Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Will It End?

Three major things happened this week that reinforce beliefs I have had held for years - back when almost no one agreed with me and now, when more people are starting to feel the same.

First, a Senate Intelligence report backed by both Republicans and Democrats announced that there were never any connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. In fact, Saddam rebuffed advances from Al Qaida that there should be cooperation between them. Saddam didn't like Al Qaida because the terrorist organization was made up of Islamic radicals while Saddam was a, essentially, a secularist. He didn't trust the Islamic fundamentalists, like Osama Bin Laden.

About this report, Tony Snow, Bush administration spokesperson, says - "move along, nothing to see here." But the fact is that the administration did try to convince the American people that Iraq and Al Qaida were joined at the hip and pushed that scenerio every chance they got. They did a damn good job of it too as even now, a significant minority of Americans believe it.

It seems pretty evident now that the Bush people knew they were being deceitful in linking Saddam and Al Qaida to build support for the Iraq War.

The second thing that happened was that Army Brigidier General Mark Scheid, who was one of the key people in on the early planning for the Iraq War gave an interview in which he said that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfield flat out forbade military strategists from discussing a post-war plan in Iraq, going so far as to say that he "would fire the next person" who insisted on a need for a post-war plan. If you remember General Eric Shinseki went public with what he saw as a need for hundreds of thousands of troops to secure Iraq after Saddam fell and General Shinseki was forced to retire, so it seems Don Rumsfield meant what he said.

According to an interview with Scheid, who is retiring as the Commander of the Army Transportation Corps, Rumsfield indicated to planners that "everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime and then we are going to leave." Still, the strategists thought they should at least have a plan for Phase 4 to be prepared just in case it was needed. That was when Rumsfield said the American people would not back the war if they thought it was going to be a long one and he would fire the next person who insisted on an after-war plan.

Two choices here: the administration was either being dishonest (again) with the American people or they were totally incompetent. Either they thought there might be problems in Iraq but kept it from the people because they thought it was the only way to convince them to go along with their war or they truly thought there was no need for a plan. Either way, they sent our troops into Iraq without even a strategy in case the aftermath turned vicious as it has. I honestly don't know which conclusion is worse.

The third thing to happen was three top military lawyers testified before Congress that they had disapproved of the Justice Department's definition of torture and objected to it from the beginning. The judge advocate generals for the Air Force, Army and Marines said they had stated their deep-seated concerns when the policy was first being discussed at the Pentagon in early 2003. The JAG concerns were eventually overruled by the general counsel's office.

A 1994 law bans torture by U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world, however, the Pentagon's working group's 2003 report said that "in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign....(the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority." In other words, the President has the constitutional authority to approve torture and he did, vastly reducing America's standing in the world. (This report has since been rescinded - sort of like locking the barn after the horse is gone from Abu Ghraib and Gitmo).

Senator Carl M. Levin asked the JAGs if the believed the tactics recently reported by investigators were consistent with the Geneva Conventions prohibitions of torture. He asked them if they would want U.S. prisoners of war treated in the same way.

"No, Senator, we would not," answered Air Force Major General Jack Rives.

I was opposed to Iraq from Day One on the grounds that it was a complete distraction from Afghanistan where we were at war with the terrorists who were responsible for 911. I never could figure out the administration's passionate desire to go to Iraq and I still can't. To this day, I have no real idea of the motivation behind the Iraq War, although we know the neo-cons were hot to take on Iraq before 911 ever happened.

In any event, if we'd gone with even a modicum of competence maybe we could have made it work. If we hadn't raced to Baghdad in such a mad rush to get Saddam and declare, "Mission Accomplished", we might have paused long enough to blow up the ammunition dumps that have since been snagged by our enemies and used against our own troops; we might have waited until all of our soldiers had protective armor and all of our vehicles were hardened against i.e.d.'s; we might have sent enough troops to actually secure the country so we could begin the process of restoring electricity and water to the citizens. We might have given a damn about allowing Iraqi infrastructure and historical treasures to be looted; We might not have oh-so-shortsightedly, allowed Abu Ghraib to become a political and moral scandal; we might actually have convinced the Iraqis that we were there as their liberators and not their occupiers. And we might not have created a killing field in which the prevailing governmental force is the Shia, in league with their friends and relatives, the Iranians.

The Bush administration seems to live in a dream world in which reality plays less of a part than their own grandiose dreams of global glory. They seem to listen to no one who counsels a different course. Not George Bush the Elder who had listed the reasons for not going to Baghdad after his own Iraq War, not the career military men who have studied war and tactics their entire lives, not the legal experts, or the historians. They think nothing of trashing moral frameworks, like the Geneva Conventions, that have guided America's policy for decades. They thought they were right and everyone else was wrong. I guess they still think so.

They've done everything on the cheap from the war in Afghanistan to the War in Iraq. Bush was against the Patriotic Act before he was for it. He was against the 911 Commission before he was for it and even now has only half-heartedly endorsed its recommendations. We still do not inspect the majority of cargo coming to America on ships. We still have not regulated strict protections of our nuclear and chemical facilities. We still do not enforce who we allow across our borders.

George Bush tells us that this Global War on Terror or as it is now known, the War against Islamo-Fascism, is the battle of our generation. All the administration big guns have been out talking it up these last two weeks. But if this is our World War II then why are we so half-hearted about it? In World War II, there was a draft so that all able-bodied men could expect to be sent to war to protect our country and our allies (I hate the term The Homeland, which seems to have an authoritarian connotation). Americans were taxed to support World War II. They lived under conditions of rationing so every possible resource could be poured into the war effort. But what does the average American do to sacrifice for this monumental struggle? Pretty much nothing as far as I can see. So few of us are volunteering for the military that the same poor soldiers have to be sent over and over again. We aren't giving up our SUV's in favor of oil efficient vehicles because, you know, we might not be able to make it to Walmart on a snowy day. And God forbid, that anyone, no matter how vastly rich, should kick in more taxes to support the war. Nope, let's just go shopping and let our kids worry about it later.