Can anyone doubt that the war in Iraq has proved to be Osama bin Laden’s sweetest dream come true? In his book on the run up to war, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism czar at the White House, immediately recognized this potential risk of an Iraq invasion. He recounts envisioning bin Laden sitting somewhere in a cave actually “willing George Bush to invade Iraq.” Clarke knew that such a jingoist misadventure would play right into the hands of the extremists: It would allow them portray the US as an out of control Great Satan with a personal vendetta against the Islamic world and thirst for their oil. Bush’s verbal faux paux in using the word “crusade” to describe the effort only heightened the propaganda bonanza for the extremists.
Mr. Clark and other knowledgeable war critics correctly foresaw our present dilemma: the US treasury spent and bleeding red ink, our credibility and respect lost to the world, our military stretched and overextended while fighting on two fronts, near civil war in Iraq, an unfinished job in Afghanistan, deep and serious divisions in our body politic, and immense international distrust of the intentions and motives of our nation. And worst of all, a great strengthening of the forces of international terrorism.
In his recent dialogue in The Nation, former head of the Middle Eastern Division of the CIA, Paul Pillar, reveals in substantial ways the abusive and deceptive tactics used by the Bush administration in their manipulation of intelligence to sell the war on Iraq. He also describes Mr. Bush’s complete disregard of cautionary warnings about the post war conditions in Iraq, conditions now proven so sadly true. Pillar’s confessions only confirm what many had already begun to accept: we were lied to in justifying the war in Iraq, the intelligence was indeed “cherry-picked,” and the administration was ignorant of or did not care about the potential post war civil strife inside Iraq. So obsessed was Mr. Bush to make war on Saddam Hussein that he willingly played us for fools, and went in half-cocked with insufficient troops to manage the post war environment. The myth of a cakewalk followed by rose pedals in the streets and happy-ever-after demonstrates just how disconnected were the war planners from the reality of Iraq.
And the larger war on international terrorism? We are losing by leaps and bounds. Who in their right mind can argue that invading Iraq has made us safer at home? Despite Mr. Bush’s vain attempt to portray Iraq as the forefront in the struggle against international terrorism — which only compounds the core dishonesty that characterized his preemptive invasion — most now concede that the war has indeed strengthened the Islamofascist movement in unprecedented ways. Sure, Iraq has become a magnet for those in the Middle East who would actively make war against us, but the opportunity we handed them was of our own making. By almost universal agreement it is now accepted that we have actually strengthened international terrorism and the aura of Osama bin Laden by creating a “breeding and training ground for terrorists” in Iraq.
World opinion does matter. In many ways it provides a mirror by which we may see ourselves. Right now we hold the lowest position ever, even worse than the terrible days of Vietnam. We have been disgraced and humiliated in the eyes of the world under Mr. Bush’s blundering helmsmanship.
All military commanders are held to the high standard of outcome and effect, it is the price they pay for the power given them. By this measure Mr. Bush has been a miserable failure bordering on incompetence. We are weaker now than at any time in recent history. We have squandered the good will afforded us after the events of 9/ll and thrown away our punch on a tin pot dictator who posed absolutely no threat to us whatsoever. We are bogged down in a foreign land half a world away that is perhaps quickly approaching a state of civil war. We have handed the terrorists a propaganda bonanza on a silver platter and multiplied the hatred and resentment toward us in the Islamic world to immense proportion. Many argue that the recent success of extremists in Palestine and Iran have been a direct result of our Iraqi invasion; sweeping the floor from underneath the moderate/progressive voices in the region.
If “by their fruit ye shall know them,” then the present realities for the United States speak of leadership that has utterly failed in its duty to lead with wisdom, prudence and forethought. From the missed opportunities to identify and thwart the airborne attacks of 9/11, to the missed opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, to the lies that preceded the trumped up war in Iraq, to the unwitting strengthening of our real enemies, to the bankrupt treasury and deep divisions within the US, this administration’s legacy will be one of missed opportunities, fatal misjudgments, arrogant and short sighted priorities, reactionary jingoism, and delusional incompetence: Bitter fruits indeed.
Dr. JOHN BOMAR, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is a Catholic Lay Minister in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org