Friday, October 15, 2004

The President’s Greatest Crime

(EDITORIAL NOTE: In October of 2004, I worked with fellow Georgetown University students to put together a magazine offering opinions and analysis of the first term of the Bush administration. My contribution was the below article concerning the Iraq war.)

In the approximately 20 months since the leaders of the United States made the fateful decision to initiate the conquest and subsequent occupation of the nation of Iraq, 1,102 American soldiers have died, just over thirty percent of the total deaths in the attacks of September 11th, 2001. During those same months, more than 7,800 soldiers have been wounded, many for life. These statistics, of course, apply only to official military personnel, and do not include the numerous men and women working in Iraq who are employed by private contractors.

Since March of 2003, in the fighting and chaos which has convulsed their country, anywhere between 13,000 and 15,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed – four to five times the number of individuals who were killed in the September 11th attacks – and thousands more, perhaps tens of thousands more, have been wounded or permanently maimed.

These few statistics cannot begin to convey the true nature of the state of total war which has been raging in Iraq for nearly two years. It is quite impossible for the outside observer to appreciate the horror, violence, and perpetual indignities that weigh on the minds and bodies of both civilians and soldiers in a war zone. Far beyond the mere number of casualties, there exist the tens of thousands of lives both in Iraq and in the United States which have been forever altered by America’s decision to go to war. The dead will never be recovered, the shattered bodies of the wounded will in many cases never be repaired, and the consciousness of countless men and women will be forever tormented by what they have seen and what they have been forced to endure.

It is nearly impossible to imagine that the leaders of the United States truly do not care about the human costs of their actions. The men and women who are shaping America’s foreign policy have not yet severed the last threads which connect them to the lives of ordinary individuals. But much to the detriment of us all, these threads have been subdued and in many cases nearly forgotten, pushed aside by the power of ideology, self-interest, and obsession. The war against Iraq, framed so carefully by the Bush administration as a war for the preservation of American national security – with later justifications introduced as the initial ones failed to persuade – was not the next logical step in the “war against terrorism” which the United States initiated following that grisly day more than three years ago. It was, quite to the contrary, the next logical step in a long-established plan, part of which was designed to secure America from potential external threats, but which more fundamentally hoped to secure it from external challenges to its global economic and political dominance. It is here that we can find the greatest of the Administration’s deceptions: its complete failure to address or discuss publicly the real motivations behind the conflict it initiated.

This in and of itself is a great crime which has been perpetrated against the citizens of the world. But beyond it, we find an Administration blinded by its own hubris and perceived power, and one which has been completely unwilling to fundamentally address and correct the most egregious abuses of power which have occurred in Iraq. In such an intellectual environment, greed has found fertile ground in which to grow, and both the quality of life of the Iraq people, and their hopes for a democratic future, have for the time being been damaged severely. It is, in final analysis, the war in Iraq which reveals itself to be the clearest and most unequivocal condemnation of President Bush and his closest advisors that one could ask for. If for no other reason, their performance with regards to this conflict should be enough to convince any voter that their control over American power should be permanently revoked.

The Reasons for War 
On March 8th, 1992, the New York Times published a front-page article entitled, “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop.” The article discussed a 46-page Defense Department document which was to serve, at least in the minds of those who authored it, as a set of guiding principles for America to follow when interacting with the global community. In 1992, with the first President Bush in office, the Secretary of Defense was Dick Cheney.

As Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler explained, the document, “assert[ed] that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to insure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union.” Quoting directly from the text, readers were made aware of a stark and striking view of the world, one in which a major goal of American foreign relations would be, “convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.”

But Pentagon planners, Cheney among them, were not content to simply speak in abstract terms. They had specific reasons for advocating the positions which they did. The regions of the world believed to be most important to the United States were analyzed, among them the Middle East and Southwest Asia. And on this subject, the document was especially blunt. “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia,” it read, “our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.” But this was not all. “We also seek,” the text continued, “to deter further aggression in the region, foster regional stability, protect U.S. nationals and property, and safeguard our access to international air and seaways.” A strong hand in Middle East and South Asian affairs was thus a clear objective of the outgoing Secretary of Defense and those who thought like him.

