Despite the Lies about Iraq and the Resulting Disaster, Bush Still Maintains Strong Support

Even putting aside the many important legal and moral questions about the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq, it has been a disaster even on practical terms. Mainstream to conservative strategic analysts and retired generals ‘ along with the majority of career professionals in the State Department, Defense Department, and CIA ‘ recognize that the invasion and occupation has made America less secure rather than more secure.
Still, the Bush Administration continues to defend its actions and public opinion polls still show that a majority of Americans trust George W. Bush more than John Kerry to defend America. This is in large part because, throughout this fall’s campaign, President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney have been making demonstrably false and misleading claims about what motivated administration decisions as well as the results of their actions.

Ironically, a number of these claims have been supported in a series of resolutions supported by a majority of Congressional Democrats ‘ including Senators John Kerry and John Edwards ‘ thereby giving the Bush campaign immunity from much of the scrutiny it deserves. In doing so, these Congressional Democrats have significantly increased the chances of a Bush victory next Tuesday. President Bush rarely fails to note in his stump speeches that Congressional Democrats, including Senators John Kerry and John Edwards, also saw Saddam Hussein as a threat and voted to authorize force. Indeed, not only have the Democrats missed a number of crucial opportunities to expose the disingenuous nature of Bush administration policy, they have at times repeated the lies themselves.

Below is a sampling of the claims being made by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney in recent weeks leading up to the election, followed by a critique:

‘ I went to the United Nations in the hopes that diplomacy would work. I hoped that Saddam Hussein would listen to the demands of the free world. The United Nations debated the issue. They voted 15 to nothing to say to Saddam Hussein: disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. I believe when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says, in order to keep this world peaceful. When you say something, you better mean it. But Saddam Hussein didn’t believe the United Nations. After all, he’d ignored 16 other resolutions. And so at this point in time, I realized diplomacy wasn’t working.’
–George W. Bush, October 1

Saddam Hussein did disclose, in the fall of 2002, detailed documentation regarding the destruction of his WMDs, WMD programs, and offensive delivery systems as required. In addition, the U.S. government now admits that he had in fact disarmed as much as a decade earlier. So, at the time of the invasion, the Iraqi government had already disclosed and disarmed, and was thereby in compliance with the major provisions of UN Security Council resolution 1441, to which Bush refers in this quote. Diplomacy had, in fact, worked.

Unfortunately, when Bush launched the invasion anyway, every Democrat in the Senate ‘ including Kerry and Edwards ‘ voted in support of a Republican-sponsored resolution endorsing the invasion based upon the claim that Iraq was still in violation of these Security Council resolutions. Similarly, that same week, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution, with only ten of the 205 Democrats dissenting, declaring that ‘reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.’ As a result, the Democrats lost an opportunity to challenge President Bush’s assertion that Iraq was still in violation of those resolutions and that force was the only alternative.

‘ The last option for the Commander-in-Chief is to commit troops, and so I went to the United Nations. See, I believe we ought to try diplomacy before we commit troops. When the U.N. sent inspectors in, he systematically deceived the inspectors. We gave Saddam Hussein a final chance to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. And when he refused, I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no President would ask for, but must be prepared to make. Do I trust the word of a madman and forget the lessons of September the 11th, or take action to defend America? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.’
–George W. Bush, September 3

First of all, it is now well-known that President Bush had decided to go ahead with the invasion well prior to going before the United Nations.

Secondly, the UN was successful in the fall of 2002 in getting Iraq to allow inspectors to return and have unfettered and immediate access to anywhere they wanted to go. The Iraqi regime did, on numerous occasions, hide things from UN inspectors, but that was under UNSCOM in the 1990s. Under UNMOVIC, beginning in late 2002 until the United States forced them out in anticipation of the invasion, there were no reports of systematic deception by the Iraqis of UN inspectors.

Thirdly, no one was advocating trusting Saddam Hussein. That is why the United Nations demanded that the inspectors return.

Fourthly, while Saddam Hussein was certainly a brutal tyrant, there is no evidence that he was a ‘madman.’
Finally, having completely disarmed its WMD capabilities, Iraq was not any threat to the United States so there was no need to ‘defend America’ from Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, both Kerry and Edwards also declared Saddam Hussein ‘a threat’ and thereby helped give Bush and Cheney the excuse they were looking for to take over that oil-rich country. Though Kerry promised, when he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, that he could be ‘the first to speak out’ if President Bush did not first allow the United Nations to attempt to disarm Iraq through non-military means, when President Bush pressed forward with plans for the invasion while UN inspectors were on the verge of completing their mission and determining that no such weapons existed, Kerry remained silent. When Bush launched the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kerry joined his fellow Democrats in supporting a resolution declaring that the action was ‘lawful’ and that he ‘commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President.’

‘Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. And had the world turned its head, he would have made those weapons. He could have passed that capability or those weapons on to terrorists that hate us.’
–George W. Bush, October 1

Since eliminating his WMD programs, Saddam Hussein no longer had such capability. In addition, there was no indication that the world was about to ‘turn its head’ and allow such programs to be reconstituted. While the economic sanctions on Iraq were increasingly controversial, the international community was united in maintaining military sanctions, including a strict embargo on the technology and raw materials necessary to rebuild such a program. There is also no evidence to suggest that, even when Saddam Hussein had WMDs and WMD capability, that he had any inclination to pass them on to any terrorist groups.

Unfortunately, Kerry and Edwards were among the majority of Democratic Senators who ‘ in authorizing the invasion of Iraq and ignoring analyses of independent strategic analysts ‘ went on record saying that Iraq was ‘continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability . . . [and] actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, thereby continuing to threaten the national security interests of the United States and international peace and security.’ The Democratic-supported resolution also emphasized the ‘gravity of the threat that Iraq will transfer weapons of mass destruction to international terrorist organizations.’

‘We knew Saddam Hussein’s record of aggression. We knew his support for terror. Remember, Saddam harbored Abu Nidal, the leader of a terrorist organization that carried out attacks in Europe and Asia.’
–George W. Bush, October 1

Everyone knew about Iraq’s record of aggression, but thanks to mandatory disarmament initiatives by the United Nations and a strict military embargo, Iraq no longer had a serious offensive military capability.
Secondly, the State Department’s own annual report on international terrorism had failed to note any act of international terrorism by the Iraqi regime since early 1993, a full decade before the U.S. invasion.
Thirdly, while Abu Nidal ‘ who had been in declining health for years ‘ was living in Baghdad, his terrorist group had been moribund for more than a decade prior to the U.S. invasion. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein had him executed in 2002, the year before the U.S. invasion.

Unfortunately, Kerry and Edwards supported a resolution ‘ along with the majority of their Democratic Senate colleagues ‘ declaring that ‘Iraq continues to aid and harbor . . . international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens.’

‘ Saddam Hussein subsidized the families of suicide bombers. And he invaded his neighbors; he was shooting missiles at our pilots. That guy was a threat.’
–George W. Bush, September 7

First of all, the money Saddam Hussein transferred to the Arab Liberation Front ‘ the tiny Palestinian faction that passed some funds on to families of suicide bombers ‘ was relatively insignificant: it went to only a small minority of the families, it was less than what they generally received from U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, and it didn’t come close to covering the costs of these families’ homes, which are routinely destroyed by Israeli occupation forces in retaliation.

Secondly, Iraq did invade neighboring countries, but that was back in 1980 (Iran) and 1990 (Kuwait) and Iraqi forces had long since returned to within their internationally-recognized borders (unlike some U.S. allies such as Morocco and Israel, which invaded their neighbors and still occupy them.) There was no realistic threat that Iraq would be able to do so again.

Thirdly, the only time Iraq shot at U.S. pilots was when U.S. military planes violated Iraqi airspace. Since there was no UN mandate for military enforcement of the Kurdish safe areas or the establishment of ‘No Fly Zones,’ the Iraqis had as much right to shoot at them as would any country when enemy warplanes infringe on their territory. Unfortunately, the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq supported by Kerry and Edwards and a majority of their Democratic colleagues justified the invasion in part on the grounds that ‘the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States. . . by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.’

Iraq was a threat back in the 1980s when the U.S. was quietly supporting him, but certainly not in the years leading up to the invasion.

Unfortunately, Bush has been able to correctly point out that most Democrats in Congress ‘ including Senators Kerry and Edwards ‘ also claimed that Saddam Hussein was a threat, thereby giving such outrageous claims a degree of credibility they otherwise would not deserve.

‘ Zarqawi . . .fled to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where he received medical care and set up operations with some two dozen terrorist associates. He operated in Baghdad and worked with associates in northern Iraq, who ran camps to train terrorists, and conducted chemical and biological experiments, until coalition forces arrived and ended those operations. With nowhere to operate openly, Zarqawi has gone underground and is making a stand in Iraq. ‘ If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces in Iraq, . . .these killers would be plotting and acting to murder innocent civilians in free nations, including our own.’
–George W. Bush, October 18

First of all, investigations by the CIA and others have shown no evidence that Saddam’s regime ever supported the Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, since they saw this radical Islamist as a threat to the secular Iraqi regime. All indications are that his very brief visits to Baghdad were clandestine and that he did not have any major operations there prior to the U.S. invasion. Zarqawi’s camp in northern Iraq was in the Kurdish safe area well beyond the control of Saddam’s government. Journalists who visited the camp where U.S. officials claimed he was conducting ongoing ‘chemical and biological experiments’ prior to the U.S. invasion found nothing remotely resembling such activity, a fact confirmed by U.S. Special Forces which seized the area a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, despite all this evidence to the contrary, all but fifteen of the 210 House Democrats supported a resolution this September declaring that during Saddam Hussein’s rule, ‘the al-Zarqawi terror network used Baghdad as a base of operations to coordinate the movement of people, money, and supplies.’
Secondly, Zarqawi’s forces have grown dramatically only as a result of the U.S. occupation, with cells now operating throughout northern and central Iraq. All indications are that his goal is to rid Iraq of foreign occupation and establish his version of an Islamic state, just as like-minded jihadists did when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s. These jihadists came to power in Afghanistan only as a result of the Soviet invasion and occupation; they were not a threat beforehand. Similarly, jihadists were never a threat in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion and occupation. In any case, there is no evidence that Zarqawi and his followers have ever plotted or planned to attack the United States and, in any case, they do not have such a global reach in terms of operational capability.

‘ We’ll succeed in Iraq because we’ve got a plan. And here’s the plan: We’ll train Iraqis so they can do the hard work in defending themselves; 100,000 troops are trained today, 125,000 by the end of the year. We’ll continue to work with them, to give them the equipment, the training they need to defend themselves against the attacks of these terrorists.’
–George W. Bush, October 1

In reality, less than 40,000 Iraqi troops are trained and their ranks have been significantly infiltrated by insurgents. In addition, the bigger threat to the survival of the regime are not the terrorists, but the majority of insurgents who do not target civilians, but focus their guerrilla attacks on military and government installations. By claiming that the insurgency is simply composed of terrorists, outsiders and holdouts of the former regime, the administration is able to depict current operations in Iraq as part of the ‘war on terror’ rather than the bloody urban counter-insurgency war that it is, where the primary victims are civilians.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives ‘ with only 56 of the 210 Democrats voting against it ‘ passed a resolution this past June claiming that the attacks against U.S. forces have come not from a popular nationalist insurgency against a foreign occupation, but ‘former regime elements, foreign and Iraqi terrorists, and other criminals who are attempting to undermine the interests of the Iraqi people and thwart their evident desire to live in peace,’ thereby giving credibility to the Bush Administration’s insistence that the U.S. military occupation of Iraq be maintained in order to fight terrorism.

