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October 11, 2005

How Long Can This Go On?


by Paul Craig Roberts

George W. Bush is a natural born liar. He lied us into a war, and now he is lying to keep us there. In his Oct. 6 self-congratulatory speech at that neoconservative shrine the National Endowment for Democracy, the president of the United States said: "Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces."

Eighty Iraqi battalions makes it sound like the U.S. is just lending Iraq a helping hand. I wonder what Congress and the U.S. commanders in Iraq thought when they heard there were 80 Iraqi battalions that American troops are helping to fight insurgents? Just a few days prior to Bush's speech, Generals Casey and Abizaid told Congress that, as a matter of fact, there was only one Iraqi battalion able to undertake operations against insurgents.

I wonder, also, who noticed the great contradiction in Bush's speech. On the one hand, he claims steady progress toward freedom and democracy in Iraq. On the other hand, he seeks the American public's support for open-ended war.

In her Princeton speech, Condi Rice made it clear that Iraq is just the beginning: "We have set out to help the people of the Middle East transform their societies. Now is not the time to falter or fade."

On Oct. 5, Vice President Cheney let us know how long this commitment was to last: "Like other great duties in history, it will require decades of patient effort."

Who's going to pay for these decades of war to which the Bush administration is committing Americans? Already the U.S. is spending $7 billion a month on war in Iraq alone. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says that if the Iraq war goes on another five years, it will cost at least $570 billion by 2010.

Bush's war has already doubled the price of gasoline and home heating.

With U.S. forces bogged down in Afghanistan (invaded Oct. 7, 2001) and Iraq (invaded March 20, 2003), Bush is plotting regime change in Syria and conspiring to set up Iran for attack.

Is there a single person in the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Treasury, the Congressional Budget Office, or the Federal Reserve who thinks the U.S., already drowning in red ink, has the resources to fight wars for decades?

And where will the troops come from? The U.S. cannot replace the losses in Iraq. We know about the 2,000 American troops killed, but we do not hear about the large number of wounded. UPI correspondent Martin Sieff reported on Oct. 7 that U.S. wounded jumped from 16.3 per day at the end of September to 28.5 per day at the beginning of October. Multiply that daily rate by 30 days and you get 855 wounded per month. Approximately half of these are wounded too seriously to return to combat.

Has anyone in the administration pointed out to Bush, Cheney, and Condi Rice what decades of casualties at these rates mean?

Insurgents are killing Iraqi security personnel who are collaborating with the U.S. occupation at the rate of two or three hundred per month. The wounded numbers are much higher.

Last month, suicide bombers killed 481 Iraqis and wounded 1,074.

Has anyone in the administration put these numbers in a decades-long context?

Apparently not. Once these numbers are put on paper, not even Bush administration speech writers can continue to pen rhetorical justifications for war and more war.

The neoconservative Bush administration prides itself on not being "reality-based." Facts get in the way of the administration's illusions and delusions. Bush's "80 Iraqi battalions" are like Hitler's secret weapons. They don't exist.

Iraqis cannot afford to collaborate with the hated Americans or with the puppet government that the U.S. has put in place. Out of desperation, some do, but their heart is not in it. Few Iraqis are willing to die fighting for the United States and Likud Israel.

When the 2nd Iraq Battalion graduated from U.S. training camp on Jan. 6, 2004, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. Ricardo Sanchez expressed "high expectations" that Iraqi troops, in the general's words, "would help us bring security and stability back to the country."

Three months later when the 2nd Battalion was brought up to support the U.S. invasion of Fallujah, the battalion refused to fight and returned to its post. "We did not sign up to fight Iraqis," said the troops.

Readers write in frustration: "Tell us what we can do." On the surface, it doesn't look like Bush can be stopped from trashing our country.

The congressional mid-term elections are a year away. Moreover, the Democrats have failed as an opposition party and are compromised by their support for the war. Bush has three more years in which to mire America in a wider war. If Bush succeeds in starting wars throughout the Middle East, his successor will be stuck with them.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike have made it clear that they are going to ignore demonstrations and public opinion. The print and TV media have made it clear that there will be no reporting that will hold the Bush administration accountable for its deceit and delusion.

There still is a way to bring reality to the Bush administration. The public has the Internet. Is the antiwar movement well enough organized to collect via the Internet signatures on petitions for impeachment, perhaps one petition for each state? Millions of signatures would embarrass Bush before the world and embarrass our elected representatives for their failure to act.

If no one in Congress acted on the petitions, all the rhetoric about war for democracy would fall flat. It would be obvious that there is no democracy in America.

If the cloak of democracy is stripped away, Bush's "wars for democracy" begin to look like the foreign adventures of a megalomaniac. Remove Bush's rhetorical cover, and tolerance at home and abroad for Bush's war would evaporate. If Bush persisted, he would become a pariah.

Americans may feel that they cannot undercut a president at war, in which case Americans will become an embattled people consumed by decades of conflict. Americans can boot out Bush or pay dearly in blood and money.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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