These machinations did not fade away during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, as those committed to the view of the world illustrated above, individuals today referred to as “neo-conservatives,” formed close connections with one another and awaited their return to power. One of the products of their activity was the formation in 1997 of a conservative think-tank known as the Project for a New American Century. Members included who are today Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in addition to Lewis Libby, currently Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.
In September of 2000, the group released a report entitled, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” It was authored by, among others, Wolfowitz himself, just months before he moved into his new Pentagon office. The recommendations the study called for were numerous. Among those highlighted at its outset were: an increase in American active duty troops from 1.4 to 1.6 million; the repositioning of America’s global military forces, in the process, “shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia”; and for the Unites States to “control the ‘international commons’ of space and ‘cyberspace,’ and pave the way for the creation of a new military service – U.S. Space Forces – with the mission of space control.” As would be expected, the report spoke of Iraq, too. The NATO maintenance of no-fly-zones in the north and south of the country, which at that time had been going on for nine years, were the product of, “the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance.” “Indeed,” the text read, “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security.” And then, the heart of the matter was introduced: “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

It should come as no surprise, then, why on April 19th, 2003, about one month after the Iraq conflict had begun, the New York Times published a story which was quickly picked up by the British publication The Independent. The articles spoke of a permanent American military presence in Iraq that was being planned by national security strategists. As Times writers Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt explained, “The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region.” The article cited “senior Bush administration officials” as the source of the claim, and gave the names of four specific locations in Iraq where permanent American military bases could in the future be constructed, one of which was “at the international airport just outside Baghdad.” On April 22nd, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld vehemently denied the claims made in the articles, stating at a press conference that, “I have never heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed.” Viewed in the context of the goals set forth by the Project for a New American Century with which Rumsfeld was formerly affiliated, his words seem lose some of their credibility.

What is perhaps most interesting is that in none of these planning documents which were produced in the twelve years leading up to the war does one find significant time dedicated to the issues of Iraq’s weapons programs, its ties to terrorist groups, or its lack of commitment to democracy and human rights. And yet, these were the justifications put forward by the Bush Administration when it was preparing the American people and the world community for the impending conflict. It was towards reconciling this discrepancy that government planners turned their energy at the end of 2001 and throughout the course of the next sixteen months.

The Politicization of Intelligence
The Bush Administration has gone to great pains to make the case for war seem more than simply justifiable. Indeed, it has tried to make it seem obvious, and to make itself appear to be an Administration which was willing to do what past administrations should have done years ago. While arguments for the war included humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people and the promotion of democracy in an autocratic region, the most aggressively pushed rationale was and is the threat Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or at least his intent to acquire them, posed to American national security. “The world has waited twelve years for Iraq to disarm,” President Bush said in his January, 2003 State of the Union Address, two months before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched. “America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies.” Hussein was not said to be a direct threat to America, but rather was portrayed as a man who could potentially arm those who would threaten our country directly. As Vice President Cheney argued in his recent debate with Senator John Edwards, Iraq, “was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.” Past links to groups such as Hamas, along with meetings between Al Qaeda officials and representatives of Hussein’s government, were citied constantly to provide a basis for this interpretation, as they are to this day.

If one were to examine such claims on the surface, the case for war indeed seems obvious. The problem which the Administration faced, however, was that its evidence in support of these claims was lacking, and they knew it. To see this, we may turn to words spoken by Secretary of State Colin Powell on February 24th, 2001 while at a press conference following a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Egypt. Addressing the question of Iraq and the sanctions imposed upon it, Powell offered a statement which would prove to be in many ways diametrically opposed to later Administration declarations. Speaking of the sanctions in force against Iraq, he stated plainly that, “frankly they have worked. He [Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.” On May 15th, 2001, Secretary Powell spoke before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and again the topic of Iraq was broached. Powell’s analysis of Iraqi capabilities revealed a man who was critical of Hussein, but who also felt reassured regarding the threat the dictator posed to America and the world. His words deserve extensive citation. “The sanctions,” Powell said, “…have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him [Hussein] from moving in that direction [towards the possession of WMD’s], but from actually being able to move in that direction…And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction…I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful.” Powell continued, “There’s no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons…but they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were ten years ago.”