‘ Because of President Bush’s determination in the war on terror, leaders around the world are getting the message. Just five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, Moammar Ghadafi in Libya agreed to abandon his nuclear weapons program and turn the materials over to the United States.’
–Vice-President Dick Cheney, September 1

Saddam Hussein’s capture had nothing to do with Ghadafi’s decision to abandon its nuclear weapons programs, which was the culmination of a two-year diplomatic effort led by Great Britain. Furthermore, having seen that Saddam eliminated his nuclear weapons program nearly a decade earlier and got invaded anyway, the U.S. invasion of Iraq could hardly be seen as a motivator for unilateral disarmament.

Unfortunately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led a majority of her Democratic colleagues in voting in favor of a Republican-sponsored amendment which claimed that the elimination of Libya’s nuclear program ‘would not have been possible if not for . . . the liberation of Iraq by United States and Coalition Forces,’ thereby giving credence to this dubious Republican claim that they are now using to enhance Bush’s credibility.

In conclusion, the only reason this election is even close is that Bush and Cheney have gotten away with putting their misleading interpretations of events before, during and subsequent to the U.S. invasion of Iraq as fact, thereby avoiding the criticism their policies deserve. It is nothing short of scandalous that the Democrats ‘ who should be coasting towards a decisive victory at this point ‘ have made it so difficult for themselves by perpetuating the Bush administration’s lies.

If Kerry loses on Tuesday, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1029-31.htm

Bush Administration Disasters Depicted as Triumphs

Even putting aside the many important legal and moral questions about the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, it has been a disaster even on practical terms. Mainstream to conservative strategic analysts and retired generals–along with the majority of career professionals in the State Department, Defense Department, and CIA–recognize that the invasion and occupation has made America less secure rather than more secure.

Still, the Bush administration continues to defend its actions and public opinion polls still show that a majority of Americans trust George W. Bush more than John Kerry to defend America. This is in large part because, throughout this fall’s campaign, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been making demonstrably false and misleading claims about what motivated administration decisions as well as the results of their actions.

Ironically, a number of these claims have been supported in a series of resolutions backed by a majority of congressional Democrats–including Senators John Kerry and John Edwards–thereby giving the Bush campaign immunity from much of the scrutiny it deserves. In doing so, these congressional Democrats have significantly increased the chances of a Bush victory next Tuesday. President Bush rarely fails to note in his stump speeches that congressional Democrats, including Kerry and Edwards, also saw Saddam Hussein as a threat and voted to authorize force. Indeed, not only have the Democrats missed a number of crucial opportunities to expose the disingenuous nature of Bush administration policy, they have at times repeated the lies themselves.

Below is a sampling of the claims being made by President Bush and Vice President Cheney in recent weeks leading up to the election, followed by a critique:

“I went to the United Nations in the hopes that diplomacy would work. I hoped that Saddam Hussein would listen to the demands of the free world. The United Nations debated the issue. They voted 15 to nothing to say to Saddam Hussein: disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. I believe when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says, in order to keep this world peaceful. When you say something, you better mean it. But Saddam Hussein didn’t believe the United Nations. After all, he’d ignored 16 other resolutions. And so at this point in time, I realized diplomacy wasn’t working.”
–George W. Bush, October 1

Saddam Hussein did disclose, in the fall of 2002, detailed documentation regarding the destruction of his WMDs, WMD programs, and offensive delivery systems as required. In addition, the U.S. government now admits that he had in fact disarmed as much as a decade earlier. So, at the time of the invasion, the Iraqi government had already disclosed and disarmed, and was thereby in compliance with the major provisions of UN Security Council resolution 1441, to which Bush refers in this quote. Diplomacy had, in fact, worked.

Unfortunately, when Bush launched the invasion anyway, every Democrat in the Senate–including Kerry and Edwards–voted in support of a Republican-sponsored resolution endorsing the invasion based upon the claim that Iraq was still in violation of these Security Council resolutions. Similarly, that same week, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution, with only ten of the 205 Democrats dissenting, declaring that “reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” As a result, the Democrats lost an opportunity to challenge President Bush’s assertion that Iraq was still in violation of those resolutions and that force was the only alternative.

“The last option for the Commander-in-Chief is to commit troops, and so I went to the United Nations. See, I believe we ought to try diplomacy before we commit troops. When the UN sent inspectors in, he systematically deceived the inspectors. We gave Saddam Hussein a final chance to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. And when he refused, I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make. Do I trust the word of a madman and forget the lessons of September the 11th, or take action to defend America? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.”
–George W. Bush, September 3

First of all, it is now well-known that President Bush had decided to go ahead with the invasion well prior to going before the United Nations.

Secondly, the UN was successful in the fall of 2002 in getting Iraq to allow inspectors to return and have unfettered and immediate access to anywhere they wanted to go. The Iraqi regime did, on numerous occasions, hide things from UN inspectors, but that was under UNSCOM in the 1990s. Under UNMOVIC, beginning in late 2002 until the United States forced them out in anticipation of the invasion, there were no reports of systematic deception of UN inspectors by the Iraqis.

Thirdly, no one was advocating trusting Saddam Hussein. That is why the United Nations demanded that the inspectors return.

Fourthly, while Saddam Hussein was certainly a brutal tyrant, there is no evidence that he was a “madman.”

Finally, having completely disarmed its WMD capabilities, Iraq was not any threat to the United States, so there was no need to “defend America” from Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, both Kerry and Edwards also declared Saddam Hussein “a threat” and thereby helped give Bush and Cheney the excuse they were looking for to take over that oil-rich country. Though Kerry promised, when he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, that he could be “the first to speak out” if President Bush did not first allow the United Nations to attempt to disarm Iraq through non-military means, when President Bush pressed forward with plans for the invasion while UN inspectors were on the verge of completing their mission and determining that no such weapons existed, Kerry remained silent. When Bush launched the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq, Kerry joined his fellow Democrats in supporting a resolution declaring that the action was “lawful” and that he “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President.”

“Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. And had the world turned its head, he would have made those weapons. He could have passed that capability or those weapons on to terrorists that hate us.”
–George W. Bush, October 1

Since eliminating his WMD programs, Saddam Hussein no longer had such capability. In addition, there was no indication that the world was about to “turn its head” and allow such programs to be reconstituted. While the economic sanctions on Iraq were increasingly controversial, the international community was united in maintaining military sanctions, including a strict embargo on the technology and raw materials necessary to rebuild such a program. There is also no evidence to suggest that, even when Saddam Hussein had WMDs and WMD capability, that he had any inclination to pass them on to any terrorist groups.

Unfortunately, Kerry and Edwards were among the majority of Democratic Senators who–in authorizing the invasion of Iraq and ignoring independent strategic analyses–went on record saying that Iraq was “continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability … [and] actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, thereby continuing to threaten the national security interests of the United States and international peace and security.” The Democratic-supported resolution also emphasized the “gravity of the threat that Iraq will transfer weapons of mass destruction to international terrorist organizations.”

“We knew Saddam Hussein’s record of aggression. We knew his support for terror. Remember, Saddam harbored Abu Nidal, the leader of a terrorist organization that carried out attacks in Europe and Asia .”
–George W. Bush, October 1

Everyone knew about Iraq ’s record of aggression, but thanks to mandatory disarmament initiatives by the United Nations and a strict military embargo, Iraq no longer had a serious offensive military capability.

Secondly, the State Department’s own annual report on international terrorism had failed to note any act of international terrorism by the Iraqi regime since early 1993, a full decade before the U.S. invasion.

Thirdly, while Abu Nidal–who had been in declining health for years–was living in Baghdad, his terrorist group had been moribund for more than a decade prior to the U.S. invasion. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein had him executed in 2002, the year before the U.S. invasion.

Unfortunately, Kerry and Edwards supported a resolution–along with the majority of their Democratic Senate colleagues–declaring that “ Iraq continues to aid and harbor … international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens.”

“Saddam Hussein subsidized the families of suicide bombers. And he invaded his neighbors; he was shooting missiles at our pilots. That guy was a threat.”
–George W. Bush, September 7

First of all, the money Saddam Hussein transferred to the Arab Liberation Front–the tiny Palestinian faction that passed some funds on to families of suicide bombers–was relatively insignificant: it went to only a small minority of the families, it was less than what they generally received from U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, and it didn’t come close to covering the costs of these families’ homes, which are routinely destroyed by Israeli occupation forces in retaliation.

Secondly, Iraq did invade neighboring countries, but that was back in 1980 ( Iran ) and 1990 ( Kuwait ) and Iraqi forces had long since returned to within their internationally recognized borders (unlike some U.S. allies–such as Morocco and Israel , which invaded their neighbors and still occupy them). There was no realistic threat that Iraq would be able to do so again.

Thirdly, the only time Iraq shot at U.S. pilots was when U.S. military planes violated Iraqi airspace. Since there was no UN mandate for military enforcement of the Kurdish safe areas or the establishment of “No Fly Zones,” the Iraqis had as much right to shoot at them as would any country when enemy warplanes infringe on their territory. Unfortunately, the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq–supported by Kerry and Edwards and a majority of their Democratic colleagues–justified the invasion in part on the grounds that “the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States … by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

Iraq was a threat back in the 1980s when the U.S. was quietly supporting Saddam, but certainly not in the years leading up to the invasion.

Unfortunately, Bush has been able to correctly point out that most Democrats in Congress–including Senators Kerry and Edwards–also claimed that Saddam Hussein was a threat, thereby giving such outrageous claims a degree of credibility they otherwise would not deserve.

“Zarqawi … fled to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where he received medical care and set up operations with some two dozen terrorist associates. He operated in Baghdad and worked with associates in northern Iraq , who ran camps to train terrorists, and conducted chemical and biological experiments, until coalition forces arrived and ended those operations. With nowhere to operate openly, Zarqawi has gone underground and is making a stand in Iraq . … If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces in Iraq … these killers would be plotting and acting to murder innocent civilians in free nations, including our own.”
–George W. Bush, October 18

First of all, investigations by the CIA and others have shown no evidence that Saddam’s regime ever supported the Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, since they saw this radical Islamist as a threat to the secular Iraqi regime. All indications are that his very brief visits to Baghdad were clandestine and that he did not have any major operations there prior to the U.S. invasion. Zarqawi’s camp in northern Iraq was in the Kurdish safe area well beyond the control of Saddam’s government. Journalists who visited the camp where U.S. officials claimed he was conducting ongoing “chemical and biological experiments” prior to the U.S. invasion found nothing remotely resembling such activity, a fact confirmed by U.S. Special Forces, which seized the area a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, despite all this evidence to the contrary, all but fifteen of the 210 House Democrats supported a resolution this September declaring that during Saddam Hussein’s rule, “the al-Zarqawi terror network used Baghdad as a base of operations to coordinate the movement of people, money, and supplies.”

Secondly, Zarqawi’s forces have grown dramatically only as a result of the U.S. occupation, with cells now operating throughout northern and central Iraq . All indications are that his goal is to rid Iraq of foreign occupation and establish his version of an Islamic state, just as like-minded jihadists did when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s. These jihadists came to power in Afghanistan only as a result of the Soviet invasion and occupation; they were not a threat beforehand. Similarly, jihadists were never a threat in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion and occupation. In any case, there is no evidence that Zarqawi and his followers have ever plotted or planned to attack the United States and, in any case, they do not have such a global reach in terms of operational capability.

