In a rather subdued effort to rally support for their war of choice as questions arise about their continued tenures in office, a somewhat contrite and stammering President George W. Bush and his war weary, but ever slick talking side-kick, Prime Minister Tony Blair held a joint White House press conference Thursday evening. Due to the increasingly virulent insurgency that has turned their Iraq War game into a costly debacle, their once cocky cheer-leadership is now critically challenged by a credibility crunch with the voters of the U.S. and the U.K.
When asked if they had made any mistakes in the Iraq War, Bush twisted his head, stretched his neck and looked up and away from the eyes of the press corps who have heard so many previous denials of responsibility for his costly miscalculations. Then our self-described, God directed, great decider actually admitted that he had acted like a "cowboy" when he laid down the gauntlet to Iraq insurgents in 2003 to "bring it on". He added it was also a mistake for him to have repeatedly railed that he wanted to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive". Commenting on the prisoner torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, Bush said it was, “the biggest mistake that’s happened so far, at least from our country’s involvement in Iraq.” Bush said "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner", and it was "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people."
Since Bush is the commander in chief of all U.S. military forces, I wonder if such Rovian, red meat for red states, ranting by Bush might have "sent the wrong signal to people" like the U.S. Marines who are now under investigation for massacring two dozen innocent civilians, including women and children, last November in Haditha, Iraq. Haditha has been a hotbed for Sunni insurgents. In a post press conference analysis, Bush was praised for his candor in admitting the mistake by Chris Matthews on MSNBC along with other talking heads of our media elite. The New York Times reported on May 26 that the Marines "carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians", according to Congressional, military and Pentagon officials. I wonder if Matthew’s panel of pontificators would praise the Marines for systematically killing innocent men, women and children in Haditha. who could have been acting in response to the irresponsible “bring them on” rhetoric of their cowboy commander-in-chief?
Evidently, the first official report from the military on Nov. 20 about the Haditha massacre was a total cover-up. The truth was indeed a casualty of war when the report said that "a U.S. marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb" and that "immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire". Evidence now indicates the civilians were killed during three to five hours of a search and destroy sweep and “included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said”, according to the NY Times..
The NY Times also reported that Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, of Minnesota, said "this was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians. This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity." Kline is a retired Marine colonel. Last week Marine Corps officers briefed members of Congress and again on Wednesday and Thursday because of their dismay at the part marines played in executing innocent civilians. The killings were said to be “methodical in nature”. Attorneys involved in the investigation revealed that the capital crime of murder might be charged in the most grievous case of misconduct by the U.S. military in Iraq. Another inquiry intends to find out if the atrocities were deliberately covered up.
The LA Times said, “Photographs taken by a Marine intelligence team have convinced investigators that a Marine unit killed... unarmed Iraqis, some of them "execution-style," in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch, Marc Garlasco, said, “What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder”, and, “the Haditha massacre will go down as Iraq’s My Lai”.
The Abu Ghraib regret by Bush is also very interesting, given his “Bring it On” and “Dead or Alive” rhetoric and his administration’s promulgation of policies that even encouraged such heinous and inhumane conduct. Recently, the United Nations Committee Against Torture sharply criticized the United States for its rendition policies regarding captives it labels “terrorists”. The Bush administration has denied any illegality or wrongdoing in conceiving and carrying out such torture techniques. The Committee denounced our sending suspected terrorists to overseas secret prisons in countries where torture is commonplace. The Abu Ghraib scandal involves siccing dogs on suspected terrorists, sexual humiliation, and frightening them with drowning, and the U.N. Committee mentioned and specifically condemned such types of torture.
American voters disapprove of our cowboy President’s “Bring it On” bravado that brought on such atrocities as Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Bush’s low 30s approval ratings in recent polls are almost as low as Blair’s 26% in Britain. Blair, who fancied himself as another Churchill is expected to be forced to resign due to Iraq within a year. Bush, who now compares himself with Harry Truman, could suffer the fate of Richard Nixon, or worse, if the Democrats win control of Congress.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina. www.turnipseed.net