Stephen Zunes : Iraq
The major justifications for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—Saddam Hussein’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi ties to the terrorist al-Qaida network—are now widely discredited, and Washington’s claims that its efforts are creating a democratic Iraq are also highly dubious. Although economic factors did play an important role in prompting a U.S. invasion, the simplistic notion that Iraq’s makeover was undertaken simply for the sake of oil company profits ignores the fact that even optimistic projections of the financial costs of the invasion and occupation far exceeded anticipated financial benefits. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was already selling his oil at a level satisfactory to Western buyers, and his standing among fellow OPEC members was low, so he could not have persuaded the cartel to adopt policies detrimental to U.S. interests. So what actually motivated the United States to take on the problematic task of conquering and rebuilding Iraq?
It has been just over two years since Congress took its fateful vote to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. This came despite the fact that such an invasion was a clear violation of the United Nations Charter, which, as a formal treaty signed and ratified by the United States, is — according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution — to be treated as supreme law.
The list below contains what I consider to be the sixteen most misleading statements made by Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards during the foreign policy segment of their debate of October 5, followed by my critiques. This is a resolutely non-partisan analysis: eleven of the misleading statements cited are from Cheney and five are from Edwards. The quotes are listed in the order in which they appear in the transcript.
The most striking element of President George W. Bush’s May 24th speech at the Army War College regarding the situation in Iraq was that it could come across as quite convincing as long as you agreed with the following assumptions:
* Only the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq would lead to “the rise of a free and self-governing Iraq.”
* Conversely, if the U.S. forces withdrew, either unilaterally or as part of a transfer to United Nations authority, the result would be a totalitarian government which would “embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings and more murders of the innocent around the world.”
Such assumptions, however, are extremely dubious.
As casualties mount and disorder continues in Iraq, and as the lies that were put forward to garner support of the invasion are exposed, Massachusetts senator John Kerry and his supporters have desperately sought to defend his decision to back the U.S. invasion and occupation. Their failure to make a convincing case may spell trouble for Senator Kerry’s dreams of capturing the White House in November.
A number of critiques have been written about President George W. Bush’s responses to Tim Russert’s questions in the February 8 edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” primarily regarding his shifting rationale for the invasion of Iraq. More problematic, however, was the fact that President Bush made a number of assertions that were patently false or–at the very least–misleading. The failure of Mr. Russert to challenge these statements and the ongoing repetition of such rationales by the administration and its supporters make it all the more imperative that such assertions not be allowed to go unquestioned. The implications of Bush’s statements are quite disturbing, since they involve such fundamental issues as international terrorism, the United Nations, weapons of mass destruction, and the policy of preemption.
A full year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, while the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein is over, the killing continues and the quality of life for most Iraqis has actually deteriorated. Meanwhile, the United States is continuing to sacrifice lives and money in an enterprise for which the original rationales–eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its support for the al Qaeda terrorist network–are now widely acknowledged to be false.
The capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by U.S. occupation forces is likely to result in one of the world’s most brutal tyrants of recent decades finally facing judgment for his crimes against humanity. It has also boosted morale in an administration desperately trying to justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq–which they initially justified on false pretenses. While U.S. allegations that Iraq actively supported the al Qaeda terrorist network and possessed weapons of mass destruction in the months prior to the U.S. invasion appear to have been deliberate falsehoods, no one can challenge the fact that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator.
Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: Between those who seek order and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children, without mercy or shame.
President George W. Bush’s nationally broadcast speech Sunday evening once again was designed to mislead Congress and the American public into supporting his administration’s policies in Iraq. Despite record deficits and draconian cutbacks in government support for health care, housing, education, the environment, and public transportation, the president is asking the American taxpayer to spend an additional $87 billion to support his invasion and occupation of Iraq.