May 28, 2004
Bush Steps Down
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
President Bush had an opportunity to "be straight" with the American people about our involvement in Iraq, and he chose not to. Instead, he tried to make the case that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terrorism" and, therefore, a battle we must win. Once again, he chose to demagogue the issue by exhuming the dark imagery of Nick Berg and alleged terrorist "mastermind" Abu Musab al Zarqawi. These are the grim incarnations that galvanize the public mind and draw support to the President’s crusade.
Framing the ongoing struggle in Iraq as part of the war on terror is intentionally misleading and only serves to obfuscate what the American people really need to hear from their president.
Here is a quote from the President’s speech that illustrates how effortlessly Bush merges the conflicting themes of terrorism and Iraq:
Bush’s comments intentionally "muddy the waters" and create the impression that we are fighting terrorism in Iraq rather than generating it.
Again, it is time to put this nonsense and fear mongering behind us and be honest with the American people.
What is unfolding in Iraq is no longer a matter of conjecture or idle speculation. A widespread nationalist insurgency has evolved in response to a security vacuum created by a failed occupation strategy.
We don’t need to debate this point. We need a president who can stand up, look us in the eye and give us the facts without trying to advance his own agenda.
The war on terror IS the Bush agenda. Even now, with his dramatic decline in the polls, Americans still believe he is a strong and resolute leader on that issue. But Iraq is not connected to 9-11 and it is deceptive to characterize it as such.
So far, not one member of al Qaida has been captured or positively identified in Iraq. Their presence is entirely a matter of speculation.
As for the nebulous al Zarqawi, nearly as many Intelligence analysts believe he is dead as alive. (And, Iraqis almost unanimously believe that the Berg killing was staged to deflect attention from the Abu Ghraib scandal)
Regardless of whatever terrorists might be active in Iraq, their numbers are small and their effect will be inconsequential unless they can win the sympathies of the average Iraqi.
And this is where the problem lies; the US has alienated their base of support by their ham fisted execution of the occupation. By shutting down a newspaper run by supporters of Muqtada al Sadr, they elevated a modestly popular cleric to a regional superhero who still controls three major cities.
Similarly, the siege of Falluja (although many Americans feel that the military response was justified by the brutal killing of four contractors) has turned out to be a political disaster. The battle killed nearly 600 Fallujans and attracted thousands more to the growing resistance.
These pitfalls could have been easily anticipated if the "coalition" had tried to find political solutions rather than military victories. However, when diplomacy and compromise are dismissed as signs of weakness, failure is inevitable. We simply cannot hope to win hearts and minds with bullets alone.
These errors in judgment could be ignored if the administration was moving in a positive direction, but it is not. The American people are now beginning to grasp that fact.
Bush needs to abandon the rhetoric that conflates Iraq with the war on terror; it suggests a sense of denial that borders on delusion. All progress in Iraq will be directly tied to how clearly we are able to assess realities on the ground without flights into fantasy.
Currently, (according to the most recent poll from the Financial Times) over 90% of Iraqis see the US as occupiers not liberators. This is just more proof that America’s motives are no longer trusted in Iraq. The opportunity to demonstrate the "benign intentions of the invasion" has passed. Realists should understand that this situation is not reversible. It’s time to go.
We will not succeed in Iraq because the vast majority of Iraqis now want us to leave and see us as the principle source of their ongoing difficulties. The only alternative would be to apply increasing levels of force and coercion to achieve our objectives. As Abu Ghraib illustrates, that is not an approach that is acceptable to most Americans.
Mr. Bush needs to address the American people and explain to them that our mission has failed and that we are withdrawing our troops from Iraq. He should demonstrate that he understands that the animosity now directed at America is a result of his misguided policies and his mistaken belief that military power should be employed to reshape the world.
He should add that when he saw the picture of a naked Iraqi prisoner in a dog leash he realized that America no longer had the moral authority to decide the fate of other nations.
He should acknowledge that on his watch America has abandoned its commitment to high ideals, human rights, civil liberties and even the rule of law. We have become just another petty, corrupt government that tortures their enemies and spies on their citizens.
This is Bush’s legacy.
Then, in keeping with his commitment to accountability, he should step down as President and allow someone more competent to take over.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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