A nation both contained and stagnant is not a nation worth attacking. In these two statements, Secretary Powell portrayed an Iraq that was not a threat to America. Nor, it is crucial to note, was it a nation getting any closer to becoming a threat. And yet, we need only refer back to the President’s State of the Union address quoted above to see the way in which Iraq was portrayed during the run up to war. Far from being a nation that was contained and static, it was, in the President’s words, “a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies.”

Presumably, the Secretary of State had access to all relevant intelligence reports in 2001 before making the statements he did. And it is logical to assume that everyone else in the Bush Administration did also. In retrospect, it is clear that a lack of confidence in the motivational power of the intelligence reports as they stood was present in the minds of at least several leading Administration officials, among them the staunchest advocates for war. They therefore embarked on a systematic campaign to obtain an analysis of Iraq which would more effectively support their goals. For month after month, the Administration focused on the intelligence that supported its claims and downplayed the rest. And in the process, it greatly abused and mishandled an intelligence community which, as is evident from the overestimation of Hussein’s capabilities present in Powell’s claims, had already displayed some signs of weakness.
As evidence of this, we may look to the establishment of a special, classified Pentagon organization created shortly after the attacks of September, 2001. As the investigative journal Mother Jones revealed in early 2004, the organization, known as the “Office of Special Plans (OSP),” was the product of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, who was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Their project soon involved David Wurmser, a Middle East expert at the prominent neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute. As Mother Jones reported, “The purpose of the unnamed intelligence unit…was to scour reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies to find nuggets of information linking Iraq, Al Qaeda, terrorism, and the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.” In other words, the group sought to exploit such intelligence statements in order to, “disparage, undermine, and contradict the CIA’s reporting, which was far more cautious and nuanced than [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith wanted.” Indeed, as Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiarkowski, a former member of the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asian unit, commented to Mother Jones, those at the OSP, “cherry-picked pieces of uncorroborated, anti-Iraq intelligence into talking points, on issues like Iraq’s WMD and its links to Al Qaeda.” Melvin Goodman, who used to work for the CIA before the war, said that OSP members, “routinely pushed lower-ranking staff around on intelligence matters,” and two former members of the State Department’s intelligence community have, in the words of the article’s authors, “charged that pressure was being put on them to shape intelligence to fit policy…” The members of OSP were even receiving information directly from the now completely discredited Ahmed Chalabi, who of course told them exactly what they wanted to hear.

The importance of all of this cannot be underestimated. The Office of Special Plans was not a fringe group. Rather, it possessed direct ties to the highest levels of the government, including to Dick Cheney and, of course, to Paul Wolfowitz. Indeed, as the article states, “the material [the OSP] produced found its way directly into speeches by Bush, Cheney, and other officials.”

Mid-level intelligence officials are not the only people who have testified to an irrational and counter-factual effort to make Iraq seem like a national security threat. The former chief counterterrorism advisor for the White house, Richard A. Clark, authored a recent book entitled Against All Enemies which confirms many of the suspicions raised above. The book makes clear that the obsession with Iraq in the minds of people such as Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz was present before September, 2001. In one pre-September 11th meeting of the government’s highest level security personnel, Clark brought up the threat Al Qaeda posed to America. “Paul Wolfowitz…fidgeted and scowled,” Clark writes in his memoir. “’Well, I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,’ Wolfowitz responded.” Clark states that he tried to impress upon Wolfowitz why Al Qaeda was worth focusing on. “’Well, there are others that do as well, at least as much. Iraqi terrorism for example,’ Wolfowitz replied.” Further along in the meaning, Wolfowitz added to this line of thought. As Clark recalls, “Finally, Wolfowitz turned to me. ‘You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things…not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages [between Al Qaeda and Iraq] does not mean they don’t exist.’”

