W. Bush has declared "no retreat" on Iraq even as that country descends into
bloody anarchy and as Iraqi fighters pick off American soldiers by ones and twos almost
daily. Instead, Bush is raising the stakes by refusing to rethink his Bush Doctrine of
"Our only goal, our only option, is total victory in
the war on terror, and this nation will press on to victory," Bush told the American
Legion convention in St. Louis on Aug. 26, reiterating his strategy of waging war against
any country or group that he says supports or is likely to support
Bush's intransigence in the face of the Iraqi chaos also is transforming Election 2004
into a history-turning referendum that could define what kind of nation the United States
will be and what the future of the world will look like. Bush is leaving little doubt that
his vision is one of endless warfare in which Washington will pick out nations that are
judged threats to U.S. security and attack them.
With Churchillian rhetorical flourishes, Bush's speech painted the world in black and
white, with no sense of the gray that comes with indiscriminate killing whether from
suicide bombers or from high-explosive rockets fired from the sky. In Bush's view, his
side is all good, the other side is all bad, and there is no ambiguity.
Bushs reference to "total victory" over terrorism also suggests that he
is still not listening to many national security analysts who warn that it is no more
possible to eradicate "terrorism" an ill-defined concept throughout
history than it is to eliminate crime or drug use. To even approach "total
victory" would require draconian actions carried out by something akin to a permanent
worldwide police state, which might only generate more desperation and more terrorism.
An alternate approach, some analysts say, would stress a combination of effective
police action, recognition that some legitimate grievances are driving young people to
violent action, and a thoughtful strategy to address root causes of terrorism, from
poverty to political injustice. There also is a need for straight talk to the American
people about how U.S. sacrifice, including cutting energy consumption, could help.
The Primary Option
But Bush made clear in his Aug. 26 speech that he sees war as the primary option. His
language was intentionally bellicose, almost defiant in the face of critics who have
called for a mid-course correction in U.S. policy in Iraq.
"The terrorists have not seen America running," Bush told the American Legion
convention. "Theyve seen America marching. They have seen the armies of
liberation marching into Kabul and Baghdad. The terrorists have seen speeding tank convoys
and roaring jets and Special Forces arriving in midnight raids and sometimes
justice has found them before they could see anything coming at all."
Bush also left little doubt that his strategy will go beyond preemptive war (when a
country hits first against an enemy that is poised to strike) to predictive war (when the
potential threat is speculative or far off in the future). Predictive war not only
dramatically lowers the threshold to a conflict but often leads the attacking nation to
justify an invasion by inventing or inflating dangers from the country that is to be
With the continued failure of U.S. forces to find trigger-ready weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq and U.S. admissions that some WMD intelligence was exaggerated or
bogus, it is becoming evident that the invasion of Iraq was a case of predictive, not
Despite the WMD embarrassments and the worsening violence, Bush offered no
self-criticism of his Iraq decisions nor is he yet paying any heed to warning from world
leaders, such as former South African President Nelson Mandela, that the Bush Doctrine is
a prescription for worldwide chaos. Instead, Bush boasted about the doctrine that bears
"Weve adopted a new strategy for a new kind of war," Bush said.
"We will not wait for known enemies to strike us again. We will strike them in their
camps or caves or wherever they hide, before they can hit more of our cities and kill more
of our citizens.
No matter how long it takes, we will bring to justice those who
plot against America."
Bush also repeated his vow to destroy not only those who "plot" against the
United States but also those who help those who plot. "Weve sent a message that
is understood throughout the world: If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist,
if you feed a terrorist, youre just as guilty as a terrorist," Bush said.
Beyond the danger to world order implicit in the Bush Doctrine, some critics have noted
the hypocrisy of Bush vowing to kill terrorists and those who assist them when key members
of his administration, including White House adviser Elliot Abrams, aided groups such as
the Nicaraguan contras who were widely condemned for terrorist tactics in the 1980s .
During the Cold War, U.S. officials also backed death-squad regimes in Guatemala, El
Salvador, Argentina, Chile and many other countries.