“We’ll succeed in Iraq because we’ve got a plan. And here’s the plan: We’ll train Iraqis so they can do the hard work in defending themselves; 100,000 troops are trained today, 125,000 by the end of the year. We’ll continue to work with them, to give them the equipment, the training they need to defend themselves against the attacks of these terrorists.”
–George W. Bush, October 1

In reality, less than 40,000 Iraqi troops are trained and their ranks have been significantly infiltrated by insurgents. In addition, the bigger threat to the survival of the regime is not the terrorists, but the majority of insurgents who do not target civilians, but focus their guerrilla attacks on military and government installations. By claiming that the insurgency is simply composed of terrorists, outsiders and holdouts of the former regime, the administration is able to depict current operations in Iraq as part of the “war on terror” rather than the bloody urban counter-insurgency war that it is, where the primary victims are civilians.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives–with only 56 of the 210 Democrats voting against it–passed a resolution this past June claiming that the attacks against U.S. forces have come not from a popular nationalist insurgency against a foreign occupation, but “former regime elements, foreign and Iraqi terrorists, and other criminals who are attempting to undermine the interests of the Iraqi people and thwart their evident desire to live in peace,” thereby giving credibility to the Bush administration’s insistence that the U.S. military occupation of Iraq be maintained in order to fight terrorism.

“Because of President Bush’s determination in the war on terror, leaders around the world are getting the message. Just five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya agreed to abandon his nuclear weapons program and turn the materials over to the United States.”
–Vice President Dick Cheney, September 1

Saddam Hussein’s capture had nothing to do with Gadhafi’s decision to abandon Libya ’s nuclear weapons programs. In fact, the decision was the culmination of a two-year diplomatic effort led by Great Britain . Furthermore, having seen Saddam’s elimination of his nuclear weapons program nearly a decade earlier as well as Iraq’a subsequent invasion, it is unlikely Gadhafi took that example as a motivator for unilateral disarmament.

Unfortunately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led a majority of her Democratic colleagues in voting in favor of a Republican-sponsored amendment that claimed that the elimination of Libya’s nuclear program “would not have been possible if not for … the liberation of Iraq by United States and Coalition Forces,” thereby giving credence to this dubious Republican claim that the GOP is now using to enhance Bush’s credibility.

In conclusion, the only reason this election is even close is that the Bush administration has been successful at positioning its misleading interpretations of events before, during, and subsequent to the U.S. invasion of Iraq as fact, thereby avoiding the criticism Bush’s policies deserve. It is nothing short of scandalous that the Democrats–who should be coasting toward a decisive victory at this point–have made it so difficult for themselves by perpetuating the Bush administration’s misrepresentations.

If Kerry loses on Tuesday, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/bush_administration_disasters_depicted_as_triumphs

Presidential Election Offers Little Choice for Israeli-Arab Peace

Earlier this month, in a widely quoted interview in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Dov Weisglass–Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser–acknowledged what most independent observers have known all along: that the Israeli government is not actually interested in a peace agreement with the Syrian government or the Palestinian Authority. Israel has occupied the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights since these territories were seized by the Israeli armed forces in 1967, expelling thousands of Arabs and then colonizing these territories with Jewish settlers in contravention of international law.

This past April, Sharon proposed what he referred to as a “disengagement plan,” which–while removing 7,500 Israeli colonists from illegal settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip–would maintain Israeli control of the territory while annexing large swaths of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank in order to incorporate illegal Jewish settlements there. This was an effective renunciation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, put forward by previous Democratic and Republican administrations as the basis for an Israeli-Arab peace settlement, which call on Israel –in return for security guarantees from its Arab neighbors–to withdraw from Palestinian territories seized in the June 1967 war.

Sharon’s plan immediately received the enthusiastic support of President Bush, who claimed that Sharon’s decision “has given the Palestinian people and the free world a chance to take bold steps of their own toward peace.” Shortly thereafter, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed resolutions by overwhelming bipartisan majorities endorsing Sharon’s proposal.

Weisglass, in his interview, explained, “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem …. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission: All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

By contrast, former Israeli deputy foreign minister Yossi Beillin, principal architect of the Oslo Accords, observed, “it is Sharon who is not a partner for peace.” Ahmed Tibi, a member of Israel’s Knesset, added that “the American administration is a partner to Sharon’s political deceit.”

Meanwhile, Syrian President Assad and Palestinian President Arafat have resumed their calls for a permanent peace agreement with Israel based upon UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Like a number of Arab leaders (including some allied with the United States ), both Arafat and Assad have been criticized for their autocratic rule, corrupt administrations, and inability or unwillingness to curb extremist groups operating within their jurisdictions. However, these two governments’ positions on the peace process are far more consistent with international law, UN Security Council resolutions, the positions of America ’s democratic allies, and the stated positions of previous U.S. administrations than is the Israeli position.

For example, President Arafat has spoken favorably of the draft peace agreement signed in Geneva last fall by leaders of Israel’s moderate opposition Labor Party and leading Palestinian figures. Under the agreement, a Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (with minor and reciprocal adjustments from the 1949 armistice lines), the Palestinians would recognize Israeli control of 78% of historic Palestine, Jerusalem would serve as the co-capital of both Israel and Palestine, Palestinian refugees would be settled in the new Palestinian state or in neighboring Arab states, and there would be firm security guarantees for Israel. Sharon strongly denounced the initiative, however. President Bush has refused to endorse it and a proposed Congressional resolution in support of this effort stalled after only a few dozen House members signed on.

Arafat has also reiterated his support for the “Road Map,” a peace plan put together by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations that would establish a Palestinian state by 2005 following a series of steps to be undertaken by both Israelis and Palestinians. Sharon, however, stated in an interview in September that “we are not following the road map. I am not ready for that.”

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli insists, however, that–such comments to the contrary– Sharon actually remains committed to the road map.

President Assad, meanwhile, has offered to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel and provide internationally monitored security guarantees in return for a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Syrian lands seized in the 1967 war. Sharon, meanwhile, told Haaretz that there was “no possibility” that Israel would resume negotiations with Syria. In recently signed legislation passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress, however, Syria was blamed as being solely responsible for the failure to peacefully resolve in the conflict.

Weisglass acknowledged that Sharon moved forward with his “disengagement” plan in part because “the Geneva Initiative had gained broad support” within Israel and they needed to come up with a countermeasure that would receive U.S. backing and silence the growing domestic pressure. Not only did Sharon’s effort to suppress moderate and liberal Israeli demands for peace receive the support of the Republican administration and Republican-led Congress, it received support from the Democrats as well.

Kerry’s Response

Bush’s stance not only reverses the policies of three Democratic and four Republican administrations that had supported the concept of “land for peace,” it endorses an Israeli position that is in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions as well as the UN Charter itself, which forbids countries from expanding their territory by military force. Thanks to Weisglass’ admission and recent statements by Sharon , Bush’s Democratic rival John Kerry was presented with an excellent opportunity to highlight Bush’s disregard for international law and the dangers of his militaristic unilateralism.

Kerry, however, has instead gone on record defending Bush’s endorsement of the Sharon plan, telling NBC’s Tim Russert that he supports Bush “completely.” According to Kerry, “What’s important, obviously, is the security of the state of Israel, and that’s what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address.”

However, the settlements that Sharon seeks to secure are not even in Israel; they are in occupied Palestinian territory. Though no government in the world currently recognizes these illegal settlements as part of Israel, Senator Kerry has joined President Bush in endorsing a proposal that these settlements and surrounding lands be incorporated into Israel anyway. Every one of these settlements, however, violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deems it illegal for any country to transfer civilians onto territories seized by military force.

In addition, UN Security Council resolutions 446, 452, 465, and 471 explicitly call on Israel to remove its colonists from the occupied territories. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry apparently believe that while violations of UN Security Council resolutions by the former government of Iraq justified draconian sanctions and even an invasion, U.S. allies like Israel can ignore them.

More fundamentally, while Israeli security interests are indeed vitally important, there are other issues that are just as important that both the president and the Massachusetts senator appear to ignore, such as Palestinian rights and international law. Furthermore, it is naïve to think that Israelis will ever be secure as long their government continues to deny Palestinians their basic human rights and runs roughshod over basic, internationally recognized legal principles. As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan observed, “Attempts by either side to achieve political goals or security through measures that injure the other are ultimately bound to fail, even if they seem to produce short-term gains.”

Kerry, however, in an open letter sent to Annan earlier this year, criticized the UN Secretary General, even questioning his commitment in the fight against terrorism for insisting that Israel, like all countries, should abide by the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Apparently, Kerry shares Bush’s belief that “You are either with us, or the terrorists.”

Prior to Weissglass’ revelations, Bush and Kerry supporters could plausibly deny that their candidates were aware of these cynical plans by Israel’s rightist government. Now, however, there are no excuses. There is no denying that both candidates are fully aware that Prime Minister Sharon has no intention of honoring UN Security Council resolutions and basic precepts of international law and that he feels that Israel has a right to try to impose a settlement on the Palestinians rather than to negotiate one through peace talks.

Yet Senator Kerry and President Bush still oppose substantive peace negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. To justify his support for the Bush administration, Senator Kerry has falsely claimed that “ Israel has no partner, no one to be able to negotiate with today” and that “Arafat refuses to … take part in a peaceful process.”

In reality, however, the Palestinian president–along with his prime minister and other Palestinian leaders–has repeatedly called for a resumption of peace negotiations, but Sharon has refused.

The unfortunately reality is that in refusing to alter their positions one iota in the face of these revelations, both Bush and Kerry have made clear that neither of them is interested in pursuing peace between Israel and Palestine. Just as they both lied about “weapons of mass destruction” in order to justify a U.S. takeover of Iraq , they are also both lying about Israel ’s desire for peace in order to justify Israel ’s takeover of the West Bank and Golan Heights . At least in regards to the United States in Iraq , neither Bush nor Kerry claims that the occupying power has the right to colonize and annex large parts of the territory it invaded. In the case of Israel, however, both are effectively rejecting the most fundamental principle of the post-World War II international system–enshrined in the United Nations Charter–which declares that it is illegal for any state to expand its territory by military force.

Last year, Senator Kerry said he would consider former president and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter to be his special emissary in the Middle East. However, once Carter endorsed the Geneva Initiative, Kerry said Carter is no longer under consideration and that he will instead appoint someone who supports the position of the current right-wing Israeli government. Kerry apparently believes that the 22% of Palestine that would have been granted to the Palestinians under the Geneva Initiative was too much. Sharon’s plan, which he has endorsed, would leave the Palestinians with only half that much territory–and that would be divided into a series of non-contiguous enclaves surrounded by Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlements. This paints a disturbing picture of the contempt that Kerry has, not only for international law, but for basic concepts of justice.

Senator Kerry’s position on Israel and Palestine is far closer to that of Rep. Tom DeLay than to Rep. John Conyers, far closer to the Christian Coalition than to the National Council of Churches, far closer to the Project for a New American Century than to Peace Action, far closer to the Heritage Foundation than the Institute for Policy Studies, and–in terms of Israeli politics–far closer to the rightist Likud Bloc than the liberal Meretz.

That the Democratic Party chose to nominate someone like that as its presidential candidate demonstrates how far to the right the Democrats have drifted on foreign policy issues. And it is not very smart politics: along with Iraq and globalization, Kerry’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the top concern raised by likely Nader voters as to why they will not be supporting the Democratic nominee in the final days of this extremely close election.

Bush’s and Kerry’s Disregard for Human Rights

President Bush and Senator Kerry have rightfully denounced terrorism by radical Palestinian groups and have correctly insisted that the Palestinian Authority do as much as it can to crack down on terrorist cells that could threaten Israeli civilians. However, they both have insisted that it is the Palestinians alone who are responsible for the bloodshed of the past four years and that Israeli attacks on Palestinian population centers are necessary defensive measures. This comes despite the fact that Israelis have killed three times as many Palestinian civilians as Palestinians have killed Israeli civilians.

