In the run-up to the Iraq
invasion, George W. Bush showed his disdain for France by having Air
Force One serve French toast as freedom toast, while Dick Cheney
confronted French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte with the blunt question:
Is France an ally or an adversary of the United States? [Washington
Post, Sept. 23, 2003] New York Times foreign policy columnist Thomas
Friedman penned a recent column entitled Our War With France, which
stated Its time we Americans come to terms with something.
becoming our enemy. [NYT, Sept. 18, 2003]
But the more relevant
observation about France and other longtime allies that opposed Bushs
decision to invade and occupy Iraq may come from the slogan of the
popular anti-drunk-driving commercial: Friends dont let friends drive
drunk. The key question may not be whether traditional friends have
turned into enemies but whether these U.S. friends were right to counsel
Bush against a self-destructive action.
Following that analogy, Bushs
putative allies, the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, may
have played the role of enablers, the weak-willed friends who lack the
courage to stand up to an inebriated pal who is staggering toward the
drivers side of the car. One could argue that France and Germany were
giving Bush the kind of realistic advice that could have spared the
United States the worsening debacle in Iraq and saved the lives of more
than 300 U.S. soldiers.
Still, like the drunk driver
who wont admit that the accident was his fault, Bush continues to slur
facts and logic, blaming anyone but himself for the geopolitical pile-up
in the desert. Yet, as his excuses and deceptions become more apparent,
the disconnect between Bushs words and reality are also harder to
conceal. To walk away from responsibility for the mess he's made, Bush
needs even more enablers, especially inside the Washington news media.
In an interview with Fox News,
for instance, Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq by still
insisting that his pre-war claims about Iraqs weapons of mass
destruction were true. He also cited U.N. resolution 1441 as
justification for his preemptive war even though a majority of the U.N.
Security Council had opposed Bush's decision to enforce the resolution's
disarmament demands through an invasion.
Thats the resolution that
said if you dont disarm there will be serious consequences, Bush told
Fox News anchor Brit Hume. Then Bush added about himself that at least
somebody stood up and said this is a definition of serious
consequences. [Fox News transcript, Sept. 22, 2003]
But Bush leaves out
inconvenient facts, like the Security Council's demand for more time for
U.N. inspectors to determine whether Iraq had, in fact, disarmed.
Theres also the fact that neither U.N. inspectors nor U.S. forces on
the ground have found any of the alleged stockpiles of trigger-ready
chemical and biological weapons that Bush keeps citing as a chief reason
for war. But Hume and other news personalities know when not to
contradict the notoriously thin-skinned Texan.
Still, even as Bush digs in
his heels on his justifications for the death and destruction in Iraq,
other pro-war advocates have begun to adjust their rationales. One new
spin, popular with American pundits, blames Saddam Hussein for the
invasion on the grounds that he confused the United States about whether
Iraq did or didn't possess weapons of mass destruction. This new
argument claims that Hussein refused to say that he had gotten rid of
his WMD so he would look tough to his neighbors and that it was this
Iraqi conceit that caused the war.
The problem with the argument,
however, is that Iraq repeatedly did state that it had rid itself of its
chemical and biological weapons. Indeed, Hussein and his government
insisted for months that they were in compliance with U.N. disarmament
demands and grudgingly agreed to give U.N. inspectors free rein to
examine any suspected weapons site of their choosing. Hans Blix and
other U.N. inspectors were reporting cooperation from the Iraqis when
Bush cut that process short, claiming that war was necessary to ensure
Now, however, some pundits
have rewritten this recent history to claim that Hussein was pretending
right up to the start of the invasion that he still had chemical and
biological weapons. Even supposedly smart U.S. commentators, it appears,
have deadened their senses with the intoxication of Bush propaganda.
Bush also has continued to
cling to his pre-war arguments about Iraqs ties to al-Qaeda and other
Islamic terrorists as another justification for the invasion. In the Fox
News interview, he was back linking Saddam Hussein with Ansar al-Islam,
which Bush said was very active during Saddams period thats the
But Bush appeared to
understand some of the distinctions that intelligence experts have long
noted, that Ansar al-Islam was actually backed by Husseins Islamic
enemies in Iran and was based in Iraqs north beyond Baghdads control.
