Thinking the Unthinkable

“But history will look back and I’m fully prepared to accept any mistakes that history judges to my administration. Because the president makes the decisions, the president has to take the responsibility.”

President George W. Bush during the 2004 second debate.

The revelations keep coming, proving the Bush Administration’s reasons for invading and occupying Iraq were deviations from the truth. Members of the club such as Bremer and Rumsfeld have been contradicting their leader and their own earlier statements. The facts (as opposed to the many misstatements of fact) are incriminating, not only regarding President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and their colleagues-in-conspiracy, but also regarding war-eager legislators, editors, reporters and pundits who suckered for the never-ending tale (reasons changing daily) that immediate attack was this nation’s only option.

How many of the suckers have admitted error? Not very many. In the second debate, Wily Charles Gibson chose for last this question to George W. Bush: “President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it. Thank you.”

Linda Grabel, who politely asked the question, did not get an answer, because, acting true to form, George W. Bush, President of the United States, could not admit to having made three mistakes, and he did not specify any corrective action he’d taken either. As leader of “the most powerful nation on earth,” George W. Bush sets the standard for the rest of us, including those millions of children who are not to be left behind. The message: never admit error! How puzzling, therefore, that a majority the president’s most ardent supporters would surely not, as parents, instill this example of family-values in their own children. Apparently it is now a demonstration of one’s “strength” if one refuses to say (and mean it), “I was wrong.”

Apart from some jocularly-unspecified “appointments,” as President of the United States, George W. Bush appears to believe he has not made any mistakes worth noting. Therefore, he has no mistakes to correct. Not even three little-tiny-bitty ones. As for choosing the path of war, the confident Bush went on to defend his choice. “They’re trying to say, ‘Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?’ And the answer is, ‘Absolutely not.’ It was the right decision.”

The debate marked Bush’s second try at giving a reasonable response, since Grabel’s question mimicked a reporter’s inquiry during an earlier Bush press conference, Linda Grabel deserves a standing tribute at the Kennedy Center for her question and the direct, no-nonsense way in which it was asked. She had the courage on national television to ask for Truth from Power, and Power took a powder when it came to giving a response. That more of the public, the legislators, reporters, editors and pundits have not found this particular Bush performance disgraceful is in itself a national disgrace.

The Rush to War

Because Saddam Hussein constituted no immediate threat to the security of the United States, the invasion of Iraq was rushed forward in order to terminate the ongoing work of U.N. inspectors whose final report would have been the same as those of David Kay and the Duelfer report. Having chosen the WMD fiction to frighten the nation into the need for war, President Bush and his co-conspirators could not risk having the inspectors publish a report that would take the air out of the administration’s elaborately-manufactured blimp.

A Sweet Tax Named “Desire”

In light of the Duelfer report’s damning evidence, the Bush Administration now justifies action against Iraq because Saddam Hussein desired a weapons of mass destruction program. Saddam was punished for what he desired. Consider how this standard would apply to tax policy. As a not-wealthy citizen and sometime lottery player, my persistent desire is to have a million (or more) dollars. Under the Bush dream-no-more approach, I should be taxed not on my actual income but on the income I desire. Enacted nationally, this policy would wipe out that big Bush deficit in no time.

Presidential Disappointment

In a national test, each voter should be asked, “What was the real reason the United States invaded Iraq?” No fair asking President Bush, of course. During the second debate he woefully declared, “I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons . . .” President Bush desired to find weapons capable of killing thousands, even millions of human beings. With his desire unfulfilled, he “wasn’t happy.”

No Weapons of Mass Destruction

In earlier columns, I have written at length about the apparent fact that at least some in the government knew our troops would not encounter WMD during the invasion of Iraq and the march into Baghdad. Certainly this confidence game was one of the most cynical scams ever perpetrated on the American people. The fear our military forces would be attacked by some unspecified and highly lethal weaponry made for great drama on television and in the newspapers. Fear of ruinous WMD also helped to paint the Iraqis as bad hombres. Sophisticated reporters and editors failed to consider how foolhardy it would have been for the United States to send thousands of “embedded” reporters and our finest troops into a battle against WMD. While the media and the public concentrated on administration language, they forgot to examine the actions being taken on the ground where convoys of soldiers accompanied by world-famous reporters rushed forward without being clad in protective gear. The nation was misled into an expensive and unnecessary military action, and it was misled about the nature of the opposition its military would face on the ground in Iraq.

Over There, Over Here

A standard Bushvolk defense of the “war” in Iraq is that we are fighting terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here in the U.S.A. Iraq is a giant Electrolux that sucks in terrorists so they can be captured and/or killed as the world is cleansed of their ranks. At the same time we’re bludgeoned with the fact that terrorism is a “global” business, so according to the administration’s own language, not all terrorists are in Iraq (and Afghanistan). Iraq may be a country as large as California, but it is only a small part of the earth’s land mass. Because terror is a global criminal enterprise (can you name any others?), terrorists not in Iraq could still do mischief over here, or so it would seem to a reasonable person. Will no one ask President Bush why battling in Iraq prevents other terrorists from striking within the United States?

Fear and Trembling

Are Americans at home truly possessed by the fear of terrorism? Most of us seem to go on with our lives as we did prior to 9/11/01. It seems doubtful many citizens hide in duct-taped safe rooms, fearing to breathe or walk abroad because a terrorist might strike. For awhile in the campaign, Safety Moms replaced Soccer Moms as a significant group to be pandered to, but most moms have always been concerned about the well-being of their children. Although polls and interviews turn up voters who say their primary concern is to be safe from terrorists, that concern has not dampened their interest in going to work, dining out, living well, loving, watching the latest episode of “Lost” or “Survivor.” One wonders whether “I’m afraid” is not an easy way to avoid thinking more deeply about a significant issue of our time, just as the Bush Administration’s not-so-subtle call for the nation to “be frightened but let Uncle George protect you” is a convenient substitute for a more nuanced discussion of terrorism and the real threat it may pose.

