To Die in Iraq
How could they miss?
They were going to show the whole world what true American patriots could accomplish leading a great Christian nation in the new century. And so they did...
A funny thing happened on the way to Mr. Bush's second term.
In a country run by and for millionaires, the surplus got spent. The rich got tax cuts, and the future got hocked. The environment got screwed. Bechtel and Halliburton got contracts. Religious schools got public funds. Big CEOs robbed and ran free. Good jobs disappeared by the millions. Bankruptcies and child poverty set new records.
Big Oil did just fine, thank you.
Ken Lay still has your money.
The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and in the meantime, in between time, ain't we got war?
Mr. Bush claimed Saddam Hussein's well-known WMD presented an immediate danger to the whole world, so we set out to topple him, destroy his WMD and win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. "They'd welcome us in the streets," he claimed.
A parade of retired talking-head generals danced on TV amid a sparkling CGI World of maps and cute graphics. Fox had the war wired—they had Geraldo.
Ever notice how one culture's noble rescue mission is another culture's ugly infidel invasion? Just before we started "Operation Iraqi Freedom" we exploded the 'Mother of all Bombs.' It's sort of an apt title for the entire Bush War Plan so far. The whole world told us not to do it, but Mr. Bush knew better. Mr. Cheney smugly knew better. Mr. Rumsfeld absolutely knew better! Don't mess with "Tex" Bush!
Cable news proceeded to "Riefenstahl" the war-to-be. Country music got mixed with tracer fire in promos. Hot Damn! Shock and awe! The Press got embedded and blurry. Reality went South. The polls and TV ratings went up, so the balloon went up too.
Americans died. Iraqis died.
We spent millions on massive air attacks to finally kill Saddam himself: over and over and over. He reportedly still checks in by phone. And then Mr. Bush dressed up just like GI Joe and flew out to the carrier on May 1st to tell us that 'non-victory' was at hand in Iraq. We never found the WMD, but over 300 of our people are still dead—more than half of them since that flight deck photo-op. Mr. Bush was at the very top that day.
Absolutists of all sorts can be a risk because they and their followers have so much invested in their own perfect world-view that they must and will prevail, so the 'War on Terror' is an odd fight. Consider that America and its darkest enemies are both currently run by ultra-conservative religious fundamentalists, with ties to big oil. Both sides are certain that their God can beat up your God. To each, theirs is the only 'true' cause, and they can justify anything to win. Both sides exploit conflict and fear, but it's hard to sustain. Sometimes you just have to fib a little.
History will have to sort out the long, complex, but fruitful alliance between the Bush, bin Laden, and Saudi Royal families, and all that it portends. Mr. Bush, never quite found or defeated Mr. bin Laden's boy Osama for staging 9/11 despite his proud promises to do so. He then decided our real terror problem was actually Saddam, and he demanded we invade Iraq and impose peace. Somehow, Al-Quaida, 9/11, and Mr. Hussein all merged in the growing public panic. The neocon irresistible force had finally met the Islamic immovable object.
The Bush folks then tragically inserted our kids into a deadly and endless radical Islamic shooting galley that now draws angry militants from everywhere. Time is on their side. We may have saved Iraq from Mr. Hussein, but can we save the US from Iraq? The Bush people plan a bright new multi-billion dollar Islamic democracy there. The fundamentalists plan a simple, traditional Jihad.
When Mr. Bush entered the Presidency through the back door, he took over a nation at peace with a little cash in the bank, a fat investor class, and low unemployment. He just needed to keep a reign on Big Business and a sharp eye on a troubled world. He did neither.
Mr. Bush's return to address the UN this month was mythic. He boldly asked the same people he'd belittled last spring to risk their own troops and money and triumphantly join him, as long as America still runs the show.
The French and Germans and many others were polite enough not to laugh out loud. That's what diplomats do best.
Absent international help, we're set to call up even more Guard and Reserve folks, to join tired forces already stretched thin by worldwide commitments. The Bush people still publicly contend that everything's really swell in Iraq, but claim that the ‘liberal media’ just focuses on the 'few' bad apples. Meanwhile the UN is pulling the bulk of its people out because the US apparently can't protect them in 'Free Iraq.'
This leaves the Republican-controlled Congress in a delicate position. They'll have to decide if their own political survival is better served by backing the Bush people or by grilling them in front of hot TV lights on the Evening News.
It would be bigger than O.J. Almost everything they ever told us about Iraq was wrong.
Mr. Bush has the only absolute defense--he was just following orders. For all this Administration's compliant media friends, hyper-secrecy, and careful spin, Mr. Bush is now at an all-time low in the polls. Sending in the Troops is always a winner at first. Mr. Bush got a 20-point bump last March. To openly question 'The Plan' back then was to border on treason. O'Reilly ranted, Rush roared, and Rummy ruminated. Everything was going exactly according to the detailed Bush Administration Iraq Victory Plan. American kids are still dying today for the lies we were all told last Spring.
Ever notice neocons just love the Troops? They proudly use the Troops for grip & grin photo-ops, but they also tried to screw them out of extra pay, benefit hikes, small tax breaks, and even veterans’ care. Our courageous Troops have been short-supplied, over-deployed, under-supported, under-protected, and generally sold out by the politicians who so bravely sent them to get the critical WMD by which Saddam was holding the world hostage.
The kids on the line die now by ones and twos at the hands of the very people they came to 'liberate.' They and their worried families have but one question, "Who will be the last American to die in Iraq for George W. Bush?" Their sacrifice is very genuine, even if their leadership is not. They keep the faith anyhow, and their families wait. They are the best we have.
They are led by the sort of men who allegedly 'outed' a serving CIA officer via syndicated columnist Robert Novak. He named her just after her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, questioned Mr. Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to purchase African uranium. It not only ended her operational career, but leaking it happens to be a serious crime.
Some people figure one great way to really support our Troops is to call them all home now and let the Iraqis sort this out for themselves. A lot of people wonder what $87 billion could do for our own country. In either case, we'll have to borrow the money. The Bush folks have seen to that, too.
Dictating policy is so much simpler when God is on your side and you're 100% right every time. Saddam's deadly WMD left us no option! The Bush people wrapped themselves in the Flag and the Lord and proceeded to screw up in front of the whole world in truly 'biblical' proportions.
Meanwhile, the people who brought us 9/11 are still out there. They'll be back. They watch us constantly, and they know where we're strong and where we're trying to get by on the cheap. They know where we live and work and play. They are patient, vicious, and not facing an election. It's not clear how really scared they are of Tom Ridge.
Despite the best efforts of the folks at Fox News, a majority of Americans polled reportedly want Mr. Bush replaced, a full 13 months before the election. Even the people who never vote are pissed off. It's a good thing he's only up against the Democrats or he might be in real political trouble.
George W. Bush has created a war he can't quite seem to win or explain, for reasons so clear and urgent that nobody who backed the war can now recall them. Both Mr. Bush and Tony Blair have alienated their voters. Mr. Hussein, in all his messianic madness, could never have hoped that he'd really damage both the Bush and Blair Governments. All he had to do was lose the war, and two creepy sons nobody much liked anyhow.
The nervous voices of the far right continue to insist the economy is strong and the Iraq War is going fine—the 'real truth' about the Bush Administration just isn't coming out in the liberal media.
We wonder. If the 'real truth' got out about the Bush people and what they have done, would they still serve just one term? Perhaps, but only if they all run concurrently.
Douglas O'Rourke is a writer in California, and can be reached via columnleft.com.
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This story was published on October 20, 2003.
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