Monday, September 04, 2006

White House Hopelessly Out of Touch With Reality on War in Iraq

Its Newest Public-Relations Offensive to Shore Up Public Support for 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' Is Undermined By Pentagon Report Warning that Iraq Is in Danger of Sliding Into Full-Scale Civil War

By Skeeter Sanders

The time has come -- indeed, the time is long overdue -- to face the fact that the Bush administration is hopelessly out of touch with reality about the war in Iraq. This has been made quite evident by the administration's latest public-relations offensive to shore up support for a war that opinion polls show has become increasingly unpopular with the American public.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Bush flatly declared that "our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into civil war. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country."

But even as the president was pre-recording his radio address at the White House on Friday, the nation's top military commanders were reporting on Capitol Hill that "Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq. . . And concern about a civil war within the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months."

Obviously, somebody is not telling the truth about what's really going on in Iraq. And given this administration's sorry record of past public pronouncements on the war going awry, the evidence is mounting that the truth-telling is coming not from the White House, but from that giant five-sided office building in Arlington, Virginia that is the headquarters of the most powerful military on Earth.

Pentagon: Danger of Sectarian Warfare Increasing

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq, that is heightening the risk of an all-out civil war.

"Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife," the report said, adding that the Sunni-led insurgency "remains potent and viable" even as it is overshadowed by the sect-on-sect killing.

Under mounting election-year pressure, a growing number of members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- are calling for either a shift in the Bush administration's Iraq strategy or a timetable for beginning a substantial withdrawal of American forces.

Although administration officials say progress is being made in Iraq, Pentagon commanders have increased U.S. troop levels by about 13,000 over the past five weeks, to 140,000, mainly due to increased violence in the Baghdad area.

In response to the Pentagon's report Friday, the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said it showed the Bush administration is "increasingly disconnected from the facts on the ground in Iraq.

"It is time for a new direction to end the war in Iraq, win the war on terror, and give the American people the real security they deserve," Reid said.

Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, said the report squared with what he saw there.

"Iraq is tipping toward civil war," Reed said.

A Potentially Dangerous Disconnect Between the White House and the Pentagon

That there is a wide disconnect between what the top brass of the military are telling Congress and what their civilian commander-in-chief is telling the American people is a national disgrace. It is also potentially dangerous to the future health of our democracy.

Not since Lyndon Johnson's public pronouncements on the Vietnam War have we a president who's so clearly not telling the American people the truth about what their sons and daughters are going through in Iraq.

Johnson's lack of honesty with the American people about Vietnam was a major contributing factor in that war becoming deeply unpopular. And the same thing is happening with the Iraq War. It has become unpopular with the American people because Bush isn't being honest with us.

It's Time to Face Some Brutal Truths About the War in Iraq

Brutal Truth No. 1: Bush abandoned the Powell Doctrine on the use of American military power -- to go in with overwhelming force -- by not sending in enough troops to make Operation Iraqi Freedom a success.

When a four-star general, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, publicly warned that "several hundred thousand troops" -- roughly equal to the half-million troops that Bush's father sent in against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm 15 years ago -- were needed to get the job done, the White House forced Shinseki into retirement.

Brutal Truth No. 2: This administration -- shamefully ignorant about Arab politics and the centuries-long split between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as of longstanding ethnic conflicts between Arabs and non-Arabs -- had no plan to deal with the aftermath of overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime.

Brutal Truth No. 3: Rather than listen to military professionals and give them a wide berth to plot a war strategy that they knew would work, Bush instead listened to a group of right-wing ideologues -- none of whom, with the exception of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a Navy veteran -- spent so much as a day wearing the uniform of the armed forces of the United States, let alone experience combat.

Brutal Truth No. 4: This administration did not send enough equipment for our troops to protect themselves. It is a disgrace that the Humvees used by our soldiers were not equipped with enough armor. It is a disgrace that relatives and friends of our troops had to raise money to purchase them vitally-needed bulletproof vests.

Brutal Truth No. 5: The principal rationale for going to war with Iraq -- toppling Saddam Hussein's regime -- was egged on by Vice President Dick Cheney, despite Cheney's own warning in 1992 that if American troops had gone on to Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, "we would still have forces in Baghdad today."

Cheney, who served as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, told NBC's "Meet the Press" at the time,"We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home. . .I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties."

The elder Bush himself argued that a total conquest of Iraq in 1991 would have had many political and human costs associated with it. Little did anyone realize at the time just how prophetic Bush 41's argument would be. If only Cheney had as much foresight as his former boss.

But then again, many hard-line conservatives to this day fault the elder Bush for not toppling Saddam when he had the chance. At the time the elder Bush declared an end to hostilities, U.S. troops were only 50 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Brutal Truth No. 6: Worst of all, the war in Iraq has severely undermined the larger war on terror by creating a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists, which will needlessly prolong the larger war and increase the danger of it morphing into an all-out global religious conflict that could last for generations -- and that's assuming that it doesn't see the use of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological or nuclear.