A Draft for All Seasons

There is good reason to worry about the reinstatement of a military draft because both President Bush and Senator Kerry have made campaign promises vowing that no draft will happen on their respective watches. The future is notably difficult to predict, although true-red-white-and-blue partisan Republicans and Democrats cheer on their respective candidates oblivious to the fact. Surely the most ridiculous charge that could be made against almost any politician is that of “flip-flopping.”

If a draft should become necessary, it will result from the actions of George W. Bush and his administration’s eagerness to depose Saddam Hussein and establish permanent U.S. influence over a major portion of the Middle East. If during the second debate any citizen submitted a question regarding our building permanent military bases in Iraq, it wasn’t selected by Charles Gibson to be asked of the candidates.

This Bush military action against and occupation of Iraq is becoming increasingly unpopular, even though half the voters would seem to favor “staying the course.” Because so many Americans stand ready to follow their present Commander-In-Chief wherever he leads them, instituting a new military draft should not present a problem: Let those who support the war fight the war.

It’s that simple. Americans from all socio-economic groups cheer on the Bush team as Iraq spirals increasingly out of control. The most aggressive fighting force we could put together: those who most aggressively support the battle for Iraq. Why am I wrong?

Administration surrogates such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and their like have spawned a huge cadre of followers who would surely put their bodies where their mouths have been: on the front lines in the war against terrorism. If Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage and the rest want to lead their troops in the charge, so be it. Drafting those who support the “war” in Iraq would be much simpler than the lottery drafts of old because it would eliminate all those who are reluctant to suit up for a conflict that has been lied about, manipulated, misreported and misunderstood.

Under this Draft Supporter doctrine, millions of Americans from 18 to 80 will rush to enlist. The cry of “Send Me!” will be heard throughout the land. As a consequence, Iraq will be flooded with freshly-minted “troops” willing to stay the course and overrun the ancient nation to such an extent that “insurgents” will simply throw up their dirty hands and surrender.

The idea is practical in every way. Only those who want to fight will be sent to fight. Only those willing to put their lives on the line for this particular “war” will die or be wounded. Because the new military has supported President Bush through his kaleidoscope of misstatement, deception and rationalization, a grateful administration and Congress will provide all necessary body armor, weaponry and combat pay. At the same time, the war will be “insourced,” not outsourced, ending a need for contracted outsiders and worries about whistle-blowing or desertion. America’s favorite source of prescription drugs, Canada, will not be over-run with Yanks fleeing from an unpopular draft as happened during the Vietnam debacle.

For the sake of true fairness, no supporter of the war, whatever his or her status in life, will be exempted from the draft. Corporate big-wigs will serve alongside secretaries and janitorial personnel. Publishers, editors and pundits will fight side by side with advertisers, readers and delivery persons. With such a draft, freedom (including freedom of choice) will be truly on the march.

Whose Life Was Worth Saddam?

President Bush and his claque have repeatedly said, “Saddam Hussein was a unique threat, and the world is better off without him in power.” George W. Bush defines the word “unique” as Saddam’s having had WMD he could have passed on to terrorists. But Saddam had no WMD, and there is no proof he would have given away his deadly treasure if he’d had it. Was Saddam unique in that he “deceived” us by telling the truth when he said he had no weapons of mass destruction? Was he unique when he violated a number of U.N. sanctions, as other nations have done and will continue to do? Was he unique when he slaughtered thousands of his own citizens, as other dictators have done and continue to do? Was he unique when he invaded a sovereign nation, as the U.S. did when it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan?

Was invasion and occupation the only way to remove Saddam from power? To that question the answer is an obvious “no.” The Bushvolk invasion of Iraq was a “war” of choice, not of necessity, as was Hitler’s September invasion of Poland. Therefore the horrible death and wounding, the devastation and destruction might have been, could have been, avoided. But the lives we live are so much determined by the choices that we make.

While conventional wisdom applauds the notion that “the world is better off” without Saddam in its face, the truth remains to be seen. If the invasion to depose Saddam descends further into a hellish nightmare, getting rid of Saddam may seem of little benefit to the world, to security, to stability and peace.

So I ask: Whose life was worth giving to remove Saddam Hussein?

This nation’s most ardent supporters of the Bush decision to invade Iraq have, for the most part, been unwilling to put their lives on the line. The politicians who talk a good “game” aren’t pulling the triggers, driving the trucks, manning the tanks or even rebuilding the booby-trapped roads and the schools. President Bush is not flying hot spirals over the skies of Baghdad. Neither the oft-deferred Richard Cheney nor the true veteran John Kerry is guiding a swift-boat up the Tigris.

Go to the list of coalition war dead, pick a name, and ask, “Was this life worth it?”

If you can find one, go to a list of innocent Iraqi men and women who have been killed in the fighting as ask, “Were their lives worth it?”

Gather up the names, ages, faces of all the children killed or left without a parent because of the sanctions before the invasion and because of the invasion of Iraq: “Were their lives worth it?”

Who died for Saddam? Would one of those who died, if he or she had lived, have found a cure for cancer, composed a symphony, wrote a novel or great poetry, fathered a family, been chosen parent of the year, served friends and neighbors throughout the long and happy life he or she hoped to have, expected?

The greatest threat to civilization is not weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists, but hubristic politicial and religious zealots claiming their God is on their side, bent on having what they want, no matter what the cost.

DOUG GIEBEL is a writer and analyst who lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He welcomes comments at