Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bush War on Terror

On Thursday, President Bush once again tried to rally the American people to his war in Iraq by connecting it with a wider global war on terrorism. This was basically the same argument used to justify the war shortly after it was admitted that there was no WMDs in Iraq well over a year ago. The president’s speech writer should be given a lot of credit because it was a great pep rallying, war propaganda type speech filled with patriotic rhetoric. Almost anyone listening to that could not help but feel very good about being an American at that moment. The National Endowment for Democracy hosted this little presidential poll booster, reinforcing the current justification for preemptive war in the name of spreading democracy. Unfortunately, after reality sets in, one realizes that a clear exit strategy was not in place before this war started and the results have been costly in more ways than one. We are essentially engaged in nation building on the fly, completely relying upon an experimental quasi-democratic, hopefully moderate Islamic theocracy, with a real chance of civil chaos breaking out the moment significant American forces are withdrawn.

Despite many strong feelings against this war, there is no escaping the fact that we are largely responsible for that country’s past, present, and future. The president is absolutely correct in defining the enemy that are now in Iraq, and who will continue to be there at least until a substantial withdrawal of American troops. The question is, if and when a new Iraqi government is able to manage its own security, where will this war on terrorism expand to next? Bush compared the current war on terror to the Cold War. This might seem true on the surface, if you think solely in terms of black and white or conveniently ignore recent foreign policy scandals. Our government has a terrible track record in meddling with foreign conflicts. The central theme for American foreign policy across the more recent administrations, Democrat or Republican, has been “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The irony of our current situation, post-9/11/01, is that our government enabled the Taliban to eventually take control of Afghanistan by indirectly supplying CIA training and weapons to Osama bin Laden’s Islamic radicals against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The mujahideen were fighting a jihad against the communists in Afghanistan alongside the more moderate Muslims, who were the primary target of funding via Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by the governments of U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. In any case, our government did not count on these foreign fighters in Afghanistan to organize terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, and turn against western interests. However, perhaps a lesson should have been learned after Iran-contra when American support of Suddam Hussein in Iraq against Iran came back to haunt us when Saddam invaded Kuwait and ignited the first Gulf War. Then, after President George H.W. Bush decided not to remove Saddam, economic sanctions were put in place to keep weapons of mass destruction, which America previously supplied to Iraq, from further development in Iraq.

After a decade of pure American foreign policy rhetoric lamenting over Iraqi non-compliance with U.N. inspections, suddenly Saddam became an “imminent threat to national security” and a linchpin to mid-term congressional elections in November, 2002 when Republicans further solidified their hold on the legislature. Although President Clinton had made it an objective of American foreign policy for eventual regime change in Iraq, it wasn't until after the events of September 11 that a pretext for an invasion opened. The neo-cons of the “Project for a New American Century” (PNAC) ,originally founded in 1997, were now solidly in a position to enact their plans to secure America’s ever growing energy needs through foreign occupation of the oil-rich Iraq, controlled by a dictator and who could conveniently be lumped into a larger global war on terror. The stated goals of PNAC included establishing strategically placed permanent military bases all over the world, and expanding military power to include “peacekeeping” missions to act as a global police force. Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield, and former Deputy Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were all members of the PNAC think tank and extremely influential in developing the Bush Doctrine on foreign policy and conducting the war on terrorism. Finally, the neo-cons got their wish on March 20, 2003, declaring “mission accomplished” just days later, with the capture of Saddam not coming until later that December. Since then, the American consciousness has been completely redirected from a focus on finding Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of 9/11, but instead inundated with talk of Iraqi violence, “unpatriotic” American war protests, the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, and random terrorism attacks all over the world which may or may not be connected to al-Qaeda or the Iraq occupation.

Virtually ignored in the considerations to remove Saddam in light of Islamic radicalism is the fact that Hussein, although a butcher, was a secular Sunni Arab, and very much hated in the region by the radical Muslims who now seek to take control of that country. It is ironic that Saddam served as an effective buffer for western interests from Islamic radicals, whom he routinely had executed, a fact that was acknowledged at some level by Bush, Sr.; otherwise he would have removed Saddam during the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, PNAC believed it to be of the upmost importance to go ahead with an unprecedented preemptive American invasion, arguing that in a post-9/11 world could ill afford to take a chance on an Iraq armed with WMDs. Therefore, the intelligence agencies, already with egg on their face from the failures of 9/11 as documented by the 9/11 Commission, were given the task to provide evidence that supported Iraqi development of WMDs. Despite the fact that the U.N. weapons inspectors were being allowed to complete their job by Saddam’s regime in response to the Bush threats, hipocritically the Bush Administration did not feel it necessary to continue inspections, kicking them out in preparation for an invasion, just like Saddam had routinely kicked out U.N. inspectors during the 1990s. Nevertheless, some questionable intelligence data suggested a real possibility Iraq were developing WMD programs. However, the Downing Street Memo, Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger, and numerous other reports have all suggested that the intelligence was in fact being fixed around the policy to invade Iraq, and was painfully obvious to some observers, including myself, even in the months prior to the actual invasion.

Inevitably history may indeed give President Bush credit for helping clear the way for democratic reform in the Middle East if America is ultimately successful in Iraq. Unfortunately, those of us who remember the way the war was originally justified and carried out might be the only ones left to wonder if that was the start of a new global military-industrial complex, or iron triangle, and the end of a truly democratic American superpower.

1 comment:

  1. talking to soldiers who return from Iraq are saying its all about oil and we will be there until that runs out. we all know how long that could be.