The Ansar al-Islam base was actually under the protection of the U.S.
no-fly zone, guaranteeing that Iraqi forces couldn't have attacked it
even if they wanted to.
And their camp there in the
north, Fox News anchor Hume said about Ansar al-Islam.
Yes, it is, northeast, Bush
Still, for public consumption,
the administration has continued to fuzz up the alleged relationships
between Husseins secular government and these Islamic fundamentalist
groups, all the better to gull the American people with.
Bush also continues to drop
the time element on when Hussein used chemical weapons (in the 1980s
when he was getting covert support from the Reagan-Bush administration)
and when Hussein disposed of the unconventional weapons he had left
(possibly in the 1990s, according to U.S. intelligence analysts who have
interviewed former Iraqi officials).
The regime of Saddam Hussein
cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction,
Bush told the U.N. General Assembly in a coolly received speech on Sept.
23. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to
account for them when confronted by the world.
Then, glossing over how he
spurned the U.N.s repeated appeals to let the inspectors finish up
their work in Iraq, Bush said, because a coalition of nations acted to
defend the peace, and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is
Bush also baffled some
listeners by wrapping his invasion in the cloak of humanitarianism.
Events during the past two
years have set before us the clearest of divides: Between those who seek
order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful
change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who
honor the rights of man, and those who deliberately take the lives of
men, and women, and children, without mercy or shame, Bush said.
These arguments may continue
to resonate with some of Bush's domestic supporters who tend to confuse
gullibility with patriotism. But this rhetoric is widening the
credibility gulf with the rest of the world, which sees Iraq as not
free, but occupied, and Bush's invasion as not an act of peace, but of
aggression. To much of the world, Bush is the one spreading chaos and
adopting "the methods of gangsters."
Many U.N. delegates seemed
perplexed by Bushs strained justifications for an invasion that U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan and many other world leaders have
condemned. Immediately before Bushs speech, Annan warned that
preemptive war and unilateralism, two strategies that Bush has embraced,
threatened to destroy more than half a century of international order
and spread the lawless use of force.
French President Jacques
Chirac made a similar point after Bushs speech. The war, which was
started without the authorization of the Security Council, has shaken
the multilateral system, he said.
To many listening to Bushs
speech, there was bitter irony, too, in his denunciation of those who
kill civilians without mercy or shame, given the thousands of Iraqis
including many children who were killed in the U.S.-led invasion.
During the invasion, Bush even
ordered bombing attacks on civilian targets, such as a restaurant in
Baghdad, in failed attempts to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Instead of
killing Hussein, the bombing of the restaurant slaughtered men, women
and children who were having dinner. One mother collapsed when she found
her daughters severed head in the rubble. But Bush has never expressed
remorse for these civilian dead.
Nor has Bush apologized for
any other Iraqi civilians killed by frightened American soldiers who
often shoot first and ask questions later. In a recent case cited by the
London Guardian newspaper, three farmers were killed and two boys, 10
and 12, were wounded when the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division
descended on a farmhouse in central Iraq during the middle of the night.
"The U.S. military has chosen
not to count the civilian casualties of the war in Iraq," the Guardian
reported. "But while more than 300 U.S. soldiers have now been killed
since the invasion to topple Saddam in March, thousands more Iraqis have
died." [Guardian, Sept. 24, 2003] Bush has expressed remorse for none of
Instead, Bush has surrounded
himself with yes men who reinforce his self-justifying reality and never
tell him no. Even the alleged moderates, like Secretary of State Colin
Powell, put their careers before any responsibility to restrain Bush's
Though Bush may like these
go-along pals, his truer friends may be the world leaders who tried to
dissuade him from his rush to invade Iraq. Indeed, if France and other
U.S. allies had succeeded in keeping the keys of war away from Bush in
March, the American people and U.S. troops in Iraq might have been
spared a costly adventure that may go on for years and drain the U.S.
Treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars.
But Bush brushed past some of
America's oldest friends and their warnings of danger. He had enough
pals and enablers who helped him climb behind the wheel and roar off
into the fog of war.
So, instead of pouring French
wine into gutters and publishing diatribes about France as the new
enemy, perhaps Americans should ask themselves if they would have been
better off today if they had heeded the advice from France and other
nations, if they had stopped Bush for his and Americas own good.