The war is going miserably in Iraq. And it's not going that well on the home front, either. Public support for the war is collapsing, and even some Republican hawks are beginning to distance themselves from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld quagmire in Iraq. But it turns out that critics of the war are just confused. They still think it's about weapons of mass destruction, regime change and democracy. They don't understand that the administration's disastrous enterprise in Iraq is a continuation of the last century's battles against Nazism, fascism and communism.
It took President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to open our eyes last week. This time the enemy is a "new type of fascism," Islamic extremism, and Iraq is ground zero in the struggle against this new -ism. They chose friendly audiences - the nation's two largest veterans organizations - to explain this to Republican nervous nellies and cut-and-run Democrats who, according to Rumsfeld, "still have not learned history lessons." Thank goodness Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are students of history and didn't listen to those foolish generals and diplomats who tried to warn them about what they were getting into by invading Iraq.
Rumsfeld set the tone of this latest stay-the-course campaign by suggesting to an American Legion audience in Salt Lake City that critics of the administration's Iraq policy are suffering from the same "moral and intellectual confusion about right and wrong" as those who tried to appease Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime in the 1930s. Most of the criticism of the administration Iraq policy, he said, is coming from the "Blame America First" crowd, including journalists. Cheney, working the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, had his own variation of Rumsfeld's appeasement theme.
After Cheney and Rumsfeld finished working over the appeasers, President Bush flew to Salt Lake City to tell Legionnaires that the poor souls who advocate a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq "are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could not be more wrong."
Bush said we would be fighting terrorists "in the streets of our own cities" if we withdrew from Iraq without victory. He didn't accuse his critics of appeasement, but the president suggested they fail to see the war as part of the larger struggle against terrorists he called the "successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century."
"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict," Bush said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."
If Bush really believes the stakes in Iraq are as high as they were in World War II, he should mobilize the nation and call for sacrifice. He should institute a military draft and repeal tax cuts to pay for the long and costly struggle against Islamic terrorists. And he should replace Rumsfeld with a defense secretary who is competent in the business of waging war.
With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and a midterm election coming up, the Bush gang is still trafficking in fear, which is about all they have left. But polls show that a majority of Americans are on to their game. The public no longer believes the invasion of Iraq has made us safer or that it was related to the fight against terrorism. And they no longer trust Republicans more than Democrats to keep the nation safe. Even early supporters of the war now see Iraq for what it is - a colossal foreign policy blunder.
Rumsfeld told the veterans they should "feel each day as you did on Sept. 12, 2001." Maybe we would if the Bush administration had not embarked a disastrous course in Iraq. Now we are divided at home and hated abroad.
Bush has more than two years left in office. Can we be sure the worst is behind us? The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team is becoming increasingly desperate as Iraq continues its descent into hell, and I worry what they have in mind for Iran. The world is a more dangerous place because of the arrogance, ignorance and tragic incompetence of these men.
Copyright © 2006 The St. Petersburg Times