Faith-Based War

Washington DC made its reputation around the world as the city where nothing succeeds like failure – take Bush and Wolfowitz as examples. Few “realists” tell the truth, especially in matters of public policy. But President Bush has discovered a new way around truth: faith. He has faith that the US military will win in Iraq despite the impressive array of facts that would cause less fervent believers to waver. His style of operating — classify everything and don’t talk to anyone but absolutely loyal reporters and God – contrasts sharply with the Nixon-Kissinger era.

Nixon recorded his criminal conversations, which showed he knew about the cover up of the 1972 Watergate break-in. During the early and mid 1970s, Dr. Henry Kissinger served Nixon and then Gerald Ford as combined Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. He invited the mainstream press to regular “background briefings.”

Kissinger used these sessions, as the late Larry Stern of the Washington Post explained to me in 1975, “to weave a seamless web of lies and truth so the media would not have a clue as to what he was really up to.” For example, Kissinger swore he had not ordered the CIA to destabilize Chile just as he gave orders to destabilize Chile. A 1975 Senate Sub Committee under Frank Church (D-ID) proved Kissinger lied.

The legendary I. F. Stone advised reporters not to attend such briefings – unless, he said “you want to hear lies.” A New York Times reporter in the 1970s said Kissinger phoned the Washington editor of the Times at 5 PM and advised him on which story to use as the next day’s lead. And Max Frankel usually followed K’s advice.

An apocryphal story had desperate reporters hiring a Washington psychiatrist to pose as a reporter and helping him obtain press credentials. After attending several K back grounders, the shrink told the assembled reporters.
“Look,” he said, “when Kissinger folds his hands like a Viennese school boy, or toys with his eye glasses or rubs his hands along his thighs, you should also see these as evidence of veracity. When he opens his mouth to talk he’s lying.”

Today’s key liars have lower IQs, but the White House and Republican establishments have inundated the obsequious media with wholesale prevarications especially after 9/11.

During all of 2002 and until the invasion of Iraq March 2003, Bush, Cheney, Rumfeld, Rice, Powell et. al. inundated Congress and the media with lies to justify a war that God told Bush he had to start with Iraq and indeed, keep the US military in a seemingly endless and futile bloodletting operation since then.

We expect the Pope to claim the Catholic Church as the sole mediator of salvation, as he did in early July, while US dioceses paid hundreds of millions of dollars to people who had suffered sexual abuse from their saviors. But when Bush assured the world “the fight in Iraq can be won” — after admitting that the al-Maliki government that he created had failed to pass basic tests– only the truly ghoulish could laugh. (AP July 14)

Candidate Bush promised not to “nation build.” True, his unabated aggression has built nothing. He swore to find Osama bin Laden, but instead steered the military away from the alleged fiend of 9/11. He and Cheney claimed innumerable times that Saddam Hussein had — and was collecting — serious weapons when intelligence reports before and since showed none.

Indeed, intelligence reports show Al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq until Bush invaded. Instead of weakening fundamentalism in the region Bush strengthens it. The media, however, continues obsequiously to report Bush’s “blame” theory in which Iranians bear responsibility for deadly weapons used against US troops. Bush also made verbal slaps at Syria for refusing to close the Damascus airport “to suicide bombers headed to Iraq.” These verbal fusillades belong to Bush’s faith since the facts show that the largest number of suicide bombers come from Saudi Arabia, a country Bush faithfully calls an ally.

The most ridiculous faith based claim centers on the US-created Iraqi government. Bush officials — and Hillary Clinton — blame this puppet for the problems confronting US forces. How can we withdraw our forces, asks Bush rhetorically, when the Iraqi government, that he created, does not meet key “benchmarks” that he created as congressional demand? On July 12, Bush reported “mixed progress” on 18 targets that the Maiki government was supposed to meet. Under sharp questioning from reporters, pointing to contradictions and problems in his stance on Iraq, Bush clung to faith.

“I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work, that’s what I believe,” he told a reporter. A few asked him tough questions related to discrepancies between his previous statements on Iraq – from “Mission Accomplished” in May 2003 to “we’re making some progress in securing Baghdad” in 2007. Bush relied on the word “believe,” using it 21 times during his one hour press conference.

Bush forced tests on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Then Bush announced that Maliki got an F for failing to get legislation addressing amnesty and ensuring “that revenues from Iraq’s oil resources are distributed equitably among Iraq’s ethnic groups.” The US marionette also flunked the exam for “establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the Constitution of Iraq [and] providing Iraqi commanders with authority to make tactical and operational decisions, in consultation with U.S commanders, without political intervention, including the authority to pursue all insurgents and militias.” Maliki also could not overcome the benchmark calling for him to ensure “that the Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.”

What does a failure do? In Maliki’s case, he rebelled – verbally and briefly. Responding to Bush, Maliki claimed Iraqi forces were competent and US troops could depart “any time they want.” A Maliki spokesman charged Bush with embarrassing his new ally. He said the US military violated human rights and treated his country like an “experiment in a U.S. lab.” He was of course correct.

Maliki’s insubordination lasted a day. Yassin Majid, a Maliki adviser, explained that the Prime Minister was misinterpreted and the United States should continue to bolster Iraqi security forces “side by side with the withdrawal,” which should not happen right away. (AP July 16) Al-Maliki pleaded that his government needed “time and effort” to meet Bush’s benchmarks, “particularly since the political process is facing security, economic and services pressures, as well as regional and international interference.” But he had “full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running security if the international forces withdraw at any time they want.”

Such flimflam disguises facts and conclusions reached by the conservative establishment last November 13 when “members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group …listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a ‘Churchillian’ vision of ‘victory’ in Iraq and defend the country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.” (Woodward WP July 12) Bush actually boasted that “A constitutional order is emerging.”

“Later … CIA director Michael V. Hayden …said ‘the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible.’”

According to Woodward’s report, Hayden “could not point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around. The government is unable to govern,” Hayden concluded. “We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function.” The Iraq Study Group suggested that unless Maliki showed “substantial progress” on security and national reconciliation Bush should withdraw support.

The James Baker-Lee Hamilton led commission of the Washington elite represented a clear message: Bush’s policy threatened the interests of the powerful and wealthy. Bush stuck to “faith.” In January, he announced his troop escalation to bring military victory.

Unlike Kissinger, CIA Director Michael Hayden spoke directly. “We have placed all of our energies in creating the center, and the center cannot accomplish anything.” Hayden’s bleak appraisal coincided with what most observers gleaned in visits to Iraq. Bush blames Al Qaeda – as he once blamed Saddam Hussein. But Hayden told him that Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, “uniformed death squads, overseers of jails and torture facilities,” share responsibility for the daily violence.

Bush’s faith in the “surge of troops” resembles the Rabbi from Chelm’s belief in straw. When he saw the town barn afire, the rabbi ordered his flock to throw straw on the flames. He dismissed the doubters because his overriding faith in God reinforced his judgment. The straw caused the flames to abate, momentarily. The rabbi smirked. But seconds later they leaped ever higher. “More straw,” screamed the rabbi. “More troops,” screams Bush. The establishment that contributed to his campaign now wrings its collective hands and worries about its fortunes– if the US stays in Iraq or pulls out — as the Rabbi of Chelm presides in the White house.

SAUL LANDAU’s new Counterpunch Press book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with an introduction by Gore Vidal. His new film is WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE. Get it from



SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.