How many lies can this President cram into a single speech? That question may have been answered tonight. 9/11 was invoked at least 5 times as a jusification for the invasion and conquest of Iraq.
But we now know — some of us always knew — that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The President has even admitted it on occasion. There is no evidence that the 9/11 hijackers had any assistance from Iraq, or that Osama bin laden and Saddam Hussein were bosom buddies: quite the opposite. Ah, but now we’re fighting “the terrorists” who have carved out a base of operations over there. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the President almost seems to relish.
It’s hard to get one’s mind around the debased demagoguery of the President’s appeal. The insurgents, said Bush, want to attack our country “and kill us.” Yet who is attacking whom? The President gloats that “we’re on the offense” — and explicitly justifies this on the grounds that we have to go after them before they go after us. Yet why it is impossible for them to attack the U.S. anyway, even while fighting American troops in Iraq, no one seems to know. Surely Al Qaeda is recruiting hand-over-fist in Iraq, these days, and how many will eventually show up on our shores is an open question. What’s happening in Iraq today is that for every insurgent killed, three rise to take his place.
“Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: ‘This Third World War is raging’ in Iraq. ‘The whole world is watching this war.’ He says it will end in ‘victory and glory or misery and humiliation.'”
No doubt Osama wants us to focus on Iraq, as he outflanks us yet again and his followers show up on our shores. If only the troops preoccupied with pacifiying Iraq were put to work inspecting all the unexamined cargo coming into our ports, the threat of another 9/11 would be considerably reduced. Unfortunately, we don’t have the troops to do it. We’re securing Fallujah — but not the Port of New York.
“There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.”
The flaw in the President’s logic is that we are creating more terrorists than we are killing. The people we are supposedly defeating in Iraq — raiding their homes, killing their loved ones, pushing them around on a daily basis — will not forget, or forgive. If the next terrorist attack is launched by Iraqis, instead of Saudis, how many will be surprised?
“Our mission in Iraq is clear. “
No, it isn’t. Or else why this speech?
“We are hunting down the terrorists.”
The ones that pulled off 9/11? Too late for that. In spite of all the invocations of Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, the truth is that we are fighting a homegrown nationalist insurgency in Iraq, people who oppose the American occupation — and are fighting the “foreign fighters” simultaneously.
“We are helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror.”
Does the President know what’s going on in Basra?
“We are advancing freedom in the broader Middle East.”
More delusions of grandeur. Hezbollah, Amal, and the pro-Syrian factions are the victors in the Lebanese elections cited by Bush. Egypt’s “reform” is a cruel joke. Saudi Arabia’s local elections are equally meaningless.
“We are removing a source of violence and instability and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.”
Nonsense: we are doing precisely the opposite. Where there was once relative stability, we have created — I would say quite deliberately — great instability. We are birthing — and providing a training ground for — a new generation of anti-American terrorists.
The insurgents, the President averred, are losing. But are they? He points to their alleged failures:
“The terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi, failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty.”
Yet this “transfer” was entirely symbolic. It was a cermonial affair, and not a substantial one. The fiction of Iraqi sovereignty is underscored by the “agreement” — forced on the Iraqis at gunpoint — that U.S. soldiers and contractors are not subject to Iraqi law. If you are an Iraqi living in “liberated” Iraq, a U.S. soldier who “accidentally” kills your three-year-old child, your husband, your entire family, is insulated from your vengeance and your government: you cannot even sue them for civil damages. When the occupation forces burst into the house of the head of the Islamic Party — the only substantial Sunni party to take part in the government — beat the family up, and hauled the party leader off to jail, President Talabani complained that he knew nothing about this raid in advance, even as the Americans were apologizing for their “mistake.” Some “sovereignty”! Some “liberation”!
“They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. “
“They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war.”
They didn’t need to incite one, since we’ve already done such a good job of making a civil war inevitable. We handed the Iraqis a provisional constitution that locked most Sunni Muslims out of the political process, and a radical “de-Baathification” program that purged the school system, the universities, and the government of most Sunnis and seculars. Is anyone surprised now that a civil war is breaking out along religious and regional lines? It’s a miracle it didn’t happen sooner.
“They failed to prevent free elections.”
True, although one could quibble about the relative free-ness of the Iraqi election process, where whole sections of the population were prevented from running for office under the terms of the provisional constitution. But so what? What good are elections if the elected government can’t defend itself?
“They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq’s diverse population.”
Except for the Sunnis — at least 20 percent of the total population, and easily the most educated and the most alienated.
“And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large numbers with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.”
These troops have largely been useless: their unreliability is legendary. The reason is not because they lack “training” or weapons, but because they don’t know or care what they’re fighting for. They’re signing up because they need the money: unemployment is somewhere near 50 percent or more, and people have to live. Yet so are the insurgents signing up: the police and the Iraqi security forces are massively infiltrated. That has been the cause of some of the most spectacular and damaging suicide bombiings.
The President may be right: the insurgents are not winning. Neither are we. The Iraqi rebels have, so far, fought us to a standstill. All they have to do in order to achieve a de facto victory is to stave off defeat. The generals know this. The soldiers in the field know it. The President, if he knows it, will never admit it.
In spite of all the bluff and bluster, there were some subtle indications, I believe, that the President, like the country, is beginning to tire of this quagmire. At one point, when he said: “By taking these critical steps and meeting their deadlines,” Iraqis are marching into a glorious “multiethnic” future, etc. etc., there was an awful lot of emphasis on the word “deadlines.” There was also much emphasis on training the Iraqis, so that we can “stand down as they stand up,” as the President put it.
Yet what training have the insurgents had? This is a question that I’ve heard exactly no one ask. Yet the insurgents seem to be doing all right militarily without “training” seminars in how to fight an insurrection. The war against the occupation has turned the whole country into one big training camp offering a crash course in how to kill Americans, and the insurgents seem to be learning fast. Why can’t the Iraqi government troops display a similar learning curve — could it be because they are far less motivated?
The President continues his campaign of deception — he’s lying when he says we’re fighting the perpetrators of 9/11 in Iraq: we’re fighting Iraqi nationalists, for the most part. The effort to scare us into supporting his foreign policy by conjuring the threat of domestic terrorism is also ongoing — when the reality is that we’re renewing and emboldening the trend represented by Al Qaeda, who rise like Myrmidons from the blood-soaked soil of Iraq. More shameless demagoguery in a time of acute crisis in his policy — and a stubborn refusal to admit error.
This war will end in a negotiated settlement, or an American defeat — but the insurgency will not end until our presence comes to an end. It’s as simple as that. The President can make all the speeches he cares to, but after a while — as the bloody reality continues to rear its ugly head on the evening news each night — people will simply stop listening. I know I passed that point some time ago — and it looks like most Americans, a majority of whom now believe the war wasn’t worth the expenditure of lives and dollars, are not far behind.