Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Played the Fool

By Dr. John R. Bomar

Let’s face it: without the completely false fear mongering of Mr. Bush and the White House leading up to the invasion of Iraq, we would probably not be there now – our army strained to the breaking point fighting on two fronts, our treasury spent, and looking like fools (or worse) to all the world.

Speaking for a generation weaned on the tragedy of Vietnam, I can say that few of us would have stood by and allowed the congress to give Mr. Bush authority to make war on Iraq without his assurances of the most dire and immediate threat. His portrayal of nuclear mushroom clouds, biological agents and nerve gas attacks instituted by Saddam Hussein had a paralyzing effect on any who would question the wisdom of his naked aggression toward Iraq. Now that his shrill Chicken Little cry of the sky about to fall has been proved completely without merit, is it any wonder that most of us feel betrayed?

Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr.Wolfowitz, Mr. Rumsfield, the architects of this magnificent blunder, a few million of us went to Vietnam where we witnessed the sad reality of a protracted guerilla war waged half a world away in a very foreign land. It’s now dejavu all over again, except it is our sons and grandsons who now rotate in and out of country.

The most telling sign of the duplicity and, dare I say, treachery that preceded the invasion of Iraq is a recent dialogue by former Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a moderate centrist Democrat. In his Washington Post article of November 2005 he states that the intelligence brief given the congress and the American people by the Bush White House to justify the invasion was so vetted of important qualifiers that seriously called into question the data – cherry picked – that he simply could not vote for the invasion in good conscience. Who other than the chairman of the oversight committee on intelligence in the senate would be in a better position to see the truth or falsehood of Mr. Bush’s claims of doomsday weapons and terrorists links in Iraq? In his no vote on going to war in Iraq, and based on his comprehensive review of the available intelligence, Mr. Graham concluded that the White House was either “being intentionally untruthful with the American people, or had no interest in really knowing the truth.”

To now learn that the CIA completely ignored multiple independent reports from inside Iraq by reliable sources that Saddam Hussein had indeed disarmed after the first Gulf War, while giving unquestioned credence to reports from exiles outside the country with a political agenda, further validates the charge that the CIA bureaucrats succumbed to pressures from the White House to “fit the intelligence around the policy” as the Downing Street memo reported.

The conclusion now seems inescapable: through White House bullying and clever manipulation of intelligence data presented as absolute fact -- dramatized and magnified by media hype -- we were misled into supporting or acquiescing to the invasion of Iraq.

The bitter irony is that it has all happened before. For those of us with the remembrance, the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” that led to another blank check authorization of presidential war making power, in Vietnam, has now been proved a complete lie. Instead of an “unprovoked” attack on one of our warships in international waters, the affair began after one of our spy ships, the “Maddox,” had unloaded commando units inside North Vietnamese waters and was attacked by torpedo boats. In a moment of embarrassed candor the Pentagon has now forbade any further declassification of CIA documents on the subject, concerned for the obvious parallels to Iraq.

Is it any wonder that the Iraq war now suffers from a lack of legitimacy in the eyes of most of the world and even the majority of Americans? That Saddam Hussein was a straw dog, a powerless tinhorn dictator who posed no threat whatsoever, is now crystal clear.

To gain any real traction now, to give true legitimacy to our efforts at reconstruction and peace making in Iraq -- to try and make lemonade of this lemon -- we must do three things. First, as Wesley Clark has wisely observed, we must publicly and in quite uncertain terms foreswear any permanent military bases in Iraq. To do otherwise is to continue to feed the roots of international terrorism and the nationalist insurgency inside Iraq that exploits the perception that we are there to stay -- for the oil. Secondly, we must begin to immediately involve regional leaders, such as the Arab League, in the process of stabilizing Iraq, it’s their neighborhood and getting them on board would diffuse the prevailing distrust of our motives in the region. Lastly, we must begin the process of disengagement. It is not what we say, but what we do that speaks to the world now.

As Senator Graham noted after witnessing the duplicity of this White House in its run up to war in Iraq: “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware is the watchword for dealing with Mr. Bush and his gang.

The bad seed sown by this jingoistic excursion into Iraq, forcing us to fight wars on two fronts, bankrupting the treasury and undermining our efforts against worldwide terrorism, can be plowed up and resod with seeds of regional and international cooperation, hopefully leading to ultimate good, if the American people, and their elected leaders have the will for it.

Dr. John Bomar is a decorated and disabled veteran of the Vietnam War.


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