In those cases, U.S. officials, including Bush's father George H.W. Bush, found
geopolitical excuses to justify the slaughter of tens of the thousands of civilians. In
the 1980s, the senior Bush also joined in secret policies to provide military assistance
to Iran and Iraq, two countries that were identified by U.S. officials as supporters of
terrorism. [For details, see Robert Parry's Lost History.]
Unintentionally, the junior Bushs Aug. 26 speech also underscored the bind that
his administration has put itself in as it presses the United Nations to fully endorse the
U.S. occupation of Iraq so more countries will send troops.
On one hand, the Bush administration refuses to admit that it was wrong to brush aside
U.N. objections to the Iraq War earlier this year. On the other, by seeking the U.N.
resolution, the administration is tacitly acknowledging not only that Bush's strategy in
Iraq had erred in underestimating the task of pacifying the country but that the Bush
Doctrine is floundering.
Bush's tough talk to the American Legion may indicate that Bush is unwilling to swallow
his pride and compromise with the international community regardless of the growing need
for troop reinforcements. There also may be a lingering belief among Bush loyalists that
if the administration keeps demanding that it get its way, the rest of the world finally
will bend to Bush's will.
But that seems less and less likely. The world's political landscape has shifted since
the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly two years ago when the international
community demonstrated widespread solidarity with the United States and lent unconditional
support to U.S. efforts to punish those responsible for the murders in New York, at the
Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania.
That support held even as Bush clumsily described the U.S. strategy as a
"crusade" to "rid the world of evil." Over the last two years,
however, Bush has lost much of that sympathy by demanding blind obedience from other
nations rather than building on the post-Sept. 11 solidarity. "You are either with
us, or you are with the terrorists," Bush announced.
Bush also implemented a National Security Strategy that asserted U.S. military and
economic dominance of the world forever. He withdrew from arms control treaties, rebuffed
international environmental plans and fought the creation of a world human rights court.
U.N. officials who didn't accept U.S. edicts on issues such as human rights, global
climate change or arms control issues soon found themselves out of a job. Among those
meeting that fate were Mary Robinson, human rights commissioner; Jose Bustani, head of the
Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons; and Robert Watson, the chairman of
the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Before being dismissed, Bustani said that
at stake was "whether genuine multilateralism will survive or whether it will be
replaced by unilateralism in a multilateral disguise." [For details, see
Consortiumnews.com's "Bushs Grim Vision"]
After U.S. forces ousted Osama bin Laden's Taliban allies in Afghanistan, Bush further
alienated world opinion by disregarding the Geneva Convention's protections for prisoners
of war. Many of Afghanistan's prisoners were stashed in open-air cages at the U.S.
military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and were denied rights afforded combatants in war
Last year, as Bush began preparing for the invasion of Iraq, he also enunciated his
doctrine of preemptive war during a speech at West
Point. "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too
long," Bush said. "We must confront the worst threats before they emerge."
Drumbeats to War
By fall 2002, the Bush administration was touting supposed evidence proving that Iraq
possessed WMD and was likely to share it with terrorist groups. When France and Germany
questioned that evidence and suggested that U.N. inspectors be given time to investigate,
the two longtime allies earned Bush's enmity.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld derided Germany and France as "old Europe,"
suggesting that they had little relevance to the world's future. Bush's political allies
fanned an anti-French hysteria by organizing boycotts of French products, pouring French
wine into gutters and renaming French fries "freedom fries." Bush did nothing to
restrain this public vilification.
The Bush administration also ridiculed the United Nations as a "debating
society" when it balked at taking immediate action against Iraq's alleged WMD
arsenal. Bush warned that if the U.N. didn't endorse his war plans, it would "go the
way of the League of Nations" by fading into obscurity and irrelevance.
