WWHAT’S BUSH’S MISSION? WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED?
On November 15, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed: “The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990. Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” Interesting, in light of the fact that Bush’s Iraq war has lasted longer than US participation in World War II!
On January 18, 2003, Rumsfeld added: “If you worry about just the cost, the money, Iraq is a very different situation from AfghanistanIraq has oil. They have financial resources.” (Fortune Magazine, Fall 2002) He later reported that “The Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that’s something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.” (Media Stakeout)
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz scoffed at suggestions of an Iraq war costing lots of money. “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi peopleand on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three yearsWe’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” (House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03)
Did “mature” men — Rummy in his mid 70s and Wolfie in his 60s — not consider that wars rarely turn out the way their initiators intend? By late April 2007, a bi-partisan, government research service estimated the cost of the Iraq war at $500 billion. (Congressional Research Service, March 14, 2007)
Did the Iraq War originate in a Washington séance where God had told Bush to invade Iraq? Or did a bunch of neo cons con the Congress to support an invasion in a place with oil that could also host a permanent US base?
Bush avoids the “o” word. Recall May 1, 2003. The White House designed banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln read “Mission Accomplished.” Bush declared the Iraq war “won,” the fighting “over.” He didn’t mention oil.
Okay, anyone can make a mistake. The time has come, however, for Congress to ask at formal hearings what Bush’s mission was–and is–and what he accomplished. Since Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or ties to Al Qaeda, why do people continue to die? By May, almost 3,400 US troops had perished; some 25,000 wounded–not including dead and wounded “contractors.”
The war has cost US taxpayers $500 billion thus far, only ten times more than pre war White House estimates. The Congressional Research Service estimated that Bush’s outlays on Iraq could have bought the following: “A college education — tuition, fees, room and board at a public university — for about half of the nation’s 17 million high-school-age teenagers. Preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in the country for the next eight years. A year’s stay in an assisted-living facility for about half of the 35 million Americans age 65 or older.” (quoted in The News & Observer, May 1, 2007)
In Iraq, Bush’s “flowers and kisses” from Iraqis to US liberators have turned into les fleurs du mal.
“If rape and poison, dagger and burning,
Have still not embroidered their pleasant designs
On the banal canvas of our pitiable destinies,
It’s because our souls, alas, are not bold enough!”
Charles Baudelaire, 1857
Suicide bombing headlines don’t describe the growth of the Iraqi resistance. The number of combatants has multiplied as has the number of groups and causes that have taken up arms against US occupiers as well as against other sects, factions or ethnicities. Between 2005 and 2006, attacks on US troops and Iraqi military and police units have more than doubled. Civilian casualties may have reached the hundreds of thousands level.
The mission most Americans assumed Bush meant when he made his aircraft carrier speech remains far from accomplished. But Bush has destroyed Iraq and polluted standards of justice.
In 2006, he applauded the brutal hanging without a fair trial for Saddam. “Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.” (CNN, December 30, 2006) Did Bush plan to reintroduce hanging in the United States as a more efficient means of implementing the death penalty? Did he hope Saddam’s farcical trial would become the norm here as well?
The execution of Saddam like the promise of reconstruction in Iraq turned into sideshows. Bush doesn’t mention the “o” word, much less admit that oil revenues didn’t pay for the war as “Do-anything-for your-girlfriend” Wolfowitz predicted. Iraqi oil production remains far lower than before the 2003 invasion. Routinely, pipeline and refinery sabotage prevent full production. Iraq still has no regular electrical supply; most Iraqis have no routine access to water.
If Bush meant to test US military capabilities to fight more than one war at a time, he has succeeded. It can’t. He has committed a limited US troop supply to Afghanistan while pleading with Europe to send more of its forces. Indeed, Generals regularly complain about the strain of repeated deployments, and about the lousy Iraqi politicians–hand picked by Bush?–who have not met supposed “benchmarks” that would allow for a US withdrawal.
Bush’s war in Iraq has lasted for the United States longer than its commitment in World War II, but with little to show other than death and destruction. Indeed, four years after “Mission Accomplished,” Bush increased troop levels “to get a little security in Baghdad.” His recent “surge” means close to 150,000 soldiers serve in Iraq, approximately the number present in May 2003 when he first “accomplished” his mission.
Bush has also succeeded in unifying pessimists and optimists. Pessimists see war costs rising to $2 trillion; optimists predict only a slightly lower figure. But neither add costs involved in “refurbishing” the military to make it “ready” for the next wars, higher spending for recruitment, which has become more difficult, and vastly increased sums for treating wounded and insane veterans.
Congress has yet to scrutinize either spending or the zany statements made by high elected officials. “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint,” Dick Cheney opined to Larry King, “will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” (CNN June 20, 2005)
Since Bush announced his “surge in January, American troop fatalities rose by 33%, averaging 3 per day as opposed to 2.25 per day during 2006.” (Iraq Coalition Casualty Count) Civilian casualties rose sharply and even the most conservative estimates agree that Iraqis have died in the hundreds of thousands range. A United Nations estimate claimed that in 2006, at least 35,000 civilians died as a result of war-related violence. No one really knows how many people have died. By 2007, Brookings claimed the Iraqi Resistance had gained the capability of staging more attacks than ever, estimating them at “185 per day, almost two and a half times the number of attacks at the end of 2005.” (Brookings, 4/23/2007)
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq issued its Human Rights report for January 1-March 31, 2007, which provides solid evidence that Congress needs to launch an inquiry into what exactly Bush has accomplished in Iraq. On page 20 it states: “The humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since 2005 and needs immediate recognition and support. Up to 8 million people are classified as vulnerable; in need of immediate assistance. 2 million are estimated to be refugees/asylum seekers outside Iraq; 1.9 million are estimated to be IDPS [Internally Displaced People] and 4 million are estimated to be acutely vulnerable due to food insecurity.”
The report details how Iraqis lack protection and suffer from human rights violations, escalating violence, lack of access to basic services, rising unemployment and rampant inflation — all contributing to declining living standards, particularly “displaced, women and children.” Iraqis suffer and die. US troops suffer and die.
On May 2, Bush vetoed a bill with a timetable for withdrawal, saying it wasn’t fair to the troops. One day, he will tell them what “fair” means and what his–their–mission is. Much of the world knows the goal of US policy–the desire for a permanent base in the midst of the oil-rich Middle East. Most Members of Congress have not mentioned this rather central theme.
Denial is more than an Egyptian river. It has become Bush’s governing leitmotif.
SAUL LANDAU’s new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from firstname.lastname@example.org