08/14/2005: Lingering Bad Impressions...
Deconstructing the war talk as stubborn Bush stays course; by Dennis Jett (Dean of the University of Florida International Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Peru and Mozambique):
”Nearly half the American people have figured out something that President Bush cannot admit: The war in Iraq is hurting, not helping, the war on terrorism.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 47 percent of Americans have come to that realization. Only 39 percent of those surveyed believe it is helping, and their numbers are steadily falling.
A better understanding of the impact of the war can be found in the comics than in some parts of Washington. In a recent "Doonesbury," journalist Roland Hedley asks a hooded jihadist whether he would concede that by fighting in Iraq, Americans would not have to fight the terrorists on our own streets. The terrorist responds "the war in Iraq is such a godsend for us. It's the greatest recruiting tool in the history of terrorism."
The far-right perennial presidential candidate Pat Buchanan agrees with "Doonesbury," not with the president. He wrote recently that "Bush's cure for terrorism is a cause of the epidemic."
There are plenty of studies to support "Doonesbury's" and Buchanan's conclusion. American intelligence officials and two recent studies from think tanks have concluded the same thing. They all carefully evaluated hundreds of the foreigners who have gone to Iraq to take part in the fight against the Americans. Before the war in Iraq, few of these individuals were involved in terrorism, but the war provided the motivation and the opportunity for them to engage in the struggle.
The author of one of the studies was quoted as saying: "I am not sure the American public is really aware of the enormous influence of the war in Iraq, not just on Islamists but the entire Arab world." Perhaps the American public is more aware than America's leaders. The administration is at least consistent in its tone-deafness to the reaction to its policies. It refuses to consider closing the detention center at Guantanamo even though it has become another symbol and rallying cry for anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.
Yet another example is the administration's reaction to several Republican senators who want to attach amendments to the Pentagon's budget. The legislation would bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross and prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners or the use of unauthorized interrogation techniques.
Vice President Dick Cheney is heading up a vigorous effort to block the change. The White House even warned that it would veto the budget bill if the amendments were added. Savor that for a moment. Bush is the first president in 175 years to have gone a full term without casting a veto. What kind of impression would it have abroad if his first use of the veto was to strike down a bill simply because it contained a provision prohibiting torture and violations of our treaty obligations?
But the administration remains as oblivious to the effects of the war on our image as it is to its effect on our safety. The war clearly has not reduced the threat of terrorism. According to some projections, its cost is going to exceed that of the Korean War and the Vietnam War. More than 1,800 Americans are dead and more than 11,000 wounded. Another study estimates that 25,000 Iraqis have died and more than 40,000 more have been wounded.
And for what? To create a government dominated by religious fundamentalists, racked by corruption and sectarian divisions. If a constitution is drafted as scheduled by Monday, it will likely provide Iraqi women fewer rights and legal protections than they had under Saddam Hussein (though the dictator himself and his sons never bothered to respect them).
Yet Bush keeps trying to sell his version of reality. On June 28, for instance, he said, "Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions." He must have been referring to the coalition forces and not the Iraqi army and police. In late July in a report to Congress as part of the confirmation hearings for Gen. Peter Pace to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon admitted that none of Iraq's police battalions and only a small fraction of its army can conduct counterinsurgency operations without significant American help.
The president must stick with his argument that fighting in Iraq is helping the war on terrorism for a simple reason: He has run out of rationales for his invasion. The weapons of mass destruction did not exist, and UN inspections and sanctions had contained Hussein's ambitions to acquire them. There were no significant ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda under Hussein, but there sure are now.
So even though there were also no links between Iraq and Sept. 11, the president has to keep invoking memories of that day. His only hope is to scare the American people into continuing to believe he has chosen the best course, even though all the evidence is to the contrary.”
Karen on 08.14.05 @ 10:09 AM CST