George W. Bush may have just dug America deeper into the Iraqi quagmire. While American troops are launching new offensives to recapture lost cities — in effect, trying to re-win the war "won" one year ago — the president has recommitted himself to the same disastrous course that has brought him, and America, so much grief at home and abroad.
In his Tuesday news conference, and in earlier comments, Bush refused to come down from his mountain of dishonesty.
Besides not answering questions put to him by reporters — why does he need Dick Cheney to babysit him before the 9/11 commission, and why did he not bestir himself in 2001 despite being warned, specifically, of an Osama bin Laden plot, possibly involving hijackings, to attack New York — Bush is still peddling his fiction on Iraq, with new twists.
Unfettered by the absence of weapons of mass destruction or proof that Iraq had any links to Al Qaeda or posed any danger to Americans, he continues to insist that "Saddam Hussein was a threat to the region, he was a threat to the U.S."
Continuing the tactics of scaring Americans into supporting him, Bush is now telling them that staying on in Iraq is essential to their safety.
This he does by, first, dismissing widespread Iraqi resistance to American occupation as the work of isolated "violent gangs," Saddam supporters and some foreign terrorists.
If so, why is British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, contrary to the assertions of his own boss Tony Blair, saying that "it is plainly the fact that large numbers of people — Iraqis, not foreign fighters — are engaged in this insurgency"?
Why are Spain, Ukraine and even Kazakhstan threatening to pull their contingents out of Iraq?
Why is Bush phoning the leaders of other coalition countries to shore up their resolve?
Why are members of the American-appointed Governing Council openly criticizing Washington? And why did the U.S.-trained police forces — said to be 77,000 of them — melt at the first sight of resistance, and some even join it?
Secondly, Bush has broadened the definition of Iraqi militants as those belonging to the same sort of terrorist network that hit Spain, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, America and Yemen in the last few years, as well as American troops in Lebanon as far back as a quarter of a century ago.
Al Qaeda was never present in Lebanon or Israel. But that does not deter the president from his re-election campaign theme: "The defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere, and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people."
Here is his Henry Kissinger-ian logic:
Having spawned terrorism in a land where it did not exist, America has no choice but to stay in Iraq and fight it.
How? Unlike the American media, which said he did not say much, I thought he did.
America will go it alone.
There will only be a limited role for Europe, perhaps naming the Polish-led division a NATO operation and letting the Atlantic alliance do "border control."
The United Nations is very much needed but only to figure out whom the U.S. should hand over power to on July 1, give legitimacy to the handover and then arrange elections later.
But there's no suggestion the U.N. might get what Kofi Annan has insisted on, short of being handed trusteeship of Iraq: a clear mandate from the Security Council to be fully in charge of the process of the transition to democracy.
America will retain political and, of course, total military control. American troops will remain (that has already been quietly arranged with the Governing Council). In fact, the military presence will increase, given the current turmoil.
Bush has hinted he is in agreement with Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, who wants an additional 10,000 troops — in order to keep the total at 135,000.
On the horizon is a military offensive, not a political solution, to the twin uprisings in Sunni Falluja and eight Shiite cities.
More brute force is to be applied. Already, about 800 Iraqis are dead, mostly women and children, in the last 15 days. The fatalities began well before the macabre mutilation of four dead Americans, following the decision of the recently arrived Marines to subdue Falluja.
Yet Bush, after the barest of nod to the plight of "innocent civilians," announced: "I have directed our military commanders to make every preparation to use decisive force, if necessary, to maintain order and protect our troops ... Our commanders have got the authority necessary to deal with violence, and will, in firm fashion."
More Iraqis may die, to add to the gruesome total of between 8,865 and 10,715 civilian dead so far (http://www.iraqbodycount.net).
Why are the liberators killing the liberated?
Gen. Tommy Franks said famously last year, "we don't do body counts" of Iraqis. This casual approach to the suffering of Iraqis is not rationalized either by the need to see the enemy as less than human or by the natural inclination to care more for one's own soldiers.
One explanation is offered in the Telegraph, the conservative British daily. Defense Correspondent Sean Rayment writes that senior British commanders in Iraq are appalled by the heavy-handedness and racism of the U.S. forces.
He quoted a British officer as saying Americans view Iraqis as "untermenschen," the term used by Adolf Hitler for Jews and gypsies.
One hopes that American troops are amassed outside Falluja and the holy city of Najaf only as a show of force to get negotiations going.
Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — "a rattlesnake," an American commander called him — is to be captured or killed and his "illegal militia" dismantled. While no tears need be shed for al-Sadr, he has become a hero to some by standing up to aggressive American tactics and providing security and services to the poorest of the poor. Besides, his militia is no more illegal than those belonging to Iraqi factions backed by the U.S.
Inconsistency, lack of credibility, unilateralism and undue reliance on force. That's been Bush's formula all along and may be becoming more so.
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