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[casi] Bush's Speech: War not over & neither are the lies ...

[US] Foreign Policy in Focus

      Sept 08, 2003

      Bush's Speech:
      The War in Iraq is Not Over and Neither Are the Lies to Justify It

      by Stephen Zunes

       Middle East editor

      President George W. Bush's nationally-broadcast speech Sunday evening
once again was designed to mislead Congress and the American public into
supporting his administration's policies in Iraq. Despite record deficits
and draconian cutbacks in government support for health care, housing,
education, the environment and public transportation, the president is
asking the American taxpayer to spend an additional $87 billion to support
his invasion and occupation of Iraq.

      It is disturbing that President Bush has once again tried to link the
very real threat to American security from mega-terrorist groups like
Al-Qaeda to phony threats originating in Iraq. Not only does he try to link
the terrorism that has grown out of the post-invasion chaos in Iraq to the
devastating Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States two years ago, President
Bush has depicted all the current violence against Americans and other
foreigners in Iraq as part of this terrorist threat.

      Like most Americans, I am deeply distressed at attacks on U.S.
soldiers. However, the Fourth Geneva Convention -- to which the United
States is a signatory -- is quite clear that a people under foreign military
occupation have the right to militarily engage armed uniformed occupation
forces. This is not the same as terrorism, which refers to attacks
deliberately targeted against unarmed civilians and is universally
recognized as a war crime. It is therefore terribly misleading for President
Bush to try convince the American public that these two phenomena are the

      President Bush also failed to differentiate between the increasingly
disparate elements behind the attacks. Some of the violence may indeed come
from those who have some connection with Al-Qaeda who have infiltrated Iraq
since the invasion this spring; some may be supporters of Saddam Hussein's
former regime; some may be radical Iraqi Islamists or independent Iraqi
nationalists who opposed the old regime but also oppose the U.S. occupation;
still others may be foreign fighters who see driving American occupiers from
Iraq as an act of pan-Islamic solidarity comparable to driving Soviet
occupiers from Afghanistan.

      However, President Bush now declares that a successful American-led
pacification of the anti-occupation resistance in Iraq would be an
"essential victory in the war on terror." In linking the legitimate
international struggle against Al-Qaeda with the illegitimate U.S.
occupation of Iraq, it becomes possible for the administration to justify
the president's determination to "spend what is necessary" in controlling
this oil-rich country and to depict those in the United States and elsewhere
who oppose the occupation as being soft of terrorism.

        Below are some excerpts from the September 7 speech that were
particularly misleading:
      "And we acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror."

      The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein indeed had sponsored terror over
its nearly one- quarter of a century in power. However, according to both
U.S. government agencies and independent researchers, Iraqi support for
terrorism primarily took place in the 1980s, when the United States was
quietly supporting the regime, and had dropped off dramatically since then.
No significant Iraqi links have been found to Al Qaeda or other terrorist
groups that currently threaten the United States.

      ".possessed and used weapons of mass destruction,."

      Iraq did use weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s when the regime
was being supported by the U.S. government, but not since then.

      It also appears that virtually all of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction were destroyed or otherwise made unusable some time between five
and eight years ago. Neither the United Nations nor the Bush Administration
has been able to show any evidence that Iraq possessed such weapons in more
recent years.

      ".and for 12 years defied the clear demands of the United Nations
Security Council."

      It is true that Iraq openly defied or otherwise failed for twelve
years to live up to demands of the UN Security Council regarding its
destruction of and accountability for weapons of mass destruction, certain
delivery systems, and other proscribed materials. However, once Iraq allowed
the UN inspectors into their country for unfettered inspections last fall
and ceded to UN demands regarding aerial reconnaissance, interviews with
Iraqi scientists, and other means of insuring full Iraqi accountability
several weeks later, one could argue that Iraq may have finally been in
compliance with most, if not all, of those outstanding resolutions at the
time of the U.S. invasion.

      It should also be noted that Morocco, Israel and Turkey have failed to
live up to demands of the UN Security Council for more than twice as long as
did Iraq. Several other countries -- including Croatia, Indonesia, Sudan,
Armenia, India, Pakistan and others -- continue to be in defiance of the UN
Security Council from more recent resolutions. Despite these transgressions,
however, the Bush Administration does not appear ready to invade these
countries. Indeed, most of these countries receive military and economic aid
from the U.S. government, raising serious questions as to whether the Bush
Administration has ever really been concerned about the implementation of
resolutions passed by the UN Security Council after all.

      "Our coalition enforced these international demands in one of the
swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history."

      First of all, the initial invasion was almost exclusively an American
military operation with the exception of British leadership in some southern
parts of the country. It could therefore hardly be referred to as a

      More importantly, the invasion of Iraq was not an enforcement of these
"international demands." The United Nations Charter clearly states that only
the UN Security Council itself has the ability to authorize military
enforcement of its resolutions. The Security Council, however, refused to
authorize the United States to enforce these resolutions through military
means despite enormous pressure by U.S. officials to do so.