Administration Bigs Stoop to Joe McCarthy-style Rhetoric Against War Critics

Another sure sign that the Bush administration is out of touch with reality on the Iraq War is its latest public-relations offensive. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been on the attack against critics of the war in recent days.

While their defense of their war policies is nothing new, the tone of their rhetoric has taken on the air of desperation, resurrecting half-century-old language more befitting of that infamous anti-communist witch-hunter, the late Senator Joe McCarthy.

In a speech to his Republican faithful, the vice president obviously forgot about his 1992 warning of a long U.S. occupation of Iraq when he excoriated "Howard Dean Democrats" for standing up against the administration's failed 'stay-the-course' approach.

Referring to businessman Ned Lamont's defeat of Senator Joe Leiberman in Connecticut's August 8 Democratic senate primary, Cheney accused the "Dean Democrats" of defeating Lieberman with "a candidate whose explicit goal is to give up the fight against the terrorists" and a strategy of "defeatism in the face of determined enemies."

Not to be outdone, Rumsfeld -- defying opinion polls showing up to 60 percent of Americans now opposing the war in Iraq -- had the unmitigated gall last week to portray critics of the Iraq war as "defeatists" reminiscent of those who tried to appease the Nazis before World War II.
"Can we truly afford to believe somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" Rumsfeld asked in his address.

Blistering White House Rhetoric Reveals Dangerous Drift Toward Right-Wing Authoritarianism

That this administration has resorted to Joe McCarthy-style language to attack their critics by questioning their patriotism should make it crystal clear to every free-thinking American that the current regime in Washington is moving dangerously toward a right-wing, anti-democratic authoritarianism that is a massive betrayal of everything that the Founding Fathers of this country -- and the vast majority of Americans -- stand for.

You cannot promote freedom and democracy abroad while at the same time undermine freedom and democracy at home by casting aspersions on the patriotism of your critics, as McCarthy did -- not to mention blatantly violating the Constitution by eavesdropping on the American people's private electronic communications without prior authorization by the courts in the form of warrants.

For this administration to act in this fashion makes an obscene mockery of the very war on terror and "the enemies of freedom" that they're supposed to be fighting.

But This Time, The Opposition Will Not Be Bullied Into Silence

But if the Bush administration thinks it can bully the opposition to its Iraq war policies into silence anymore, it is badly mistaken. For the opposition is no longer limited to Democrats or to liberals. A growing number of the president's fellow Republicans are also speaking out.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska comes to mind. Also, Senator John McCain of Arizona has consistently criticized the administration for failing to put enough troops there. Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut has been supportive of the war, but more recently he has called for a timetable to withdraw troops.

Democrats, of course, have been much sharper in their criticism -- and are finally demonstrating a rapid-fire willingness to fight back. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean blasted back at Rumsfeld Sunday, renewing his demand on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Rumsfeld resign, adding that it was "not smart politics in an election year to attack the 60 percent majority of Americans who thought the war in Iraq was a mistake.

"Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney have gone on television saying people who disagree with the president are essentially like Nazi appeasers. When you start attacking voters out of your frustration, that is not a good thing for winning elections," Dean said.

He Who Yells "Nazi" First Always Loses the Argument

There's a longstanding, albeit unwritten rule in American politics that the first person in an argument to use comparisons Hitler and the Nazis to bolster his point loses the argument. It's a fact of political life the radicals of the far left learned the hard way more than 25 years ago in their attacks on Ronald Reagan.

Now the other shoe is about to drop. The same lesson is about to be learned the hard way by the Bush administration and its right-wing supporters.

Why?

Because to make comparisons to the Nazis to bolster your argument is a self-evident exercise in hypocrisy. There will never, ever be anyone more evil than the Nazis. No one -- not even al Qaida and the Taliban -- come even close.

How is it hypocritical? By comparing Iraq War critics to the Nazis, the Bush administration has unwittingly employed the tactics of the Nazis' master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels: Tell the Big Lie to the people often enough, loudly enough and persistently enough and the people will believe that Big Lie.

Thank God, Goebbels didn't have television. Or the Internet. Because the time has arrived that the American people aren't believing the Bush administration's Big Lie about the war in Iraq anymore -- just as they stopped believing the Johnson administration's Big Lie about the war in Vietnam a generation ago.

What was it that Lincoln said -- "You can't fool all of the people all of the time?"

Labor Day is traditionally the official kickoff to the fall general-election campaign. With more and more Americans waking up to the realization that they've been told a Big Lie about what's going on in Iraq, hopefully, a lot of the Big Liars' allies in Congress will find themselves having to look for another line of work after November 7.

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Volume I, Number 40
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

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