The President was convinced of the guilt of Iraq early on as well. Clark describes a scene in the Situation Room in the White House on September 12th, 2001. In his words, President Bush, “grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. ‘Look,’ he told us, ‘I know you have a lot to do and all…but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way…’” Clark reports that he responded directly to the President’s concerns. “But Mr. President, al Qaeda did this.” “I know, I know,” Bush replied, “but…see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.” As Clark concludes, following further investigation, “All agencies and departments agreed, there was no cooperation between the two [Iraq and al Qaeda]. A memorandum to that effect was sent up to the President, but there was never any indication that it reached him.” Clark is actually quite forgiving of the President, commenting that he felt that the Commander-in-Chief had “every right to ask us to look again” at a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Unfortunately, it appears that both the President and his closest advisors were only interested in second looks which confirmed what they wanted to believe.

After the Fall
For many individuals, even among those with a history of opposing American military interventions abroad, the Iraq war was supportable simply along humanitarian grounds. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in an article written by famed columnist and staunch liberal commentator Nat Hentoff which was published in March, 2003 by New York City’s acclaimed Village Voice. “I participated in many demonstrations against the Vietnam War, including some civil disobedience,” he wrote. “But I could not participate in the demonstrations against the war on Iraq.” Hentoff had no illusions about the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war, and indeed believed it was motivated by a variety of reasons, humanitarian relief being low on the list. “But even if he's [President Bush] doing it for all the wrong reasons,” he concluded, “have [those against the war] all forgotten about the Iraqi people?"

This logic required one to believe that something good would come of a bad situation, that from the ashes of Saddam Hussein’s destroyed regime would rise a new and better Iraq. A further assumption was that the Bush administration would make an honest and meaningful effort to rebuild Iraq once it had been destroyed one last time, and would not in any way take advantage of the situation it had created for its own personal or professional gain.

But sadly, this faith that morally motivated people such as Nat Hentoff willed themselves to possess has been systematically abused by President Bush and his advisors. I will not, and cannot, give adequate recognition to all of the tragedies which have befallen the Iraqi people since March of 2003. It is obvious to any observer that the new Iraq is in many ways quite frightening. A stable and secure situation in the country has never been established. Indeed, even in the capital, Baghdad, security is greatly lacking. Crime, for example, is rampant. A September 26th New York Times article reported that, “In the first eight months of this year [2004], nearly 3,000 people in municipal Baghdad, which has about five million residents, have died from gunshot wounds – nearly all homicides.” Another statistic in the same article proved to be even more revealing. “Before the war,” reporter Alex Berenson wrote, Baghdad’s main morgue “received 200 to 250 bodies a month, with fewer than 20 gunshot deaths,” but now, “the morgue has performed 5,239 autopsies so far in 2004, an average of about 650 a month, with more than half of them gunshot victims.” Nor have American troops avoided violence, instead being the common victims of a vicious insurgency campaign. The Times also reported in September that there is currently an average of 80 insurgency attacks per day against a variety of targets, including troops. In April, 2004, the average stood at 120 attacks per day. Is all of this the inevitable product of war? L. Paul Bremer, the former civilian director of American operations in Iraq, spoke publicly on October 5th about errors made during the war and occupation. Speaking of the looting which permeated the city following the fall of Hussein, he commented that, “We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness." He then added, significantly, that, "We never had enough troops on the ground.” The number of troops in Iraq was a decision ultimately made by the President and his advisors. Nor were they only treated to after-the-fact analysis. General Eric K. Shinseki famously said before the conflict that several hundred thousand troops would be required to do an effective job. He was ignored, most likely due to a product of Administration arrogance and a desire to keep the war as palatable as possible for the American people.

Such a major misjudgment regarding the war effort is important to acknowledge because it shows a lack of reliability on behalf of the Administration. Its decision regarding troop numbers was made deliberately, and it was wrong. American troops and Iraqi civilians have paid the price. And while I do not make the claim that the President and his administration have deliberately or gratuitously hurt the Iraqi people following the war, they have shown bad judgment time and again. And even more importantly, their priorities during the occupation have become extremely clear, and they are the wrong priorities. Indeed, rather than pursuing a policy designed to make the systematic reconstruction of Iraq one of the highest goals of the United States, the President has instead allowed large reconstruction corporations to benefit first, even if they have not performed the work they were supposed to do. Furthermore, the President and his Justice Department helped establish a frame of mind in the civilian and military intelligence communities during the time leading up to the war which contributed to the systematic torture of Iraqi detainees, a crime against humanity which President Bush chose to sweep under the rug rather than address honestly. And as we shall see, the United States has already shown signs of undermining Iraq’s fledgling democracy, an ominous, and obvious, portent of things to come. Again, it is the Iraqis, along with American troops, who have suffered as a result of the Administration’s skewed value system, and it is they who will continue to suffer unless things are changed.

