It's the Incompetence, Stupid
The latest reports say that George W Bush is ahead of Kerry because he is "good on terrorism". And now, as the news has stopped focusing on Iraq, Bush is seen as equally good on Iraq as Kerry, despite the fact that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. (If you don't believe me, read Chris Albritten's piece direct from Baghdad.)
The Bush campaign is not going to worry about whether or not we were right to invade Iraq, because he believes he has done a good thing. Kicking butt is such a satisfying action especially when one is a [closet] bully.
There is a clear message behind all of President Bush's responses to these sorts of critiques. And it runs like this: 'Sure, I probably wasted a lot of money over there. But there were guys over there who wanted to kill you. And you know what? I killed them first.'
For decades now, our country has been on a "get tough" binge and the Republicans have been riding this horse for a long time. But it took someone like Bush to show how debased this philosophy can be.
Steve is right, Kerry really does need to go after Bush's Iraq record. Just as Clinton proved Democrats are fiscally responsible and Bush proved that Republicans are fiscally irresponsible, this is the time to show that the Republicans are not to be trusted to protect our country because they cannot understand that being mean, nasty and brutal is not a policy that will work in the long run. Iraq is a full scale mess and every crucial decision made by the Bush team has been to make things worse. The one thing Kerry has to do is to keep the Iraq debacle in the news and show how Bush's decisions led to that result.
Here is a short list of Bush decisions that lead to our current situation in Iraq:
- Using lies to get us into Iraq.
- Undercutting the number of troops needed so Rummy can prove Americans can have an empire on the cheap. (After all, you have to have troops available to invade Syria, Iran, North Korea, etc.)
- Providing no post-invasion plan for stabilizing country.
- Allowing riots to rampage city, except for the Oil Ministry. The worst aspect was allowing the robbery of the Baghdad Museum.
- Using Saddam's Palace for the US Occupation Headquarters.
- Installing Paul Bremer, true believer of the miracle of the market whose first act was to disband the Iraqi military.
- Giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton, etc. It wouldn't be so bad if they actually delivered what they promised for a reasonable price.
- Gloating Mission Accomplished long before there was any such accomplishment.
- Using nepotism and ideology to pick ineffective and unqualified people to run the CPA (or as the Iraqis called it: the Cannot Provide Anything" gang).
- Ordering the Marines to teach Falluja a lesson.
- Presiding over the worst foreign policy scandal in US history with release of Abu Ghraib photos. (Seymour Hersh points out that the senior leadership - at least Rumsfeld and Rice - knew of this scandal in January and didn't do anything to change the policies that led to this catastrophy.)
- Accelerating handover of "sovereignty" to Iraq so that he could blame problems in Iraq on the Iraqis in charge.
- Criminalizing Sadr and his followers.
- Abandoning significant portions of Iraq for political reasons. After all, if Iraq doesn't blow up before the election, then perhaps Bush will be around to make more incompetent and destructive decisions.
How bad is it in Iraq these days? How about Michael O'Hannon's assessment (via Yglesias)?
If we can keep it as one of the two or three most violent places in the Middle East but at least on a long-term trajectory toward stability, that's acceptable.
Bush's war. Bush's responsibility. And a record of gross incompetence.