terrorist attacks and sabotage. Our military action in Iraq has forged a caldron of contempt for America, a dangerous brew that may poison the efforts of peace throughout the Middle East and result in the rapid invigoration of worldwide terrorism."
In addition to the fact that Mr. Bush has stirred a nest of hornets in Iraq and put many innocent citizens in danger of terrorist attacks, he has also created a terribly difficult situation for the U.S. military. The United States Armed Forces, now deployed in over 100 countries, has called an unprecedented 136,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard to active duty to compensate for the large number of forces in Iraq. Military personnel in Bosnia and Kosovo will be replaced with Reserve units, which is unusual considering Reserve and National Guard units enrolled expecting to defend the U.S. only in a national crisis.
With respect to Iraq, it is now evident that Mr. Bush's prescription to the problem was vastly disproportionate to the diagnosis. The American people were certainly deceived by a many different officials in the Bush administration to procure support for the Iraqi invasion. Speaking to reporters, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted as much, saying, "Sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies." The truth, in this case, is no longer protected, and reveals what most of the world knew beforehand; that Iraq posed no threat to the U.S. or any of its allies.
The Bush administration was clearly expecting America to confuse activity with progress and to accept the War on Iraq as a part of the much larger War on Terrorism. Now apparent is that these are completely unrelated, despite the fact that the Bush administration spent most of its energy in the last year attempting to convince America of this. If there was ever a sliver of doubt whether this was a just war, the disastrous consequences emerging should indicate that this was chosen from a Forbidden Tree-an ill-fated decision, forged from a reactionary political agenda, and accomplished by spreading lies to the American people.
Jump to TO Features for Sunday 07 September 2003