A Failed Reconstruction Something seemed wrong from the very beginning. One of the first sights which greeted audiences around the world after the Hussein regime had been removed was that of looting. Iraqis looted numerous buildings and former government installations in and around Baghdad following the break down of order, but it was the raiding of the Iraq National Museum, an institution containing some of the most priceless archeological remnants of our collective human history, which shocked the world above all. The Museum was not protected by American forces, because its protection was not a priority. Those buildings connected to Iraq’s oil industry, however, were defended. The afore-mentioned value system of the Bush Administration began to be revealed.

The Administration has itself stated numerous times that reconstructing Iraq and rebuilding its infrastructure was a major priority. Its record, however, has not matched its words. Again, the tell-tale signs of an impending problem were there from the beginning. As Robert O’Harrow Jr. reported on September 18th in the Washington Post, “In the fall of 2002, a group of Pentagon advisers assessing the condition of Iraq’s oil fields saw the need for a plan to repair damage from the impending war.” Before long, a government reconstruction contract had been given to Energy Infrastructure Planning Group, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., which, as O’Harrow notes, was the company at which “Dick Cheney was chief executive until a couple of weeks after he was nominated for vice president.” Before long, Halliburton had received “a classified no-bid deal worth up to $7 billion to do the restoration work.” As soon became clear, the Administration, which normally champions the working of the free market, not only actively supported American companies which had close ties to its top members, but furthermore, in the words of a December 10th, 2003 Times article, “barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq.” The Pentagon was responsible for the ban, and it was Paul Wolfowitz who sent it forth. In their defense, Pentagon spokesmen said that by taking such an action, the Administration “was acting to protect 'the essential security interests of the United States.’” Allowing a competitive process to determine which international company would be best for which job was by implication not in the American interest.

But even more disturbing than a situation which approaches Administration-sponsored war-profiteering is the fact that so little of the work that was supposed to take place has been done, much to the detriment of the Iraqi people. A June, 2004 article in The Nation revealed an Iraq in which, “Throughout the country, vital systems, from water and power to healthcare and education, are in woeful disrepair.” Baghdad is still without sufficient electricity or clean water. This is no longer surprising once we realize that, as Nation journalist Christian Parenti wrote, “Only $5.3 billion of the $24 billion in US tax money set aside to rebuild Iraq [had as of June, 2004] been allocated to specific reconstruction contracts.” Furthermore, an Office of Management and Budget analysis revealed that as of four months ago, “not a single cent of US tax money had been spent on Iraqi healthcare, water treatment or sanitation projects.” Furthermore, “of the $18.4 billion [in] reconstruction [funds] approved last fall only $366 million had been spent by late June.” Indeed, as Parenti writes, “Instead of creating 250,000 jobs for Iraqis, as was the original goal, at most 24,000 local workers have been hired.”

While some of the delays in reconstructing Iraq are the result of sabotage attacks against facilities, what is abundantly clear is that the Bush administration chose to leave the reconstruction effort up to companies that care more about their profits than in doing their job honorably. The lack of integrity of these companies became public knowledge last December when it was revealed that Halliburton had overcharged the Army by $61 million for gasoline. It and its associates’ failure to rebuild Iraq is therefore to be expected. The Administration made deliberate choices in its reconstruction policies, choices which were once again the wrong ones to make. Its failure to cut ties with the major contractors in Iraq, despite their abysmal performance, reveals that the President and his advisors value the financial security of their backers more than the physical and psychological health and security of the Iraqi people.


