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Bush Still Ignores Iraq Reality

By Robert Parry
March 12, 2006

As George W. Bush sets out on another speaking tour to justify invading Iraq three years ago, he’s still ignoring what should be the chief lesson for any U.S. President: Don’t play games with the intelligence, especially on matters of war and peace. You only get good people killed.

Yet, in test-marketing his new P.R. campaign in a March 11 radio address, Bush had his rose-colored glasses firmly back on. In his upbeat assessment, he downplayed grisly evidence that Iraq is sliding toward sectarian civil war, with Shiite “death squads” butchering Sunnis and Sunni gunmen killing Shiites.

He didn’t mention how the Iraqi elections have divided – not unified the country – by solidifying the political power of Shiite fundamentalists who have close ties to Iran. Nor did Bush acknowledge that the anti-Americanism engendered by the U.S. occupation has been a boon to al-Qaeda’s recruitment and training of a new generation of terrorists.

For Bush, the Iraq glass is always one-tenth full, not nine-tenths empty.

In the week ahead, Bush made clear he intends to deliver another dose of the wishful thinking that led the American people to believe that the conquest of Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” a “shock and awe” pyrotechnic display followed by thankful Iraqis showering U.S. troops with candy and flowers.

Distorted History

For this third anniversary of the March 19, 2003, invasion, Bush also has dusted off his old out-of-context history that frightened Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein’s tired dictatorship was a grave threat to U.S. national security.

“I strongly believe our country is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power,” Bush said in his radio address. “Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was an enemy of America who shot at our airplanes, had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction, threatened and invaded his neighbors, ordered the death of thousands of his citizens, and supported terrorism.”

Bush then resorted to a favorite sleight of hand juxtaposing Hussein’s supposed support for terrorism with a reference to al-Qaeda’s operations inside Iraq, all the better to implant the subliminal connection in the minds of many Americans.

“After the liberation of the Iraqi people, al-Qaeda and their affiliates have made Iraq the central front on the war on terror,” Bush said, leaving out the key detail that Hussein’s secular government had suppressed al-Qaeda-style Islamic terrorists before the invasion.

But to grasp how misleading Bush’s radio address was would require an American citizen armed with a comprehensive knowledge of the history and the politics of the Middle East.

For instance, the American planes that Bush mentioned were flying in Iraqi air space and frequently were bombing Iraqi targets. In other words, Iraq was shooting at war planes over its own territory. But a poorly informed American might not know that, assuming instead that Iraq had attacked U.S. aircraft over neutral or American territory.

A gullible American also might not realize that Hussein developed his chemical and biological weapons during his war with Iran in the 1980s, when he was getting military help from Vice President George H.W. Bush and Mid-East envoy Donald Rumsfeld. [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Bush also left out the fact that U.S. intelligence has since concluded that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were effectively eliminated in the 1990s because of United Nations sanctions and air strikes ordered by President Bill Clinton.

Bush’s claim about Hussein invading his neighbors dated back even farther – more than a decade – as did the allegations of mass killings. In 2003, human rights groups reported no Kosovo- or Rwanda-type crisis inside Iraq that would justify a military intervention.

To the contrary, Bush’s “preemptive” war – against a country then cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors – unleashed a human rights catastrophe with tens of thousands of Iraqis killed along with more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers.

No Blame

As usual, in his radio address, Bush took no blame for invading Iraq under the false argument of non-existent WMD stockpiles; nor for the tens of thousands of civilian deaths, including many children; nor for the spread of al-Qaeda operations inside Iraq; nor for the seething anti-Americanism around the globe.

Clearly, too, Bush has no intention of admitting that he committed war crimes by invading a non-threatening country under false pretenses and by killing innocent civilians in the process. But Bush also is showing no inclination to stop his addiction to misrepresenting the facts or engaging in risky wishful thinking.

At Consortiumnews.com, we have warned about the danger of Bush’s wishful thinking from the first days of the war. On March 30, 2003, 11 days into the U.S. invasion, as Iraqi forces were putting up surprising resistance, I cited U.S. military analysts who were already worried about Bush’s miscalculations.