Both Bush and Kerry defended Israel’s recent incursion into the Gaza Strip that killed over 100 people, most of whom were unarmed; at least two dozen of them were children. Reputable human rights groups, along with UN and private relief agencies on the ground, documented widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and deliberate attacks against unarmed civilians. Despite this, Kerry’s running mate, Senator John Edwards, went to great lengths during his debate with Vice President Dick Cheney to defend the Israeli assaults in the face of this worldwide condemnation, demonstrating that a Kerry administration is likely to have as little regard for human rights as the current administration.

Furthermore, both the Bush administration and Senator Kerry have defended Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, claiming it is a justifiable means of self-defense. Both have failed to note that Israel’s assassination policy has not just targeted terrorist leaders, but has also included local political leaders and nonviolent community activists.

Senator Kerry defended Sharon’s use of death squads by saying that “The moment Hamas says, ‘We’ve given up violence. We are prepared to negotiate,’ I am absolutely confident they will find an Israel that is thirsty to have that negotiation.” In reality, the Israeli government has stated that even if Hamas made such a statement, they would not negotiate with the Islamic group. Israel even refuses to negotiate with the elected Palestine Authority, which has long since renounced terrorism.

This summer, the International Court of Justice ruled 15-1 (with only the U.S. judge dissenting) that while Israel could construct a separation barrier along its internationally-recognized border, it could not build it deep within the occupied West Bank in order to effectively incorporate Palestinian land into Israel. Both Bush and Kerry denounced the decision, with the Democratic nominee going as far as to claim that the “wall” was an act of legitimate self-defense by Israel.

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry have ruled out linking even part of the $2.5 billion military and economic aid package the U.S. sends Israel annually–or even the recently enacted $9 billion loan guarantee–to Israel’s observance of international humanitarian law. Even though arms transfers to countries that use American weapons for non-defensive purposes against civilian populations is illegal, according to the Arms Control Export Act and other U.S. legislation, and despite the fact that such aid is no longer necessary for Israel’s legitimate defense needs, Bush and Kerry insist that unconditional military aid should continue. Thus, it appears that both Bush and Kerry agree that ensuring profit for American arms merchants is more important than defending fundamental human rights.

Both campaigns have claimed that hostility toward Israel by Palestinians and other Arabs is not a result of the Israeli occupation and colonization of their lands and human rights abuses against their people, but because of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda. While the rise in anti-Semitism in Arab countries is a serious problem, it is extraordinarily misleading to claim that it is unrelated to the suffering of Arab peoples under Israeli military occupation or that it is the primary cause of Arab anger at Israel.

Why the Candidates Support the Israeli Right

President Bush’s contempt for the United Nations, international humanitarian law, and humane treatment of civilians in wartime is well-known. A number of the prominent neoconservatives in his administration served as advisers for previous right-wing governments in Israel and openly called on Israel to abandon the peace process, reoccupy lands ceded to the Palestinians in previous disengagement agreements, and unilaterally annex much of the occupied territories, policies the current Israeli government has adopted with the Bush administration’s blessings. In addition, one of President Bush’s key constituencies is the Christian Right, which supports the idea that Israeli control of Biblical lands is necessary for the Second Coming of Christ and therefore rejects the notion that Israel should make any substantive territorial compromises.

More puzzling, perhaps, is the way John Kerry has endorsed similar policies despite the absence of neoconservative ideologues in top foreign policy roles or a large Christian fundamentalist base in his party.

While many Kerry supporters have acknowledged that their candidate has indeed joined President Bush in embracing the neoconservative agenda in some key areas, they argue that the Massachusetts senator somehow has to support the policies of the rightist Israeli government in order to be elected.

There is little evidence to support such a claim, however. Public opinion polls show a solid majority of Americans–particularly Democrats–actually oppose the policies of Prime Minister Sharon and his right-wing Likud Bloc. Most Americans instead support positions advocated by the more centrist Labor party or more left-leaning Israelis who identify with the Israeli peace movement.

Secondly, as this election campaign has demonstrated on a number of issues, no matter how far to the right Kerry has gone–whether it be his vote to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq, his support for the ongoing occupation of that country, his support for increasing U.S. military spending beyond its already-record levels, his attacks on the International Court of Justice, etc.–the Republicans will still accuse him of somehow being soft and weak. Charles Krauthammer, for example, recently wrote in his nationally syndicated column that, as president, Kerry would be prone to “sacrifice Israel” in order to “appease the international community.”

Most disturbing is the tendency of many Kerry supporters who–while fully acknowledging that Kerry’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are dangerous, misleading, and well to the right of the majority of American voters–try to defend their candidate by using the time-honored tactic of “blaming the Jews.” These Kerry apologists claim that the Kerry campaign would somehow be denied Jewish votes or Jewish campaign contributions if their candidate did not give unconditional support to the policies of the current right-wing government in Israel.

These opinions belie the fact that public opinion polls show that well over 60% of American Jewish voters support a peace settlement along the lines of the Geneva Initiative. Nearly half believe the United States should take a tougher line toward the Sharon government for its human rights violations. Barely more than a quarter actually support Sharon’s policies and most of these are Jewish conservatives who will probably vote for Bush anyway.

It is also noteworthy that despite the fact that George W. Bush has been the least dependent of any modern president on Jewish voters, he has still taken the most hard-line positions in support of the Israeli right of any American president.

Some Kerry supporters may buy into such anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and really believe that powerful Jewish interests effectively control the foreign policy agenda of America’s major political parties. That, however, is letting Kerry off the hook: the only one to blame for John Kerry’s embrace of Israeli right is John Kerry.

The problem with President Bush’s and Senator Kerry’s policies is not that they are too “pro-Israel,” given how dangerous and ineffective Sharon’s policies have been regarding the long-term interests of the Jewish state. The problem is that they are too right-wing.

In other words, Kerry’s support for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was no fluke. His support for President Bush’s backing of Sharon, like his support for Bush’s request for authorization to invade Iraq, shows that he shares the Bush administration’s contempt for international law and fundamental human rights, including the belief that the United States and its allies have the right to invade and occupy Arab nations at will.

It is a demonstration of the sad state of American politics that the focus of the campaign this fall has been which candidate would take the toughest stand against terrorism rather than which candidate could best change foreign policies so as to actually prevent terrorism.

What Choice Do We Have?

Moderate and progressive Israelis, like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, had been desperately hoping that Americans would vote Bush out of office come November. So, of course, were most Palestinians. Since Kerry has become the presumptive Democratic nominee, however, most Israelis and Palestinians have little reason to care who wins: based upon statements he has made during the campaign, it appears that a Kerry administration would be as bad as–if not worse than–the Bush administration.

Indeed, the few times Kerry has separated himself from President Bush on this issue during the campaign, he has challenged Bush for not supporting Sharon enough. Does this mean that those for whom U.S. policy toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict is their number one issue should vote for Bush?

Not necessarily.

Indications are that Kerry genuinely cares about Israel ’s legitimate security interests. As a result, as president, he may be more likely than Bush to recognize that Sharon ’s policies are ultimately harmful to Israel’s long-term security and may therefore be more likely to push that government to compromise for its own good. Widely seen as far more knowledgeable and less ideological than the incumbent president, Kerry may see how substituting militarism for diplomacy only encourages terrorists and Islamic extremists who seek to destroy Israel .

Despite Kerry’s decision to block any influential foreign policy staffer from meeting with prominent American Zionists who oppose Israel ’s occupation, he has not surrounded himself, as has President Bush, with Christian fundamentalists who see the current conflict as simply a continuation of the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines.

Perhaps most significantly, an important base of the Democratic Party includes liberals who–while committed to Israel ’s right to exist in peace and security and for the United States to be a guarantor of that right–oppose the occupation and U.S. support for the occupation. Should Kerry be elected, one can hope that the base of the party will no longer choose to ignore his right-wing positions on Israel and Palestine and demand that his policies change.

If not, there will be no hope for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

http://www.fpif.info/fpiftxt/2763

The U.S. Invasion of Iraq: The Military Side of Globalization?

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?

A Return to Direct Military Interventionism

Until the buildup to the U.S. invasion, many had projected that efforts by the United States to overthrow sovereign governments—either through covert action, direct military intervention, or the use of proxy armies—was a thing of the past. However, this apparent behavior change was not a result of greater respect for international law. In fact, as the world’s sole remaining superpower, the United States has stretched international legal norms further than ever. Nor was this transformation a result of the end of the “Soviet threat,” since many governments that had fallen victim to U.S. intervention were simply nationalist and nonaligned, not communist, and superpower rivalry was less the reason than it was the excuse for Washington’s aggressive behavior.

Rather, this shift in domination style was a reflection that with the neoliberal model dominating the global economy—enforced through international financial institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank—such crude forms of hegemonic supremacy were no longer necessary. For example, if the FMLN in El Salvador or the Sandinistas in Nicaragua had won their debt-ridden countries’ most recent elections, there is little doubt that they would have been unable to restructure their economies in the socialist direction to which they had aspired 20 years earlier.

And such limitations on the economic autonomy of contemporary national governments are not restricted to small agrarian states. Today’s socialist-led government of Ricardo Lagos in Chile bears little resemblance to the socialist-led government of Salvador Allende in the early 1970s, and the electoral triumphs of the Workers Party in Brazil and the African National Congress in South Africa have been disappointing to those who had hoped for a significant reduction in the staggering levels of poverty, social stratification, and economic injustice afflicting those countries.

The IMF—through its Structural Adjustment Programs—has been able to impose legally and openly what in previous decades had to be accomplished by the CIA, the Marines, or hired mercenaries. The hegemony of American capitalism and its industrialized allies has reached unprecedented levels without the messiness of direct military intervention.

Neoliberal global economics can also explain the end of the left-leaning nationalism that was once common in the Arab world, with Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, and—to a lesser extent—Syria and Libya abandoning their semi-socialist policies to embrace what are euphemistically referred to as “free market reforms.” These Arab states also exhibit a significant reduction in their anti-Western rhetoric, support for terrorists and radical insurgents, and other behaviors disturbing to Washington.

Baathist Iraq was the only Arab state to largely resist such trends. Combining a sizable educated population, large oil resources, and adequate water supplies, Iraq was able to maintain a truly independent foreign and domestic policy. Even 12 years of draconian sanctions could not overthrow the government or make it more cooperative with Washington’s strategic and economic agenda, prompting the United States to revert to cruder forms of intervention.

This is not to imply that Saddam Hussein’s rule was anything close to being a progressive model for Third World development. Indeed, his brand of Baathism was arguably closer to true fascism than any regime in the world in recent decades. Whatever his style, however, Saddam was clearly failing to adhere to Washington’s global script.

As a result, the Bush administration was determined to impose a new order whereby this important Middle Eastern country would have no choice but to play by U.S. rules. Since simply appending a conquered nation to its conqueror’s territory is not considered acceptable behavior anymore (U.S. allies Morocco and Israel notwithstanding), a less formal system of control needed to be established. So Washington adopted a plan for Iraq that bore a striking resemblance to the British strategy in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Rather than formally annexing Iraq, Britain occupied the country just long enough to establish a kind of suzerainty. Iraq was made nominally independent within a few years, but Britain could effectively veto the establishment of any unfriendly government and could dominate the economy.

The United States followed a similar pattern with Cuba in 1898 heralding the process as “liberation” from the Spaniards. After several years of occupation, Washington granted formal independence to the island, retaining it as a de facto protectorate. This governing system lasted for more than five decades until it was overthrown in Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, less than a year after nationalist military officers in Baghdad ousted the monarchy established by the British. Even 45 years after the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Havana, Washington still cannot accept a truly independent Cuba and still withholds diplomatic recognition.

A Crusade for Neoliberalism?

