Democrats & Liberals Archives

Truth, Terrorism, and War

Why is it that people like me (and I in particular) are so mad at Bush, so fearful of what his next term holds, and so dedicated to bringing him down? Why is it, that even after a clear defeat on everything, we’re still standing on our own two feet opposing him, rather than getting use to being the minority party?

Memory has something to do with it. We haven’t forgotten, nor rationalized Bush’s mistakes and malfeasances. Some of you, though, consider that irrational. But I’ll tell you, it’s far from it. We have our reasons, and I wish to lay them out.

The Escape of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda
Priorities, priorities, priorities We had just been struck by Osama Bin Laden. Bush's administration claims it was enough to marginalize them. People in Java and Madrid think otherwise. The fact that Bin Laden was confident enough to appear in a new video and rub Bush's face in his failures should indicate the fallacy of that thinking.

al-Qaeda has always been marginalized more or less, thrown out of two other countries before it ended up in Afghanistan. Trick is, that's where they've always operated, except perhaps for Afghanistan. They're fringe by their very nature, moving through nations in the religious and ethnic minorities. Had we destroyed the leadership utterly, the splinters could have been mopped up, but instead, like that shape shifting android from the Terminator movies, the pieces flowed back together, and now doing the job will be much more difficult.

Even if we are willing to forgive Tora Bora, and the failure to find Osama for months, what many of us, myself included, cannot forgive is him letting up. When Bush said in a press conference he just didn't think Osama Bin Laden wasn't important anymore, my jaw dropped through the floor.

By the way: This is among the chief reasons that many Democrats were impatient to wait for things to get better in Iraq. We had already seen a war where protracted waiting did not end in better results.

Shifting the Focus to Iraq
When I started hearing inklings of us going to Iraq, I thought what Kerry would later say: the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I didn't think of Iraq as a strong terrorist supporter. It wasn't. Iran contributed much more to the terrorist attacks on Israel than Iraq did. Syria and it's occupied puppet state Lebanon have done substantially more to support groups that threaten Israel and harbor international terrorists. Whatever list most professionals had for places which supported terrorism, Iraq was never that high on them.

Until Bush came along. To me, it was very premature to go gallivanting off to finish Bush 41's business in Iraq. It just seemed intuitively wrong, especially in a time of such great danger. The 3000 dead of 9/11 were not a year in their graves when Bush started diverting us towards Iraq. I would think Bush would have some attention span to the issues at hand, but I was proven wrong over the course of 2002.

The McCarthyist use of our common tragedy in the 2002 elections
I sure hope that Bush has been on his knees enough in the past few years to pray for forgiveness for this. As the leader of his party, he should have been ashamed of the way he used this election and 9/11 as an issue to Bash Democrats on.

Democrats suffered and died alongside Republicans on 9/11, and have since done so in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our leaders were just as driven, just as committed to the war on terrorism as the Republicans were. But we didn't have the power and the popularity of the president behind us, and we didn't have the ruthless drive to put party politics ahead of our country's unity in the war on terrorism.

Part of Richard Clarke's appeal to Democrats was that he vindicated just how hard Democrats had worked to protect American, and revealed how little Bush had done before the crisis made dealing with the problem necessary. Nobody faults what Bush did to bring the country together, that he promised what any Commander in Chief should promise to a people so attacked, a nation so violated. What is faulted is Bush's attention to the problem before hand, and his manner of dealing with it afterwards. This country should not have to be in crisis for our Commander in Chief to do what he has to do.

Using shoddy information and intelligence to generate support for the Iraq War
Good intentions pave the road to hell, especially when people decide the ends justify the means. There are so many debates, debunks, and discredited pieces of information that it was Bush's obligation to make known to the people. Under the law, the president has to earn the right to go to war by the informing of the public, and by the justification of the war by the full, informed consent of their elected representatives.

The case was not scary because it was real, but because it had been designed to scare people. The allegations of a conspiracy with al-Qaeda to use WMD on American cities convinced many people that an invasion into Iraq was a just course of action. They put their faith in the president to have made his decisions in a well-informed manner, and to have justified such decisions to the American people with the truth.