“Whatever happens in the weeks ahead, George W. Bush has ‘lost’ the war in Iraq,” the article said. “The only question now is how big a price America will pay, both in terms of battlefield casualties and political hatred swelling around the world.

“That is the view slowly dawning on U.S. military analysts, who privately are asking whether the cost of ousting Saddam Hussein has grown so large that ‘victory’ will constitute a strategic defeat of historic proportions. At best, even assuming Saddam’s ouster, the Bush administration may be looking at an indefinite period of governing something akin to a California-size Gaza Strip.

“The chilling realization is spreading in Washington that Bush’s Iraqi debacle may be the mother of all presidential miscalculations – an extraordinary blend of Bay of Pigs-style wishful thinking with a ‘Black Hawk Down’ reliance on special operations to wipe out enemy leaders as a short-cut to victory.

“But the magnitude of the Iraq disaster could be far worse than either the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba in 1961 or the bloody miscalculations in Somalia in 1993. In both those cases, the U.S. government showed the tactical flexibility to extricate itself from military misjudgments without grave strategic damage. …

“Few analysts today, however, believe that George W. Bush and his senior advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have the common sense to swallow the short-term bitter medicine of a cease-fire or a U.S. withdrawal.

“Rather than face the political music for admitting to the gross error of ordering an invasion in defiance of the United Nations and then misjudging the enemy, these U.S. leaders are expected to push forward no matter how bloody or ghastly their future course might be.

“Without doubt, the Bush administration misjudged the biggest question of the war: ‘Would the Iraqis fight?’ Happy visions of rose petals and cheers have given way to a grim reality of ambushes and suicide bombs.

“But the Bush pattern of miscalculation continues unabated. Bush seems to have cut himself off from internal dissent at the CIA and the Pentagon, where intelligence analysts and field generals warned against the wishful thinking that is proving lethal on the Iraqi battlefields.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Bay of Pigs Meets Black Hawk Down.”]

More Happy Talk

On May 23, 2005, we revisited Bush’s dangerous tendency to ignore cautionary intelligence.

“In Iraq, George W. Bush has demonstrated an old truism of geopolitics, wishful thinking mixed with bellicose rhetoric makes for a deadly cocktail,” the article said. “The question now is: can the U.S. political system wean itself from an addiction to this poisonous brew of swagger and delusion?

“So far, the Bush administration shows no sign of getting on the wagon and looking at the facts with a clear eye. Instead, it’s still talking tough and demanding that everyone concentrate on the few glimmers of progress amid the death and destruction.

“‘We don’t have an exit strategy,’ Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted during a trip to Iraq on April 12. ‘We have a victory strategy.’

“Yet, on the ground in Iraq, the violence gets worse. A U.S. offensive called Operation Matador, near the Syrian border, was met by fierce Iraqi resistance, decimating one Marine unit. Insurgents also carried out a wave of car bombings that left about 450 Iraqis dead, including many police and government soldiers.

“American analysts also seem to have missed much of the significance of Iraq’s Jan. 30 (2005) election. In part, it was a vote by the Shiite majority to consolidate its new political dominance over the formerly powerful Sunni minority. But the vote also was a repudiation of the U.S.-handpicked leaders closely associated with the occupation.

“Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and other Iraqis in the U.S.-installed government were trounced at the polls by the United Iraqi Alliance, whose platform called for ‘a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq.’ …

“Meanwhile, prospects for a stable Iraqi government – or a near-term defeat of the insurgency – still don’t seem promising.

“Breaking with the official optimism in a briefing to New York Times reporters, American military commanders ‘gave a sobering new assessment’ of the war. One officer said the U.S. military might have to remain in Iraq for ‘many years,’ the Times reported.” [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Dangerous Wishful Thinking.”]

Now, almost one year after that article and three years into the war, the Iraqi political situation continues to deteriorate – and Bush plans to hit the road again selling his elixir of happy talk, flag-waving jingoism and delusion.

His political advisers apparently have told him that he still has an audience of Americans who will believe whatever he says.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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