To gain support for a war resolution on the U.N. Security Council, the Bush
administration browbeat and bribed countries. Still, even impoverished African nations,
like Angola, held firm in favoring more time for U.N. inspectors to search for the elusive
Bush failed to win a majority of the U.N. Security Council in a stunning defeat for
U.S. diplomacy. Bush was left with Tony Blair's Great Britain and a few other members of
"the coalition of the willing" to lead into war against Iraq in March. Bush
justified the attack as the only way to prevent Iraq's WMD from falling into the hands of
In the five months since, despite unfettered access, U.S. forces have discovered no
stockpiles of WMD. The Iraqis apparently were telling the truth when they said they had
destroyed their WMD stockpiles.
The Bush administration is now promising only proof that Iraq had the capability to
produce chemical and biological weapons sometime in the future. The administration also
has dropped its allegations of an Iraqi nuclear program, which had scared many Americans
into supporting the invasion.
Without apologizing to France or the U.N., Bush now wants the U.N. to fully endorse the
U.S. occupation of Iraq, so member nations will commit troops while leaving U.S.
commanders in total control. Nations including India, Germany and Turkey say
they won't consider sending troops to Iraq without a U.N. mandate.
France and other countries have countered Bush's plan with proposals for the
international community to share authority over Iraq and to move the country as quickly as
possible to self-government. Though Bush may not be listening, much of the world is saying
that his dictates will not reign supreme. Rather than submitting to U.S. domination, many
nations are insisting that multilateral cooperation be the driving force in international
The U.N. is suddenly relevant again and the go-it-alone style of the Bush
Doctrine is in jeopardy.
The Bush Doctrine is in danger on another front, too. The strategy of ousting Saddam
Hussein over his alleged WMD was supposed to serve as a warning to other "rogue"
states, such as Iran and North Korea. But the Iraq example seems to be having the opposite
After watching Iraq be invaded even as it was cooperating with the U.N. and destroying
its own weapons, North Korea especially seems to have concluded that disarmament is a
losing game. It just invites an attack, while the international community lacks enough
power to stop a U.S. invasion.
U.S. hesitancy in the face of North Korea's own tough rhetoric reinforces that point.
While Iraq's submission to U.N. inspections didn't spare it from "regime
change," North Korea's defiance over its nuclear program has led Bush to call the
standoff with Pyongyang "not a military showdown," but a "diplomatic
Bush, of course, may just be buying time before opting for a military solution. U.S.
News reported that Rumsfeld has told U.S. military commanders to prepare a war plan for
possible conflict with North Korea. "The plan would give commanders in the region
authority to conduct maneuvers before a war has started to drain North
Koreas limited resources, strain its military, and perhaps sow enough confusion that
North Korean generals might turn against the countrys leader," the
But in the short term, the message from Bush's inconsistent policy is that nuclear
deterrence may be the best way to keep the U.S. at bay.
What is becoming clear is that Bush's designs for unparalleled global domination may be
unworkable. The cost of imposing Bush's will on the world is so staggering both in
money and manpower that even the world's strongest economy is sagging under the
U.S. military forces are being stretched so thin that there might not be enough
soldiers to respond to another crisis. More than half the active duty Army is stationed in
Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region. Many have been on duty much longer than
they expected, causing morale to suffer.
In short, Bush's ideological vision of a world submitting to his desires is colliding
with the reality that other countries will resist U.S. domination either politically
as the setbacks at the U.N. have shown or militarily. That is most evident
in Iraq where resistance to U.S. forces has been heavier than expected both during the
three-week march to Baghdad and through almost five months of occupation.
Though many war critics had predicted the likelihood of a nationalist resistance to an
invading army, Bush and his advisers apparently sold themselves on their own propaganda
about a "cakewalk" victory followed by Iraqis giving U.S. troops a
"The small circle of senior civilians in the Defense Department who dominated
planning for postwar Iraq failed to prepare for the setbacks that have erupted,"
according to a report by the
Knight Ridder newspapers. "The officials didnt develop any real postwar
plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and
Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the countrys leader."
It should have occurred to Bush's war planners that the invasion would inevitably kill
thousands of Iraqis, destroy homes and businesses, and severely disrupt day-to-day life
leading many Iraqis to resent U.S. forces. That possibility apparently was either
missed or was handled with the selective judgment that the administration applied to the
One early indication that the wishful thinking might not bear out was a mass
demonstration in Baghdad on April 15, only days after the fall of Husseins
government. Thousands of Iraqis protested the U.S. occupation with signs telling U.S.