Some may argue that such means for drawing us into this war were necessary to encourage Americans to do the right thing and end Saddam's tyranny. But to my mind, and I would think the minds of most reasonable Americans, such deception in gaining public consent to go to war is in itself an act of tyranny, an attack on the sovereign authority of the constituency such elected officials owe their position to. It is a fundamental betrayal of the trust they swear to when they are inaugurated into office.

The Circumvention of the United Nations and the Alienation of our allies
In late 2002 and early 2003, I don't remember a week going by where a Bush administration official didn't make some obnoxious comment about France, Germany, or Old Europe. The first appearance of the phrase "Coalition of the Willing" showed up in October of 2002. We did our best, it seemed to say to the UN, "You're irrelevant, we're the power in the world, so either lead, follow, or get out of the way".

Strong words, but those are the kinds of words spoken on the way up one regrets on the way down. Bush got the first resolution because people were genuinely concerned about Iraq, and nobody knew if our charges might be true. But as inspections went forth, the lack of weapons did become apparent. Our president cut consultations short, telling people who believed otherwise that Saddam was hiding weapons. Then we invaded, and confirmed what everybody there thought: No weapons. Now, we have to ask those we offended, those we attempted to marginalize for help with our mess.

If we had been right, Extension of American power and American interests would have become easier as a humbled security council and U.N. would come to our aid. But even then, our president did not need to act as if he would never need the UN's help again.

The undermanned, under-equipped, under-planned invasion of Iraq.
There was a kind of naivete to the way Bush approached the war in Iraq. Perhaps he thought Gulf War II, like Gulf War I, would be a walk in the park. Having already given out trillions of dollars in tax cuts, Bush looked to go into this war on the cheap, efficiently, with a downsized force and an emphasis on technology. This is what we get for having a CEO for a president, and a CEO for a Defense Secretary.

I know many people will quote Sun Tzu at me, but I can quote it right back. He recounts that he's heard of hasty wars done poorly, but he's never heard of an war extended brilliantly. He talked of the economic drain such extended wars had on states, and how such extended wars weakened such states and made them vulnerable to attack. As great as we are, we cannot prevent terrible outcomes if we go in understrength and underprepared.

We should not be running experiments on efficiency and thrift with live test subjects.

Finally:

Overall dishonesty about errors
It is significant that a vast majority of Americans are questioning the wisdom of the war in Iraq, but that our president has really never admitted error or fault in the matter. An unadmitted error has a way of poisoning political discourse. It did so with Monica Lewinsky, and it has done so with Iraq. Admission to errors would have ended all the debates, and kept the president and others focused on the matters at hand. It would have also allowed for corrections in that policy in a timely fashion, a crucial element, because many opportunities, once missed, don't come again. Our forces are having to fight with hand tied behind their back and their feet hobbled because our Administration did not prepare enough. That could have been remedied much sooner, if our president wasn't more concerned about his political future.

I would hope that the president take care of these issues, make his apologies and allow us all to move on from this and win the war, but I don't think that will happen. If Bush does admit his errors, the prospects for his fellow Republicans will likely be poor. The trouble is, the political fortunes of Bush and the Republicans have become entangled in the lies and mistakes of the past four years, and because of that, the leadership there is invested in not breaking ranks on those issues.

This is why Democrats like me have been fighting so hard, because we do not see how this nation can be set back on the right course with the Republicans in power. We do not see Bush waging a successful war on terror, and we have the past four years of screw-ups, lies, short attention spans, and arrogant actions to confirm our belief in that.

Part of me wishes that our fears were unfounded, that Bush's continued tenure in office will not leave us vulnerable to our enemies, vulnerable to the consequences of our president's foreign policy. I hope nothing bad does happen. But my hopes have been continually betrayed by this president, and I cannot suffer such betrayal silently. And I have not.

You Republicans out there had better hope that my hopes are better founded than my fears, because otherwise you will live to regret your votes. You'd better start asking yourselves what direction the future might take, if the worse comes to pass.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at November 6, 2004 2:43 PM