The latest whoppers from the White House's fib factory came this week as President George W. Bush (A) claimed U.S. forces in Iraq are fighting "the same people" who staged 9/11, and, (B) withdrawing U.S. forces means "surrendering Iraq to al-Qaida."These absurd assertions mark the latest steps in the administration's evolving efforts to depict the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as battles against al-Qaida.
When marketers want to change the name of an existing product, they first place a new name in small type below the existing one. They gradually shrink the old name, and enlarge the new one until the original name vanishes.
That's what's been happening in Iraq. When the U.S. invaded, Iraqis who resisted were branded "Saddam loyalists, die-hard Ba'athists, or dead-enders." Next, the Pentagon and U.S. media called them "terrorists." Then, a tiny, previously unknown Iraqi group appropriated the name, "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia."
This was such a convenient gift to the Bush administration, cynics suspected a false-flag operation created by CIA and Britain's wily MI6. Soon after, the White House and Pentagon began calling all Iraq's 22-plus resistance groups, "al-Qaida."
The U.S. media eagerly joined this deception, even though 95% of Iraq's resistance groups had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden's movement. Watch any U.S. network TV news report on Iraq and you will inevitably hear reporters parroting Pentagon handouts about U.S. forces "launching a new offensive against al-Qaida."
Al-Qaida in Iraq didn't even exist before 9/11, but that didn't stop the president from trying to gull credulous voters. Polls show that in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, White House disinformation strategy has worked. Today, an amazing 60% of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
This faux war is now costing a mind-boggling $12 billion US monthly, reports the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. The Bush administration has spent $610 billion since 2001 on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, making them the second most expensive conflict in U.S. history after the Second World War.
This week, U.S. Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff allowed he had a "gut feel" that an al-Qaida attack was imminent this summer. The 16 U.S. intelligence agencies spend $40 billion annually, with another $15-20 billion in their hidden "black budgets." Homeland Security spends $44.6 billion.
After these gargantuan expenditures, the best intelligence czar Chertoff can come up with is "gut feel?"
One suspects Chertoff's worried innards and leaks that al-Qaida has returned to full strength have far more to do with the growing Republican Party revolt against the president's Iraq war than nebulous threats from Osama bin Laden's loud but tiny group.
Polls show the only area where Republicans still command popular support is the "war on terror."
So Bush/Cheney & Co are trying to use al-Qaida to scare Americans to vote Republican, just as they did prior to 2004 elections. It worked well last time and got Bush re-elected.
But Americans are increasingly leery of the White House's crying wolf.
Many are also asking how Bush could claim "steady progress" was being made in his wars while U.S. intelligence was reporting al-Qaida movement is back to pre-2001 strength and Iraq is a bloody mess.
After six years of conflict, 3,600 dead and 25,000 wounded American soldiers, expenditure of $610 billion, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghans, collapse of Mideast peace efforts, and a Muslim World enraged against the U.S., nothing positive seems to have been accomplished.
As the White House ponders an attack on Iran, recall the famed words of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, "one more such victory and we are ruined."
Eric Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 The Toronto Sun