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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“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
“‘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
“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
“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.