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Want Good News? Vote Bush Out

I long for the days of past when I didn t have to pay so much attention to the news, when I didn t wake up each morning in dread, wondering who s dying in Iraq today?  or what government scandal is unraveling now? 

Some Americans want the glossy version of news whether or not it exists. Recently some letters to the editor across the country have voiced complaints that the media is too focused on the bad news in Iraq and the Bush Administration s failings. A Wisconsin newspaper editor (The Post Crescent) went so far as to ask readers to write more pro-Bush letters. Is this balanced reporting, or is it an attempt to create a false sense of balance? On balance, the news of late is bad.

The war in Iraq is riddled with misconceptions that the Bush administration has propagated, which began with the false claims of Iraqi WMDs. In the months leading up to the war, the Bush administration was warned by experts on Middle Eastern affairs that uniting warring fractions in Iraq might prove to be difficult, if not impossible. Terrorist experts argued that the war would be a distraction from our task of dismantling Al Qaida and a drain on our resources. Former UN inspectors in Iraq said that Iraq was 95% disarmed already and that the 5% of unaccounted chemical weapons had a shelf life that would have rendered them useless. Military men were berated for saying that it would take more troops than those deployed to get the job done, which has proven to be the case. Even members of Bush s own party questioned a pre-emptive invasion, and alienating our allies by aborting the legitimate UN inspection process.

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, wrote on May 11th in a commentary titled For Iraqis to Win, the U.S. Must Lose: We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy. We were going to topple Saddam, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over. 

Not all of us expected the results that Brooks describes, but that was the way the Bush Administration portrayed it to the public. No wonder some Americans are slow to accept the reality of what is taking place in Iraq. They want the rhetoric they were promised.
Although Iraq was not involved in the attacks of 9/11 and the CIA has found no connection between Al Aqaida and Iraq, the Bush administration s depiction of the war in Iraq as a response to 9/11 has created confusion in the minds of Americans. Republican Senator Inhofe displayed this confusion when he responded to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal by questioning why we would care so much about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners. At a senator hearing, Inhofe stunned those listening by saying & these prisoners are murderers, they re terrorists, they re insurgents & 

In fact, a recent Red Cross report, published in the Wall Street Journal, stated that Coalition military intelligence officers believed that 70 -90% of Iraqi detainees were mistakenly arrested. The report went on to describe the sweeping and violent house-to-house arrests of Iraqis made by U.S. soldiers, along with the abuses inflicted on the Iraqis after their arrests.

Even Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the Army s investigation into the prison abuse scandal, concluded that while there were common criminals at the prison, there were probably no detainees linked to Al Qaida or other terrorists groups there. Senator Inhofe s presumptions that the prisoners deserved their abuse, even though they haven t been tried or convicted of any crimes, parallel the Bush administration s shoot first, ask questions later  policies.

Adding further insult to injury, Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio talk show host, incredulously defended the U.S. soldiers accused of the abuses by characterizing them as boys and girls &having some fun &letting off steam.  Limbaugh s words seem wildly out of touch considering that General Taguba s findings, which were completed in March and first appeared in the New Yorker, referred to the prison abuses as numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses,  and concluded that they were systematic and illegal.  Later reports revealed that the abuses ranged from humiliation and torture &to rape and murder.

At a May 13th Armed Services hearing on the prison abuses, Democrat Senator Reed asked the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, a pointed question: If a foreign nation held a U.S. Marine in a cell, naked with a bag over his head, squatting with his arms uplifted for 45 minutes, would that be a good interrogation technique or a Geneva Convention violation? I would describe it as a violation, sir,  replied General Pace.

Another misconception being perpetrated by the Bush administration is that the war in Iraq was a humanitarian intervention. Yet there was no current mass killing or ethnic cleansing in Iraq  such as there was in the Balkans when the U.S. intervened there  to justify the urgency of the invasion. In fact, when the Bush administration cites Saddam s mass graves and the gassing of his own people, as part of their rationale for war, they are referring to events that happened between 1983-1991 when we were either supporting and helping to arm the brutal dictator or looking the other way. Why didn t we care that he was a brutal dictator then?

Do the Americans who want to see more news stories about the schools and electric facilities we are building in Iraq, forget that we are re-building what we are largely responsible for destroying? Do they think it s the job of the U.S. to impose democracy on dictatorships around the world? At the cost of over 700 U. S. soldiers thus far and the Iraqi civilian death toll estimated at approximately 10,000, if the war in Iraq was a humanitarian intervention, I have to conclude that it s a colossal failure.

Our government has always had failings and scandals, but the current ones are at such a price  in lives, credibility, and financial expense  as to be off the chart. The decision to launch the war ignored world opinion and legal precedent. Considering that, and the legal ambiguity of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, I m not entirely surprised that soldiers down the chain of command, following the poor example that their leaders set, similarly disregarded moral and lawful standards.

If Americans want to read more positive news stories, they should begin by voting Bush out in November. Although it will be a great challenge for whoever inherits what the Bush presidency has created, I am hopeful that a change in leadership will be a first step in the right direction.

The above was published in May 2004 by, The New River Free Press, and The Roanoke Times.

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