We have seen the transition of an American president from illegitimate heir to omnipotent destroyer to boy pretender to an all but irrelevant monarch alone in his tower. They trot him out periodically to deliver an address to a vetted audience of military and retired military personnel — and even they have tired of his act.
George W. Bush is to George H.W. Bush as Al Qaeda is to Al Qaeda in Iraq: They are related only in name. Granted, the father is related to the son by bloodline but if it were in the father’s power to disown the presidency of the son, he would do so for the son has shamed the family and laid waste to the Bush legacy just as he has shamed the nation and its legacy in the world.
On Tuesday, July 24, the president gave what he must have considered a major address to convince a doubtful America that he was right all along. Iraq is the first front in the war on terror. The Al Qaeda of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden (the one that we implanted there in the war against the Soviet Union) was indistinguishable from Al Qaeda in Iraq. We did not choose the wrong nation for the wrong reasons. We were not motivated by our unquenchable thirst for oil and the obscene profits to be garnered from an endless war. Al Qaeda in Iraq was not our creation; it existed there all along — only in spirit form.
Apparently, Al Qaeda was a ghost in Iraq, unseen, unheard and unnoticed (although there are reports of AQ types stepping on Iraqi soil) until the American invasion fleshed them out and transformed them from ethereal constructs to a fighting force.
The president cleverly rebuts the notion that terrorism in Iraq represents a self-fulfilling prophecy because neither he nor his trusted advisors foresaw anything of the kind. As you may recall, the White House neocons predicted parades and flowers and triumphant elections and constitutions that granted complete control of Iraqi oil to international oil and energy corporations — nothing but glitter and happy endings.
The problem with the president’s argument (aside from the fact that it has been thoroughly discredited) is that his advisors did foresee foreign fighters in Iraq. If you start a war in a Muslim nation, they will come and the people of the occupied land will welcome them until such time as the invaders are vanquished. If the neocons did any homework at all (and we must assume they did), they foresaw a civil war that could be exploited to the advantage of the occupying power.
The problem with the president’s argument is that we knew Al Qaeda in Iraq would be a natural byproduct of the invasion and occupation and that that inevitable development would provide yet another pretext to fool the American people and continue the war.
What the neocons did not foresee was the effectiveness of the insurgency against the raw military might of the invaders. What they did not foresee was a nationalist resistance to an occupying force that outranks deeply held sectarian divisions. What they did not foresee was that four and a half years into the war, America in Iraq would be losing ground at a horrific price and the American people would lose faith.
The neocons failed to factor in the passions aroused by an aggressive and immoral war. To the neocons, who wear the mask of ideology to hide their lust for power and treasure, the loss of innocent lives has never been a significant consideration. They care no more for the lives of innocent civilians, volunteer soldiers, private contractors or soldiers of fortune than they do for the integrity of the nation. To the neocons it is all about the bottom line and for most of them, despite the national and humanitarian costs, the bottom line is a hefty profit.
The casualties of this war are mounting with every passing day. We have lost faith in our president. We have seen through the lies. We have seen the hands behind the throne. We have seen our constitutional rights under siege. We have seen abuses of power so egregious we can no longer bear to watch. We are losing confidence in the electoral process to correct the most catastrophic blunder we have ever witnessed.
We recall what the president said at the beginning of the neocon campaign of imperial conquest: “You are either with us or against us.”
If he can only convince the people that everyone who opposes us is Al Qaeda, then the neocons will have accomplished their primary goal: perpetual war.
The president speaks and we no longer hear his words:
“The facts are that Al Qaeda terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they’re fighting us in Iraq and across the world and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again.”
No, the Al Qaeda terrorists that killed Americans on 9/11 are still in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan — our sometime ally. They are plotting to attack us more than ever because we are responsible for hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost. Their numbers are growing because we chose the path of blind vengeance, invading a nation that had nothing to do with the original crime. They are planning to attack us because we have implanted permanent military installations in the oil rich land of ancient Mesopotamia — just as they attacked us for planting military bases on the holy lands of Saudi Arabia.
“Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat.”
No, those who justify continuing a war by fabricating a connection of the events in Iraq to the events of 9/11 ignore the catastrophic consequences of our own actions. The threat of Al Qaeda is real and must be addressed not with the indiscriminate hammer of war but with the careful and calculated scalpel of justice. If we had taken appropriate and timely action in Afghanistan, we would have captured or killed Osama bin Laden and marginalized both his cause and organization. Instead, we moved on to richer spoils. We committed the cardinal crime of nations — aggressive war — and transformed a terrorist into a folk hero.
No, the only ties Osama bin Laden has to Al Qaeda in Iraq are common hatred and a common enemy. Before the war, he had even less. He was verboten in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His path to the Persian Gulf was blocked by both Iran and Iraq. Now, thanks to the Bush neocon war, he has gained an audience for his message of hatred and retribution but no more than that. He is at this moment in history less of a threat than an American president with his finger on the trigger of nuclear annihilation.
Our president believes I am a fool for not seeing the “enemy” in Iraq as he does: the enemy of all humankind.
“[It’s] like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun and saying he’s probably just there to cash a check.”
If Iraq is the bank, then the man with the mask and a gun is our president — and what he has done has caused a great deal more harm than emptying the treasury.