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The presidential debates are going nowhere. Why? Because both President George Bush and Senator John Kerry are encapsulated in a big lie.
The lie is too big to be acknowledged. Both candidates repeat the mantra that Saddam Hussein was dangerous to America and had to be removed. Both reaffirm that Saddam’s removal remains a good thing despite a plethora of official reports concluding that false reasons were given for his removal.
Kerry gets nowhere because he says he would do the same thing Bush did, only differently.
Bush reminds Kerry over and over that "you saw the same intelligence that I did" and voted for the war. Kerry’s criticism after the event, Bush says, just shows what a flip-flopper Kerry is.
For many Americans Bush’s answer is easier to follow than Kerry’s nuanced argument. For the second time in his life Kerry is in the position of turning against a war after he had joined up.
Kerry has missed opportunity after opportunity to be candid with the American people. By speaking frankly, Kerry can deliver a knockout blow that would tear the debate wide open.
When Bush chides Kerry that "you saw the same intelligence that I did," why doesn’t Kerry reply:
"Yes, Mr. President, the same people who misled you, misled me, the House and the Senate and sent Colin Powell to New York to mislead the UN. So, Mr. President, why haven’t you fired them? Is there no accountability in your administration? How can you lead when you don’t hold people responsible for grievous errors that have led to the death and maiming of thousands of our troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis, shattered our alliances, and recruited thousands to the banners of terrorism?"
Bush would have no answer.
Saddam Hussein was no danger to the US. However, he was a potential check, with Syria, on Israel’s right-wing Likud Party’s desire to expel the Palestinians to Jordan and to seize Lebanon. The expulsion and the Lebanon grab may yet come to fruition, because it is supported by the neoconservatives who control the Bush administration.
Installing a puppet regime in Iraq and constructing a dozen or more permanent US military bases in Iraq, as the US is doing, opens a field of conquest to Israel.
The neoconservative goal of conquest is no secret. Neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, and others of his persuasion, have called in print on more than one occasion for the US to launch World War IV against the Muslim Middle East.
The cause of Muslim terrorism is not opposition to US democracy. The cause is opposition to US policy in the Middle East, especially US support for Israel’s ghettoization of Palestine. Lacking military forces with which to oppose American might, Muslims resort to terror attacks. How can Americans be so naive as to think that Muslims will just sit there and take it?
The US cannot put down terrorism with force alone–unless it intends genocide for Muslims. Saddam Hussein was not a popular ruler, but occupying Iraq has tied down 80% of our troops and is not succeeding.
Expanding this war, as neocons intend, requires resources that the US does not have and would likely result in countries uniting against us.
It is a self-defeating policy that Bush is pursuing in the Middle East. Bush is not building democracy, but he is creating legions of insurgents and terrorists.
The US can defeat insurgents in battles, but cannot successfully occupy the conquered territory. In his essays on Fourth Generation Warfare, William Lind has clarified the advantages insurgents have over conventional forces.
At this point, "staying the course" in Iraq is not an option. America’s only choices are to escalate or to withdraw.
According to the October 9 International Herald Tribune, the US has plans to escalate by attacking twenty to thirty Iraqi towns and cities in hopes of regaining control:
"Pentagon planners and military commanders have identified roughly 20 to 30 towns and cities in Iraq that must be brought under control before elections can be held there in January."
Think about that. Twenty to thirty more Najafs and Fallujahs?! The US doesn’t even control Baghdad 400 yards beyond the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where the "Iraqi government" and its US overlords are forced to take refuge.
Imagine the numbers of women and children who will be blown to bits by US "precision attacks" on 20 to 30 Iraqi towns and cities.
It is a war crime to attack civilians. The already low ratio of killed insurgents to killed Iraqi civilians means that it is the insurgents, not the civilians, who are the "collateral damage."
If Bush goes through with this madness, the US military will become known as the reincarnation of the SS.
No American politician can talk sense when ensnared by the big lie that the war with Iraq was necessary. It was not necessary. It was a strategic blunder. It has started something that may already be out of anyone’s control.
In military matters, pretense and delusion lead to disaster. A deluded superpower is most dangerous to itself.
Please candidate Kerry, in the final debate do come to the point, speak the truth, and show the leadership required if America is to recover from the strategic blunder of invading Iraq.
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.