Under Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) chairman Paul Bremer, radical changes were imposed upon the Iraqi economy closely mimicking the infamous structural adjustment programs shackled to indebted nations by the International Monetary Fund. These include:

• the widespread privatization of public enterprises, which—combined with allowing for 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi companies—renders key sectors of the Iraqi economy prime targets of burgeoning American corporations,

• the imposition of a 15% flat tax, which primarily benefits the wealthy and places a disproportionate burden on the poor,

• the virtual elimination of import tariffs, resulting in a flood of foreign goods into the country; since smaller Iraqi companies—weakened by over a dozen years of sanctions—are unable to compete, hundreds of factories have recently shut down, adding to already-severe unemployment,

• 100% repatriation of profits, which severely limits reinvestment in the Iraqi economy,

• a lowering of the minimum wage, increasing already widespread poverty, and

• leases on contracts for as long as 40 years, making it impossible for even a truly sovereign government to legally make alternative arrangements.

It is noteworthy that there was one Saddam-era law that U.S. authorities did not overturn: the ban on public sector unions. In fact, U.S. occupation forces have violently broken up peaceful demonstrations by trade union activists.

It is also important to note that the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq, which formally took the reins of power on June 28, does not have the authority to overturn these laws. But simply attributing the U.S. invasion of Iraq to imposing militarily what the IMF could not impose itself, is an overstatement and constitutes only a partial explanation.

A New Mercantilism

Skeptics of claims that the Bush administration invaded Iraq simply for its oil correctly observe that the United States is less dependent on Persian Gulf oil than are European or East Asian countries. However, controlling Iraq—which is the largest Arab country in the gulf region, contains the world’s second-largest oil reserves, and borders three of the world’s five largest oil producers—gives the United States enormous leverage. In the coming decades, in the event of a trade war with the European Union or a military rivalry with an ascendant China, effective control over Persian Gulf oil is a trump card that Washington can play to its advantage. The invasion of Iraq, then, may represent not just a frightening repudiation of the post-World War II international system embodied in the United Nations Charter but also a return to the 19th century great-power politics of imperial conquest undertaken to control key economic resources.

In direct contravention of WTO regulations—which Washington insists upon rigorously enforcing against other nations—U.S. occupation forces have restricted investment and reconstruction efforts almost exclusively to countries that supported the U.S. invasion. Similarly, following the U.S. conquest in March 2003, American contractors and their employees were given preference over Iraqi companies and Iraqi nationals in procuring lucrative reconstruction assignments. From power stations to telecommunications, U.S. infrastructure designs are replacing Iraqi and European systems.

In the transition from the CPA to interim Iraqi control, Paul Bremer’s replacement, U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, is not—contrary to Bush administration claims—just like any other ambassador. Washington has assigned many of the more than 1,500 Americans attached to his “embassy” to prominent positions spanning virtually every Iraqi ministry, and his office controls much of the Iraqi government’s budget. (In the 1980s, Negroponte played a similar role: as the U.S. ambassador in Tegucigalpa he was widely considered to be the second-most powerful man in Honduras as a result of the large numbers of U.S. troops in the country and the dependence of the military-dominated Honduran government on Washington’s military and economic backing.)

The U.S. conquest of Iraq can perhaps be seen as a rather blatant example of the subtle shifts in U.S. policy noted in recent international economic forums. Unlike the Clinton administration’s ambitious efforts to rewrite global trade rules in order to impose a kind of free market fundamentalism on the world, the Bush administration has been more inclined to advance the parochial interests of U.S.-based corporations.

Conclusion

If the invasion of Iraq was indeed a last-resort effort to impose U.S. hegemonic interests upon that oil-rich country, it may portend even more serious conflicts in the future. At least two other Third World countries—Iran and Venezuela—share with Iraq the combination of a large educated population, enormous oil reserves, and adequate water resources, thereby enabling their governments to embrace an independent foreign and domestic policy. Not surprisingly, these countries have also been on the receiving end of increasingly hostile rhetoric emanating from Washington. Fortunately, it is unlikely that either country has to fear a U.S. invasion any time soon, because Iraq is turning into a total disaster.

After years of state control under Saddam’s dictatorship, there is little question that some liberalization and restructuring of Iraq’s economy is necessary, but Iraqis resent such important issues being decided by an occupying power that clearly has a strong commercial interest in their country. Indeed, besides the continuing violence and a lack of basic services, the primary grievance of Iraqis toward the U.S. occupation is that the Americans are seemingly trying to rip them off.

Like many Arab governments, Iraq under Saddam Hussein squandered billions of dollars of the nation’s wealth through corruption and wasteful military spending. Nevertheless, prior to Saddam’s ill-fated invasion of Kuwait and the resulting war and sanctions, Iraqis ranked near the top of Third World countries according to the Human Development Index, which measures nutrition, health care, housing, education, and other human needs.

Not only has the U.S. occupation failed to restore Iraqis to their pre-1991 standard of living, but most of them are poorer now than they were during more than a decade of sanctions following the devastating U.S.-led bombing campaign of the Gulf War. After all the enormous suffering that the United States and its allies inflicted upon the Iraqi people during the final dozen years of Saddam’s rule, the failure to improve conditions since his ouster has understandably led to widespread resentment. Since Iraq’s highly skilled work force is more than 50% unemployed, it is no surprise that overpaid foreign contractors—most of them performing jobs that Iraqis could do—have become targets of the resistance.

Saddam Hussein may have been to Baathism what Josef Stalin was to Marxism. But that does not mean that most Iraqis reject the anti-imperialist and semi-socialist orientation embraced by every Iraqi government between the 1958 overthrow of the British-installed Hashemite monarchy and the 2003 U.S. invasion. A poll this past spring revealed that 65% of Iraqis preferred a largely state-controlled economy featuring government subsidies of basic services, while only 6.6% supported a free-market system where private entrepreneurs have unrestricted access to the economy.

Tragically, the widespread feeling that the United States is after Iraq’s wealth and is putting the profits of well-connected American companies ahead of the livelihoods of ordinary Iraqis has fueled the very armed resistance that has rendered attempts at rebuilding—by any economic model—virtually impossible. As a result, Washington may have no more success in imposing its free market utopia on the Iraqis than Moscow had in imposing its socialist utopia on the Afghans.

http://www.fpif.info/fpiftxt/504

Why We Must Prevent the Re-election of Senators Who Supported the Invasion of 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.

Since that time, as of this writing, over 1100 Americans have been killed and 7500 wounded. Most estimates indicate that at least 20,000 Iraqis have been killed, more than two-thirds of them civilians, and more than 40,000 have been injured. The war has thus far cost the American taxpayer over $150 billion.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi insurgency is growing, with no end of the fighting in sight. Throughout the Islamic world, anti-Americanism and support for radical Islamist groups is also growing as a direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

It is not just the Bush Administration which is at fault for this disaster. Blame must also be shared by the U.S. Congress, which made it possible for President Bush’s war plans to go forward.
It is important to look back at what the resolution passed by the House and Senate in October of 2002 actually said:

Among other things, the resolution claimed that ‘members of al-Qaida . . . are known to be in Iraq’ and that ‘the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations.’

In reality, as many of us argued at the time of the vote, there has been absolutely no credible evidence presented to suggest that Saddam Hussein allowed Al-Qaida to operate in Iraq or that his regime in any way aided the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Indeed, despite exhaustive searches of Iraqi government files and interrogations of Iraqi officials and captured Al-Qaida leaders, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have concluded that no such links ever existed.

The resolution also falsely accused Iraq of ‘continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability’ and of ‘actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability.’

As a large number of arms control experts, former UN inspectors and others — myself included — argued at the time of the vote, the evidence strongly suggested that Iraq no longer had any chemical or biological weapons capability and that Iraq had similarly ceased its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Indeed, no such weapons or weapons programs have been discovered and the U.S. government’s Iraq Survey Group, after months of exhaustive investigations, concluded in their report earlier this month that the weapons had apparently all been destroyed and the programs had been dismantled more than a decade earlier.

The resolution goes on to claim that ‘the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States . . . or provide them to international terrorists who would do so’ combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself.’

In other words, those members of the House and Senate who supported this resolution believed, or claimed to believe, that an impoverished Third World country, which had eliminated its stockpiles of banned weapons, destroyed its medium and long-range missiles, and eliminated its WMD programs more than a decade earlier, and had been suffering under the strictest international sanctions in world history for more than a dozen years, somehow threatened the national security of a superpower located more than 10,000 miles away. Furthermore, these members of Congress believed, or claimed to believe, that this supposed threat was so great that the United States had no choice but to launch an invasion of that country, overthrow its government, and place its people under military occupation in the name of self-defense.

It is important to remember that both John Kerry and John Edwards were among those who voted in support of this resolution. It boggles the mind that the Democratic Party would actually nominate, as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, two senators who were either stupid enough to actually believe this or dishonest enough to claim it was true anyway.

As a result, whether it is a President Bush or a President Kerry who governs over the next four years, there is a real risk that he will try to convince Congress to authorize the invasion of additional countries under similarly false pretenses. Already, both presidential nominees have been making exaggerated claims regarding the supposed military threat emanating from Iran and from Syria due to these countries’ alleged links to terrorists and their supposed biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Bush and Kerry have also both threatened the use of military force.

Though we may not have much of a choice in the presidential race, we can still use our vote this November 2 to defeat those members of Congress seeking re-election who supported the resolution.
If the majority of those who supported the resolution are re-elected, it will show that the American people don’t mind being misled into an illegal and disastrous war. As a result, these members of Congress will think that they can get away with authorizing another such invasion. However, if most of them are defeated, it could provide an important deterrent against Congress authorizing such invasions in the future.

Of particular importance is preventing the re-election of the eighteen senators who will be facing voters for the first time since they cast their votes in favor of the resolution two years ago.

Some argue that, despite their vote, the pro-war Democrats should be re-elected anyway and that only pro-war Republicans should be targeted for defeat. However, deceiving the American public in order to prosecute an illegal and immoral war which has resulted in such devastating consequences must not be tolerated, regardless of political party affiliation.

The following is the list of senators who are seeking re-election this year who supported the resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq:

Evan Bayh (Democrat Indiana) ?
Robert Bennett (Republican Utah) ?
Christopher Bond (Republican Missouri) ?
Sam Brownback (Republican Kansas) ?
Jim Bunning (Republican Kentucky) ?
Michael Crapo (Republican Idaho)
?Thomas Daschle (Democrat South Dakota) ?
Christopher Dodd (Democrat Connecticut) ?
Byron Dorgan (Democrat North Dakota)?
Chuck Grassley (Republican Iowa) ?
Judd Gregg (Republican New Hampshire)
?Blanche Lincoln (Democrat Arkansas)
?John McCain (Republican Arizona)?
Harry Reid (Democrat Nevada) ?
Charles Schumer (Democrat New York)?
Richard Shelby (Republican Alabama)?
Arlen Specter (Republican Pennsylvania)
?George Voinovich (Republican Ohio)

Let’s send a clear message that making such false claims and supporting the invasion of a far-away country that was no threat to us will not be tolerated.

A Humphrey-Nixon Redux?

No wonder it feels so damn frustrating. It?s like 1968 all over again.

The United States is bogged down in a bloody counter-insurgency war on the other side of the globe, a war that the majority of the American people believe we should have never entered. Polls consistently show it is the number one issue on the minds of American voters in the weeks leading up to a close presidential election. The majority of Democrats and independents and a growing minority of Republicans believe that the war is unwinnable and we should get out.

Despite that, both Republicans and Democrats have nominated presidential and vice-presidential candidates who have supported the war from the beginning and have pledged to continue fighting it for years to come.

