President Bush may try to fool the American people with his repeated claim that he invaded Iraq to pursue a "war on terrorism" but he should not try that spin on the world leaders at the United Nations. They know better.
Americans do, too. We don't have such short memories that we've forgotten how the Bush administration previously declared that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction required an invasion.
Bush, who has run out of excuses for the war, now wants everyone to believe that the United Nations gave him the go-ahead to invade Iraq when the world body passed a resolution warning there would be "serious consequences" if Saddam Hussein did not disarm and give weapons inspectors free rein in Iraq.
"The commitments we make must have meaning," he told the U.N. General Assembly last week. "When we say serious consequences for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences."
But the U.N. resolution gave him no mandate for war.
No matter how many times Bush claims he had U.N. backing to attack the oil-rich nation, it doesn't make it so.
In his new policy of unilateralism -- reminiscent of 19th century imperialism -- Bush has said repeatedly that we don't need permission from the United Nations. When he embarked on his tragic venture, the president cited Iraq's deadly arsenals and ties to al-Qaida. Both of those premises have proven non-existent and the president is casting about for a new rationale for an invasion that has provoked world outrage and an escalation of terrorism.
Isn't it time for Bush to level with the nation and tell us the real reason he invaded Iraq?
Since Bush last year declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq, violence has escalated in Iraq. Attacks against American troops are almost a daily occurrence. But we have not heard an apology from the president for the thousands of American and Iraqi war casualties, including uncounted numbers of Iraqi civilians.
He touts Iraq and Afghanistan as models for the Middle East. Have you heard of any other nation begging to be invaded by the United States lately?
The CIA is pessimistically forecasting more difficulty and more instability and extremism in Iraq. But the president speaks of "progress" despite the growing violence and fanaticism. Meanwhile, the opposition controls some key cities and has targeted foreigners, mostly Americans, who are now more vulnerable than ever.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the war violated international law because it was not U.N.-sanctioned. He upset the White House by telling the BBC that the war was "illegal." Annan pitched his speech to the U.N. General Assembly with an appeal to the "rule of law," which Americans also cherish as the foundation of our democracy.
"Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it, and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it," he said.
Annan also referred to Iraq, saying: "We see civilians massacred in cold blood while relief workers, journalists and other non-combatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion." He denounced the horrific beheadings by Iraqi insurgents.
At the same time, Annan said, "We have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused."
Bush has shown little respect for the world organization, even though his father, former President George H.W. Bush, once served as the U.S. representative to the United Nations. Apparently none of its aura rubbed off on his son.
Looking for more justification for his colossal folly, the president is now basically saying "So what if there were no weapons and no terrorist links? Saddam Hussein is gone; the Iraqis are better off and we are safer."
Just before Bush spoke to the General Assembly, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva warned the meeting that "mankind is losing the fight for peace."
"The necessary fight against terrorism cannot be conceived strictly in military terms," he added.
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