Marines to go home. "No to Saddam, and no to America," Iraqis chanted.
Since then, anti-occupation protests have become a common occurrence in Iraq. Some
demonstrations have been met with lethal force by U.S. troops, further enflaming the Iraqi
people. In recent weeks, violent attacks on U.S. troops and the economic infrastructure
have become more audacious and sophisticated. Terrorist groups have spread disorder, too,
with bombings against civilian targets, such as the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
Increasingly, it looks like the fall of Saddams government was not a victory
after all, but only the start of a new phase of the war. In an interview with Newsday.com,
an Iraqi militia fighter said, "We have many more people and were a lot better
organized than the Americans realize. We have been preparing for this for a long time, and
were much more patient than the Americans. We have nowhere else to go."
As the U.S. death toll mounted this summer, Bush kept up the macho rhetoric. American
forces are "plenty tough" to handle the situation, he said, as he taunted Iraqi
fighters to "bring em on."
Meanwhile, U.S. troop morale was hitting "rock bottom," according to an
officer from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Some troops called on Rumsfeld to "get
our sorry asses out of here." [For details, see The Christian Science Monitor's "Troop
morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'" ]
The troops endured 120 degree heat on a daily basis, wearing flak jackets and Kevlar
helmets in a country where they do not speak the language, do not understand the culture,
and have to endure Iraqis shooting at them. There are at least a dozen attacks on troops a
day. One Staff Sergeant told the Washington Post, "we have no business being
A recent Newsweek poll found that 70 percent of the American public feels that
the United States will be bogged down in Iraq for years without achieving its goals. An
equal number of Americans are concerned that the costs of war (about $1 billion a week)
will increase the deficit and hurt the economy. Nearly 60 percent are concerned that the
military will be overextended should another security threat arise outside Iraq, and 72
percent indicate that they support turning over authority for rebuilding Iraq to the
There is also reason to believe that anti-Bush demonstrations will pick up as Election
2004 nears. Many anti-war activists were discouraged when they failed to prevent the war,
despite massive demonstrations in U.S. cities and around the world. They also had to
endure baiting from Bush's supporters who freely called war critics fools and traitors
after the ouster of Saddam Hussein on April 9.
But the controversy over Bush's WMD lies and the recognition that many of the pre-war
"quagmire" warnings were right on target have reinvigorated the anti-war
movement. There are national mobilizations planned for September and October, which could
draw the kinds of crowds that were seen in the build-up to war with Iraq. Already, groups
are mobilizing to protest the Republican National Convention being held in New York City
to coincide with the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. [For more information, see
http://www.counterconvention.org and http://www.rncnotwelcome.org.]
In many ways, the future of the Bush Doctrine will depend on the outcome of next year's
presidential election, which will turn in part over Bush's management of national security
policy. The Democratic presidential candidates have all to one degree or another
criticized Bush's handling of the Iraq War.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean catapulted to front-runner status largely because he
challenged Bush's case for war early this year and withstood abuse from the Bush
triumphalists after April 9. Many Democratic activists believe the party needs a nominee
who will take on Bush and the powerful conservative media apparatus if Democrats want to
avoid repeats of the debacles of 2000 and 2002.
A Democratic victory in 2004 would certainly mean a shift in direction on the Bush
Doctrine, if not its outright repudiation. The Democrats are more likely to seek a more
multilateral strategy for waging war on terrorism. If Bush wins a second term, however, he
will almost certainly push the Bush Doctrine as aggressively as he can. Likely more wars
But the lesson of the past several months is that whatever Bush's wishes, other
governments and the people of the world will contest the notion of an all-dominant United
States. Bush may want to pick and choose which countries must be invaded and which ones
spared, but the world community is certain to organize a determined opposition to the Bush
The choice for the American voters in November 2004, therefore, will be whether they
want the United States to be more a part of the world community or increasingly a pariah.