Reprinted from the Boston Phoenix with permission of the author.
You can spin wars and bloat-the-rich tax policy out of lies for only so long
White House puppeteer-in-chief Karl Rove will no doubt erect the Iraq "triumph" as the main support beam in the "Elect George W. Bush — Just This Once" campaign in 2004. By this time next year, it might be wiser to run W. as the propagator of the SARS epidemic.
Even America’s lap-dog corporate media have begun to question the court-appointed prez’s trump-card war (at least every now and then when they tear themselves away from crucial updates on Laci Peterson’s condition). Dems who supported the Iraqi invasion can follow the media’s lead and make the plausible case that they had been misled to war by Rove’s charge Bush, a marionette that never runs the risk of making the Pinocchian transformation from wooden creature to human being. After all, such a metamorphosis would require truthfulness.
Just as it took repeated lies to make this so-called war possible, it will take repeated truth to debunk the idea that its instigators were in any way heroic or noble. I am impartial in the 2004 race. I don’t care who beats Bush so long as it’s anyone other than Joe Lieberman.
Herewith, a brief review and rebuke of what was foisted upon us by Rove, Doomsday Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and many others, without whose hard work training dogs and ponies in the use of smoke and mirrors, we’d have never had a Gulf War II.
Only those who believe Alan Colmes is a capable representative of the liberal cause still believe that Saddam’s Iraq wasn’t in compliance with UN resolution 1441, the edict that demanded the nation divest itself of any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in its arsenal. Ten weeks after the US assault, based on the pre-emptive assumption that 1441 had been defied, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are scarcer than ethics at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Anything that is henceforth "found" over there will be even more suspect than Colin Powell’s last testimony before the UN Security Council.
Not since the original Ghostbusters have so many spooks surfaced from the sewers as they have over past few weeks. It seems these noble spies are tired of taking the blame for all the false information Bush used to trump up his unnecessary war. When the CIA distances itself from the Oval Office to protect its reputation, it’s time to fumigate the facility.
Bush repeatedly mentioned 9/11 when discussing Iraq, but Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden weren’t allied in that evil cause. Secular Saddam was a barbarous dictator, but he was about as tight with Al Qaeda as John Ashcroft is with the ACLU. Anyone who can follow a few links on the Internet (start here: www.newamericancentury.org) will learn that Paul Wolfowitz planned this supposed reply to 9/11/2001 in 1998! Anyone who saw Wolfowitz’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill knows the man isn’t gifted with prescience, otherwise he would have prepared better answers for that pitiful appearance.
Too many Americans stopped paying attention to Iraq once Rove allowed Bush to play dress-up on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. But the war has just begun. If this military adventure was intended to put terrorists on the run, it has succeeded: lately they’re sprinting from bombing to bombing. Iraqi guerrillas are still killing American soldiers almost every day. Just hours after Bush made his faux-proud visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, there were fresh corpses heading home to guarantee that next year’s ceremony would have renewed poignancy. When was the last time we saw an updated body count of casualties in Iraq? At the current rate, we will lose many more American-led coalition troops during the occupation of Iraq than were lost during the conventional assault that enabled the occupation. Our troops are beginning to look as vulnerable as statues of Saddam. Dems can show patriotic support for these soldiers by keeping their circumstances a public issue.
The only undeniably efficient element of Junior’s war was the takeover of Iraqi oil fields. This was the first and only truly successful element of Bush’s invasion. Too bad the same sort of planning didn’t go into the postwar governance of the nation, which would have given the war a longer shelf life.
Attempts to retrofit GWII as a battle against a human-rights offender have become a tough sell now that the words "Guantánamo" and "death camp" keep turning up together. Where’s the quick transfer of power and transition to democracy the Iraqi people were promised? The court-appointed Bush administration is no friend of human rights — human rights aren’t practical, you see. That’s why the new US top dog of occupation, Paul Bremer (Jay Garner proved too stupid for even Bush to defend), had no problem ordering looters shot on sight. The other day, Bremer presided over the opening of a jail in Baghdad. You get the feeling that it will be a long time before any of those prisoners will stand in a reopened courtroom.
There isn’t much in the country that hasn’t already been "liberated." Hospitals, museums, warehouses full of commercial inventories, retail stores, universities, libraries, thousands of private residences, and just about anything else that wasn’t bolted down (and much that was) disappeared long before Bremer made it legal to execute the desperate. The only place where order has been restored is in the aforementioned oil fields. It would have been kinder and a lot more honest had Americans just driven their SUVs over to Iraq and run the people over themselves.
The fake war even started with a fake bombing. The US began the hostilities with a "decapitation" assault on an alleged bunker where Hussein was said to be meeting with his top staff. For a few weeks there was breathy speculation about whether the dictator had died in the assault. It’s unlikely, since we now know that there was no bunker where the bombs were dropped. Unless he’d burrowed into the soil for a meeting with some well-connected worms, Saddam had again beaten death. Hussein’s death wasn’t the point anyway; the decapitation bombings were meant to drive home the idea that the US was about to assault a sprawling metropolitan area with several days of bombardment but kill only very specific people. The corporate media responded with unquestioning celebration of this alleged triumph of the technology of violence. To buy into the likelihood of bombing, blacking out, and occupying a metropolitan area of nearly five million people without inflicting harm upon many innocents represented the worst kind of naiveté. It was as if they said, "Well, we are going to cut off power and food to Houston, and pelt it with continuous aerial and artillery assaults, but don’t worry, we’ll only hurt the Enron executives."
