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August 13, 2005

A Time for Moral Outrage


by William Frey

The willingness of far too many Americans to patiently accept the rationale of Administration talking points through every twist and turn, through every flip-flop, through every Presidential renunciation of previously sacred American civic principles, may at long last be coming to an end.

29 months after the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, the pretext given to the American people and to Congress for invading Iraq has yet to be substantiated.

Nonetheless, intelligence we now know to be less than accurate was utilized both to obtain public support and Congressional authorization for the use of military force, a decision that only Congress has the legal authority to make.

Increasingly, Americans do not approve. 63% of Americans believe we were too quick to go to war. 59% say the war is not worth the loss of American life and other costs. 51% of the American people now believe the President intentionally misled Americans in the period preceding the war. 48% of adult Americans now believe the President to be "honest," while 50% disagree. 42% of Americans, including 25% of Republicans, believe the President should be impeached if he lied about Iraq. Only 38% of Americans now approve of his handling of Iraq.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, controlled by Republicans and chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), unanimously concluded in July, 2004 election that,

"Most of the major key judgments in the ... 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting."

Sen. Roberts stated at the time that "Phase 2," investigation into how the WMD intelligence was used by senior policymakers, "It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done." However, not only was "Phase 2" not completed prior to the 2004 election, but on March 10, 2005, when questioned about the failure to complete "Phase 2," Sen. Roberts stated, "[T]hat is basically on the back burner."

Since this Senate investigation has been moved to "the back burner," release of prewarMinutes of the British Prime Minister's meeting at Downing Street on July 23, 2002, has affirmed that 8 months before the invasion (months before both President Bush and prime Minister Blair claim a decision to go to war was made) that:

Although President Bush denies plans for control of natural resources of Iraq, or for a permanent military presence (permanent bases) in Iraq, those who have advised him to pursue his present policies have long advocated expansion of military bases throughout the Middle East for purposes including the control of natural resources, and have long advocated (contrary to the President's rhetoric) military confrontation and forced regime change, not only in Iraq, but also with Iran and Syria. Moreover, in Iraq, construction of 14 "enduring bases" proceeds, even as the President denies plans for permanent occupation.

As pursuit of the control of the government and/or natural resources of a foreign nation by military force is neither constitutional nor consistent with our moral values, it is clear that the Administration would need to justify its action by the more benign stated goal of "spreading democracy."

Unfortunately for the administration, "spreading democracy" to a foreign land by military force (at the price of thousands of American lives and uncounted civilian "collateral damage") is not a constitutional purpose. Nor is the imposition of democracy by an unwanted foreign power a method by which democracy is likely to become established.

'We have no interest in occupation ....'

President Bush has long denied aspirations for empire, for domination, or for military occupation:

In his campaign debates with Al Gore, he repeatedly promised not only a "more humble" foreign policy, hut one that was less "overextended," a policy that rejected both "nation-building" as well as the role of "world policeman," and repeatedly promised that he would never commit troops without a "well defined exit strategy."

On November 11, 2002, President Bush told veterans,

"As many veterans have seen in countries around the world, captive people have greeted American soldiers as liberators. And there is good reason. We have no territorial ambitions, we don't seek an empire."

On March 19, 2003, upon the commencement of the invasion of Iraq, President Bush addressed the nation,

"We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people. I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon…. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done."

Again, in his State of the Union address to Congress, January 20, 2004,

"We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire."

To the United States Army War College, May 24, 2004,

"…the occupation will end……….we have no interest in occupation."

Permanent Bases, Credibility and the Insurgency

But the President suffers a credibility gap with Iraqis as well. Simply stated, Iraqis fear that President Bush does not intend to ever exit Iraq, but that he intends, despite his rhetoric, to continue the construction and establishment of permanent military bases on Iraqi soil. Indeed, it is the President's very persistence in actions which imply an intent (so at odds with his stated goals upon entering Iraq) for a permanent military presence in Iraq, which fuels the insurgency.

The American people increasingly realize that the war and occupation of Iraq is a mistake, brought about for untruthful reasons, and that persistent occupation not only fuels the insurgency, but (contrary to those who apparently believe we should promise self-determination, even as we actually deliver perpetual military occupation) undermines our credibility.

In this realization, the American people are far ahead of our elected leaders.

Some notable and courageous Congressional Republicans, including Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones (R-NC), a conservative Republican and former supporter of the invasion whose district includes Camp Lejeune, home of the 2nd Marine division, have come to this realization that it is time to withdraw from Iraq, standing up to intense pressure from Republican leadership, but others have remained silent.

Many Democratic leaders have not supported those fellow Democrats who have had the courage to demand that we bring home our troops expeditiously.

Our sons and daughters in our armed forces are doing that which is asked of them with courage and honor. Many are paying with their lives, and many more have been permanently maimed.

It is they, our best and bravest, who are paying the price for the flawed policy of a misguided civilian leadership, a civilian leadership who forced this war upon much wiser and experienced military leaders, whose cautionary advice has been ignored by the President from the beginning.

It is time Americans demand more of our civilian and political leadership.

It is time we demand truth, accountability, and judicious policy.

It is time we admit our mistakes, and, in this imperfect world, do what is best for our nation, for our courageous servicemen and women, for Iraq, and for our world at large. We went into Iraq to remove a threat of WMD's, and to remove a dictator, not to establish Iraq as a vassal state. The Iraqi people do not desire our continued military presence.

It is time we leave the future of Iraq to Iraqis.

It is time for the American people, disregarding partisan divisions, to demand of our leaders that we expeditiously withdraw our troops from Iraq, and commit our nation, once again, to a just and achievable foreign policy.

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William Frey, M.D. has practiced medicine for 26 years. He is a founding member of Republicans for Humility, which advocates the return to traditional conservative American values, humble foreign policy, constitutional government, and respect for individual liberties, and stands in opposition to the recent dominance within the Republican Party of policies favoring unilateral military expansion, empire, and the accompanying erosion of civil liberties. He has authored Is George W. Bush a Conservative?, and other essays. Visit his website.

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