Yet another grievous abuse of the occupation deserves far more attention than can be granted it here. Remarkably, it was studiously avoided by both of the presidential candidates during their three debates. From July 2003 to February 2004, there were, according to the New York Times, “at least 44 cases of abuse” in Iraqi prisons. But the photographs which shocked the world by revealing the presence of physical and psychological torture in prisons formerly run by Saddam Hussein brought to light not the unfortunate result of the malicious actions of a few individuals, as the Administration has claimed, but rather the logical result of a culture within the intelligence community which the Administration helped to develop. As early as 2002, Donald Rumsfeld and the C.I.A. queried the Justice Department about the use of torture during interrogations of captured Al Qaeda personnel. The D.O.J. responded that torture “may be order to prevent future attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network.” By March of 2003, the Department was reporting that elements of the Constitution could be interpreted to do away with the ability of prosecutors “to punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities,” presumably now including the use of torture. These guidelines spread, and were soon being used by intelligence officers operating in Iraq. At the end of August, 2004, the Times reported that “A high-level Army investigation...found that military intelligence soldiers played a major role in directing and carrying out the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.” The Times drew the right conclusion, stating that “The report undercut earlier contentions by military officials and the Bush administration that a handful of renegade military police guards were largely to blame.” These members of military intelligence had to have received their orders regarding acceptable procedures from somewhere, and it seems only too logical that they were directed ultimately by top intelligence community and Defense Department people. The fact that the techniques in question were being used against Iraqis who may or may not have had any ties to a terrorist group, or to any dangerous group at all – indeed, arrests in Iraq are often random and arbitrary – obviously did not stop the procedures from being spread around the globe and transferred from interrogations of Al Qaeda members to anyone at all.

In the middle of the crisis, Senator Patrick Leahy got to the heart of the matter. “If some in the Administration believe that prosecuting privates and sergeants [about torture at Abu Ghraib] will make this scandal go away,” he said, “they are mistaken. The tone was set at the top, and we need to track the development of this administration’s policy on the use of torture.” And indeed, the tone was set one more time in May of 2004. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had previously stated publicly that he, because of his position, bore ultimate responsibility for what had occurred in Iraqi prisons. But the President, after apologizing at a press conference for the abuses which had occurred, rose to Rumsfeld’s defense. “Secretary Rumsfeld is a really good secretary of defense,” he said. “Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well.” Having deliberately allowed a culture of cruelty to pervade the American intelligence community, the President and his administration deliberately protected those at the top from suffering the consequences of the monster which they helped to create. The Administration’s values were shown again to be deeply and fundamentally flawed.

Democracy Imperiled And as if the President and his advisors hadn’t been through enough since March of 2003, Time Magazine revealed just three weeks ago that America’s commitment to promoting Iraqi democracy is already flagging, assuming that it was ever acutually strong. “The Bush administration,” Time revealed on September 27th, “has been forced to scale back a plan proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates, favored by Washington, in the Iraq elections after lawmakers raised questions about the idea when it was sent to Capitol Hill.” Such a decision reveals the degree to which the control of Iraq is valued more by the Administration than the country’s development as an autonomous nation. It is quite uncertain if the Iraqi people will at any point in the near future get the chance to embark on a path not deemed acceptable by the United States, despite the President’s endless claims regarding his commitment to creating democracy in the Middle East. The consequences of such an American approach to Iraq will play itself out in ways which are unpredictable and which may prove to be quite unfavorable for all involved.

What has been depicted above was not the result of the “fog of war.” It was, rather, the result of the assumptions and values that the Bush administration entered Iraq with. More than anything else, the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation of the country reveal the true nature of the President and his advisors. They are men and women who care about the extension of American power and prestige above all else, and they are willing to kill thousands upon thousands of individuals, both American and foreign, in order to achieve their goals. And while they would like to promote law abiding and humane societies abroad, the members of the current administration are comfortable sacrificing these ideals in order to achieve the creation of global stability (maintained by the United States) and pro-American economic and political relationships. Rather than taking our country in a new direction, they have continued on a path defined by past realist thinkers such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose willingness to view American power as an ultimate good led to the deaths of millions of people worldwide. The abuses and crimes which are the product of such a foreign policy approach will continue to be seen so long as America stays on its present course.

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