Tuesday, April 19, 2005



from the NIAGARA FALLS REORTER (and my current favorite columnist))

By Bill Gallagher
"My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." -- President George W. Bush, March 19, 2003.

DETROIT -- We need reminding just how great the gap is between what President George W. Bush promised us his war in Iraq would bring and the reality of the mess the aggression has created. We did not need to disarm Iraq. Ten years of UN sanctions and the capable inspection work of Hans Blix effectively kept Iraq militarily impotent.

The myth that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction served Bush's purposes in scaring the hell out of enough Americans to provide the political support for the unnecessary invasion of Iraq. The big lie that Saddam was shopping the world for enriched uranium has been thoroughly discredited, along with Condoleezza Rice's false claim that Iraq had specially machined aluminum tubes that could "only be used for nuclear weapons." She also shamelessly used a "mushroom cloud" reference to sell the Saddam-is-a-nuclear-lusting-Satan lie.

Iraq hardly posed any threat to its neighbors. It was a monstrous hyperbole that the war was imperative "to defend the world from grave danger."

Two years later, the volume of lies the Busheviks fed the American people is stunning, and it's staggering how many swallowed the steady diet of deception. Even as the facts have emerged, proving how wrong Bush's arguments for war were, there are still a great many warmongering true believers who are content to cling to the lies rather than engage in the self-reflection that would force them to recognize they were duped. Of course, the president encourages self-deception. It's a way of life for him.

It is for Dick Cheney, too. He's still telling people Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots and al-Qaeda operatives met with some of Saddam's boys in Prague. The Czech government said there was no truth at all to the powwow in Prague, but that won't stop Cheney from spinning that yarn until Judgment Day.

Now, more than two years after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared confidently that we knew "exactly" where Saddam had hidden forbidden weapons, he hasn't told us where he got that phony tip or even tried to explain how he could be so far off the mark.

Rummy's been in charge of Iraq since Saddam's fall and he's never been held accountable for the failure to plan for the long, bloody occupation. He and his pals at the Pentagon wanted nothing to do with State Department types who thought it would be wise to spend an afternoon or two trying to figure out what to do when Saddam's army took a powder.

The Iraqi people are free of Saddam Hussein, but that does not mean they are free. Martial law and indefinite occupation prevent establishing democratic institutions and anything that looks like a functioning central government.

Bombings and civil unrest are unabated. Because of the U.S. military presence, Iraq is a magnet for every Islamist radical on the planet. Iraq's infrastructure cannot be rebuilt with the daily violence. Basic services -- water, sewers and electricity -- are typically unreliable everywhere and unavailable in many parts of the country. Unemployment remains high and normal economic activities are often impossible to carry out. People are angry and frustrated.

Just about everything Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said would happen in Iraq has not. He once said Iraqi oil revenue would actually pay for the war and occupation. Wolfie was only about $200 billion off. But what the hell -- anyone can make a mistake.

Keeping with the Bushevik tradition that nothing is more appreciated than failure and incompetence, Wolfowitz is now the president's choice to head the World Bank. He can now take his neocon fantasies and try them out on developing nations.

I'd watch any numbers he uses, though. Don't forget Wolfie underestimated the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq last year by about 30 percent. At a congressional hearing, he said 500 had been killed, when the number at the time was more than 700. Small details like human lives lost elude Wolfowitz. Bright as he is, he has been more wrong, more often, on more critical issues than anyone in the administration save the president himself. Two years after the invasion, 1,500 Americans are dead, 1,300 of them killed since Bush did his vainglorious aircraft carrier strut under the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Although Gen. Tommy Franks once glibly said, "We don't do body counts," independent groups peg the death toll for Iraqi civilians at more than 17,000.

Around the world, the United States is viewed as a bully, a nation that would wage pre-emptive war over phantom weapons and the fabricated threat of a two-bit dictator.

Even when the reasons for war are proven false, our leader says it was worth it because, left unchecked, Saddam might have thought of doing something bad someday. And besides, our war brought "freedom" to the Iraqi people.

That's the kind of nonsense Bush spews. Even though fewer than half the American people buy that crap, it's unsettling to know so many subscribe to the madness. Those sheep are ready to cheer our troops marching into battle in Iran or Syria or whatever godforsaken outpost Bush declares to be the new frontline in the war on terrorism.

Bush thrives on endless war politically, and it certainly pleases his corporate and religious sponsors. Halliburton's making a killing on the war. Exxon Mobil had its biggest quarter in history, with profits topping $7 billion. Fears of a supply gap because of the Iraq war buoyed profits for the world's largest privately owned oil company. Gasoline at the pump is at an all-time high and the record for a barrel of crude will soon be broken. Texas oilies and Saudi princes are smiling, bringing happiness to Bushworld.

The intolerance and pettiness the war has brought us never stops. From the mindless "freedom fries" to a community college in California dropping an exchange program with Spain because Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq, we see examples every day of Americans saying and doing foolish things to show the world we won't tolerate those who defy Bush's war policies.

The corporate media enabled the Bushevik propaganda machine. It is impossible to count the number of times TV anchors repeated the words, Sept. 11, terrorist attacks, Saddam Hussein and Iraq. That's what Bush was chanting, and the big networks and cable news channels were tripping over one another to prove their loyalty and to support the march to war. Few opposed to the war were heard before the invasion. After the fighting began, hardly a word of dissent was heard until the triumphalism gave way to the grim reality of a long, bitter occupation.

Print media also failed, most notably The New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers vastly overestimated the threat Saddam posed, based largely on information from sources committed to invading Iraq. They later recognized their failures, but the damage was already done.

This is Holy Week. It's a reminder of the great differences among religious leaders over the war in Iraq.

Pope John Paul II was unequivocal in his opposition to the war and remains a courageous voice in choosing peace over violence.

Bush refused to meet with bishops from the Methodist Church when they wanted to express their opposition to the war. Bush closed the door on them.

But he welcomes war-worshiping evangelistas who see the war in Iraq as a crusade to do the Lord's work in the desert of Islam, planting the seeds of Christian democracy.

I'll never accept George W Bush's war, nor a religion that blesses it.

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