Both Hubert Humphrey and John Kerry were once considered leading liberals in the Democratic Party. They took great political risks early by taking highly principled positions (Humphrey in his support for civil rights and Kerry in his opposition to the Vietnam War), only to estrange their supporters by backing an unnecessary, illegal, immoral and disastrous U.S. military intervention in the Third World.

Humphrey was a decent and intelligent man with a long and distinguished career in public service. He really deserved to be president, but he so angered and alienated his liberal base through his defense of the Vietnam War that he lost a close election he should have otherwise won handily. It is looking increasingly possible that Kerry may suffer the same fate.

Despite his public support for the Vietnam War, Humphrey appeared personally torn and troubled by his position; within a year of his defeat, he finally came out against it. Kerry may very likely be harboring similar doubts about the war in Iraq, particularly given his Vietnam experience. Perhaps that?s why I-?along with many others I think?-feel the same kind of bitterness and anger toward Kerry that I did as a young teenager toward Humphrey, thinking: ?Why the hell doesn?t he just admit he was wrong and come out against the war??

As in 1968, the idea of Republican victory is really scary. Still, anger at the betrayal by this erstwhile liberal?-who, like Humphrey, successfully fought back popular anti-war challengers in the primaries?-for supporting the war has led large numbers of rank-and-file Democrats to declare their refusal to back their party?s nominee.

There are some important differences between 2004 and 1968 presidential election campaigns, however:

The Democrats were then the incumbent party responsible for getting us into Vietnam and were largely blamed for the quagmire. Despite the fact that, once again, the two major parties lack any significant differences regarding the ongoing conflict, Republicans are more likely to suffer the consequences. In 1968, Nixon offered a (now known to be fabricated) ?secret plan? to end the war, siphoning off some anti-war votes from the Democrats. Despite Kerry?s pro-war position, Bush will not get the votes of many anti-war liberals, though anti-war conservatives?who might have been willing to vote Democratic if the Democrats had opted for an anti-war nominee?will likely stick with Bush.

There is no equivalent to George Wallace, the rightwing populist governor of Alabama who ran as an independent that year and won five southern states. (Today?s Republican Party has fully integrated that far right faction of American politics into their ranks, including the party?s Congressional leadership.) This time, the strongest challenge to the two major parties comes from the left in Ralph Nader?s independent bid, which?while not nearly as strong as Wallace?s challenge on the right thirty-four years ago?could still make a difference in the election?s outcome.

Vocal and visible anti-war demonstrators dogged Humphrey and his running mate Edmund Muskie at virtually every campaign appearance, reminding voters across the country of the Democratic nominees? unpopular pro-war stance. By contrast, anti-war protestors have been much less visible at events featuring Kerry and his running mate John Edwards.

In many ways, though, it is even harder for anti-war activists to support Kerry in 2004 than it was to support Humphrey in 1968:

Under Humphrey?s leadership, the 1968 Democratic Party convention allowed for a platform challenge by anti-war elements of the party, including a vigorous nationally-televised debate on the Vietnam War. Under Kerry?s leadership this year, however, no such public debate was allowed, raising concerns as to whether Kerry as president would be willing to listen to anyone outside of the pro-war wing of the party in formulating his foreign policy.

Humphrey was a strong believer in the United Nations and international law. While his support for the Vietnam War forced him to stretch the notion of collective security to an almost unrecognizable form, it is hard to imagine that he would have ever supported?as did Kerry?such a flagrant violation of the UN Charter as the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In terms of other U.S. Middle East policy issues: Humphrey was a passionate supporter of Israel, but this was at a time when the moderate Labor Alignment was in power and the PLO and Arab states were still on record calling for Israel?s destruction. He supported the then-prevailing consensus that, in return for security guarantees from its Arab neighbors, Israel should withdraw from territories seized in the 1967 war. Kerry, on the other hand, is an outspoken supporter of the rightist Likud Bloc and has defended their rejection of Arab peace overtures as well as their expansionist agenda of colonizing and annexing much of the occupied territories.

Still, the stakes this election year are a lot a higher:

In terms of his knowledge, intelligence, experience, aptitude, and more, Kerry is probably more qualified to become president of the United States than any major party nominee in decades. By contrast, despite nearly four years of on-the-job experience, George W. Bush may be the least qualified major party presidential nominee in modern history.

In terms of the politics, Bush and Dick Cheney make Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew look like flaming liberals (and I?m not convinced that they are any less corrupt, either).

And, perhaps most importantly, the consequences of a failed U.S. policy in the Middle East are much greater. While U.S. policy in Southeast Asia was responsible for enormous human suffering, the costs of that failed policy to the United States?despite the loss of over 50,000 soldiers, the drain on the economy, and the enormous divisions in the body politic that are yet to heal?were relatively small by comparison. The costs of a failed U.S. policy in the Middle East, however, are much greater.

Indeed, it is important to remember that, despite all the heinous crimes the United States committed against the people of Vietnam, the Vietnamese never flew airplanes into buildings.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/a_humphrey-nixon_redux

The Most Misleading Foreign Policy Statements Made by the Candidates in the Vice-Presidential Debate

Listed below is 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 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:

Cheney: ‘Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, that they he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; . . . and he had an established relationship with al Qaeda.’?At the height of Iraq’s support for Abu Nidal, during the mid-1980s, the Reagan Administration dropped Iraq from its list of states sponsoring terrorism in order to transfer arms and technology to Saddam Hussein’s regime that would have otherwise been illegal. Iraq was put back on the list immediately following its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, despite evidence that Iraq’s support for international terrorism had actually declined. Abu Nidal’s group had been largely moribund for more than a decade and when Saddam Hussein had him killed in his Baghdad apartment in 2002. Despite seemingly desperate efforts by the Bush Administration to find a working relationship between the secular Baathist government of Saddam Hussein and the Islamist Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, no credible links have been established. Indeed, recent reports from the 9/11 commission, the Central Intelligence Agency and other credible sources have gone on record denying that any evidence of such a relationship exists.

Edwards: ‘Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. That’s why we voted for the resolution.’?Saddam Hussein’s regime was already being confronted through the United Nations Security Council, which had imposed strict sanctions upon the country and had overseen the disarmament of that country’s chemical weapons; its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; and its offensive delivery systems. There was no need and no legal right for Kerry and Edwards to authorize President Bush to unilaterally take military action, since the dispute regarding the destruction of proscribed weapons and weapons systems and access for UN inspectors was not between Iraq and the United States but between Iraq and the United Nations. Earlier the same day that Kerry and Edwards voted to give President Bush such unprecedented authority to unilaterally invade a foreign country, they both voted against a similar resolution granting President Bush the power to use military force if it was authorized by the UN Security Council. This underscores the willingness of the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees to defy the United Nations Charter and to project American military power unilaterally regardless of international law.

Cheney: ‘We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States.’ ?In reality, during the first presidential debate ‘ as well as on many other occasions ‘ Kerry has made clear that he would not give any foreign government the right to block the United States from moving preemptively against a perceived threat. Kerry has emphasized, however, that he would make a far more serious effort than has the current administration to demonstrate to the international community that such use of force was for a legitimate reason.

Cheney: ‘In the mid-’80s, he [Kerry] ran on the basis of cutting most of our major defense programs.’ ?John Kerry’s 1984 race for the U.S. Senate was not based upon ‘cutting most of our major defense programs.’ He did support a bilateral verifiable treaty with the Soviet Union to freeze the testing, development and deployment of new nuclear weapons and delivery systems, a proposal which ‘ according to public opinion polls at that time ‘ was backed by a sizeable majority of Americans. Kerry also opposed some costly weapons programs which independent strategic analysts argued were unnecessary for America’s defense needs while he supported many other weapons programs. In any case, these issues were never the basis of his campaign.

Cheney: ‘We’re four days away from a democratic election, the first one in history in Afghanistan. We’ve got 10 million voters who have registered to vote, nearly half of them women. That election will put in place a democratically elected government that will take over next December. We’ve made enormous progress in Afghanistan, in exactly the right direction, in spite of what John Edwards said two and a half years ago. He just got it wrong.’ ?In Afghanistan, vote-buying, intimidation, and the enormously disproportionate resources allocated to pro-government candidates raise serious questions as to how democratic these upcoming elections will be. Currently, there are more Afghan males registered to vote than there are eligible Afghan male voters; duplicate voting cards are commonplace and can be sold on the open market. The regime, which lacks solid control of much of the country outside the capital of Kabul, was largely hand-picked by the United States. The ongoing violence and chaos in the country, along with extremely high rates of illiteracy, raise serious questions as to whether the Western-style election the United States is trying to set up will have any credibility among the Afghans themselves. Edwards’ concerns about the growing power of opium magnates and war lords’ casually dismissed by Cheney ‘ are actually quite valid.

Cheney: ‘Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had — guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress. The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote. And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.’ ?First of all, the United States was not supporting freedom in El Salvador twenty years ago. According to the United Nations Truth Commission and independent human rights organizations, the vast majority of those killed in El Salvador during this period were civilians murdered by the U.S.-backed junta and its allied paramilitary organizations Secondly, the Salvadoran elections Cheney observed in the 1980s were not free elections. The leading leftist and left-of-center politicians had been assassinated or driven underground and their newspapers and radio stations suppressed. The election was only between representatives of conservative and right-wing parties. Thirdly, despite threats from some of the more radical guerrilla factions, there were very few attacks on polling stations. Fourthly, people repeatedly lined up to vote because they were required to. Failure to get the requisite stamp that validated the fact that you had voted would likely get one labeled as a ‘subversive’ and therefore a potential target for assassination. Lastly, El Salvador finally did have free elections in 1994, only after Congress cut off aid to the Salvadoran government and the peace plan initiated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias ‘ which was initially opposed by the Republican administrations then in office in Washington ‘ was finally implemented.

Cheney: ‘You voted for the war, and then you voted against supporting the troops when they needed the equipment, the fuel, the spare parts and the ammunition and the body armor.’ ?Edwards and Kerry have voted on successive administration requests to provide equipment, fuel, spare parts, and ammunition and body armor for U.S. occupation troops in Iraq, rejecting calls by opponents of the U.S. invasion and occupation to cut off funding so the troops can come home. They did vote against a particular funding bill by the administration based primarily on the administration’s insistence that it be funded by increasing the federal deficit. Kerry and Edwards instead voted for an identical measure ‘ which failed to win a majority ‘that allocated the same amount of money to the occupation but would have funded it by reducing recently-enacted tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

Edwards: ‘What we know is that the president and the vice president have not done the work to build the coalition that we need — dramatically different than the first Gulf War.’ ?The senior President Bush was indeed able to build a broader coalition than his son, but that was because the 1991 war against the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait was very different than the 2003 war to impose a U.S. occupation of Iraq. While strong arguments can be made against the 1991 Gulf War, the use of forces was legally sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, consistent with the UN Charter and the international legal consensus that supports such collective security against such clear acts of aggression as Iraq’s 1990 invasion, occupation, and annexation of Kuwait. By contrast, the 2003 war against Iraq was an unmitigated act of aggression in direct contravention of the United Nations Charter and basic international legal principles going back for nearly a century. The failure to build a broader coalition, then, was not based upon the Bush Administration’s lack of diplomatic acumen; even the more erudite Kerry could not have built such a coalition simply because the international community recognized that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal and unjustified.

