A deathly certainty
marvels at the insouciance with which the US administration claims right is on its side
On the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called President George Bush "dangerously incompetent". He went on to urge the government to do more to prevent the increase in sectarian violence in Iraq. With an average of 50 Iraqis killed daily, he said, conditions in the country had degenerated to the level of "a low-grade civil war".
Reid was confirming what journalists and political analysts have warned against for years. Bush and his administration are indeed a peril, not only to the world but to the US itself. And, finally, growing numbers of Americans seem to be beginning to wake up to this reality.
Three years down the line, and with a fervour that equals that of Osama Bin Laden, Bush is still trying to persuade the world, the American people and, perhaps, himself that he was right to invade Iraq. Incredibly, he still clings to a logic that holds that the road to safety at home passes through destruction and violence abroad. Over the past week the US president has made several television appearances and held press conferences the sole purpose of which has been to justify his administration's violation of international law to invade and destroy a sovereign country and spread sectarian strife among its citizens.
In each of his speeches Bush reiterated how much progress has been made towards building a democratic Iraq that will inspire the rest of the peoples of the Middle East. The insouciance with which he suggests that wreaking death and destruction is a source of inspiration to others is mind-boggling. The American people, in particular, must be dumbfounded by how blithely their president ignores the homecoming coffins of American soldiers who, if they had any knowledge at all about why they had been sent to such strange and remote killing fields, derived it from a brief indoctrination about multitudes of crazed Muslim terrorists. Bush does not think about the lives of his own soldiers let alone those of the Iraqi people who are dying in far greater numbers. What he does think is that he did the right thing and that if he had to do it all over again he would. He appears to believe, after all, that he is doing what God told him to do, or that at least that is what we are supposed to accept -- that the Divine Will has miraculously revealed itself to Bush and, moreover, commanded him to sow death, destruction and dissension among Muslim peoples.
Bush's persistence, not only in refusing to admit his error but in compounding the disaster, is draining vast quantities of desperately needed resources. The third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq coincided with World Water Day, and the publication of a report revealing that a billion people in the world have no access to something as basic as clean water. Meanwhile, the US squanders billions and billions of dollars on a futile war in Iraq. Do people in the US wonder why their government is spending those billions abroad instead of on repairing the destruction wrought by hurricane Katrina? Certainly many in the world are wondering why, if the US has all that money to spend, if it has such a surplus and such a mighty conscience, it isn't investing it in philanthropic acts instead of displays of strength. That would at least go some way to restoring America's former image as a bastion of human freedom and dignity, and efface its current image as an exporter of intimidation, fear and death.
It is little wonder that the Bush administration's determination to show others merits of the American way has backfired. Russia's Vladimir Putin can easily point to the US administration and scathingly remark that it has no right to impose its definition of democracy on the world. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was blunter: he called the American president a coward and an ass in the latest of the series of crude exchanges between the White House and the Venezuelan leadership that have taken place against the backdrop of the US's deteriorating prestige and credibility.
There are, though, occasions on which even the White House appears unsure of itself. Take, for example, such statements as we are resisting the temptation to withdraw, or, if we kick the terrorists out of Iraq they'll attack us here in the United States. Clearly there are some conflicting feelings at work. Certainly, withdrawal from Iraq would halt the attrition on the lives of US forces, on the American treasury and on the image of the US. However, to cede to this "temptation" would have multiple effects. The US would lose its last shreds of credibility as a superpower it abandons the people it brought to power in Iraq to the lynch mobs awaiting them following the departure of US forces. And, as the Bush clique must obviously be thinking, withdrawal would be tantamount to admitting a mistake which, in turn, would lend impetus to the campaign to impeach, or at least censure, Bush for leading the US into a war on false pretenses, and on the basis of falsified information.
Bush should be exactly where Saddam Hussein is now, in the defendants' box. Both leaders lied to their people, violated international law, invaded and occupied sovereign nations and perpetuated murder and torture. Bush, however, is still at large, relentlessly compounding the tragedy of a country as he continues to boast of victory over what White House leaks describe as an elusive enemy. If the US is to repair its shattered image it must withdraw from Iraq, stop intervening in the affairs of sovereign nations and rid itself of the disastrous influence of the Bush clique.