      Finally, it was hardly a humane military campaign. More than 5000
Iraqi civilians were killed in the U.S.-led assault, far surpassing the
number of American civilians killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

      "For a generation leading up to September the 11th, 2001, terrorists
and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and
beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response."

      This is not true at all. During this period, countries where
terrorists were harbored -- including Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, and
Afghanistan -- were subjected to major bombing campaigns (though more
civilians than terrorists were killed during most of these military
operations.) Sustained and serious responses by a series of American, Middle
Eastern and European governments -- using a combination of aggressive police
work, intelligence efforts, and paramilitary operations -- destroyed or
severely weakened most of the major terrorist groups during this period,
including Abu Nidal, the PFLP-GC, the PKK, Black September, and others.

      "The terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and

      As anyone familiar with any serious study of Middle Eastern terrorism
recognizes, there is no doubt on the part of anti-American extremists of the
United States' military power. Indeed, the inability to take on U.S.
military might directly is what has prompted these extremists to utilize the
kind of irregular warfare that targets innocent civilians. Furthermore, the
use of terror by groups like Al-Qaeda comes in large part from the hope that
the United States will respond through disproportionate and poorly-targeted
military actions that further alienate the general population and add to
their ranks. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has fallen right into
their trap.

      "We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the
terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but
at the heart of its power."

      If one wants to find a geographic center of the terrorist threat, it
is U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, from which most of the Al-Qaeda leadership,
sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, and most of the group's financial
support comes. By contrast, none of Al-Qaeda's leadership, none of the 9/11
hijackers and none of the money trail appear to have come from Iraq.

      However, the heart of terrorism's power comes not from any particular
geographic location, but from the individual terrorists whose violent
anti-Americanism is rooted in large part to years of U.S. support for
repressive Arab dictatorships and Israeli occupation forces. Current U.S.
policy is making enemies faster than we can kill them.

      "In Iraq, we are helping the long suffering people of that country to
build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East.
Together we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves
into a nation of laws and free institutions."

      Most observers in Iraq have reported that the country is far from
being "a decent and democratic society" and that foreign occupation forces
are currently in charge of the legal system and governmental institutions.

      Furthermore, the United States -- both currently and over the past
three decades -- has been the single largest supporter of autocratic
governments in the Arab world, raising serious questions as to whether
freedom and democracy is even the goal of the United States in Iraq.

      "The terrorists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments
of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall, and resentment gives way to hope,
men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of terror, and turn to
the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will

      This is very true. This begs the question, then, as to why the Bush
Administration continues to arm and support tyrannical governments like
those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt? These countries have produced far more
anti-American terrorists that Iraq ever did, even under Saddam Hussein.

      "The north of Iraq is generally stable and is moving forward with
reconstruction and self-government."

      Actually, because northern Iraq had been an autonomous area under
Kurdish rule ever since mid-1991, the region had been generally stable and
was moving forward with reconstruction and self-government well prior to the
U.S. invasion. Since the U.S. invasion, however, there has been an upsurge
in ethnic clashes and other violence.

      "This violence is directed not only against our coalition, but against
anyone in Iraq who stands for decency, and freedom and progress."

      Some of the violence may indeed come from those who oppose decency,
freedom and progress. However, history has shown that most people who have
taken up arms against foreign occupation troops do so because they believe
it is those who invaded and occupied their country who actually threaten its
freedom and progress.

      "Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on
terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many
fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front."

      The U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified primarily on the grounds that
Iraq supposedly possessed chemical and biological weapons and had an active
nuclear weapons program. Only now, as it is becoming apparent that Iraq did
not have such weapons or weapons programs after all, is the Bush
Administration suddenly claiming that the reason for the United States to
take over the country is that Iraq is now "the central front" of the "war on

      "Following World War II, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan
and Germany, and stood with them as they built representative governments.
We committed years and resources to this cause. And that effort has been
repaid many times over in three generations of friendship and peace. America
today accepts the challenge of helping Iraq in the same spirit -- for their
sake, and our own."

      There are some key differences between Germany and Japan of 1945 and
Iraq today. Germany had a democratic parliamentary system prior to Hitler
seizing power in the early 1930s and Japan had some semblance of a
constitutional monarchy prior to the rise of militarism in the late 1920s,
whereas Iraq has never had a representative government. Germany and Japan
were homogeneous societies with a strong sense of national identity, whereas
Iraq is an artificial creation thrown together by colonial powers from three
Ottoman provinces by and has only been truly independent for just 45 years;
fighting between various Iraqi religious and ethnic groups has resulted in
the deaths of tens of thousands in recent decades. In addition, most Germans
and Japanese recognized that their defeat and occupation was a direct result
of their leaders' aggression against the countries' neighbors, whereas the
Iraqis -- whose government was far weaker and less aggressive during its
final twelve years than it was in the past -- are more prone to see the
American takeover as an act of Western imperialism, not self-defense. As a
result, it will be quite difficult for the United States to establish a
widely accepted and stable regime. Finally, the idealistic New Deal liberals
who helped create open political systems in post-war Germany and Japan
arguably had a stronger personal commitment to democracy than the right-wing
neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who have a history of
supporting dictatorial governments that support U.S. strategic and economic

      "We are taking direct action against the terrorists in the Iraqi
theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks on coalition
forces and the Iraqi people."