Cheney: ‘You made the comment that the Gulf War coalition in ’91 was far stronger than this. No. We had 34 countries then; we’ve got 30 today.’ ?The U.S.-led 1991Gulf War coalition included more than twice as many non-American troops, all of which were assembled prior to the launching of the war in January 1991. By contrast, troops from all but four members of the current coalition arrived after U.S. forces had marched on Baghdad, toppled the Iraqi regime and began the occupation. Their role is ostensibly that of peace keepers and the vast majority of these forces serve in non-combat roles.
Cheney: ‘Let’s look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi… He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.’ ?First of all, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers were not based in Baghdad, but in the far northeastern corner of the country inside the Kurdish safe havens established by the United Nations in 1991, well beyond the control of the Saddam’s government. The only evidence the Bush Administration has been able to put forward linking the al-Zarqawi terror network to the Iraqi capital was a brief stay that al-Zarqawi had in a Baghdad hospital at the end of 2001, apparently having been smuggled by supporters into the country from Iran and smuggled out days later. Secondly, not only was the Khurmal area in Kurdish areas far outside of Saddam’s reach, but journalists who visited the supposed poisons factory within hours of it being identified by Bush Administration officials from satellite photos found nothing remotely resembling such a facility. U.S. Special Forces that seized control of the area weeks later can to a similar conclusion. Finally, Zarqawi and his followers established a presence in Baghdad only after U.S. forces overthrew the Iraqi government in March 2003.

Cheney: ‘One of the great by-products, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender all of his nuclear materials to the United States, which he has done.’ ?First of all, in 1998, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely dismantled. When IAEA inspectors returned in the fall of 2002 as part of UN Security Council resolution 1441, they reported that no signs that the program had been revived. Despite this, the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew the Iraqi government. As a result, Qaddafi presumably recognized that unilaterally giving up his nuclear weapons program and allowing in international inspectors to verify it does not necessarily make you any less likely to be invaded by the United States. Secondly, the agreement had been in the works for a number of years, largely as a result of a British-led diplomatic effort. That the announcement came five days after Saddam Hussein was arrested was sheer coincidence.

Edwards: ‘The reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans.’ ?The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran nearly twenty-five years ago and, during the 1990s, unilaterally imposed sanctions on that country, openly called for the government’s overthrow and funded groups dedicated to that purpose. All of these initiatives took place under Democratic administrations. By contrast, the Europeans ‘ despite outspoken criticism of certain Iranian policies and restricting certain arms and technology transfers ‘ have maintained normal diplomatic and trade relations. It should not be surprising, then, that the Europeans have had to take the lead in resolving the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Edwards: ‘if Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself.’ ?While it is true that some militant Palestinian groups have used the Gaza Strip as a base for lobbing shells into civilian areas of Israel, the Israeli armed forces have similarly used Israel as a platform for attacking civilian areas of the Gaza Strip. Indeed, far more Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip have been killed by attacks launched from Israel than have Israeli civilians in Israel been killed from attacks launched from the Gaza Strip. Does this mean that Palestine therefore also ‘has a right to defend itself’ by launching a major military incursion into nearby Israeli population centers with widespread killings of unarmed civilians and massive destruction of civilian property as Israel has been doing? Apparently not, since Edwards and Kerry clearly have different standards regarding the use of force depending upon a particular government’s relations with the United States. Given that Secretary of State Powell that very afternoon criticized the disproportionate nature of the ongoing Israeli military response, Edwards is clearly placing the Democratic ticket to the right of the Bush Administration.

Edwards: ‘They don’t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don’t have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.’ ?Palestinian president Yasir Arafat has repeatedly called for a resumption of substantive peace negotiations, but the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon has refused. Arafat has called for a peace settlement along the lines proposed by President Clinton in 2000, which culminated with the signing of the Geneva Initiative in December 2003 by leading Israelis and Palestinians. The agreement calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories it conquered in the 1967 war (with minor and reciprocal border adjustments), a shared Jerusalem as the co-capital of Israel and Palestine, the resettlement of Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel in the new Palestinian state or other Arab countries, and strict security guarantees for Israel, including the disarming of Palestinian militias. Sharon, by contrast, has categorically rejected such an agreement. While Arafat’s rule has been corrupt and autocratic and he has been ineffective in stopping terrorism by radical Palestinian groups, his positions on the outstanding issues in the peace process is far more moderate than those of the Israeli government. Arafat certainly has blood on his hands, but no more than does Sharon, widely recognized as a war criminal for his role in major atrocities against Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian civilians in previous years. In any case, Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinians and Sharon is the elected leader of the Israelis. By refusing to include one of the two major parties in the peace process, Edwards and Kerry are effectively foreclosing any realistic prospects for a negotiated peace.

Cheney: ‘In respect to Israel and Palestine, the suicide bombers, in part, were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. I personally think one of the reasons that we don’t have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we’ve had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business.’ ?Saddam Hussein did provide money to a small Palestinian faction known as the Arab Liberation Front which passed it on to some families of terrorists killed in suicide bombings. Money was also given to families of other Palestinians killed in the fight against Israel, such as militiamen shot while defending Palestinian towns under Israeli siege and unarmed teenagers shot during demonstrations. The vast majority of the funding for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups responsible for suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism in recent years has come from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, governments supported by the United States. In any case, the families of suicide bombers normally have their homes destroyed by Israeli occupation forces in retaliation for the terrorist attacks, and $25,000 does not come close to recouping their losses.

Cheney: ‘The president stepped forward and put in place a policy basically that said we will support the establishment of two states. First president ever to say we’ll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis.’ ?The Bush Administration has endorsed Sharon’s plan to annex up to half of the West Bank into Israel and leave the remaining Palestinian areas divided into a series of non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel. This would give the Palestinians barely 12% of historic Palestine. Furthermore, according to this plan, Israel would have control over all border crossings, the air space, and the water resources, with an unrestricted right to militarily intervene in Palestinian areas at any time. This would no more constitute a viable ‘state’ than did the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

Misleading Foreign Policy Statements Made by the Candidates in the Vice Presidential Debate

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.

Iraq

1. Cheney: “Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, that he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad;…and he had an established relationship with al Qaida.”

At the height of Iraq’s support for Abu Nidal, during the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration dropped Iraq from its list of states sponsoring terrorism in order to transfer arms and technology to Saddam Hussein’s regime that would have otherwise been illegal. Iraq was put back on the list immediately following its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, despite evidence that Iraq’s support for international terrorism had actually declined. Abu Nidal’s group had been largely moribund for more than a decade when Saddam Hussein had him killed in his Baghdad apartment in 2002.

Despite seemingly desperate efforts by the Bush administration to find a working relationship between the secular Baathist government of Saddam Hussein and the Islamist al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, no credible links have been established. Indeed, recent reports from the 9/11 commission, the Central Intelligence Agency and other credible sources have gone on record denying that any evidence of such a relationship exists.

2. Edwards: “Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. That’s why we voted for the resolution.”

Saddam Hussein’s regime was already being confronted through the United Nations Security Council, which had imposed strict sanctions upon the country and had overseen the disarmament of that country’s chemical weapons; its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; and its offensive delivery systems. There was no need and no legal right for Kerry and Edwards to authorize President Bush to unilaterally take military action, since the dispute regarding the destruction of proscribed weapons and weapons systems and access for UN inspectors was not between Iraq and the United States but between Iraq and the United Nations. Earlier the same day that Kerry and Edwards voted to give President Bush such unprecedented authority to unilaterally invade a foreign country, they both voted against a similar resolution granting President Bush the power to use military force if it was authorized by the UN Security Council. This underscores the willingness of the Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees to defy the United Nations Charter and to project American military power unilaterally regardless of international law.

“Global Tests” for Military Action

3. Cheney: “We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States.”

In reality, during the first presidential debate—as well as on many other occasions—Kerry has made clear that he would not give any foreign government the right to block the United States from moving preemptively against a perceived threat. Kerry has emphasized, however, that he would make a far more serious effort than has the current administration to demonstrate to the international community that such use of force was for a legitimate reason.

Kerry’s Record on Military Spending

4. Cheney: “In the mid-’80s, he [Kerry] ran on the basis of cutting most of our major defense programs.”
John Kerry’s 1984 race for the U.S. Senate was not based upon “cutting most of our major defense programs.” He did support a bilateral verifiable treaty with the Soviet Union to freeze the testing, development and deployment of new nuclear weapons and delivery systems, a proposal which—according to public opinion polls at that time—was backed by a sizeable majority of Americans. Kerry also opposed some costly weapons programs which independent strategic analysts argued were unnecessary for America’s defense needs while he supported many other weapons programs. In any case, these issues were never the basis of his campaign.

Afghanistan and El Salvador

5. Cheney: “We’re four days away from a democratic election, the first one in history in Afghanistan. We’ve got 10 million voters who have registered to vote, nearly half of them women. That election will put in place a democratically elected government that will take over next December. We’ve made enormous progress in Afghanistan, in exactly the right direction, in spite of what John Edwards said two and a half years ago. He just got it wrong.”

In Afghanistan, vote-buying, intimidation, and the enormously disproportionate resources allocated to pro-government candidates raise serious questions as to how democratic these upcoming elections will be. Currently, there are more Afghan males registered to vote than there are eligible Afghan male voters; duplicate voting cards are commonplace and can be sold on the open market. The regime, which lacks solid control of much of the country outside the capital of Kabul, was largely hand-picked by the United States. The ongoing violence and chaos in the country, along with extremely high rates of illiteracy, raise serious questions as to whether the Western-style election the United States is trying to set up will have any credibility among the Afghans themselves. Edwards’ concerns about the growing power of opium magnates and war lords—casually dismissed by Cheney—are actually quite valid.

6. Cheney: “Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had—guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress. The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote. And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.”

First of all, the United States was not supporting freedom in El Salvador twenty years ago. According to the United Nations Truth Commission and independent human rights organizations, the vast majority of those killed in El Salvador during this period were civilians murdered by the U.S.-backed junta and its allied paramilitary organizations.

Secondly, the Salvadoran elections Cheney observed in the 1980s were not free elections. The leading leftist and left-of-center politicians had been assassinated or driven underground and their newspapers and radio stations suppressed. The election was only between representatives of conservative and right-wing parties.

Thirdly, despite threats from some of the more radical guerrilla factions, there were very few attacks on polling stations.

Fourthly, people repeatedly lined up to vote because they were required to. Failure to get the requisite stamp that validated the fact that you had voted would likely get one labeled as a “subversive” and therefore a potential target for assassination.

Lastly, El Salvador finally did have free elections in 1994, only after Congress cut off aid to the Salvadoran government and the peace plan initiated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias—which was initially opposed by the Republican administrations then in office in Washington—was finally implemented.

Supporting the Troops?

7. Cheney: “You voted for the war, and then you voted against supporting the troops when they needed the equipment, the fuel, the spare parts and the ammunition and the body armor.”

Edwards and Kerry have voted on successive administration requests to provide equipment, fuel, spare parts, and ammunition and body armor for U.S. occupation troops in Iraq, rejecting calls by opponents of the U.S. invasion and occupation to cut off funding so the troops can come home. They did vote against a particular funding bill by the administration based primarily on the administration’s insistence that it be funded by increasing the federal deficit. Kerry and Edwards instead voted for an identical measure—which failed to win a majority –that allocated the same amount of money to the occupation but would have funded it by reducing recently-enacted tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

Coalitions in Question in Wars Against Iraq in 1991 And 2003

8. Edwards: “What we know is that the president and the vice president have not done the work to build the coalition that we need—dramatically different than the first Gulf War.”

The senior President Bush was indeed able to build a broader coalition than his son, but that was because the 1991 war against the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait was very different than the 2003 war to impose a U.S. occupation of Iraq. While strong arguments can be made against the 1991 Gulf War, the use of forces was legally sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, consistent with the UN Charter and the international legal consensus that supports such collective security against such clear acts of aggression as Iraq’s 1990 invasion, occupation, and annexation of Kuwait. By contrast, the 2003 war against Iraq was an unmitigated act of aggression in direct contravention of the United Nations Charter and basic international legal principles going back for nearly a century. The failure to build a broader coalition, then, was not based upon the Bush administration’s lack of diplomatic acumen; even the more erudite Kerry could not have built such a coalition simply because the international community recognized that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal and unjustified.

