Monday, March 13, 2006


The small print between "Mission" and "Accomplished on the banner reads: "to increase Halliburton's defense contracts from $1/2 billion to $8 billion

(This column will run in the 3-16-06 THE ALBANY JOURNAL")

On March 10th The Albany Herald published my neighbor Greg Freed’s letter in which he wrote that it struck him as “amazing how our warriors who are bearing the total brunt of danger in ‘The Long War’ can be so optimistic and ready to see a cause through while such a large element of society has a view that is diametrically opposed.” He writes of young Marines who fought in Fallujah and commends those who want to go back with these chilling words: “[f]or those the fight for Fallujah didn’t kill, wound or drive from the service, it brought a purpose-- keep waging the war.” He quotes one Marine Colonel as saying “[w]e have a lot of lessons learned... the troops are excited about getting back into combat.” The Colonel must have idolized Robert Duvall’s character in the movie Apocalypse Now, the bloodthirsty officer whose famous line was “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

America is fortunate to have spirited young men and women willing to fight our wars, but as responsible citizens, it is our duty to ensure that their lives and bodies are not unnecessarily put at risk. Regardless of whether young Marines are “excited” to be sent to a war zone, the reality of Iraq is that our soldiers and Marines are not fighting a war-- “long” or short. For the past three years they have been occupiers sitting in the crossfire of a budding civil war between the various tribes, factions, religions, and ethnic groups which were cobbled together by the British following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks after World War I. Without a brutal dictator sitting on top of the government, the simmering conflicts have exploded.

"Kill one, create three"

Likewise, there is no “cause” for which our troops are fighting, other than to stay alive and come home. Top Pentagon officials like Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, have conceded that our troops can’t defeat the insurgency militarily, and many will concede that the presence of our troops is creating terrorists. For every native Iraqi we accidentally kill-- President Bush, his demeanor completely devoid of contrition or other emotion, off handedly estimated the number at “30,000” in a televised press conference in January-- we incite dozens of suicide bombers and bring thousands of recruits into the resistance. Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting. "We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."

Meanwhile, our efforts to reconstruct Iraq have collapsed due to continual assassinations of essential civilian personnel and industrial sabotage with the complicit or explicit assistance of Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation. The Bush Administration has now given up all pretense of leaving Iraq in better shape than it found it-- Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn rules” notwithstanding. The Baghdad electrical grid is in worse shape three years after the invasion than it was while Saddam was in power. Daily news reports bring us stories of mass murder, kidnapping for ransom, and violence against Iraqis who won’t conform to the religious extremists who now control the streets of the cities. Recent polls show that as many as eighty percent of Iraqis want a timetable for American withdrawal.

We have lost 2,307 American lives in Iraq, 2,170 since the “Mission Accomplished” banner was raised on the carrier Lincoln behind a jubilant President Bush in May of 2003. Over 17,000 Americans have been wounded. If this blood was really shed to give Iraq a democracy-- a justification never mentioned in the runup to the war when the President’s speeches falsely linked Iraq both to the 9-11 attacks and to nuclear weapons -- then we should accede to their wishes and leave the country, letting the Iraqis determine their own fate and fight for their own freedom.

The UAE Dubai ports deal pulls the curtain off the Wizard

Back at home, some of President Bush’s chickens finally came home to roost. To every criticism of the incompetent bungling of his Administration, his response was how hard it was to be a “War President.” To complaints about his admitted lawbreaking and violations of his oath of office, the most recent example being warrantless wiretaps in violation of both the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, Bush’s rejoinder was: “everything changed after the 9-11 terror attacks.”

Bush’s empty slogans worked just long enough. Many American voters re-elected Bush in 2004 partly because of fears of another terror attack and the hope that he would do a better job at securing America than his Democratic opponent. But those hopes have now been dashed for even the most self-deluded Bush supporter, and Bush’s professed concern for America’s post 9-11 security has been revealed as a sham. The publicity surrounding the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. and its contract to run six major American ports has exposed Bush's unwillingness to put America’s security above business deals with his rich Arab friends.

The UAE has long maintained ties to terrorist networks, including Osama Bin Laden himself. Recent reports have revealed that members of the UAE royal family went falcon hunting with Bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan in the 1990’s. Several of the 9-11 hijackers came from the UAE or used it as a transfer point for terrorist materials.

It's noteworthy that President Bush found out about the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approval of the proposed takeover the same way you and I did- he heard about it from the press. Apparently, no one in his administration thought it important enough to alert him that a country with longtime ties to terrorism had just been approved by a government commission to run American ports. Publicity about the UAE ports deal also highlighted the fact that more than four and a half years after 9-11 Bush has allowed 95 percent of incoming cargo to come in unscreened. We can only count ourselves lucky that in that 95 percent there were no nuclear devices or biological weapons.

President Bush’s explanation for his after-the-fact support of the UAE deal was laughable-- he claimed that it would hurt our image in the Arab World if we rejected an Arab country’s bid to control our most critical ports. Apparently he didn’t bother to read the FBI report which concluded that the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the 9-11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And I will bet dollars to donuts that President Bush is still unaware that the hijacker who piloted American Airlines flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center was a UAE citizen.

As for the President’s contention that nixing the Dubai deal would hurt our “image” among Arabs, presumably he is also unaware that ever since his invasion of Iraq, our image in the Arab World is so low that poll numbers are about to dip into negative figures- and that’s only talking about our ostensible allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Apparently, the clueless President thinks that invading an Arab Muslim country, killing (by his own admission) at least 30,000 innocent civilians, inciting suicide bombers and terrorists who kill religious leaders and blow up mosques, having non-Muslim Americans running the country and building permanent bases there- these aren’t serious offenses to Arabs, but refusing to allow them to run our ports, that’s a provocation worthy of a threatened presidential veto to preserve our pristine image.

In the wake of Katrina, Iraq, the Medicare Prescription Drug “benefit,” and $400 billion deficits, the whole nation now knows that incompetence is the true hallmark of the Bush Administration. And it has been breathtaking. Unfortunately, his incompetence has been lifetaking as well.


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