      These kind of pro-active U.S. military operations against alleged
terrorists in crowded urban areas tend to result in civilian casualties that
will likely encourage attacks by both terrorists targeting civilians as well
as other armed units targeting occupation soldiers.

      More importantly, however, it is important to recognize that prior to
the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, there were no car bomb attacks
against UN offices, foreign embassies or places of worship. Since the U.S.
takeover, however, Iraq has become a hotbed of terrorism. This raises
serious questions as to whether invading other countries actually makes the
world safer from terrorism or if such actions actually help create

      "Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United
Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed
Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council
resolution, which would authorize the creation of a multinational force in
Iraq, to be led by America.. [W]e cannot let past differences interfere with
present duties. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity -- and
the responsibility -- to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes
a free and democratic nation."

      It is unlikely that the UN Security Council would take the
unprecedented step of authorizing a multinational force to take part in an
occupation which came through what most UN members see as an illegal
invasion and a clear violation of the UN Charter. By contrast, if the United
States was willing to transfer administration of Iraq to the United
Nations -- creating a UN trusteeship like the one the Security Council set
up in East Timor between the withdrawal of Indonesian occupation forces in
2000 and independence last year -- most countries capable of providing
peacekeeping troops, financial support and technical expertise would
probably do so. The United States has refused to allow the United Nations a
significant role, however, insisting that the economic and political future
of Iraq should be shaped primarily by the United States, not the
international community. Until the United States allows the United Nations
to take leadership, however, it is unfair to insist that UN members have a
"responsibility" or a "duty" to help ameliorate the mess the United States
has gotten itself into

      "I have expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to
govern themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free
people and secure the blessings of their own liberty."

      This statement may be preparing the way to convince Americans that,
should the Bush Administration's policy fail, it will be the fault of the
Iraqis themselves, not the government that invaded and occupied them.

      "This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the
Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of
oppression and mismanagement."

      Iraq and Afghanistan were indeed ruled by regimes which were
oppressive and mismanaged their economies. However, development officials on
the ground in these countries have argued that most of the rebuilding that
is needed is related to damage from years of heavy bombing and economic
sanctions, which - particularly in the case of Iraq - were largely a result
of U.S. policy. It is thus far unclear as to how much of the $87 billion
requested of Congress will actually help in rebuilding these countries and
how much will go to supporting U.S. occupation forces and well-connected
U.S. multinational corporations involved in reconstruction and

      "We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help
them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build
new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is essential to the
stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own security."

      Hopefully, this will indeed be the case. It should be pointed out,
however, that security in Afghanistan and Iraq has actually decreased
dramatically since the U.S. ousted the previous governments and basic
services like electricity and water are less available in Iraq now than they
were prior to the U.S. takeover.

      "For the Middle East and the world, there will be no going back to the
days of fear, when a brutal and aggressive tyrant possessed terrible

      Hopefully, this will be true as well. However, none of Iraq's
neighbors had expressed particular fear of Saddam Hussein once the 1991 Gulf
War and subsequent sanctions and UN-led disarmament efforts apparently
eliminated the regime's weapons of mass destruction and its offensive
military capability. Not only did the U.S. invasion do nothing to improve
the regional security situation, the Bush Administration has rejected calls
for a weapons of mass destruction free zone for the entire Middle East,
which could help prevent other tyrants from obtaining such weapons.

      "We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of
strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness."

      Again, there are no doubts among extremists in the Middle East
regarding America's military strength. The perceived weakness is in regard
to America's moral strength. Millions of people in the Middle East and
beyond believe that it is morally wrong for the United States to support
Arab dictatorships and Israeli occupation forces. They believe it is morally
wrong that the amount of U.S. military aid to the Middle East is six times
that of its economic aid. They believe it is morally wrong that the #1 U.S.
export to the region is not consumer goods, high-tech equipment or
agricultural products, but armaments. They believe it is morally wrong that
a powerful country from the other side of the world would invade a sovereign
Arab nation and justify it by falsely claiming that its government currently
had weapons of mass destruction and was supporting Al-Qaeda. They believe it
is morally wrong that U.S. bombing and sanctions against Muslim countries
has killed far more civilians than have the terrorists themselves.

      The unfortunate reality is that the more the United States has
militarized the Middle East, the less secure we have become.

      "And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage
the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and
Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in
our own cities."

      It is absurd to believe that those Iraqis and Afghanis currently
fighting U.S. occupation forces in their own countries actually want to
somehow sneak into the United States to fight Americans here. Indeed, no
Afghans or Iraqis are known to have ever committed an act of terrorism
against Americans on American soil.

      The president's statement is essentially a retread of the line used by
supporters of the Vietnam War that "If we don't fight them over there, we
will have to fight them here." However, more than 28 years after the
Communist victory in Vietnam, we are yet to fight the Vietnamese in our
streets and there is no indication that we ever will. The Iraqis and
Afghans, as were the Vietnamese, are fighting Americans because U.S. troops
are in their country and, like the Vietnamese, will stop fighting Americans
once U.S. troops leave their country.

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