9. Cheney: “You made the comment that the Gulf War coalition in ‘91 was far stronger than this. No. We had 34 countries then; we’ve got 30 today.”

The U.S.-led 1991Gulf War coalition included more than twice as many non-American troops, all of which were assembled prior to the launching of the war in January 1991. By contrast, troops from all but four members of the current coalition arrived after U.S. forces had marched on Baghdad, toppled the Iraqi regime and began the occupation. Their role is ostensibly that of peace keepers and the vast majority of these forces serve in non-combat roles.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein

10. Cheney: “Let’s look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi… He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.”

First of all, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers were not based in Baghdad, but in the far northeastern corner of the country inside the Kurdish safe havens established by the United Nations in 1991, well beyond the control of Saddam’s government. The only evidence the Bush administration has been able to put forward linking the al-Zarqawi terror network to the Iraqi capital was a brief stay that al-Zarqawi had in a Baghdad hospital at the end of 2001, apparently having been smuggled by supporters into the country from Iran and smuggled out days later.

Secondly, not only was the Khurmal area in Kurdish areas far outside of Saddam’s reach, but journalists who visited the supposed poisons factory within hours of it being identified by Bush administration officials from satellite photos found nothing remotely resembling such a facility. U.S. Special Forces that seized control of the area weeks later came to a similar conclusion.

Finally, Zarqawi and his followers established a presence in Baghdad only after U.S. forces overthrew the Iraqi government in March 2003.

Iraq, Libya, and Iran

11. Cheney: “One of the great by-products, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender all of his nuclear materials to the United States, which he has done.”

First of all, in 1998, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely dismantled. When IAEA inspectors returned in the fall of 2002 as part of UN Security Council resolution 1441, they reported that there were no signs that the program had been revived. Despite this, the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew the Iraqi government. As a result, Qaddafi presumably recognized that unilaterally giving up his nuclear weapons program and allowing in international inspectors to verify it does not necessarily make you any less likely to be invaded by the United States.

Secondly, the agreement had been in the works for a number of years, largely as a result of a British-led diplomatic effort. That the announcement came five days after Saddam Hussein was arrested was sheer coincidence.

12. Edwards: “The reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans.”

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran nearly twenty-five years ago and, during the 1990s, unilaterally imposed sanctions on that country, openly called for the government’s overthrow and funded groups dedicated to that purpose. All of these initiatives took place under Democratic administrations. By contrast, the Europeans—despite outspoken criticism of certain Iranian policies and restricting certain arms and technology transfers—have maintained normal diplomatic and trade relations. It should not be surprising, then, that the Europeans have had to take the lead in resolving the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel and Palestine

13. Edwards: “If Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself.”

While it is true that some militant Palestinian groups have used the Gaza Strip as a base for lobbing shells into civilian areas of Israel, the Israeli armed forces have similarly used Israel as a platform for attacking civilian areas of the Gaza Strip. Indeed, far more Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip have been killed by attacks launched from Israel than have Israeli civilians in Israel been killed from attacks launched from the Gaza Strip. Does this mean that Palestine therefore also “has a right to defend itself” by launching a major military incursion into nearby Israeli population centers with widespread killings of unarmed civilians and massive destruction of civilian property as Israel has been doing? Apparently not, since Edwards and Kerry clearly have different standards regarding the use of force depending upon a particular government’s relations with the United States. Given that Secretary of State Powell that very afternoon criticized the disproportionate nature of the ongoing Israeli military response, Edwards is clearly placing the Democratic ticket to the right of the Bush administration.

14. Edwards: “They don’t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don’t have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.”

Palestinian president Yasir Arafat has repeatedly called for a resumption of substantive peace negotiations, but the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon has refused. Arafat has called for a peace settlement along the lines proposed by President Clinton in 2000, which culminated with the signing of the Geneva Initiative in December 2003 by leading Israelis and Palestinians. The agreement calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories it conquered in the 1967 war (with minor and reciprocal border adjustments), a shared Jerusalem as the co-capital of Israel and Palestine, the resettlement of Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel in the new Palestinian state or other Arab countries, and strict security guarantees for Israel, including the disarming of Palestinian militias. Sharon, by contrast, has categorically rejected such an agreement.

While Arafat’s rule has been corrupt and autocratic and he has been ineffective in stopping terrorism by radical Palestinian groups, his positions on the outstanding issues in the peace process is far more moderate than those of the Israeli government. Arafat certainly has blood on his hands, but no more than does Sharon, widely recognized as a war criminal for his role in major atrocities against Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian civilians in previous years. In any case, Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinians and Sharon is the elected leader of the Israelis. By refusing to include one of the two major parties in the peace process, Edwards and Kerry are effectively foreclosing any realistic prospects for a negotiated peace.

15. Cheney: “In respect to Israel and Palestine, the suicide bombers, in part, were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. I personally think one of the reasons that we don’t have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we’ve had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business.”

Saddam Hussein did provide money to a small Palestinian faction known as the Arab Liberation Front which passed it on to some families of terrorists killed in suicide bombings. Money was also given to families of other Palestinians killed in the fight against Israel, such as militiamen shot while defending Palestinian towns under Israeli siege and unarmed teenagers shot during demonstrations. The vast majority of the funding for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups responsible for suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism in recent years has come from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, governments supported by the United States. In any case, the families of suicide bombers normally have their homes destroyed by Israeli occupation forces in retaliation for the terrorist attacks, and $25,000 does not come close to recouping their losses.

16. Cheney: “The president stepped forward and put in place a policy basically that said we will support the establishment of two states. First president ever to say we’ll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis.”

The Bush administration has endorsed Sharon’s plan to annex up to half of the West Bank into Israel and leave the remaining Palestinian areas divided into a series of non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel. This would give the Palestinians barely 12% of historic Palestine. Furthermore, according to this plan, Israel would have control over all border crossings, the air space, and the water resources, with an unrestricted right to militarily intervene in Palestinian areas at any time. This would no more constitute a viable “state” than did the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

http://www.fpif.info/fpiftxt/691

While Criticizing Implementation, Kerry Endorses Bush’s Unilateralist Agenda

Democratic nominee John Kerry’s foreign policy speech at New York University has been widely hailed as a long-overdue effort to place some daylight between himself and President Bush regarding Iraq. In his September 20 address, the Massachusetts senator appropriately took the president to task for launching the war prematurely, mishandling the occupation, misleading the American public regarding the deteriorating situation on the ground, and pursuing policies that have weakened America’s security interests.

However, the speech also contained a number of disturbing elements regarding how Kerry would handle Iraq as president and why he voted to authorize the invasion in the first place. More disturbingly, Kerry’s speech appears to endorse the Bush administration’s efforts to undermine the United Nations and international law and its penchant for unilaterally imposing American military force in contravention of international norms.

Despite Kerry’s belated acknowledgement that the war was a mistake, he insists that now “we must do everything in our power to complete the mission…[and] get the job done.” This sounds disturbingly familiar to the line we heard during the late1960s and early 1970s by supposed “moderates” who argued that, while we should never have become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict, “now that we’re there, we need to stay and finish the job.”

The nearest thing Kerry seems to offer in terms of a withdrawal strategy is the Iraqi equivalent of “Vietnamization,” encouraging the government that Washington installed in Baghdad to train more Iraqis to kill Iraqis so as to minimize the number of American casualties. Kerry says it could take about four years to complete the process, which is the same amount of time between Richard Nixon’s inauguration as president in January 1969 and the Paris Peace Agreement in January 1973, among the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War. Kerry, then, is essentially proposing four more years of war. One can only think of John Kerry as a young veteran in 1971 testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Kerry has long emphasized that he could bring in allies to help the United States fight this bloody urban insurgency, citing the Bush administration’s arrogant and dismissive treatment of allies regarding U.S. policy toward Iraq. Kerry, however, has shown the same kind of arrogance: when the newly elected government of Spain announced last spring that it would fulfill its longstanding promise to withdraw its forces from Iraq unless the mission was placed under the United Nations, Kerry responded by saying, “I call on Prime Minister Zapatero to reconsider his decision and to send a message that terrorists cannot win by their act of terror.” To Kerry, apparently, if a government insists that there be a UN mandate in place before they participate in the occupation of a foreign country, they are sending the wrong message to terrorists.

While a President Kerry would indeed probably have greater respect among most foreign leaders than President Bush, the main problem in getting help in Iraq at this point is not a matter of personal style or diplomatic acumen, but the failure of the policy itself.

In bowing to growing demands that he come out against war, Kerry has begun to rewrite history to justify his earlier pro-war stance: For example, Kerry claims that under the circumstances present in October 2002, when he and his congressional colleagues made the fateful decision to grant President Bush unprecedented war-making authority, “any president would have needed the threat of force to act effectively.” Kerry went on to say that, “The idea was simple: We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”

This is an extraordinarily misleading statement, however. Saddam Hussein had finally agreed to unconditional unfettered United Nations inspections as demanded by the UN Security Council on September 16, nearly four weeks prior to Kerry’s vote authorizing the U.S. invasion.

Similarly, Kerry claims that, had he been president, he would not have invaded Iraq. Yet when President Bush launched the invasion in March 2003, Kerry supported him, even backing a Republican-sponsored resolution which declared that the U.S. Senate “commends and supports the effects and leadership of the president… in the conflict with Iraq.”

Dismissing the UN

In any case, the fact remains that he joined the majority of his Senate colleagues in granting President Bush the right to invade Iraq at whatever time and under whatever circumstance he so chose, a decision he defends to this day. Despite the disastrous consequences of that vote, Kerry insisted during his NYU speech that “Congress was right to give the president the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.”

Why, though, was it up to the president of the United States to “hold Saddam Hussein accountable?” The dispute regarding the destruction of Iraq’s proscribed weapons, delivery systems, and weapons programs and the ability of UN inspectors to verify these actions was never between Iraq and the United States; it was between Iraq and the United Nations. It was therefore up to the UN Security Council, not any individual member state, to hold the Iraqi regime accountable. Kerry, however, arrogantly insists–the UN Charter not withstanding–that the U.S. government alone has the right to decide how and under what circumstances regimes being challenged by the United Nations should be dealt with.

In fact, Kerry joined the Republicans in voting down a substitute amendment proposed by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin that would have authorized the use of force against Iraq if it was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. It was the UN Security Council that had imposed these demands on the Iraqi regime in the first place and threatened Iraq with serious consequences if continued in non-compliance. However, Kerry joined the Republicans in insisting instead that President Bush should be able to launch an invasion on his own without Security Council authorization.

Ironically, when U.S. allies have defied UN Security Council resolutions, Kerry has defended them. For example, he has supported Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israeli forces seized in June 1967, despite a series of UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Israel rescind its annexation (such as resolutions 262 and 267). He has also endorsed the rightist Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s efforts to colonize large sections of the West Bank, despite a series of resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from these illegal settlements (such as resolutions 446, 452, 465, and 471).

Thus, in John Kerry’s world, the United States alone can decide which United Nations Security Council resolutions to enforce and how they are enforced. No less than President Bush, Kerry seeks to effectively overturn the post-World War II international system based upon the rule of law and collective security in order to forcibly impose a Pax Americana.

Despite the ways Kerry and his supporters might want to spin it, the Democratic nominee–like President Bush–is a militarist and a unilateralist quite willing to undermine the authority of the United Nations in order to assert American hegemony in that oil-rich region.

Indeed, the only thing more dangerous than electing John Kerry president of the United States would be to re-elect George W. Bush.

http://www.fpif.info/fpiftxt/566