The next big lie was the phony story about how Private Jessica Lynch was taken as a prisoner of war, captured after a tense firefight in which she suffered multiple gunshot and stab wounds, was grossly mistreated, and then heroically rescued from an Iraqi hospital by special-ops commandos. Unfortunately the facts and the story don’t match up. Apparently she wasn’t wounded; she just suffered broken bones when her truck crashed, for which she was treated well at an Iraqi hospital. Iraqi medical workers tried to return her to US custody in an ambulance, but some other heroic American troops fired upon and turned back said ambulance. Lynch is said to have amnesia concerning the trauma that caused her hospitalization, but just in case, both she and her family have been ordered to remain silent about the affair by the government. Can you imagine Sergeant York or Audie Murphy being ordered to forego their First Amendment rights upon returning home? Well, that’s what has happened to the biggest hero of GWII — and her family. Anyone with a lick of sense and any grasp of how quickly Karl Rove always milks every photo op has to ask why Bush has failed to visit the young woman at her parents’ home in West Virginia.
So rather than head for West Virginia, we are taken to one distracting star-spangled event after the next, all starring George W. Bush, surrounded by soldiers and tanks in America’s heartland. During these rallies he promotes virtuous patriotic acts like cutting taxes. Of course he fails to mention that the small part of his tax break that increases deductions for dependents will not be extended to the working poor (like, for instance, National Guard soldiers). As he bankrupts the nation with his warmongering and massive giveaways to the power elite, program after program that help the needy and protect our environment fall by the wayside, victims of whacko economic policies meant to destroy by means of federal bankruptcy safeguards that Republicans have always resented.
While we listen to tales of the de-Baathification of Iraqi society, Bush once again puts forth judicial nominees who will someday require us to embark upon the de-Klanification of the federal bench.
And now, even as the mayhem in Iraq proceeds unabated, even as the body bags continue to fill at a steady rate, even as the court-appointed Bush administration must admit that its central justification for assaulting Iraq was extremely flawed, the thump of the war drum grows louder and steadier, providing rhythm for a song that we just got done hearing. Only this time, the country with weapons of mass destruction is said to be Iran. And just like Iraq, it is said to be tight with terrorists. Once more we are supposed to be good unquestioning Americans when we are told Iran needs a "regime change." And as with Iraq — we are asked to trust intelligence reports that have come to the attention of the court-appointed Bush administration.
Not even Democrats should have a hard time spitting that bit.
It is too soon to impose selective amnesia upon the American people as if we were all members of Private Lynch’s extended family. The lies and distortions used as alibis for what has led to the calamity now gripping Iraq become more obvious each day. And this isn’t the first time America has wanted a regime change in Iran. Years ago, it brought us the shah of Iran and then the Ayatollah Khomeini (or, as Ronald Reagan used to call him, "The Khomeini"). That led to 444 days of ignominy for the United States and an extremely oppressive fundamentalist regime for Iran. Slowly things have begun to improve for the Iranian people. Theirs is far from a free and open society, but it was free enough when the 9/11 attacks took place for hundreds of thousands of Iranians to gather and demonstrate their outrage at the massacres and their compassion for the victims.
It is a bad idea to target those same people for the ugliness that now clutches Iraq. They do not need decapitation strikes, they don’t need looting, they don’t need power outages, they don’t need shortages of food and water, they don’t need cholera, they don’t need collateral damage, and they sure as hell don’t need American troops stomping around Tehran. If there are human-rights offenses in Iran, then it is the work of the United Nations and International Criminal Court to bring the culprits to justice.
It is not certain that Bush will attempt war with Iran, but considering his track record, the recent whispering is ominous. The USA can’t afford the mess in which it is now immersed in Iraq. We certainly cannot afford to spread the turmoil to Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, or anywhere else Karl Rove decides to divert our attention.
The Democrats have cut far too much slack for a corrupt administration sitting in a stolen White House. Unvarnished truth is what will get the Democrats back into the Oval Office. The economy is shot, millions of Americans are out of work, the environment is on the brink of irreversible damage, and our civil liberties are disappearing faster than Dick Cheney when he sees a process server. All the court-appointed clown has to offer is a few cheesy photo ops meant to stir our souls with visions of martial glory.
We need to regain some semblance of national dignity, and it won’t happen until George W. Bush and his handlers are called on, and held accountable for, crimes against America and humanity. Just because Bush is the son of a former president doesn’t mean he should be treated with kid gloves. This is a vicious and ugly crowd; the only way to rid ourselves of them is to explain to everyone all that we know. We are in about the sixth inning of a baseball game, and we are getting beaten by a third-rate pitcher because almost no one has taken the bats off their shoulders to take good clean swings at what he is offering. All it will take is a few successively solid smacks of the lumber to make everyone watching the game realize that this clown on the mound has nothing. And then the rally will begin. Now batting, the Democratic Party.
Commentator and monologuist Barry Crimmins is currently working on his first book for Seven Stories Press. You can read his timely take on things at BarryCrimmins.com.