Mission Accomplished - One Year Later
It’s been a year since George W. Bush delayed the return of the Abraham Lincoln and had it venture back out to sea so that he could play co-pilot for the typical GOP all-image no-substance photo op. Today, Bush defended his speech from a year ago when he said that major combat operations in Iraq were over, sticking to his conclusion that although it will remain tough in Iraq for a while longer, major operations were in fact over. This would come as news to the soldiers in Fallujah today, who were pulling back to defensive positions so that the Iraqis themselves could put their hopes not in the American liberators, but instead a former Saddam Republican Guard general and an Iraqi militia assembled of Iraqi army regulars and some insurgents.
For Bush, whose campaign accuses Kerry of flip-flopping as a sign that he is unfit to be commander in chief, it is always the same story: I was right in the beginning, I am right now, and I will be right tomorrow. The total lack of any self-doubt is endearing to his supporters, who think it is a sign of strength for a man to have such moral clarity and steadfastness of purpose. For those he sends to war and their families, they may have other thoughts on the subject. Nonetheless, as Bob Woodward shows in his book “Plan of Attack,” which I recommend you read (you can purchase a copy on the left of the site), Bush always remains certain in the soundness of his decisions regardless of the facts or developments on the ground, or his need to keep changing the justification.
The legal justifications for this war started out being several-fold. First, Saddam was failing to comply with UN resolutions, even though the weapons inspectors were back in his country. Then, the argument was that he had WMDs and was a supporter of terrorism in general and Al Qaeda specifically, both of which as we know now are bogus. Then the argument was that if left in power he remained an imminent threat to Israel and his neighbors, even though our own State Department believed that after a decade of sanctions he was contained and not an imminent threat to anyone, especially with inspectors on the ground. Then it was argued that we needed to stop the torture and atrocities against his own people and liberate them, even though it wasn’t our charter from the UN to do this nor did this rationale track with Bush’s policy of preemption for national security reasons. Then it was argued that we could make Iraq an example of democracy in the Islamic world by liberating its people, but again this rationale has no basis in Bush’s own post 9/11 anti-terror or preemption policies. And it always came back to regime change and how we have successfully stopped his WMD “programs” and his mass graves and rape/torture chambers. Again, both Congress and the UN gave their sanction based on WMD and terrorist-related threats, not on the need to stop Hussein from brutalizing his people, which in itself was a worthy enough reason to seek international sanction to stop him. But we didn’t.
In truth, most voters won’t be making a judgment this November on the changing reasons, but rather on how things are going in Iraq and Bush’s instincts and judgment in going there for whatever reason. His supporters will cling to the reason-of-the-day for the war, whether it be 1) he coulda’ had weapons or 2) those Iraqis are better off now no matter what has happened. His detractors will remain incensed for any number of reasons, all of them just as valid as those of his supporters. It all comes down to whether or not you feel comfortable letting Bush and his utter lack of uncertainty have another four years.