Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bush’s speech and my reaction, Part II

Because of the length of the following post, I have decided to break it up into several sections. In my response to President Bush’s recent speech on Veterans Day, Bush’s statements will be in bold print and my response to them are in plain text.

And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

I’m sorry folks, bin Laden is not Hitler or Stalin or Pol-Pot. He has no country, no government. He has no modern military to invade other countries, and even if he was able to commit mass destruction with any type of weapon imaginable, bin Laden simply does not have the forces to “take over” anything militarily. In the region, bin Laden is probably considerably less popular than the KKK was in the US, and yet no intelligent individual would claim that the KKK was as powerful here as the Nazi party in Germany, even while they both shared a fundamental theology. If bin Laden is Hitler or Stalin, than Timothy McVeigh was Napoleon, John Brown was Caesar, and Lee Harvey Oswald was Mussolini. Although bin Laden may share some of Hitler’s ambitions, let’s get real and evaluate this man in context, rather than building him up into someone who can actually invade countries and annex them into his global empire.

The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They've been sheltered by authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience, like Iran and Syria, that share the goal of hurting America and modern Muslim governments and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West, on America and on the Jews.

Two things require mention:
1) Syria has a secular government that is responsible for massacring tens of thousands of religious Muslims, and has tortured suspected AQ members for the US over the past several years (let us not forget Maher Arar, the innocent Canadian deported to Syria by the US to be tortured).

2) Iranians are not considered “real” Muslims by bin Laden. Since invading Iraq, Iran has supported the elections, and the new constitution. Thus far, all fears and concerns that Iran would promote instability and anarchy in Iraq have failed to materialize.

So please Mr. President, do not conflate these two regimes with AQ simply because you happen to not like them. If you want to make a case against them, do it for legitimate reasons, not because they happen to share a continent and are thus identical and supportive of each other.

Some have also argued that extremists have been strengthened by our actions in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.

This is perhaps one of the most absurd and insulting statement in his entire speech. NO ONE has claimed EVER that the 2003 Iraq war caused the 2001 terrorist attacks, or “created” terrorism. However many do argue that the Iraq conflict has in fact strengthened extremists, including our own intelligence agencies! From the WP: “Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.”

According to David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, “there is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries” and according to a national intelligence council report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology. It seems clear that, however justified it may have been (I believe not at all), it has come at the cost of strengthening radical Islamic fundamentalists by fostering hatred in the region and swelling the ranks of terrorist organizations. Bush’s own intelligence services confirm this to be the case.

we're determined to prevent attacks of the terrorist networks before they occur.

If Iraq is a model for our future strategy of “shoot first, ask questions later,” than I am not really certain what makes the US different from historically belligerent powers that simply invaded nations with impunity and without real justification.

Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation.

I am not really sure how it plans on doing this. So far, the only examples of nations wanting to develop nuclear weapons are Iran and North Korea and in both cases, this administrations' actions and threatening rhetoric has only exacerbated the problems there. Unless we are prepared to offer these nations carrots and not just sticks, I have seen nothing in the Bush administration’s foreign policy that leads me to believe that this is a serious goal.

In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress, from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the ratification of a constitution in the space of two and a half years.

Wow! ANY standard or precedent? That isn’t what Senator Chuck Hagel says. According to him, “Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel told U.S. News and World Report last month. “It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.” As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, his comments on this should not be easily dismissed.

Furthermore, as the Washington Post pointed out, “after generally rejecting body counts as standards of success in the Iraq war, the U.S. military” has been embracing them as a standard for success, “just as it did during the Vietnam War.”

Don’t get me wrong, Iraq has made progress, but like Cheney’s ludicrous claim that the insurgency is “in its last throes,” Bush’s statement is simply premature and not reflective of the reality on the ground. Passing a vague Constitution and holding elections is the easy part. The hard part is getting legitimacy for those elections and Constitutions and preventing violence from sparking civil war.

Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.
These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

Like many of the most blatant claims this administration has made, this one is intentionally misleading. Note how the first sentence includes the charge that the administration “misled” the American people, yet the second one only deals with political pressure towards intelligence agencies.

Again from the WP: “But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry.”

In other words, a Senate committee found that Bush did not pressure intelligence agencies into producing particular results (although I happen to disagree with their conclusions). That committee did NOT exonerate Bush from misleading the American people.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein.

This implies that “we were all wrong.” In fact “we” were not all wrong, but many intelligence agencies turned out to be rather accurate.

As Fareed Zakaria noted in his editorial, We Had Good Intel—The U.N.'s, “there was one group whose prewar estimates of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities have turned out to be devastatingly close to reality—the U.N. inspectors… Despite claims by the U.S. government of the existence of specific stockpiles of weapons and active weapons programs, they found no evidence of either. In his reports to the Security Council, Blix was always judicious. "One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist," he said. "However, that possibility is also not excluded.” Blix wanted more evidence, arguing that the Iraqis were not providing trustworthy accounts of the destruction of their previously existing chemical and biological stockpiles. He asked that the Iraqis do more to convince him. Regarding missiles, despite administration claims that Iraq was churning out Scuds, the inspectors found none. They did, however, find some prohibited medium-range missiles, and were in the process of destroying them when the war began.”

Furthermore, a meticulous analysis of Bush’s 2002, speech in Cincinnati, where the president made a detailed case for war against Iraq, reveals that what he said did not always reflect what U.S. intelligence analysts believed at that time, as noted in this analysis from Foreign Policy.

Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security."

I find it interesting that Bush would quote John Kerry from his 2002 Senate floor speech on why is voted for the authorization for war. I would encourage everyone to read the speech in full, since it is perhaps the most thoughtful and articulate Democratic position on the war that I have ever read. It also demonstrates Kerry’s consistency on the Iraq issue, a consistency he was unable to convey during the campaign. Of course, what Bush neglected to mention was the following portion of the speech:

“Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances. In voting to grant the President the authority, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States.

Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent and grave threat, for its self-defense under the standards of law. The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet. I emphasize "yet." Yes, it is grave because of the deadliness of Saddam Hussein's arsenal and the very high probability that he might use these weapons one day if not disarmed. But it is not imminent, and no one in the CIA, no intelligence briefing we have had suggests it is imminent. None of our intelligence reports suggest that he is about to launch an attack.”

Furthermore, contrary to what many conservatives claim, Congress did not have the same intelligence as the President. In point of fact, Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.

The implications of this last statement is clear: Disagreeing with the administration is hurting the troops and aiding the enemy. Ignore the evidence, Bush implores us, forget why we went to war in the first place, what the reasons for this entire misadventure were, pay no attention to all of the evidence that casts doubt on the reasons and my motives. Go and support my Iraq strategy or the terrorists win!

What a disgrace.


dcat said...

Marc --
Great job on this. I just got back into town after nearly a week in DC. It was great being back there if only to be amidst politis in the air again. You've given us a lot with which to work. Thanks.

Cram said...

Thanks for the comments.

I love being in DC, something about the atmosphere, the memorials, and the museums. It would be a great place to live were it not for the poverty, the crime, and the unfathomably high cost of living.