Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Update to several previous columns

Republican Politics, American Style
Published May31st 2007 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

This week’s column will serve as a postscript to a few of my previous columns dealing with the Bush administration’s public positions regarding the Iraq war and global warming.
May 1st was the 4 year anniversary of President Bush’s proclamation on the decks of a US aircraft carrier that combat operations in Iraq were at an end. He did so while standing under a large banner which simply said “Mission Accomplished”.
The United States now has over 3,333 dead American soldiers in Iraq and a Commander in Chief who claims he didn’t know that former football star Pat Tillman had actually been killed (on April 22nd 2004) by his fellow soldiers, until he saw news reports about it more than a month later. Bush made a speech in which he cited Tillman’s heroism 2 days after one of Bush’s top general’s had written a memo warning that President Bush should be told that it was “highly possible” Tillman’s death was the result of friendly fire, instead of his reported acts of valour for which Tillman had been awarded a Silver Star.
I guess this is not surprising considering the fact that it wasn’t until December 19th 2006 that this same Commander in Chief acknowledged for the first time that the United States was not winning the war in Iraq. On that day, in a 2006 post-election interview with the Washington Post, Bush said; "We're not winning, we're not losing," This statement was noteworthy because up until as recently as November 3rd of last year, President Bush had always responded to questions about whether the US was winning the war in Iraq by stating “Absolutely, we’re winning.”
This past month the President claimed that the Democratic majority in Congress was trying to usurp his authority as America’s Commander in Chief, by refusing to give him the money he wanted to continue the Iraq war. Bush complained that Democrats were putting US forces in Iraq at risk, because he would veto spending bills with strings attached regarding progress in the war.
Imagine that; it was the Democrats in Congress putting US forces at risk in Iraq, not the President’s decision to increase the number of soldiers deployed there. Given the fact that President Bush had spent 4 years demonstrating how capable he was in prosecuting the Iraq war, he couldn’t understand why the Democrats were trying to exceed their constitutional authority and micromanage the war.
Hmmm. It sounds like “the kettle calling the pot black” if you ask me. Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid’s retort to Bush was; “No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration’s incompetence and dishonesty,” like Republican legislators did.
The first book written by a member of the Bush administration’s inner circle has just been published and it provides some valuable insights regarding how the decision to invade Iraq was made. In it, Bush’s former CIA Director George Tenet writes that; “There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat” nor “was there ever a significant discussion” about alternatives to invading Iraq as way to contain the possible threat Saddam Hussein might pose to the US.
Tenet says that VP Cheney and others wanted to attack Iraq from the moment Bush first took office, long before the 9/11 attacks. To that end Cheney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld ignored his pre 9/11 warnings about al Qaeda and asked for briefings about Iraq instead. Tenet claims aides to Cheney and Rumsfeld repeatedly “stretched intelligence” reports and tried to “insert crap” into the Bush administration’s public justifications about why the US had to invade Iraq.
Tenet goes on to accuse Cheney, Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration, including embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, of being focused solely on Iraq as a threat to the US in 2001 and after 9/11 in 2002, while the CIA was instead focusing on al Qaeda. Tenet also claims to have tried to muffle VP Cheney’s assertions that al Qaeda was in Iraq before the US invaded, a patently false claim Cheney is still making today.
As regards Bush’s current strategy of throwing more money and troops at the problems in Iraq, Tenet shares my own concerns; “It may have worked more than three years ago,” but “My fear is that sectarian violence in Iraq has taken on a life of its own and that U.S. forces are becoming more and more irrelevant to the management of that violence.”
Tenet’s comments are supported by statements from President Bush’s former head of counterterrorism, Richard Clarke that; “prior to 9/11, Tenet was vociferous about al Qaeda and bin Laden They (Bush, Cheney et al) wouldn’t listen to him. And he was their Director of CIA for Christ’s sake.” Clarke also points to the real reason behind the invasion of Iraq saying that; “This was not about replacing Saddam Hussein. This was about some insane plot to rebuild Iraq in our (America’s) image. (That’s when) I knew the war on terrorism was lost. Because if you’re occupying an Arab country, you can’t possibly gain Arab support (against the terrorists).”
As for climate change, recent polls show that a majority of Democrats, independents and (yes) Republicans have little confidence in President Bush’s proposals dealing with global warming. The latest polls show that 90% of Democrats, 80% of independents and 60% of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate. Even many Republicans believe that the Democrats will do a better job of protecting the environment than Bush or Republicans have or will do in the future.
I believe after the Iraq war, the two most pressing concerns of most Americans are health care and measures to combat global warming. Unfortunately for Republicans, voters currently have more faith in Democrats addressing these 3 issues than in Bush or the Republicans doing so.

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